PI 144 in 1965

I enlisted in April 1965 while 17. I would go to PI after I graduated from high school as I would be 18, before the Marine Corps decided to draft recruits in August. I joined on the buddy plan. My buddy and I never saw each other after the train ride to New York City until months later.
The eighty guys with me were from New York and New Jersey who flew with me to Charleston, SC. My buddy took the train with a mess of guys from the NY metro area to Beaufort, SC. Each of our times in receiving was short.
The next day we got our gear and haircuts under the purview of drill instructors who greeted us the night before. Now the big change after our noon chow, 4 DI‘s came in. We 80 were their responsibility. They clearly informed us that we were to form 4 columns randomly with our new gear carried, not set on the ground. I was mid ranks and was looking forward to a summer takings orders.
Well, a DI grabbed my shoulder and told me I was first squad leader. I went to the head of the line. Not a good omen. We marched across the grinder looking like a caterpillar. At the barracks, I was told to enter the squad bay at a brisk pace. I asked no questions and lumbered forward with the newly received gear.
Wham, half way down and looking at the screen door I would tumble out if I had not been instructed by my DI to stop at the rack he wanted me to stop at. All others came in. And so training proceeded and continued until Mess week.
Sunday morning and 3 squads went to 1st Bn Mess Hall. One squad went to 4th Bn. We went to 1st Bn Mess Hall. It was hard work but the squad who went to 4th Bn seemed to enjoy beating us to the squad bay every day.
Our squad had half the mess hall. Another squad had the other half. The third was in the back of the kitchen out of sight.
Lunch mess call on Tuesday, I’m first to serve the meat and others serve the remainder of potatoes, vegetables, gravy, ice cream, bread, etc. A bunch of new recruits show up as a platoon. We serve them one after the other.
A new recruit presents his tray to me. I hit his tray with an empty spoon, no meat. He does not look at me and moves to the next station. That next future Marine sees this and hits his tray with an empty spoon. Everybody did not give him any chow.
Now the DI explosion: A DI watches what recruits get at the end of the chow line. While we continued to serve others, the DI sees his one recruit got nothing. He runs up to me and berates me. No worry on my part, this is not my DI. We then served the recruit a normal serving, but I hope the recruit learned about situational awareness.
The mess week finally ended Saturday night.

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MCRD San Diego

I enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve in 1958 and went to recruit training in July of 1959.My reserve unit at the time was the 13th Rifle Company later to become Alpha 1-23. The unit ran a semi boot training for about the first 3 months, at that time we went to meeting 1 night a week. By the time I went to MCRD San Diego in July I thought I was squared away. I had been on the wrestling team and was in good shape and didn’t think I would have any problem with the physical training. About the 5th or 7th week on schedule our senior DI Gunnery Sergeant Bill Covey ran ;us over to the pull bar, No problem. When my turn came I jumped up on the bar and did 12 pull ups, little did I know my DI was not watching me , but watching a plane take off from the runway next to the depot, I dropped to the ground only to hear “Lets see what you can do”. Needless to say I could not do one single pull up. my enraged DI ordered me to pack my sea bag , I was being sent to STP (special training platoon), and report to the company commander. There an enrage Captain standing about 5 foot 7 inches tall screaming in my face to me to get my sorry ass out to the chin up bar outside his hut and do some pull ups. I did 12 pull ups and when I dropped down it got very quiet. I was sent back to my platoon . I don’t think my DI ever forgave me for making him look bad in front of the Captain. YOU JUST DID NOT WANT TO BE SET BACK

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Set back again.

My experience in boot camp was similar(but different) to the Set back story. I, like he, also was issued boots of the wrong size. Mine were too short because i have a high instep and shorter foot. As in his case, my boots also caused a blister that caused by foot to swell up two sizes. I don’t remember having the blister at all. The swelled up foot was discovered the night before first drill. My DI, Plt. 113, asked me if i could drill the next day before going to sick bay. Of course i didn’t say no. I did the drill then was immediately sent to the hospital first then to casual plt. after the swelling went down. This was about a 2 week period.
I was with that Plt.(forget the number) until we arrived at rifle range Camp at Camp Pendleton. When we arrived at our barracks we were given time to chose our bunk and then told to take a shower before evening chow. While in the shower, as i remember it, another recruit saw me and went to get our DI. When he saw me, i think he was going to have a heart attack. I had red spots all over. There had, in the not too distant past, cases of spinal meningitis, which may have crossed his mind. Fortunately, i didn’t have that but instead Reubella (German measles). So off to the hospital i went for quarantine. Two others, i don’t believe from my Plt. joined me. Needless to say, i was there a while from initial quarantine through healing.
Then i was sent to my third Plt. 133 with which i did training at the rifle range and completed my boot camp. This happened between Jan. ’66 to April ’66 at MCRD San Diego. SEMPER FI to all who served before me, with me and after me.

