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.]