Boot Camp — The First Day

~ 3 ~

Parris Island

Several hours passed as we sat quietly in our chairs. Some dozed off, but I was much too apprehensive to sleep. Suddenly the outside door burst open with a loud bang and in walked three Marines wearing those same strange hats. They were screaming at us to sit up straight with our hands folded on the desk. I thought to myself, Why does everyone here shout?

One of them spoke in a loud and forceful voice. “My name is Staff Sergeant Bresnahan and I am your senior drill instructor. The two Marines standing to my left are your junior drill instructors, Sergeant Collins and Sergeant Handschumaker. For the next four long months, we will be your father, your mother, your preacher, your teacher, and your girlfriend, but I can assure you, you will not screw us. You will run everywhere you go. You will not speak unless spoken to and the last word out of your sleazy civilian mouths will always be “Sir.” Do you understand me?” We all answered, “Yes, Sir!” which was not loud enough so he asked again and again until we were all screaming at the top of our lungs “Yes, Sir!”

SSgt Bresnahan continued his instructions to his new recruits. “When I call your name you will sound off in a loud, clear voice “Here, Sir!” and get your slimy civilian asses up out of my chairs, grab all your belongings, and double time outside where yellow footprints are painted on the deck. You will plant your two slimy civilian feet on two of the footprints. You will stand there with your head and eyes glued to the back of the head of the sleazebag civilian in front of you. Do you understand me?” We went through the same routine again repeating “Yes, Sir!” numerous times until the windows rattled.

As names were called, Sgt Handschumaker was at the door screaming at each recruit to run faster. Once outside we were cantankerously greeted by Sgt Collins who pushed and shoved us to the front of the four lines of yellow footprints. Since our names were called alphabetically, I was one of the first to endure the junior DI’s wrath. I could hear screaming and yelling from inside where recruits had not sounded off, “Here, Sir!” at the decibels SSgt Bresnahan required.

The rest of that day was total chaos. From that initial site, we were herded to a building quite a distance away. When I say herded, I mean herded—like animals. SSgt Bresnahan was leading the way at almost a runner’s pace while the two junior DIs yelled and screamed at us to keep the formation closed up. We were tripping over one another and falling down; some even walked out of their shoes, but did not dare ask if they could go back to retrieve them.

We entered a building with large bins, a towel laying in each. We individually stood in front of a bin, undressed completely, and wrapped the towel around our waist. We packed all of our belongings into a box addressed to where it was to be sent. When I say everything, I mean everything went into that box. We could keep nothing even though many of us brought toiletries. Watches, rings, necklaces—every item we brought with us from home went into the box.

While all this was being done, the DIs were running across the top of the bins screaming for us to hurry, shoving stuff into the boxes, and creating more chaos and frustration.

The senior drill instructor demanded, “While you’re about it, stuff all of your slimy civilian ways into the box as well. You won’t need them anymore!”

While we were all standing naked, except for the towel wrapped around our waist, someone came down the line and wrote a number on our chest. We were told to remember it. We then entered a room where several barbers eagerly awaited. When the kid in front of me got in the chair, the barber asked if he wanted to keep his sideburns. He hesitatingly answered, “Ye … ye … yes, Sir.” The barber told him to hold out his hand whereupon he laid each of them in the kid’s palm. Each shaving of our heads took approximately one minute to complete.

We then were treated to a cold shower and issued our new Marine uniforms and other gear. (Marines call their field uniform “utilities,” not fatigues like the Army.) From there we were herded across the huge 1st Battalion parade ground to our barracks. However, we were now carrying a heavy sea bag stuffed with all of the items we had just been issued.

We were designated Platoon 129 of the 1st Recruit Training Battalion. I learned that the hat DIs wore was called a “campaign cover.” Girls wear hats; Marines wear covers.