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Set backs

Summer 1976 Plt 1073 we started with 80 recruits and graduated 78 however only 41 or 42 of us were the original 80 SSgt Viescus Sgt McNeal or Cpl Watson would have us welcome the new joins with a session in the pit. SSgt Viescus was the only person I know who could break you with 5 eight count push-ups. Course those 5 could sometimes take over 30 minutes to do. I also remember that the 7,8,1,2 count took 2 seconds but 3,4,5,6 were a lot longer. The only people who wanted to see a new recruit standing at the DI shack with a Seabag were the previous new pickups as there was a new focus of attention and they were now old salts

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After reading the stories about thumping in boot camp I had to tell of my experience with this, I was in plt 3047, 1979 San Diego, and we had a DI who when it was his night to have the duty he would punch each recruit in the chest after he was done inspecting him durring hygiene inspection to knock him back onto his foot locker, we all expected it and no one ever said anything about it, that is until he ruptured one recruit’s intestines, it happened because this recruit refused to fall back onto his foot locker, we called him our little wobble, he would wobble but would not fall down. Well one night when the DI punched him in the chest he went back but as usual he started to pop pack up and when he was on his way back to the position of attention the DI under cut him in the guts, later that night he was taken to sick bay and a couple hours later the DI was taken by the MP’s, we were told that we were not to talk about it outside our platoon, then we all were interviewed and the recruits that had seen it happen were held on legal hold after we graduated. I want to thank my DI’s SSgt Snow, Sgt Thames, Sgt King, I will not mention the name of the DI whom was relieved of duty, for helping to shape my life. What we thought of as sadistic back then, we laugh at now.

