Black Friday makes landfall, recruits survive

When exercise becomes emotional

The initial strength test marks the beginning of their physical capability in the Corps. Friday morning, probably before most of you were out of bed, Golf Company recruits were lined up platoon by platoon to show they have what it takes to begin training.

You would never imagine how terrifying this day can be, especially for those who can barely make the cut. The pressure is on from the very first speech that summarizes every detail on performing the exercise correctly. The IST consists of running, pull-ups and crunches. As training goes on, this test continues to get harder and will be known as the Physical Fitness Test (PFT).

After observing the recruits, the tension in their expressions was strikingly noticeable. I am assuming it was because they knew that everything they have completed up until now could all be put on hold if they didn’t pass each event.

I know I didn’t mention this before, but your recruits can be dropped from training before ever making it to “training.” I guess I was trying to save you some sleep at night, but good news is, only one recruit was dropped to another company (You would know by now if this was your recruit, so you can stop freaking out).

The recruits probably won’t remember this, but their Senior Drill Instructors actually show up for this portion to get a look at who they will be training. The first DIs they actually met from receiving are not the same DIs that will train them for 12 weeks.

Anyway, DIs have an eye for dedication and drive. Why is that important? Because that 1 dropped recruit could have been 8.

Believe it or not, drill Instructors don’t want your sons to fail — they’d rather have them excel. And here is proof: eight recruits actually failed the IST. The SDI can keep recruits that they believe can improve in a short amount of time, and the commander will sign a waiver for them.

The Wolves are at the Door

The best way for you to understand Black Friday is for me to compare it to a hurricane. I picked this natural disaster because those who have never experienced one really don’t know the damage it can do. Hurricanes can produce tornados, extremely high-tides and flooding. It’s an all-for-one natural disaster. By the time it’s over, it can leave people mentally and physically exhausted.

Receiving, the days leading to pick-up, can be thought of as the calm before the storm. During this time, things can get hectic preparing for what’s about to come, but overall it’s a waiting game until what, or who, is about to make landfall.

Finally, the recruits are ready to make it to their squad bay, a very large open room with bunk beds. For the next 12 weeks, they will call this area “home.” It will be a long time before it actually feels that way.

I observed every recruit enter their house. They were all beside themselves, kind of like lost dogs; they wouldn’t look at you if you paid them to, trying to stay out of trouble. As a matter of fact, they wouldn’t look at anything that wasn’t straight forward. More than half of them forgot how to walk as they tripped over their own feet and each other as they missed the step up to the walkway. It seemed as if they had been stripped of their abilities to think and act on their own.

After making head calls, or more commonly known as the bathroom, they were seated on the deck (floor), covered and aligned to the person in front of them and the person to their right. They were only moments away from meeting the makers of Marines they will never forget.

The chief drill instructor gives them a quick brief before the series commander gives the SDI the command to train them into the few, the proud, the Marines.

The storm finally hits. The noise alone is enough to make you want to leave. Almost 90 recruits yell at the top of their lungs, but it will never be loud enough. Drill instructors run up and down the squad bay like cheetahs on prey. Gear is everywhere as if a tornado ripped through middle, leaving only a path of despair. And just when you think it’s over, you realize you’re only in the eye of the storm. All they can do is just stand tall because what just happened is going to happen all over again.

The day was long, but a lot was learned from the experience. Teamwork was probably the most important. If they never believed that two heads are better than one, they do now.

Over this weekend, the house stayed pretty quite as far as training goes. Simple knowledge is learned about getting on line, standing fire watch, counting off, house procedures, etc. Sunday they will have the opportunity to partake in religious services.

Free time will be awarded on Training Day 1, this is their time to write letters home. Keep your fingers crossed.

Get some

Did you know that Drill Instructors have a belt structure to abide by? Black shiny belts distinguish Senior Drill Instructors, while the other drill instructors wear green belts with gold buckles.

The Senior Drill Instructor is in charge of all the drill instructors within his platoon. He will most likely give his commands to the “J.” The J (which stands for junior) will pass the command to the 3rd and 4th hat.

So in their structure in a nutshell: The senior, then the J, then the 3rd hat, followed by the 4th.

When your recruits write you, they may only mention their senior as their senior. Everyone else will probably be described as: mean, meaner and meanest.


Today the recruits are issued rifles. Sometime during training, they may be required to memorize the rifleman’s creed. Check it out for yourself.

Just another side note

For the parent who’s recruit was dropped: Don’t sweat it. So you think it’s unfair that your son was dropped. I understand where you are coming from. However, in my opinion (and though you may not agree now) they are actually doing that recruit a favor. This extra time spent improving his physical fitness will put him ahead of his peers when he picks up again. AND because he will already know the process, there is a good chance he could start off as the guide. I am sure you will send him some encouraging words, as he probably needs those now more then ever.

[Editors Note: Opinions expressed are not to be considered an official expression of the DoD, DoN, or the USMC.]


