The reputation of drill instructors precedes them. They have been written about, portrayed in TV and movies. The most frightening creatures to set face on the Earth, drill instructors are the definition of Marine Corps boot camp. The mystery of their reputation is encouraged. Tales of boot camp stories are turned into myth and new recruits are many times terrified of the possibilities of all the horrible things that can happen to them once drill instructors are unleashed.
About a year after I graduated boot camp I returned to Parris Island to find out if I could see a family member of mine. He was in recruit training at the time. I found his platoon which was outside drilling. They were in formation perfectly still. Drill instructors were quickly walking up and down between each line in front of the recruits. It was intense to see it from a different perspective. It was also thrilling as it felt like watching the behind the scenes of your favorite life experience. It was a hot summer, complete with the sand fleas Parris Island is famous for harboring.
I noticed one drill instructor walk around to the back of the platoon. As he was clear of any recruits seeing him, he scratched his nose. Then, without missing a beat continued on back to the front of his recruits. This was profound to me. Never in my 13 weeks of training had I ever seen a drill instructor do something so human. That’s when I realized that these drill instructors were more than muscle machine “jarheads.” They were methodical. Their training and the training of recruits was plotted out to every last psychological detail. The Marine Corps had thought of everything.
I realized that something as simple as scratching one’s nose in front of a recruit showed a sign of humanity. Drill instructors aren’t supposed to be human. They are supposed to be immortal. Invincible. It was intriguing and exciting to see this. I couldn’t believe it and at that moment it made me feel proud to have survived such a training program that had planned out every detail and every rule down to when it was acceptable to scratch one’s nose.
It may seem like nothing but when you are in the middle of training, it can seem like drill instructors are other-worldly. They are human of course but they are trained to look like they aren’t. It is part of the process. It is the way it needs to be in order to show recruits how to be Marines.
If you can step back from the chaos of what is going on in the moment and take in the process as objectively as you can, it is an amazing experience. A well-oiled machine that runs effectively and has for many years. Understanding this can help you during your training. You don’t have to know the details for why something is happening, you only need to know that there is a plan and that you are well taken care of despite how many times you land on the quarter deck.
Source: Personal experience