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Being Set Back

I’ve seen it mentioned but not discussed in depth. That feared and unwelcome extension of one’s stay in boot camp… being set back. I hit Parris Island at about 9:30 PM on Sept 28, 1961, picked up by Platoon 376, Company Q, 3rd Training Battalion, but graduated on Dec 22, 1961, with Platoon 383, Company R, 3rd Training Battalion. So yes, I was set back. There’s many paths to it, likely many for common reasons. But, how you ended up taking that detour, what went on taking that route, how you came out the other end and how it affected you, is likely a somewhat different story for each recruit. Here’s my story. I guess I can say it’s the story about a blister. A crappy little blister on my left foot! Or, maybe it’s the story about just how important boots are to a Marine. Our DIs picked us up on the 29th and about the first place they herded us to was supply. You got your gear, utilities and boots. I remember we had to walk along a wooded platform where some guy in supply measured your foot, or looked at your foot, and determined your boot size from his vast experience, after which he flung a couple your way. You put them on. I told him they were too big. He did the usual snarl, or some wise azs remark, which basically boiled down to… “Shut the F’up, this is your size, move on.” In about two days a blister about the size of a quarter developed. I suffered through it about a week with it getting worse by the day. It hurt in the mornings, but the pain went away with use of the foot. The blister got really ugly. When we were in the shower a couple of guys would tell me I should tell the DI. But, I thought I could tough it out. Finally tossed it in and showed it to my Sr DI when red lines were starting up my left leg. He took one look and told me to get my shavinggear and sent, or took me to sick bay. I hit sick bay at about 10 days after I hit PI. We were just beginning to have “fun”. From the reaction of the doctor, blisters weren’t rare. He propped my foot up and cleaned it (by scrubbing it hard with some kind of antiseptic soap). Probably gave me a pill or such, but primarily the treatment was to stick me in a bed, stay off my foot as much as possible, have me wash it four times a day with Phisohex soap, give me a little cooker that kept a little pot of water hot, and every 20 minutes I was to put a fresh piece of hot gauze over the wound. All day long until lights out. Attached is a sketch of what the majority of my day looked like for a week. Sick Bay wasn’t like the hospital. There’s NOTHING to do, to read, to see (e.g. TV). Relative to the new normal of boot camp training, it was limbo la la land. You were in PI, but you weren’t in PI. And God, time crawled. The only constructive thing I could do was write and read letter. I had way more time to write an actual letter than in the barracks, so I did do that. What was really on my mind, was the fear of getting set back. Somewhere in the process, someone explained the rules of engagement. If you lost more than 72 hours of training you could be set back three days. But, weekends didn’t count as they weren’t considered training days. So it was my healing blister racing the clock. I started healing up right away, and by three days, so well if I was at home, Dr. Me would have slapped on a band-aid, gotten a pair of boots that fit, and dived back in. But it wasn’t up to me. It was maddening. If one Doc had a say, I might have made it out of there and stayed on track. But, there were two Docs. A general guy, and a foot guy. The former was ready to let me pop back into circulation at the end of three days, but the foot guy kept vetoing him right past the deadline. Also on the table was a possible transfer to the hospital… for a blister! The other general rule of thumb is, if you didn’t get released in three days back into training, they’d transfer you to the hospital. A mixed blessing. As the hospital was “good duty”, you weren’t a recruit there, but a patient, and they wanted patients to be happy and comfortable… good food, reading material, TV, perhaps movies. I didn’t want to go there. You only have to be in PI for a day to learn you want to leave in good standing ASAP. This side tour was like sensory deprivation. From hump busting 12-hour days to instant laying in bed most of the time doing squat. From screaming, hollering, noise, and hard azsing to mostly being left alone. I mean really! For a while, the sick bay population at times was just me and a Corpsman. I say mostly left alone as most of the Corpsmen were decent guys just doing their jobs. And they didn’t consider playing DI to be part of their job. But one guy did, pontificating on how little he gave a shit about the DIs, while trying to imitate them with ball busting or name calling. I remember one evening he got all excited. The optimum word in Parris Island is Island. And, as boots, we were often warned that no matter how well you thought you could swim, don’t try to “escape”. First you had to get through the swamp and quicksand to get to open water, and the open water had strong currents and tides… and even if you got through that… someone would pick you up on the other side. I supposed someone(s) making a break for freedom wasn’t uncommon. On this one evening, this Corpsman heard through the grapevine or an alert that two guys made a break for it. That guy was thrilled. Calling his friends etc. f-cking ghoul. All good things came to an end. After 8 days, 6 training days, Doc 1 talked Doc 2 into releasing me. Doc 2 must have been a low risk guy. He appeared to want me to have skin like a baby before letting me go. But Doc 1 prevailed. He told me I was his “experiment”… that’s to see how I’d fare with some healing to go. Or would I return? I don’t remember exactly how I got to sick bay in the first place. Walk or was driven? Or, how I got back. I just know they practically kicked me out when they finally decided to release me, before I had a chance to shave. I recall getting back to my old barracks and I think reporting to my Sr. DI. Just me and him. To us boots, he exuded fear. His voice would darken the sun. I braced myself for his undivided and worst attention. But, he didn’t hard azs me. He just calmly said that I’d missed too many days and he couldn’t take me back, and to get my stuff together. I think he would have kept me if I missed by a day over the limit. They never packed my gear, which is what they do when you aren’t returning. I assume they get some kind of status reports too. I think I asked if I could shave before I moved on explaining why. He said OK, again with no hassle. I also don’t recall how I got to my new platoon, if I was picked up or delivered. The two DIs and platoons blur in the baton pass. I remember getting a look behind the veil. That DIs were people. After he picked me up, the first order of business for my new Sr DI was getting me a new pair of boots, ones that fit. So he drove us to supply. But, his wife had some place she needed to go, so he picked her up and for part of the way it was them up front with me, a wart on a log, sitting in the back seat, silent and at attention. Weird. Surreal in recruit world. At supply I got re-fitted, except this time my DI personally saw to it, to his satisfaction (and mine) that the boots were the right size. They were. I never had a problem again. The bad thing about being set back is the underlying fear, and one leveraged by the DIs, that you’re viewed as defective or worse, as a sh-tbird. And, be treated accordingly. That no matter what, you did not want to get set back. That’s one reason I wasn’t a happy camper about reporting back to duty unshaven. I could see how that wouldn’t help my cause, and to this day, I wonder if some b-stard of a Corpsman refused me my shave thinking it would cause me some grief. There’s all kinds of reasons why people get set back… and if attitude is one, yeah, perhaps you’ll catch some heat. But, in my case, neither DI burned up any energy or time to give me a hard time. Besides, screaming and hollering at someone in a vacuum (absent of other recruits is a waste of their time, as no other recruit is there to get the message. My new Platoon-mates as far as I can recall were decent too. Business as usual. And the timing was such that I’d already done more training-wise than they had because I’d gone further into the cycle. So I wasn’t the source of some grief because I screwed something up. You just had to adjust to a new DI’s rules. Like in Platoon 373, proper approach to the DI’s hut was to slam your hand on the bulkhead HARD, TWICE and scream as load as you could to request to speak to the Drill Instructor, Preceding and Ending with the Sir. When I did that in Platoon 383 the other recruits looked at me like I fell into the barracks from Mars. They had a different ritual that didn’t include the opening slams and bellowing. So if the concept of being embarrassed exists in boot camp, you could be embarrassed by looking like some kind of idiot. In sum, getting set back offered a slightly different boot camp experience, but one I’d rather have skipped. It does affect you. Think about it. First you start boot camp, yanking you into another world, which turns your previous world upside down. Just when you begin adjusting to that, your chain gets yanked again, throwing you into some other world and you’re off balance again, then you’re spit out of that into another change. Bizarre as it sounds, I always related to my first platoon more than the second. And I don’t think I ever got completely back in balance until out of boot camp into ITR which hit the reset button for everyone. There was one upside. Platoon 383 was on an accelerated schedule to get us out before Christmas. So I didn’t lose any calendar time. I left PI just about when I would have had I stayed put. Don Harkness Submit your own Story>>

