Week 4

A dip in the pool

This week your recruits participated in the swim qualification. This week is one of the “slower weeks” in recruit training in my perspective, but some recruits may think otherwise. Those recruits more specifically are those who might be afraid of heights, swimming or failing the Initial Physical Fitness Test.

The swim qualification takes place in a very large, Olympic-sized pool and is passed in parts. Completion of the five parts determines pass or fail. These parts include jumping off the dive bored properly and swimming a distance, taking off gear under water, swimming with packs and treading water.

Treading water should be the easiest part of this test because they are taught several techniques to keep you afloat. One way to stay above water (the recruits didn’t do this) is to take off your utility trousers, tie a knot in the legs, blow them up under water or fling them under the water from over your shoulders to capture air in them and then put your head in the middle of the trouser legs. This will end up looking like some sort of life vest.

The worst part of the pool in my opinion is the smell of chlorine and heat.  The chlorine burns your eyes without even getting in and the heat will make you want to jump in to keep from sweating. The training environment in the pool area is also a bit calmer because only their SDI is allowed to be present inside.

Swim qual is part of annual training and is supposed to be completed every year without fail. As a matter of fact, when I deployed to Iraq I completed swim qual. I know you may be thinking that’s a bit crazy, because the chances of me drowning in a country that is nowhere near an ocean is slim, but it is still necessary. I am not going to lie; I was scratching my head too, very nice pool though.

Now, there were many recruits who had additional training that may not have passed through the first time, but in the end everybody made it. So if your recruit didn’t know how to swim, they at least know the basics now.

The Confidence Course, Part 2

This was quite an event. I watched many young men face their fears, cry and complain, but never the less they all left that day with some type of experience.

These obstacles are definitely a bit high, but your recruits managed to make it through just fine. Those who didn’t make it down the slide for life even got to take a little swim.

I remember these obstacles being much scarier when I was in boot camp then they are now. I also remember them being easier. I am assuming that had something to do with being more afraid of the drill instructors than actually hurting myself.

The purpose is not to scare the crap out of them, even though it probably did. Each obstacle taught the recruits techniques that can be used to get out of sticky situations using ropes and logs to make it to the end. And yes, it’s pretty high off the ground.

While standing on top of the Slide for Life, I asked a few recruits what they thought about training. I recognized some of their names from reading your comments. I think the uniqueness of this recruits name is what made me remember his first name. So hey Blain’s parents, your recruit is doing just fine. He told me so himself.

The Initial Physical Fitness Test

This was the first PFT that your recruit will take every year from this point forward. I will admit, it’s not my favorite thing to do annually, but it has to be done. A 3-mile run, pull-ups and crunches are timed and calculated. The calculated score will fall in one of three classes. First class is the best you can get. Your recruits will learn that PFTs have an impact on promotions.

This event is also another that the series compete for. It is very similar to the IST your recruits completed the first week they arrived.

For many, it’s a fairly easy to pass. It also might be a nice break (anywhere from 18 minutes to 28 minutes) for the recruits to not have a DI in their face, at least the whole time anyway.

I didn’t make it out for this event because Lance Cpl. Belleau Wood, the depot mascot, and I had to make an appearance at graduation. But I do have a few facts about the PFT that may surprise you.

The PFT used to be required bi-annually. The second PFT has now been replaced with the Combat Fitness Test, which your recruits will complete soon. Also, there is a modified PFT. Most Marines know this as “The Old Man’s PFT.” That’s right, once you hit a certain age you aren’t required to do as much or as fast as each category, but it can still be challenging for those who don’t age that well.


I know I write this blog on a first hand account of what I see, but I am encouraging you to ask me questions that you may want me to cover in my next post that are boot camp related. No question is unworthy and it would benefit to know what you guys really want to hear that your recruit is not telling you.


Your recruits went up North yesterday to Camp Pendleton. They are preparing for their next big obstacle, the rifle range. Mail tends to slow down here, so please don’t be alarmed if you don’t receive as much as you are use to, however, they still receive mail so keep it coming.

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


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!

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.]