Thursday, July 29, 2010

Today's Motivation

Poem penned by Hamlin Garland and found written on the wall of Marine combat Observation Post Karma

Columnist Mark Shield's piece about the Marines and our values appeared in newspapers across the country today. It's a good read, especially the boot camp part.

A half a century ago, I spent the longest 13 weeks of my life at an out-of-the-way place called Parris Island, S.C., then and now the home of the Marine Corps Recruit Depot.

We were strangers who arrived there in the middle of the night and were immediately relieved of all our civilian clothing and possessions — including our hair. Standing there confused, apprehensive and bald, I remember asking myself over and over: What the hell am I doing here?

Then silently appeared in our midst a man in a starched uniform and polished boots brimming with self-confidence and a sense of command. This was the Marine drill instructor, the DI, who did not conceal his disgust with what he saw in us. I can still hear him that we were the sorriest collection of misfits and rejects he or anyone else had ever seen.

What followed was 90 days of splendid misery. Civilian habits, speech and attitude were marched and drilled and driven out of us. The DI was relentlessly democratic. He treated everyone on our platoon, 189, with equal contempt while double-timing us 12 hours a day from mess duty to the rifle range and back. He used his personal term of endearment to remind us, "Maggot, remember, you volunteered to be here."

Somehow after more than three months of no Cokes, no beer, no TV and not even a day off, the DI, by then our Ultimate Authority Figure, reluctantly conceded that just possibly, maybe someday, we might actually be Marines. The combination of joy, relief and pride was unmatched.

I was not a great Marine. I never saw combat. I got a lot more from the Marines than the Marines got from me. But I believe fervently that this nation today needs the values of the Marine Corps as much as the nation needs the Marine Corps.

Of course, honor, courage and commitment are always in short supply. But the Marines teach personal responsibility and accountability by example, that any chain is only as strong as the weakest individual link. As a unit, we are stronger working together than the individual members can separately be.

Marines take care of their own — and they take care of their fellow Marines before themselves. The well-being of the country and of the Corps is more important than our individual well-being.
This may best be stated in the hard-and-fast Marine rule: "Officers eat last." The Marine officer does not eat until after his subordinates for whom he is responsible — the corporals and privates — have been fed. Marines live by the rule that loyalty goes both up and down the chain of command. Would not our country be a more just and human place if the brass of Wall Street and Washington and executive suites believed that "officers eat last"?

The Marine ethic emphasizes responsibility to duty and responsibility to others before self. This is the very opposite of the unbridled individualism that elevates profit and personal comfort to high virtues. The selfish and self-centered CEO or senator who disregards and discards his loyal "troops" would be shunned in the Corps.

Civilian Americans must understand that the greatest civil rights victories have been won by the Marines and the U.S. military, the most successfully integrated sector of our national life. Why? No racial reference and no racial discrimination. The first time I ever slept in the same quarters with African-Americans or Latinos — or took orders from them — was as a private in the Marines Corps.

Yes, America really does need more Marine values and influence.

I want to echo Mr. Shields with a photograph I took at OP Karma back in June. The words you see in the photo are written on the back wall of one of the most dangerous places in the world.


m clement hall said...

I served in the British Army as a sergeant, and I knew the USMC in Europe and in Viet Nam, I have great respect for them. But I cannot for the life of me see the need to abuse recruits. Pride in arms, unit pride, can be built without abuse.

Brian Dunbar said...

But I cannot for the life of me see the need to abuse recruits.

I enlisted in 1985.

I never saw, nor did I hear about, nor was I a victim of abuse in boot camp.

Chris Martin said...

Calling people "maggots" constitutes psychological abuse.

mdfay said...

Marine Corps boot camp, based on my personal experience, both as a recruit and as a former teacher of the emotionally disturbed, has one primary educational/experiential goal-to minimize mindless "flight" behaviour and to maximize mindful "fight" behaviour. The "stressing" in recruit training triggers the most profound of flight responses in the mind of most American youth (no matter how tough they think they are) and at the same time provides NO possible way to act on them. The adolescent psyches and bodies that land on Parris Island are awash in flight and avoidance behaviours. Not only does the recruit have to absolutely internally quell the overwhelming urge to flee (I prayed for brain cancer-no lie), but you must also learn mountains of military knowledge and skills. The proof is in the pudding. All the so-called abuse has resulted in creating, out of the raw inchoate material provided by American culture, warriors of the highest order, both mentally and physically. Perhaps in other cultures such extremes would not be required, but in America, the land of the coddled and perpetual adolescent, it's completely appropriate.

TJIC said...

> Calling people "maggots" constitutes psychological abuse.

I, for one, suffered much worse name calling in a government run middle school than I ever did in the US military.

Being called a "maggot" by some guy who clearly went through the same training himself years before?

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but some light weight semi-obligatory insult like that not only doesn't hurt me - it barely registers.

Besides, if a recruit is going to get his feelings hurt by a friendly American who has no goal more important than "make a Marine out of this guy", then it's probably best to identify that trait early so that the recruit can be ushered out of the organization before he's trained, equipped, and deployed.

Heck, 13 year old girls are 50 times crueler to each other than a DI ever is.

SB7 said...

>> Calling people "maggots" constitutes psychological abuse.

> I, for one, suffered much worse name calling in a government run middle school than I ever did in the US military.

Ditto. "Maggot" happens to be the exact work that kids at my middle school called the white and asian kids who were bused in.

There is such a thing as psychological abuse, but it's not the same thing as name calling and general meanness. Identifying rudeness as "psychological abuse" signifies to me that someone doesn't know much about either psychology or abuse.

Brian Dunbar said...

(I prayed for brain cancer-no lie)

Hah - I thought it would be fine indeed if I got shot on the range.

Nothing bad - one bullet in the leg and I'd be sent home with a medical discharge and I'd be out of that place.

The feeling passed, but range week was a low point for me.

espresso said...

Thank all of you so very much for your service.

I am very happy that the USMC alone out of the US armed forces has not knuckled under to gender-norming, unisex barracks, and other silliness.

Every Marine I've had the pleasure to have as a colleague has been an exemplary person to know. They don't cut corners, they don't shirk responsibility, and they don't waste time during the workday posting comments on blogs. :-P

Brian Dunbar said...

I am very happy that the USMC ... has not knuckled under to gender-norming, unisex barracks ...

In 1992 my company occupied a three-story barracks at Camp Kinser, Okinawa. Men occupied one end of 1st and 3rd, women the 2nd floor and the other end of the 1st floor.

KG said...

"Calling people "maggots" constitutes psychological abuse."
Oh, the poor dears!
I suffered more psychological abuse from my own mother than I ever did in the Army.
In fact, the recruit training came as a huge relief to me--finding out that there were such things as fairness, consistency and an objective set of standards to be judged by.
Cost/benefit, Mr. Martin. And the benefits far outweigh the cost of fleeting hurt feelings.

Anonymous said...

I enlisted in 1964. I remember basic fondly and nearly cried watching the beginning scenes in Full Metal Jacket. It was a rush of memories and nostalgia. I still feel proud hearing the Marine DI who had a TV show and does advertisements. I stand taller and feel stronger just hearing the DI encouraging me to be a better man. I was never abused. Wish I could go back and do it all again...

christian soldier said...

KG!!-you come to this sight too!!!!
Great isn't it?!!

Kristopher Battles said...

The "abuse" is absolutely necessary, in that combat by nature is abusive.

One can't be prepared for that abusive environment if never exposed to abuse...

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