MARINE OF THE WEEK // “Everything you’ve been trained to do matters”

Sgt. Joshua L. Moore
2D BN 8TH Marines, RCT-1, 2nd Marine Division
Operation Enduring Freedom
March 14, 2011
Award: Navy Cross

Then-Lance Corporal Moore demonstrated audacity and selfless devotion to duty in the face of a determined enemy when his element came under attack north of Marjah. Two Marines who were outside the structure the team was using for cover immediately became casualties. Insurgents then threw two grenades over the wall into the team’s position. Without hesitation, and with complete disregard for his own life, Lance Corporal Moore picked up the first grenade and threw it out of the building, where it immediately detonated. He then picked up the second grenade, recognized it had malfunctioned and would not detonate, discarded it, and charged out of the structure to aid the wounded. Though instantly taken under fire by an enemy force one hundred meters away, Lance Corporal Moore audaciously stood his ground, returning fire with his M-4 rifle and M-203 grenade launcher. The effects of his fire neutralized the enemy and forced them to abandon their position, buying his team precious time to regroup and aid their wounded. He then immediately took action to assist in the scouting and securing of a landing zone to extract wounded personnel. By his outstanding display of decisive leadership, unlimited courage in the face of fire, and complete dedication to duty, Lance Corporal Moore reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and of the United States Naval Service.

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On 10 November 1970, Commandant Chapman challenged all Marines, active and inactive, young and old, deployed or recently returned from combat, “not to look back, but instead, to look to the future.” He insisted that we celebrate our anniversary, “not as an end of almost two centuries of dedicated service, but as preparation for new service, new dedication, and new achievement.” Those sage words resonate across time and are as applicable today as they were 51 years ago.

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MARINE OF THE WEEK // “Somebody had to get this child out of the river”

Lance Cpl. Tucker Watson-Veal
Infantry Marine, 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion
Salt River, Arizona
September 17, 2016
Award: Navy and Marine Corps Medal

While on vacation, then-PFC Watson-Veal was approached by a distraught man who said a child was caught up in a strong current and couldn’t swim. Watson-Veal immediately sprung into action, pushing up-river past the child before plunging into the icy cold waters. After letting the current take him to the child, Watson-Veal latched onto him with one arm while grabbing onto a tree branch. Because of the nearby terrain, there was no way to pull the boy onto land. Additionally, the Marine noticed the young boy was showing signs of hypothermia. Watson-Veal held his position against the current and cold until an airboat belonging to the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office arrived on scene to assist, preventing the child from drowning.

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