Receiving: Training starts here

Many recruit parents are familiar with the recruit training matrix that outlines what their son is doing on a daily basis. For the next three months, this object whether a hard copy, a desktop screen saver or a simple PDF file will most likely become a lonely, but proud, parents’ best friend. It will be the first thing they will look at when they wake up (reveille) and the last thing they will look at before bed (hitting the rack, maybe lights out, whatever you wish).

The first thing that stands out is the week titled “Pick-up.” This week is separate from Week 1 and training days don’t actually begin until then. I can already imagine the disappointment in your face, cheer up. By the time you read this they will have already received a few hours of sleep. So they are there for a total of 13 weeks. What needs to be understood is that the first week (of non-training days if you will) is so crucial to boot camp. In my opinion, the very fundamentals used Marine Corps-wide are being learned as soon as they step on those footprints, not a week later. Maybe you should all take you’re training matrix and add R1-R3 on Mon-Wed because they are not a lost cause. Here’s why.

Recruit training starts from the moment they leave the USO. Getting on that bus and dropping their head could be the most nerve-racking moment they have ever anticipated. Little do they know,it’s going to be much worse than they ever expected.

After spending two extremely long nights at receiving, I watched more than 500 recruits run off the bus and put their feet on those yellow footprints (which are much larger than the average Joes’ feet, by the way). Sweat beads started forming on their foreheads. The fear and anxiety was so strong I could almost feel it.

And then the moment comes, when they finally consider themselves a recruit. They are “briefed” and instructed to get off the bus. That is the first time they scream (and they better have screamed) “aye, sir.”

The yellow footprints have such a significant meaning when arriving to recruit training; it amazed me to realize how little time was actually spent standing on them. Thinking back on my past, it had to be the longest two-minutes of my life, and probably your loved ones, too. Until they got to the contraband room, I’m sure. They were told about the UCMJ and the things they could be charged for just so they know what’s expected of them (always nice to be scared out of your mind when you are already scared out of your mind, eh?).

The recruits were then rushed in front of a red bin, giving them their final chance to empty their pockets and get rid of the nonsense many show up with (don’t worry moms, they are able to keep bibles and stamps). Their first test of integrity started here.

And the moment you’ve been waiting for… The phone call. Didn’t get one? No worries, neither did my parents. Recruits are lined up in front of phones and urged to call and proceed with speed and intensity. Needless to say sometimes things go wrong (my phone was broke, but like everyone else, you just read the script and kept on moving). They always say no news is good news, especially in this gun club so get used to it.

Ever heard of hurry up and wait? So have we. Recruits stood in line waiting for their first weekly haircut while the receiving company drill instructors begin to instill discipline into them. They stood tall and not one whisper unless spoken to, all the while executing orders without question (if they dared to speak to the DIs anyway). Each recruit sat in a chair and watched their hair fall to the deck.

The take away from receiving: Drill Instructors give recruits their first taste of what is considered controlled-chaos. Then break them down to the very bottom and making them look the same. Doing this puts all the recruits in a fatigued mindset and on the same level. It doesn’t matter where they came from or what they have done. They are now exactly alike with a clean slate. At the end of the week they will be transferred to forming, where each and every recruit will be rebuilt from the ground up, mentally, morally and physically.

The Marine Corps has 14 leadership traits. Most Marines will use the acronym JJ DID TIE BUCKLE to remember them. The first trait is JUSTICE, defined as the practice of being fair and consistent, whatever the case may be. Perhaps when writing your next letter to your son, you can incorporate what you have learned.

Rumor has it I will be at the Initial Strength Test and Pick-up tomorrow.

P.S. – Saw your recruits this a.m. (Aug. 25) dark and early. They went through recruit clothing for uniforms. A little tired, but looking motivated. Hang in there because they are too!

P.S.S- I know the video is blurry, working on it, but it will do for now.

[Editors Note: Opinions expressed are not to be considered an official expression of the DoD, DoN, or the USMC.]

What makes a Marine?

Many people have different answers to this question. Some might say strength, another might say courage. Ask a recruit and they would probably say a Drill Instructor. But the making of a Marine goes deeper than your obvious answer.

Desire is the main ingredient. When recruits sign up for boot camp, they want it bad. The title of being a United States Marine burns within and for those who make it, it never weakens. They will endure 13 hellish weeks of training. They will crawl through dirt and mud without ever spitting it out. They will run themselves into the ground to the point they don’t want to take another step. They pop their rifles so hard they never notice their bruised skin.

Mix desire with a little trust and you will have non-swimmers jumping off the deep end, city boys shooting at moving targets and men with acrophobia climbing the stairway to heaven without ever looking back. There is nothing this combination won’t bear.

What’s your answer? Follow me on a 13-week journey through boot camp with Golf Company, and at the end, you can decide for yourself. But whatever the case may be, Marines are made. America, you can sleep sound tonight.

[Editors Note: Opinions expressed are not to be considered an official expression of the DoD, DoN, or the USMC.]