"I don't run democracy. I train troops to defend democracy and I happen to be their surrogate father and mother as well as their commanding general."
-Lt Gen Alfred M Gray, US Marine Corps
days are a blur. From the moment you first arrive at MCRD to the
time that you are called a Marine, you are moved at a pace that many people
would find inhuman. Your average day begins at around 0400-0630 depending
on what is on the schedule. You move around in what the DIs cheerfully
refer to as "The Green Marine Blur."
up a large part of the first phase of training. From assembling your M-16,
managing your money or the history of the Marine Corps, you get crammed
full of knowledge in a short period of time.
Now another thing
that you need to understand is that not only are you on the move for a
long period of time, you are kept in relative ignorance of the outside
world. What you know about what is outside the area of MCRD is limited
to letters from home and what the DI feels the need to tell you (In other words, nothing).
We were sitting down for a Marine Corps History lesson. The topic of the day was the Korean
War. When the instructor began, he was interrupted about 30 seconds
into the lesson by the arrival of our commanding officer. He came
down, pulled the teacher aside and whispered something into his ear.
it looks like your commanding officer needs the floor."
The CO was a
big man. He looked as if he could break the average recruit in half
with little more than a harsh word. In his hands was a manila envelope
that he held up high. "I have been authorized to read this to you
by the Commanding General of MCRD San Diego."
got our attention. We listened silently as he began to read from
"At 0430 this
morning, Iraq launched another attack against Kuwait. First Marine
Division intercepted them. They have taken appoxiamately 4000 casualties.
Bow your head in a moment of silence." He let us do that for a few
seconds. "You're done. What this means to you is this: You
will not be graduating in August like you thought. You will remain
here for two more weeks, then going to Camp Pendleton for two weeks of
At this point,
the message that the CO was getting to was driving home. Rather painfully.
"How many of
you are Reservists?" Those of us who were raised our hands.
"From this moment, you are active duty. How many of you are in an
MOS (That's Military Occupational Specialty for those of you not familiar
with the term) that is not 0300 Infantry?" Again, those of us in
that category raised our hands. "From this moment on you are 0300
Infantry. Your Drill Instructors are now your Platoon Sergeants.
After your training at Camp Pendleton, you will be sent to Kuwait as a
part of the Casualty Replacement Platoon. You will be allowed a five
minute phone call home to your families and you will be given time today
to write out your last will and testament."
He walked out
and we began to have our lives flash through our eyes (I even demanded
a replay). After a few minutes of allowing us to mull over what was
going to happen to us, the teacher announced that it was a hoax.
The point was to give us an idea of what recruits at the time of the Korean
War were going through when a similar announcement was made to them.
But for them,
it wasn't a simulation. It may sound like a horrid mind game, but it put what we train for in sharp focus that day.