By Jack Mandaville I want to make a few of my...
Boot Camp Christmas
By Jared Duggar
During Marine Corps Recruit Training, there’s one week that young recruits look forward to with great anticipation: Mess & Maintenance week. For a few blissful days, the entire Company is farmed out to various places around the Recruit Depot – mess halls, Base Maintenance, the rifle range “target factory” – to slave at various menial tasks so that real Marines don’t have to. Any day where you deal with Drill Instructors stressing you out for less than two or three hours seems like a vacation, and since it’s already 6 or 8 weeks into the training schedule – mid-December, in our case – you can almost allow yourself to think about returning to the outside world again someday. The prospect of 14-hour days of mowing lawns, painting rocks, and washing dishes seems like a barrel of fun compared to the alternative, and there’s a glimmer of hope beginning to grow in your mind.
Such was the case for my Platoon, 2081. After worship services one Sunday, we packed all our gear and moved topside to the squad bay we’d live in for Mess & Maintenance week. We were shoehorned in with Platoon 2087, but their schedule of maintenance work meant we’d hardly see them while we worked at the chow hall that week. After an hour or so of settling in and meeting their DI, it seemed like this wouldn’t be a bad deal after all. What little free time we had each night wouldn’t be taken up by classes or merciless hazing military instruction, so I would be able to crank off a few Christmas cards to the folks back home and work on spit-shining my boots some more. So many activities!
That’s exactly what my Platoon was doing on the night that 2087’s Drill Instructor went totally, completely mental on all of his recruits. ‘81 had been back at The House for most of an hour when we heard ‘87 march up out front, dismiss, and then come stampeding up the ladderwell to the 3rd deck. The entire time, their DI stormed behind them, screaming at full-on Drillmaster Command Voice volume, berating them for doing whatever stupid thing it was that had pissed him off. Yeah, we were wondering what the hell had happened – mainly so we wouldn’t do the same thing and catch hell from our DIs – but my Platoon to a man knew better than to look up or even acknowledge the presence of 87 once they stormed in and stood online at attention in front of their footlockers.
By the time their DI strode in, it was deathly quiet in the squad bay, save for the sounds of 2081’s recruits buffing boots and writing letters as we sat Indian-style on the floor. He walked back & forth in front of 2087, whispering just loud enough for 87 to hear him… but whatever he was saying was having great effect. I think I caught a glimpse on one of his recruits pissing his pants a little bit as the DI continued hissing at them. In the midst of this muted tirade of horrific threats and well-earned mockery, the DI suddenly stopped midstride, as if he’d been hit by a sniper – or, in this case, an epiphany.
At this point, the recruits of 2087 collectively hesitated a bit. I could understand why – I was beginning to wonder if I’d heard him right myself.
“I DIDN’T FUCKING STUTTER, YOU IDIOTS! GET NAKED, LIKE THE DAY YOU WERE BORN, RIGHT GODDAMN NOW!!!”
Which was all 87 needed in the way of clarification, I guess. Boots, cammies, skivvies, and body parts went flying all over the place on 87’s end of the squad bay. They were totally disrobed in about 20 seconds, which was about average recruit speed for dressing or undressing (seriously). After that, things got a little weird.
“ALRIGHT, BITCHES, LISTEN UP: WHEN I GIVE THE COMMAND, YOU WILL DIVE INTO YOUR FOOTLOCKERS, AND WHEN YOU COME BACK UP YOU WILL BE ON LINE WITH FOOT POWDER IN YOUR LEFT HAND AND YOUR PONCHO IN YOUR RIGHT HAND. DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME?
It was a flurry of naked bodies moving with crazed urgency, scattering everything they owned on the deck until they came up with the two items they needed and returned to the position of attention, most with some serious concerns about whatever the hell was going to happen next.
“ALRIGHT, 87 – GET INTO MY RAIN ROOM NOW!!!”
We continued to sit, studiously ignoring 2087 and their DI, as they scurried like cockroaches into the shower side of the head. The DI, still in his still-immaculate Service “C” uniform, followed them, screaming like a maniac the entire time.
Once again it got eerily quiet. After about a minute, I recalled Auschwitz and began to think he might have gassed them all to start over with fresh recruits that weren’t total fuckups. But no… what happened next was actually a bit more frightening to a bunch of Third Phase recruits.
The DI stepped out of the head and strolled over to the middle of 2081’s area. He then asked, in a normal, friendly, conversational tone “Hey, 81 – you guys wanna see something funny?”
I froze, mid-buff, holding my boot brush, and was stunned enough to venture a gaze upwards at the Drill Instructor. As a rule, DIs don’t have “conversations” with recruits, much less friendly ones. Yet there he was, grinning, hands on his hips, as he asked again: “No, seriously, guys – could you use a good laugh?”
We were flabbergasted, but at least a few recruits had the presence of mind to answer “YES, SIR!”
He walked back over to the entrance of the head, pointing at the deck and said “Give me a single file line right here.”
We all dropped our writing gear and boot brushes and ran over to the spot where he was pointing, standing at attention in a perfect single file line, eyes forward.
“Relax, guys,” he said. “This will be fun, I promise.”
He then peered around the corner towards the showers and screamed “HIT IT, BITCHES!!!”
As we were led into the changing area between the showers and shitters, we were greeted by the sight of seventy-three very broken and dejected looking young men dancing in the showers wearing nothing but field ponchos, squeezing and puffing gigantic bottles of foot powder into the air as they sang “Jingle Bells” at full volume. A few of us laughed openly, falling over almost in tears, but that wasn’t quite good enough.
“No, LAUGH, 81!!! LAUGH AT MY STUPID BITCHES! SING, BITCHES! SING!!! MERRY FUCKING CHRISTMAS, 87, YOU GODDAMN MORONS!”
Of all the moments I wish I’d been able to capture in a photograph during boot camp, this one was right up there. It truly would have made one hell of a Christmas card for the folks back home.