Boot Camp MCRD Parris Island, South Carolina

Most people have heard about Marine Corps boot camp which is no picnic. You arrive at Parris Island at night. A mean drill instructor comes on the bus, screaming at you to run out on to the yellow foot prints in front of the bus. The drill instructors set out to terrorize you and for the most part succeed. They are screaming and yelling at you, keeping you awake through the first night. They shave your head and take all your possessions. I was a tough guy from dasoutsideaChicaga, but the DI's succeeded in frightening me.

The photo is me in Boot Camp in March 1967. The glasses were fake without lenses - would not want your civilian glasses to be used for your photo.  Note the fear and fatigue in my eyes. The gadget under the photo is to set the service number - mine was 2351715.

The physical training was very tough, but I was in excellent condition and did not have much trouble with the long formation runs or PT.  Hand to hand combat was ok. The academics were pretty easy - mostly memorization and since you had absolutely nothing else to do studying was easy.  We were not allowed any free time and not allowed to talk to anyone.  If a DI saw you looking around, you were in deep kimchee.

One time I was marching and my cover (hat) started to blow off. I quickly yanked it back on, but Sgt Bess saw the motion and called me to the front. They usually just hit you in the solar plexus or popped you in the throat, which was no big deal.  But Sgt Bess assigned me "food for thought". This meant you stood on your bald head on the concrete deck until you could no longer stay up. Good old Bess then had two other boots hold my legs up so I could get some more time upside down.  When I finally finished I had a 3 inch deep bruise on the top of my bald head.  I vowed to attack Bess if he assigned me more food for thought, but he did not.  

I was an excellent boy scout but I was a marginal young Marine. Every Marine is a rifleman and the Corps is justly proud of its record of training expert marksman. The only trouble for me is that I was a lousy shooter.

We spent two weeks on the rifle range at Parris Island.  The first week is spent in snapping in (practicing shooting your rifle, laying in position for hours).  The second week involves actual shooting. Every day I failed to pre qualify with the requisite score of 190. Every day our drill instructors would knock around all of us failures. We would line up and report to the drill instructors who would punch us in the solar plexus. They would then fill the showers with bleach and ammonia. They had us exercise in the ammonia, rolling around and vowing to shoot better the next day.

I presume the intent of the drill instructors was to motivate us to try harder. This worked for our platoon for strength events where we were the top platoon. For skill events such as shooting, however, the extra pressure was counterproductive. Our platoon shot much worse than our two sister platoons where the drill instructors did not exert so much pressure.

On qualification day I was doing my best and I knew I would be close to qualification. I was terrible shooting standing up and kneeling but better sitting down and in the prone position. I did not keep track of my score - the drill instructor advised that keeping score would just make us more nervous.

We shot from the 200, 300, and 500 yard line. I was doing very well at the final round at the 500 yard line shooting bull’s eye after bull’s eye. I knew I had a chance to qualify.

Then the shooter next to me told the drill instructor that his target had gone down without his firing. I HAD SHOT A BULL'S-EYE ON THE WRONG TARGET. My panic increased.

The drill instructor resolved the problem by having the other rifleman shoot on my target. The other shooter was an expert marksman, but he shot a 4 on my target in exchange for the bull’s-eye 5 that I had shot on his target.

My final score was 189, one point short of qualification. If I had shot my own bull's-eye I would have qualified. This meant no shooting badge. It meant that I had to crawl back three miles from the rifle range to the barracks with "UNQ" (Unqualified) written in chalk on my back. My drill instructors knocked me around once again, telling me that I did not even care. We UNQs had to walk guard every night for the rest of boot camp and on forced marches we had to run around the entire column shouting "I am an UNQ". We were also considered pariahs. As the Drill Instructor stated, "who would want to be in a foxhole with an UNQ?" Becoming an UNQ also killed any chance of me getting promoted to PFC out of boot camp.

I did manage to complete boot camp in 8 weeks and was very glad to leave the island. I have never returned.

Each year we again fired on the riflerange. The next time I shot after boot camp without a drill instructor screaming in my ear I qualified. And each year I got a little better and finally qualified as an expert.

After Boot Camp we went on to ITR (Infantry Training Regiment at New River, North Carolina. I served two weeks on Mess Duty, and then two weeks in Infantry training. The Marines who were going to the Infantry went to a four week school. After ITR I flew home, and then on to my Military Occupational School (MOS). 

Videos Below: