Marine Corps Boot Camp: 8 Periodic Events

At the rifle-range.

There were some things in boot camp that weren’t on a daily basis. Here are eight of those events.

1. The three-mile run. This was a regular exercise, but not daily; more like every other day. And we usually ran in full gear: boots and backpack. I didn’t mind this event or any of the other more physical events. I was in pretty good shape.

2. The twenty-mile run and walk. We only did this a couple of times during boot camp, and it was also in full gear. I think this exercise was planned especially for those who would be going to Vietnam (most of us). What a workout!

3. The rifle-range. I think I remember going to the rifle-range about once a week. It was basically an event to learn how to hold your rifle steady while shooting, and in different positions. We would shoot standing up, in the prone position, and sitting. We also did some shooting with the 45-caliber pistol. One thing I couldn’t understand is why we trained with an M14 rifle in boot camp and then were issued an M16 in Vietnam? It made no sense to me. And even though the M16 was lighter, I wish I had an M14 in Vietnam. I would have felt safer with it, because I think it was more accurate.

4. Weapons training. In addition to shooting the M14 and the 45, we would also learn how to throw grenades. That was scary to me, just knowing that you only had a few seconds to throw it after pulling the pin before it would explode. We were also introduced to a few other weapons like the M60 machine gun, the M72 LAW, a very nifty lightweight anti-tank weapon, and the M79 grenade launcher, which was my primary weapon in Vietnam. We all had our turns to shoot these weapons—kind of fun. We also watched demonstrations of other larger, more powerful weapons like tanks, cannons, mortars (an artillery weapon), and we even watched the fully- armed, black-hawk helicopter destroy things. A great show!

5. Self-defense and bayonet training. As for the self-defense training, I already knew quite a bit from high school wrestling. But the bayonet training we got I think was helpful—that is, it would have been if I had an opportunity to use it. Most of the close hand to hand combat was done earlier and during the Tet Offensive (from 1965-68). I didn’t get to Nam until 1970.

6. Guard duty. Guard duty in boot camp was on a rotating basis during the night, about a two-hour shift. I never liked it. I did the same thing in Vietnam every night. I didn’t like it there either.

7. Surprise cleaning duties. Every once in a while, our drill instructor would announce to the platoon that we had a project to do. I remember once when we washed a rather large concrete floor. We did it all by hand scrub brushes and white towels. I remember the instructor saying that it had to be clean enough to eat off of. And it was.

8. Punishments. We were harassed and yelled at constantly; that was part of the training. But punishments were different and less often. One time the entire platoon was punished, but I can’t remember what for. Anyway, we spent hours doing calisthenics in deep sand. Most of the time the punishment was on just one Marine. It was usually quite brutal and for the least offences. But then we were Marines and were expected to perform out duties well, and without complaining.