It's Really Just a Playground for Big Kids - Letter Seven - Letters from Boot Camp
Posted on 03 October 2016
There's something special about Marine Corps Recruit Training.
At thirteen weeks, Marine Corps boot camp is the longest of all the branches of military, and intensely focuses on drill, working as a team, and relentlessly pushing the Marine Corps identity. Both recruit depots, in San Diego and on Parris Island, foster a competitive relationship. In fact, everything in the Marine Corps is competition. Parris Island graduates can be heard across the fleet talking about Hollywood Marines—and the San Diego Marines will throw it right back that Parris Island Marines have never humped a real mountain before.
A lot of people tend to think that the military brainwashes recruits—that's not entirely true. There is mental conditioning, yes, and the first month is basically designed to 'reset' recruits. Get them all to the same baseline, and weed out those who can't make it up to standard.
From there, the Marine Corps encourages a culture of individual responsibility and accountability. Part of the reason I wanted to share these letters was to show the change, show what a recruit was going through. I'm very confident with these letters but as boot camp dragged on, I will get a bit of the fear about my combat MOS.
Two years later I was in charge of an infantry squad. Just goes to show you how perseverance and discipline are more important than motivation.
In this letter, again I mention Full Metal Jacket. I always viewed my entry into the Marines as Luke Skywalker leaving Tatooine—taking on my own adventure. And I had an absolute perverse fascination with war, although I was learning that I wasn't quite up to par on the training.
I made a fake 'double rations' tag to wear on my uniform so I could get extra chow. These were made for the 120 lb recruits so they could eat and eat and gain weight and muscle. I was just exhausted and felt like I couldn't get enough food. But starting to get into the routine of it. I'm lucky the Drill Instructors either didn't catch me or didn't care, but I made sure I ate well.
Anyway, check out the letter, transcript below, as always.
Today was a really fun day. We ran the Confidence Course. That’s the obstacle course in Full Metal Jacket. It’s really just a playground for big kids. We also did some throws at MCMAP. Initial Drill is this Saturday, and if our platoon gets motivated, we’ll have no problem winning it. If not, we’ll put on a couple pounds of muscle if you know what I mean.
I cheat at the chow hall and tell them i’m on double rations so I get extra meat. All that Atkins diet stuff acclimated me to a lot of meat. Speaking of Atkins, I hear someone needs a little motivation of their own!
Well it takes a couple of days to write letters now. Some days are good and some not so good. We’re really pushing for Initial Drill, and some people still aren’t putting out. I hope everything is well at home. I miss you guys very much, but it will all be worth it in the end. Give Max a treat for me, and I love you guys very much.