Tuesday, July 6, 2010

“Yellow Footprints” USMC Boot Camp -- Part 2

 Marine Corps Recruit Depot

I always thought of hell as a place. Fire and brimstone, the river Styx, and the tortured cries of those condemned. We all have our personal images on the subject. At that exact moment in time, I knew all of those things were wrong.  Hell was a man! Hell was screaming at us to get off the bus, foul mouthed and guttural.

“Everyone of you mother fucking slimy numb nuts pieces of civilian shit had better get the fuck off of my bus and on the yellow footprints in 30 seconds!” There were about 40 of us, all trying to  get off at the same time. The creature standing at the door somehow found time to punch at least half of us on our way out. Knocking the wind out of as many as he could, seemed to be his goal.

When I finally got near the door I moved up as close as I could to the guy in front of me, hoping I’d be able to slip out the door unnoticed. Just as I thought it was going to work, he stuck his arm in between me and my “shield.”

“What the fuck do you think you’re trying to do slime ball?”
"Trying to get off the bus.”
“Bull shit” he said. “You’re trying to ease your way off the bus, aren’t you?”
“No!” I said.

Before I finished getting the word out of my mouth he punched me in the stomach. I was ready for it, and even though he hadn’t succeeded in knocking the wind out of me, I bent over at the waist like he had. He must have felt my tensed stomach muscles when he hit me, because he grabbed me by the hair and pulled me upright. He then got so close to my face that our noses were touching. I swear I could smell what he had for breakfast on his breath. No, it was actually much worse than that, I could smell what he had for breakfast the day before, and it was rotting and festering inside of him.

“You think you are smarter than me, don’t you fuck head? When you answer, you had better refer to me as Sir! You piece of shit!"
“No sir!” I replied.
“Yes you do” he spat the words into my face.
“No sir!” I repeated.
“Do I look stupid to you?”
“No Sir!”
“Do you think I’m stupid?”
“No Sir!”
“Yes you do, fuck head!” he said. “If I had more time to deal with you, this would be your one and only night at MCRD (Marine Corps Recruit Depot)!” “Do you understand me?”
“Yes Sir!”
“Get on the yellow footprints you faggot piece of shit!”

Before I was half way out the door he shoved me with his foot. I landed face first on the blacktop and only partially broke my fall with my hands and arms. I got up, looked first at my bleeding hands, and then back up at him. He must not have liked the way I was looking at him, because he jumped out of the bus and was in my face again in a split second.

“Do you want to hit me?” he whispered into my ear.
“No sir!” I replied.
“Yes you do, you lying piece of dog shit, but you’re too much of a pussy to do it, aren’t you?” he said.
“Yes sir! No Sir” I stuttered.

I didn’t know what he wanted to hear me say, but I did know I was losing my composure. I was ready to fight him. I was ready to hit him first, hit him in a place where there would be no fight. I would have punched him directly in the front of his throat.  When I glanced down a little bit, I was shocked by what I saw. There was no throat! I swear his head came directly out of his shoulders.

At that point I didn’t care if he was a bull, all I was seeing was red. He probably would have kicked my ass, he looked like one solid and continuous muscle. Of course it would have been in self defense, and then I’d be in the brig. Or maybe I would kick his ass, but he’d still win, because I’d be in the brig anyway. They say discretion is the better part of valor. So I just closed down. All systems stop! Thanks mom, for the training.

I just went back to the position of attention and stood there, mocking him with my refusal to act. No matter what he said he got nothing from me but yes sir, or no sir. He eventually gave up or got tired of me, and told me to get on the yellow footprints. When I turned to do so, I noticed that the rest of the people on the bus had already exited and were standing on the foot prints in formation, watching us.  Luckily for me I spotted a set close by that weren’t being used and got on them in a hurry.

I don’t remember exactly everything they told us to do that night, but I do remember that bastard drill instructor’s name. It was Valdez. He said he wasn’t going to be our regular drill instructor, but by the time ours came to pick us up in the morning, we’d be glad to see them. Valdez.

The next few hours seemed like a blur! Heads shaved bald, civilian clothing and personal items sent home, showered, deloused, basic uniforms, and shower gear issued all in a just a few hours. When I say they issued us uniforms, I mean they issued us a set of utilities (fatigues in Marine speak) and high top tennis shoes. When we were dressed we looked stupid (I found out later that it was intentional).

