SERIES WAR: Lead gets burned by Follow CDI

There is nothing wrong with a little friendly competition, but Staff Sgt. Willis is taking it to another level. Initial Drill is less than two days away and he is already taking credit for winning!

Remember when I mentioned that Marines are extremely competitive? Well Staff Sgt. Willis, Chief Drill Instructor for Follow series, proves my point to a T.

He just started a “series war” if you ask me. Who said he can claim Initial Drill before it ever happens? He did, clearly.

Here’s the scoop: I asked him what his thoughts were on his recruits progress. His strong opinions didn’t go unnoticed as he proceeded to tell me that Follow is going to dominate in Initial Drill this Saturday and take home the trophy. How do you feel about THAT Lead series?

My opinion? I don’t know Staff Sgt. Willis… Lead MIGHT have it in the bag, but I can’t take sides. Maybe we should leave the judging to the Drill Master!


Week 2


As of yesterday, your recruits officially entered Week 3 of training. This morning I had the opportunity to be at lights (when the recruits wake up). They looked a little calmer then before. I think they have finally begun to adapt to their atmosphere. Here is a recap of what happened last week.

Dripping sweat is better than blood

PT.Yes, Again. You are probably thinking everyday is a bit extreme, but honestly some people need it more than others. Did you know there is a recruit in Golf Company who shredded 30 pounds just so he could join the Marines? Good on him, but he still has a long way to go. With the motivation of his fellow recruits and the intensity of his drill instructors, he will be there in no time.

Physical fitness is extremely important in the Marine Corps. Marines are expected to be proficient in everything they do. Some MOSs (military occupational specialty, or simply put, job) could require one to do heavy lifting. An infantryman is one of these jobs. Some weapon systems, plus a full combat load, can easily be in excess of 100 pounds. They are required to carry this gear for unknown distances, especially while in combat. Even a supply clerk’s strength could be put to the test, moving equipment from place to place.

Marine Corps PT in boot camp consists of running, circuit courses and even MCMAP. The variety of exercises keeps things interesting and effective.

It seems as if most of your recruits enjoyed the Bayonet Assault Course. I am only speaking from their body language of course. They were taught how to use their weapon without ammunition by adding a bayonet to the top of the M16.  I have to admit it was pretty amusing to watch them all run through obstacles and viciously (and some not so viciously) stab fake dummies. I can imagine many of you scratching your heads and wondering what the chances are of that really happening. Although I can’t answer your question, I know someone who can. I will ask him and get back to you on that. But until then, just go with the idea that we are always preparing for the worst, that way nothing is ever as bad as we think it’s going to be.

Behind the Desk

Practical application could be the best way for people to learn something. I know hands on training always helped me out after classes, especially with combat care. Combat care is a fancy term for first aid. During combat care, your recruits learn how to assess a casualty, treat for shock, apply a tourniquet and administer CPR among other basic medical concepts.

You may not know this, but the Marine Corps has the best the U.S. Navy has to offer in my opinion. These sailors are known as Corpsmen. Corpsmen act as medical providers when attention is needed. For safety purposes, they are also always present at every PT session your recruit attends.

Once your recruit makes it to the fleet, Corpsmen may not always be around for help. When this occurs, Marines will be able to apply basic medical knowledge to a casualty. Marines may also be afforded the opportunity to attend the Combat Life Savers Course, especially before deployments. This advanced course is an extensive review on what has already been learned combined with new techniques involving starting IVs.

Wondering when this will be useful?  Here’s a quick scenario (hypothetically): A convoy goes out on a mission. The third vehicle rolls over an IED and is blown up. The Marines inside are alive, but injured. In the event that the corpsman chocks up (everyone is human, sometimes this may happen), someone needs to be there to start assisting these casualties. Or the Marine could just be assisting the corpsman since one person can only do so much in a small amount of time. Either way, the training is helping the victim, the Navy and us.

Close order Drill

“There are no experts in drill,” said Sgt. Maj. Ronnie L. Harrison. “Drill is here to stay. It’s not going anywhere, but if we don’t keep emphasizing the importance of maintaining the standards, drill will suffer.”

Drill instructors are at home when they step foot on the parade deck. It wasn’t hard to tell how instantly they became comfortable, especially those who have been training recruits for a few years now. However, nervousness showed on their faces. It didn’t take me long to figure out why when I heard a SDI say initial drill was coming up. Although the recruits are the ones being judged, so are the drill instructors. Drill is the direct reflection of the efforts the DIs have put forth thus far.

It also intrigued me to see what could change overnight. The previous day I had been watching them on the apron (another word for road), and I saw an entire platoon royally slaughter an about face movement (where they bring their right foot behind their left and basically turn around without removing their left foot from the deck). They are to do this in unison without looking at the ground. Instead, when the move was executed it took on a domino effect and it was very sloppy. Even though the recruits are still learning, I could tell the drill instructor was getting frustrated, but at this point, who wouldn’t. They have been practicing every day.

