I would be remiss if I failed to tell this particular story about Drill Instructor Valdez. It’s the one story that doesn’t pertain directly to me. I’m so happy it didn’t, because it was one of the most brutal things done to recruits that I’ve ever heard of.
At night there is always somebody assigned to “fire watch” duty. There are a couple of reasons that this is done, and one of them is extremely valid. If there is a fire or some other emergency, the fire watch wakes everybody up in time to evacuate.
The "platoon" I was assigned to was in direct competition with three other platoons that make up the training "company." The competitions consist of close order drill, rifle range, inspections, physical testing, and practical examinations on several subjects. The training for most of these things is pretty much cut and dry and the drill instructors are closely involved with it. The only part that actually involves some discretionary effort is related to studying for the examinations. There wasn’t enough time to study as a group, so we had to study at night instead of sleeping.
We had just finished a round of exams and our platoon didn’t fare very well on a few subjects. One of the drill instructors noticed that several recruits all did poorly on the exact same exams. So the DI’s started an informal investigation. Apparently one of the recruits (under pressure) assigned to fire watch duty during the late night study sessions, told the DI’s that a small group of recruits had been playing cards instead of studying. Guess what? Yep, it was the same names that drug the entire platoon down with their poor exam results. First off, where did they get a deck of cards? Second, why did the fire watch rat them out? Third, what the heck is going to happen to those poor bastards? We couldn’t imagine what Valdez was going to do, but it would be severe for sure.
That evening the five recruits were called into the duty hut one at a time. The Platoon Commander was on duty but left before the “punishment” commenced. I’m not sure why he left, but I believe it was to ensure that he could deny knowing about it (plausible deniability). As I said the recruits went to the duty hut one at a time. The were asked if they had studied on the nights in question or if they had played cards. I guess they knew the jig was up because they all admitted to it.
Here is where it gets ugly. They made each of them bend over a desk and then beat their thighs and butt with a broom stick. We could hear it happening. Whenever one of them would cry out in pain they were screamed at to shut up.
I clearly saw that when one of them came back his thighs and butt were bleeding. It was something like you’d see in a horror movie. It was brutal. They could barely walk for several days. The DI’s let them stay in the huts until they could move around. They weren’t allowed to go to sick call either. These drill instructors should have gone to jail for what they did. But of course nobody would turn them in, because in those days it wouldn't have done any good.
They all told us that Valdez did most of the beating.
In my time in the Marine Corps I never ran into a former or current drill instructor that didn’t have a mean streak in him. But Valdez was the one of the most sadistic, evil, and demented bastards I’ve ever met in my life. That statement is true to this day. I would have liked to run into him in Vietnam.
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