Everyone’s utilities were either too big or too small. They told us not to worry about it because by the time boot camp ended, we’d all be the same size. We didn’t deserve to look like marines, because we hadn’t earned it yet. We were back on the yellow footprints at daybreak with our basic gear in our hands waiting for our assigned drill instructors to come and get us.

Valdez took one more stab at me while we were waiting. He walked between the ranks and stopped in front of me. He smiled at me and knocked all the gear out of my hands. Then he kicked and stomped it all over the place. It took everything I had not to give him the reaction he wanted.

He asked me if I had anything to say.
“No sir” was my only response.

To go to the next post in this seris, click here.
To go to the previous post in this series, click here.


  1. I read your last post, so I was interested to see what this series would be like. You've written Episode 1 very well. I truly hate all that abusive crap, but of course there are always the people who say that in the end it makes you prepared and makes a better soldier. Can it possibly make a better person? I can't see how. I'm so interested to hear your comments, because you have been there and you came out kind - and also, probably, a good soldier, although I haven't read all of your posts. I think I would come out only totally bitter if I came out at all.

  2. So the first hour of Full Metal Jacket is accurate.Of coarse you know they use that abusive tactic to bring out your killer instinct by giving you something to hate.So for example when doing target practice you picture your drill sergeants head instead of the target thus making you a better shot. Sound off like you've got a pair! ;)

  3. Tapir Girl - Most folks going through it realize that every single thing they do, they do for a reason. The problem is that there are people drawn to the "drill instructor" job because they have issues or just like to abuse folks. Some policemen are this way as well.. I don't think boot camp had the same impact on me as it did some others, because my mom had already had me for many years. She was worse than any drill instructor.

    Warren - The first part of "full metal jacket" is pure classic, if you ask me. It was the most honest representation of a USMC DI, that has ever been shown. Believe it or not, they cut down on the violence...It was much worse than in the movie. But I loved it...Probably the best training we recieved in boot camp was at the rifle range. They make marines shoot a much farther distance, with better results expected than any other of the military branches..There's a blog post coming in on that subject. I belive it's part 14...

  4. Break them down, then rebuild them up..

  5. I wonder why this isn't showing up on my dashboard...

  6. WOW! Starting with a Fresh lump of clay to mold huh??


    Great stuff!

  7. A 'civilized' form of brainwashing?

    I see your comment count is off too. Maybe Blogger will have this fixed soon.

    Hope you had a great 4th weekend.

  8. BD - I know that was the point but wait until the Valdez shows up again...

    John - oh yeah, mold you into a maniac!

    SQ - I wasn't very civilized! I did have a great weekend, hope you did as well...

  9. Truly amazing. Those were like scenes right out of full metal jacket. Crazy $#@$. BTW...I'm wondering if this Valdez guy sensed your inner strength. That's why he gave you crap. Man, I've said it before and I'll say it again, you are one tough muthaf*cker.

  10. Jesse - Thanks my friend! Whatever it was, he sure didn't like it. I'm happy to say that I can finally relax...

  11. Had to slap myself..thought I was back in boot camp for a minute.. That was the first time anyone had ever called me a fucking egg-head. I almost fainted..lol.. Got used to it real quick though..I was Army which is like daycare to the USMC.. This is written just wonderfully Pat!!!

  12. Was never in the military myself although a good number in my family was, it would take a lot to put up with all of that mess Pat, I suppose they have a reason for it.

    Having problems with the comments showing up on mine too.

  13. Unbelievable! Not in my world. Rosemary

  14. Lynn H - Thanks Lynn! It's a shock to the system, that's for sure!

    Jimmy - I know they do have good reason, but some of them are just there because they enjoy abusing people. Valdez was like that. That's his real name, I'd love for him to pop up and comment on my blog. I've been reading your family ancestry stories. Great stuff...

    Steadfast - I wish it hadn't been in mine either! Thanks for commenting...

  15. Ahhh, the old shut down technique. Served me in the Nonsense household well for many, many years :)

  16. SN - Yup, It worked well, for a while.

  17. I think I would have cried and went home.

  18. This is gritty and a read that deserves it's own time slot. I'm going to read the whole series at once and then process my thoughts and comments. I just wanted you to know that you are being witnessed. Thanks for sharing this part of your life with us. - G

  19. Marlene - I thought about hopping the fence more than a couple of times...

    Gerogina - Thanks! It's my pleasure.

