During boot camp I got a glimpse of what it was like for drill instructors to miss their families. It was nothing that was overtly said to me directly, but comments that our drill instructor made out of frustration. One day made me realize that this drill instructor had three kids that she rarely got to see. A drill instructor’s tour of duty is three years. That’s basically three years of shift work and being gone for long hours depending on the day and the schedule. That’s rough on family life.
Drill instructors do get frustrated with recruits. Sometimes they wonder if this platoon is going to shape up in time to graduate as Marines. They wonder how many times they will have to say the same thing to recruits before recruits understand and comply. It is out of a sense of excellence that they push recruits to mold and shape them into future Marines. Rarely is it personal.
The crazy hours don’t help either. Drill instructors have to wake recruits up at 0400 hrs. and make sure they get eight hours of sleep by getting them to bed by around 2200 hrs. At least one drill instructor have to stay on site with the recruits. Sometimes they have to stay the whole next day as well. It is absolute heck on their family life. They rarely get to see their family for any length of time as this job requires an extreme sacrifice.
One of the conflicts the drill instructors face when they leave boot camp to go home is the transition from drill instructor to family member. Many families complain that their drill instructor spouse forgets to turn off that part of them before coming home. So simple request to take the trash out or make dinner can come off sounding like an order. This of course can cause tension, especially when the family member has been home the entire time taking care of kids in the house. In these cases, excellent communication is key.
Drill instructors will never admit these kinds of things because it goes against the image they are trying to project to recruits. However, as a recruit it is good to understand that drill instructors are human and they do have families that they miss very much. This can elicit empathy instead of anger from a recruit when they realize the drill instructors are just doing their job.
If you ever wish to become a drill instructor then you must understand the sacrifice involved. It isn’t nearly a matter of bullying recruits or screaming at them. There is a lot of intentional and psychological methods that drill instructors must learn in order to be successful in changing recruits into Marines. One of the biggest sacrifices is the lack of time that you will be able to spend with your family members and loved ones.
Marine Corps drill instructors understand this and accept it, knowing that what they are doing is contributing to a cause greater than themselves and benefiting their country for the greater good.
Source: Personal experience