Marine Corps

Duty Stations
Boot Camp

Yucca-Man's Early Days in the Corps

I actually enlisted in the Marine Corps' Delayed Entry Program on March 31, 1988 under a Reserve contract. I initially was supposed to ship in late August, but when I went to MEPS I found out I had pneumonia so I got a heavy dose of antibiotics and a delayed ship date.
The infamous Boot Camp Picture.  MCRD San Diego 2d RtBn, 'E' Company, Platoon 2097 There's the infamous Boot Camp photo. Since I live west of the Mississippi, I was shipped to Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego California. That's where I met my destiny...
  • Senior Drill Instructor - SSgt Sokol
  • Drill Instructor - Sgt Frank Tarazon
  • Drill Instructor - Sgt Couterier
  • Drill Instructor - Sgt Farmer in 3d Phase, newly graduated from Drill Instructor School

I was one of only two Reservists in my platoon. There were roughly 80 of us, although that number did fluctuate as we added and lost people. The drops were for anything from failed background checks, one guy got arrested apparently for disclosing mis-information. Another was dropped for psychological eval after suddenly deciding that "guns are bad" as we were headed to the Rifle Range. Others were dropped for injuries they sustained that made it impossible to keep up with the training. Of course, drops from earlier platoons were the adds we got.


When we got to Edson Range at Camp Pendleton, (the only range in the Marine Corps laid out in meters, not yards) I was introduced to my Rifle Coach, a Sergeant who had been on the Olympic Rifle Team for awhile and was processing out shortly. He challenged 'his' group of 9 or ten shooters to hit three in a row "in the black" at 500 meters on Pre-Qual Day and he gave us the added incentive of eating some bootleg candy. Whoever did that, he said would get the candy bar of their choice the next day.. The target at that range is a human-sized torso silhouette, with the body and head as 5 points, the area directly above the shoulder as 4, and three points outside that with 2 points given for hits on the outer edges of the 6-foot x 6-foot target. The course is fired from the Prone (lying-down) position, rate of fire is single-shot and wait for scoring with ten rounds fired in a ten-minute time limit.

On Pre-Qual Day, I fired in the low 240s (241 or 242) out of 250 possible, but I earned a Snickers by placing 9 out of 10 rounds in the targets upper chest and neck, with one dropped slightly over the right shoulder. Coach walked us well out into the field for our 'debrief' and gave me 10 seconds to swallow the candy bar while giving the rest of the shooters some last-minute advice before we shot. That had to be one of the best Snickers I've ever had...

Apparently my shooting efforts didn't go unnoticed as later that day I was called into the duty hut by one of my Drill Instructors. I was sent over to the Marksmanship Training Unit (MTU) to demonstrate a stable position for several recruits in our series who failed to shoot qualifying scores on Pre-Qual Day. If they failed again, they would be recycled back to another platoon as we had no time to baby them along. The MTU used what I remember was called a "Bushmaster" M-16 trainer, a device that looks like a pinball table with a rifle attached. The rifle had what looked like a broomstick coming out of the muzzle and connected to the trainer. There was a graphic that the shooter aimed at, and a display for the coach to see the aiming point. When some of the "Unq's" got into their position, the aiming point looked like it was racing across the screen as they fought to keep control. I was able to hold the aim point on target even when I squoze the trigger,and that's when I learned the second purpose of that broomstick. The Bushmaster actually produces semi-realistic "recoil"! I like to think that with my help two of the three Unq's in my platoon were able to requalify, although we did end up having to drop one recruit.

Night Land Nav

While we were in the field at Camp Pendleton, we learned how to maneuver in the dark. I had done Orienteering as a Boy Scout so was familiar with the concept, but this was a little more different than I had experiencd before. We started at one of a series of ammo cans and were given a distance and bearing to try to follow. That would lead us to another ammo can with a Drill Instructor guarding it. We'd report our beginning ammo can, and he'd decide whether we were at the correct place. You could tell who messed it up, because they were off to the side getting dusty.

This was one of the only times I recall in Boot Camp where we were told not to report off out loud. The Drill Instructors apparently didn't want every recruit in the county to know that Box A led to Box 5, etc... I found the Drill Instructor for one leg of my course, and locked my nasty body in front of him to report where I had come from. He determined that I was at the right place, so he told me to 'disappear' so of course I complied. I still don't know how I managed this, but as I was turning to leave I somehow managed to put the arch of my left foot directly across the top of his toes and ground them as I turned. I don't know who was more shocked, him or me but I certainly wasn't going to stand around and find out. He was from one of our sister series, so I disappeared into the darkness as fast as I could, thankful that we didn't have nametags on our cammies!

Promotion and the Aftermath

For most of Boot Camp I was either a Squad Leader or recently-fired-and-about-to-get-rehired. That went well until close to the end of Third Phase, as we were getting ready for graduation. Sgt Couturier noticed that I was going to graduate as a PFC, and bellowed me into his Duty Hut. He wanted to know why I (a nasty stinking Reservist) was going to be a PFC. I told him that I had enough college time that I was a contract PFC, which was well and good until he asked what college I had attended. Without even flinching or thinking about it, I replied "Sir, New Mexico Military Institute, Sir!" - the silence that followed was deafening. You see, Sgt Couturier knew of NMMI, and knew that it was an Army ROTC school. He had me bending on the floor of that duty hut for quite some time for "not telling them I was Army." I knew graduation was only a few days away at that point, and was cocky enough to bend-and-thrust with a (tiny) smile on my face.

After leaving MCRD, I reported to my next duty station, MACS-23 in Aurora, CO. This is where that case of pneumonia made a huge difference in my future path.

Boot Camp | MACS-23
e-mail Jim
created: Apr 25, 2003
Modified April 9, 2005