  20. Nancy - I saw a couple of guys do just that...

  21. I'm backtracking, here. Read part 1, and just finished part 2. Hats off to you for making it through the verbal and physical and emotional abuse without buckling and just letting him have it. I can't fathom why this is a system that supposedly works, but apparently it's designed to scare the living crap out of you.

    As I read this I remembered this line from Jarhead: "You have no rights. You signed a contract." And with that, they own you lock, stock, and barrel.

    May I recommend a book I read a couple of years ago? "The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil" by Philip Zimbardo. He's a social psychologist who was brought in to give his professional spin on the Abu Ghreib tortures. Besides just analyzing that, he has interesting observations about military social constructs and situational dynamics. I always think to myself that book should be required reading for any person who is considering joining the military, especially on the enlisted side. Zimbardo is the guy who, in the 70's, designed the Stanford Prison Experiment... not sure if you're familiar with that... but he knows his stuff.

    I will be continuing this series... and leaving my thoughts as I go. Thanks for sharing, Pat.


  22. Nevine - For the Marine Corps, it works. But there is too much abuse of power and control. Speaking of power and control...

    Yes, I am familiar with his book. I guess I should say I'm more familiar with his experiments and studies that took place before the book was written. In the case of Sgt. Valdez, he was clearly drawn to his job because of his own control and power issues. I don't think he "changed" at all. You'll see more examples as my posts progress. Most people joining the Marine Corps know what to expect. It's part of the drill. The problems happen when freaks like Valdez are allowed to operate freely. Also, on a slightly funnier (or sadder) note, a lot of the guys who join the Marines, would never be able to comprehend what they were reading...

    I was at your blog for a few minutes earlier when I got interupted and had to leave. I can tell by the format, I'm going to have to remind myself to breath...
    Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

  23. So far from my experience. All I can imagine is running in between him and you and telling him this really isn't the way to behave and he must stop. Don't suppose it would have much effect!


  24. Lucy - I might not have worked, and I might have paid for it later, but I would appreciate the effort! Thanks...

  25. I had a 'Valdez' in boot camp as well. Without reiterating many of the things you've written in your episodes, he made life a living hell using a very similar recipe to the one you describe. I hated that man with everything I had in me...right up until I met him two years later in Afghanistan. He wasn't in my chain of command so I wasn't subjected to his leadership any longer, but I saw him in the chow hall and decided to confront him. He saw me coming, stood up, and stuck his hand out. He said, and I quote, "Well well, if it isn't one of the best Marines I ever helped to create." He remembered me as much as I remembered him. I grilled him on why he treated us the way he did, and he told me that he hated doing it, but the only way Marines are capable of making it through combat and being able to focus well enough to do their job is to do everything they can to tear them down/scare them so much that nothing they face will ever be able to break them. I agreed with him, because I was living proof. He beat the hell out of me the first day on the range because I had shot so poorly. I ended up being platoon and company high shooter and as a result became a scout sniper. I told him I shot so well because I was furious about him doing what he did to me. He said "I know, son. It worked; I hate that it worked, but it worked."

    Just a thought, your Valdez may have thoughts and feelings about you and the other Marines he helped to create that you are unaware of. I believed the same about my Valdez. Regardless, reading this brings back memories, some fond, some not so much.

  26. I went through MCRD San Diego 1963. I was fortunate to have a very good drill instructor. He gave us the same load of crap as everybody else did and would knock you around if it came to that but he was very fair in a hard way. About a year afterword I was sent back to SD for a school. I was walking along that long covered walkway in front of the buildings across the grinder from the boot quonset hut. I saw a bunch of NCOs kneeling on the grinder like we did when we were listening to the D.I. And then I hear this voice that I will never forget! It was SSgt. Johnson, my D.I. He was an instructor at the DI school now. I stood there transfixed for a second and stopped talking to his class and looked at me and said "how are you doing Jordan? You stationed here?" I said "Yas Sir," and stammered that I was going to a school. He said, "that's well" and turned back to his class. Wierd to think that he would remember me and my name after a year. Some of those guys were real screwed up beasts but Johns I respected.

  27. USMC Matt - I'm sorry about the delay in this answer. I could have sworn that I did right after you commented. I think your are right about most of what you said. But, I still believe some guys are drawn to being a DI because hey have a lot of repressed anger and what better place to use that anger? Thanks for the great comment.

    Calvin Jordan - It's good that you have a good memory of him. I've yet to reach that point with Valdez and I suspect I never will. I appreciate this great comment Calvin.


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