Freeze column: ‘Sir, Yes Sir!’ the scream as drill instructors command attention

  • Posted: Thursday, March 13, 2014 12:33 a.m.
David Freeze/For the Salisbury Post
Richard Taylor, West Rowan High School shop teacher, shoots an M-16 on the Parris Island firing range.
David Freeze/For the Salisbury Post Richard Taylor, West Rowan High School shop teacher, shoots an M-16 on the Parris Island firing range.

Editor’s note: David Freeze of Rowan County and several educators are at Parris Island for a hands-on introduction to Marine boot camp. He filed this report Wednesday night.

I can say with all honesty that I absolutely will value the experience of today at the Parris Island Marine Corps Recruit Depot for the rest of my life.

It all started off with the great expectation of what would happen when a drill instructor climbed on our bus at 6:30 a.m.

Our group got very quiet as we entered the base, and nervous jokes were about all that were heard.

We got a real taste of what the actual recruits experience when that instructor climbed on the bus. He was loud and forceful, but no doubt he got our attention.

We were told to walk fast, but not run to a long series of yellow footprints. Amidst even more yelling, we were instructed to walk fast but not run into the building, then take a seat at a desk. Things calmed down while we got a briefing on what this moment means to the new recruit. They have already been up for hours, are worried about what to expect, and are pushed to the limit by the drill instructors and base personnel.

Next for us came a hectic period of learning to operate as a unit and to listen to the drill instructor as he moved the group from place to place.

Senior Drill Instructor Derosa had us confused and working hard to follow his orders, but he absolutely had the attention of the educators. We eventually made some progress and were able to move as squads and a platoon.

We learned the D.I. Is the conduit to training a good Marine, partly because they push themselves to “harder, faster, better stronger.” They become the father and mother figure, doing their best to mold the recruit in all the ways possible to instill the values of the Marine Corps. A D.I. can work as much as 120 hours per week when he or she is on duty with a recruit platoon.

Gen. Lori Reynolds, commander of Parris Island and East Coast recruiting, explained to the group why this educator program is beneficial to the Marines.

“We will show you everything you want to see. This is your Marine Corps,” she said. “We want to show the educators the truth about the Corps. Our goal is to get the best kids, finding men and women of character to represent the uniform in the proud manner that it deserves.”

Parris Island processes about 20,000 recruits annually, with about 3,000 of them being women. There are about 175,000 total Marines serving the country today.

Reynolds said, “We want our best to re-enlist. The Marine Corps is a performance-based organization. We are not only expected to fight our nation’s battles, we are expected to win them.”

The educators learned that the Marine Corps is not a correctional unit. Out of 100 applicants, only 57 will graduate boot camp. They have already been recruited for morals, attitudes and proper behavior on the way to learning the Marine Corps ideals of honor, courage and commitment.

Financial assistance is available for various forms of continued education, both within and following periods of active service.

Next came an extensive tour of a recruit platoon’s barracks. Our D.I. kept the pressure on, giving us an even better feel for the daily life of the recruit. We saw the beds and gear stored correctly, and large bathrooms and shower facilities.

On we went to lunch — chow time — highlighted by an opportunity to have conversations with current recruits. We witnessed the most hectic and harried meal time I have ever seen, with full platoons hustling in to grab a large meal, eat very quickly, and get back to their training. The recruits aren’t allowed to talk with each other, can only eat with one hand and get an average of 20 minutes to complete the meal.

I was stressed the whole time, just listening to the drill instructors pushing the recruits constantly. It was fun to talk with the recruits, though most were very reserved in their responses. I enjoyed talking with Myesha Bonham from Newport News, Va., and Sydney Lepoer from Shrewsbury, Mass. Both were glad to be recruits. In their responses, they both referred to themselves as “this recruit.” Bonham said, “I am glad I came. I was doing nothing at home, and because of the Marine Corps, I will be a better person and better citizen.”

Our next highlight was moving to an indoor firing range for an opportunity to learn the mechanics of shooting an M-16, just before we moved to an outdoor firing range for 12 shots apiece with the real thing. Richard Taylor had the high score on the indoor range, being the only educator with a perfect score.

Actual recruits get a week of instruction before being allowed to shoot live ammunition.

The last highlight of the day was a visit to the Marine Corps Air Station. Our visit included a presentation from non- commissioned officers about their life and job in the Marines, with an emphasis on how they got there. We got to climb on an F/A-18 Hornet jet, and received an explanation of the plane and the requirements to fly it from two pilots. Marine Corps fighter jet pilots are considered to be in the top 1 percent of all those in service.

Reynolds said, “When Friday comes, you probably won’t be ready to leave.”

I am pretty sure that most of our group will agree.

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