On a positive note, the very next day I saw the same platoon execute the same movement perfectly, at least to me, and definitely to the untrained eye. This weekend we will see what the drill masters think of their performance.

I don’t know what it is about drill, but it becomes second nature to Marines. I remember always getting lost into thought when drilling, yet still being able to execute every movement correctly without thinking about it. Perhaps all the practice created muscle memory. However, drill is a two-way street. The person singing the cadence and marching the Marines also must be proficient. If they call a movement on the wrong foot, half the platoon will try to execute it anyway and the other half will try to take the extra step before completing it.

To help improve drill, they come up with ditties. Ditties are something they will say to help remind them how to execute the move correctly.

During my time at recruit training, there was always one ditty that got on my nerves. It was the way you would dismiss yourself from requesting permission to speak for a head call or whatever the case maybe. This same ditty became my favorite when I realized it was the same one we would use as soon as we were released to our families at graduation. Anyway, we would say “left, right, good morning ma’am, straight leg, trace the seam, ease about and fly.” For us, this meant to step backwards (don’t forget to swing your arms) execute an about face and take off running.

No matter what they are doing, Drill is always being practiced. In the fleet some say it disappears, but that’s also untrue. Simple formations and ceremonies are a form of drill. Take it from me, formations happen ALL the time. Nothing just disappears after boot camp, but recruits usually won’t notice where and when things come to play because by that time, it is second nature and they just do it because that’s what they are used to and it’s all they know.


Marines are very competitive. In recruit training, the platoons compete in several events to earn the title of Honor Platoon at graduation. How much do you know about this?


To all my platoon 2156 parents: Staff Sgt. Jackson, the SDI, won SDI of the Quarter.

Visit back tomorrow for the video that goes with this blog!

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

A Decade Later

Remember When

A decade ago, your children were probably around the age of 8. Perhaps they were sitting in a classroom, studying for a test. Running around gym class, or maybe even playing hooky. You were probably at work or home taking care of younger children.

I was in Science. We were learning how to figure out the possibility of our kids having blue eyes. The phone rang in midsentence and everyone starred at the teacher. Most of us were anxiously waiting to see who was getting called to this principles office this time.

Her eyes got really big and her face was pale. I automatically knew the call wasn’t for me; I hadn’t done anything that extreme in a while. Then she turned the TV on.

We all turned around in our seats to see what was so important that we actually were able to watch television instead of some boring science documentary. I can speak for everybody when I say we all wished it were that instead, even that one movie/cartoon about germs that no one could bare to watch more than once.

I remember observing everyone around me. People stood out of the chairs like they were about to see their favorite player shoot the winning basket. Girls covered their open mouths that were completely speechless.

Then it fell. The tower went straight to the ground. I had never seen anything like it in my life. Every floor one by one until the only thing left in the sky was a huge cloud of smoke. We were being attacked.

A Decade Later

It was almost 2 a.m. when the phone rang. I answered it thinking I was still dreaming until I heard his voice on the other end of the line.

It was his voice, but it was a tone I have never heard before. He was crying. My heart sank. I didn’t want to know, but I didn’t have to ask.

He said, “I don’t know if he is going to make it. It’s McDaniel, I don’t know what I will do if he doesn’t make it.”

McDaniel stepped on an Improvised Explosive Device that day. When it blew up, so did he. My husband got all the shrapnel that was left from the blast. The Marines worked quickly to put tourniquets on McDaniel’s limbs while Josh called in a casualty evacuation. Both of them were taken by helicopter to the nearest medical facility when they were split up.

McDaniel, who was only 24, lost both of his legs and arm. He was lucky. Luckier than Cpl. Villarreal at least, who also stepped on an IED a few weeks later.

If you watched the video, Cpl. Villarreal was the Marine leaning on the edge, holding the American flag. Cpl. Villarreal completed his final mission on October 17th while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was killed by a roadside bomb while he was on a foot patrol. He was only 22 years old.

Never Forget

Today, your recruits are in good hands. They are in the hands of men who believe in the same freedoms and rights as yourself. They are in the hands of men who have been there and done that. These men have seen things you could never imagine. No horror movie could ever portray the fear they have felt. No smell can ever compare to the smell of the rounds they have shot, and no feeling is more powerful to them than defeating the enemy.

Where were you on September 11th? Better yet, where are you now? Are you living everyday as you did back then? Enjoying your freedoms and rights, as Americans should? You bet you are. And when November 18th rolls around, you can thank your son for becoming part of the next generation that will defend our freedom until the end.

Take the time to recognize those who made the ultimate sacrifice, those who have died in the hands of our brothers.

Semper Fi Marines, you will never be forgotten.

Click here to read an article about a DI who witnessed the Twin Towers crash to the ground from his school window.

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