Brian Meyette's USMC Boot Camp Diary
To read the entire story in one file, go to main BOOT CAMP DIARY
After boot camp, I spent a couple weeks at home for the holidays, then reported to Camp Pendleton in January, 1986 for 8 great weeks of ITS; Infantry Training School, in "Double-Time" Delta Company at San Onofre on Camp Pendleton. I loved it! That stuff was what I joined the Corps for! After getting rid of a couple Regalado-like position abusers there, I was made first squad leader for the entire time. I couldn't be guide, because we had a Corporal who was going through the school after retraining from Combat Engineers. So, he was the guide, and I was the First Squad Leader. I saw Sgt Morris and Sgt Groomes a couple times while I was an ITS student, and said hi to them. I wasn't too keen on either of them as DIs, but I let bygones be bygones. I would have liked to have bumped into Sgt Orlovsky or Sgt Henion, but I never saw them again.
I had some more injury problems, but I simply didn’t allow them to interfere with any of my training, which I think earned me additional respect. I tore a muscle in my groin as a result of trying to do too many situps, and I can remember being out on a field exercise getting around on my hands & knees because I refused to sit it out. On one of my last days at ITS, I twisted my ankle again badly while running across a field at night, and was in a cast and on crutches for a few days. But I cut the cast off for graduation, because I didn’t want anyone to know about the problems.
I ended up graduating with honors, and was the only one in the platoon selected for meritorious promotion when we graduated. So, I graduated as a Lance Corporal. And I was selected for ARC, the Amphibious Reconnaissance Course (Recon School) at Coronado, CA!! After I showed up at ARC, I had to tell them about the bad ankle, because it was getting much worse. The corpsman told me I would have lost the foot if I had kept pushing it. Then later, quite unfortunately, I washed out of there with repeated left shoulder separations that plagued me throughout the Marine Corps, until I finally had an operation in the spring of 1988. From ARC, I was sent to Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 9th Marines at Camp Pendleton, about 50 miles from my house in Orange County, CA. So, I was in the Marines & didn’t even have to relocate.
While at ARC in July, 1986, I heard that Sgt Nunez, one of my instructors at ITS, was killed when a M203 grenade exploded in the chamber of the launcher as he was helping a student. That saddened me greatly, as I really liked Sgt Nunez. See HERE and HERE for LA Times articles on Sgt Nunez's death. HERE is a link to an article written by someone who was there when it happened. HERE is a picture of Sgt Nunez during one of my classes at ITS.
I also heard, while at ARC, that one of my MCRD Drill Instructors, Sgt Henion, was busted back to Corporal for hitting a recruit. Being a DI is a tough, tough job, and I respect them for all they give! I hope Sgt Henion came back from that setback OK.
I loved the Corps. I saw and did some incredibly neat things with the various weapons and with combat patrol training in Okinawa, Korea, and, especially, the Philippines. Unfortunately, those cool things were very few and far between. I had thought the Fleet would be like ITS; doing meaningful training every day. However, I soon found out the vast majority of a grunt's time is spent on mind-numbing drudgery like guard duty, working parties, cleanups, formations, standing around waiting for something, and cleaning other people's urinals. Meaningful training and/or getting to fire live rounds was rare, although there were a few exciting exceptions. Handling any other weapon besides the M-16 was practically non-existent. I especially enjoyed my time in the field; doing combat patrol training. I also very much enjoyed one day each of Live Fire Patrol range, Squad Air Defense range, and demolitions – but those were only 3 days out of my 3 years in the Corps.
I don’t know if Recon had bozos, as I never made it into a Recon unit, but I found the FMF (Fleet Marine Force) platoons to be the same as boot camp had been; some good Marines and some real losers who screwed up everything they came in contact with, and couldn’t find their ass with both hands. I also saw plenty of “leaders” who just goofed off and used their position as a personal perk, although none as bad as a couple of the Boot Camp Squad Leaders.
I had some really great times in the Corps, and I've never regretted for a moment having done it. I have always been very proud to be a Marine, and I strived toward the ideals of being a good Marine; ideals that were taught to me at boot camp, ITS, and in the NCO Handbook. When I came back from the Asian “float” with K-3/9, I was selected to go to Camp San Onofre in a different part of Camp Pendleton for a special temporary job. I was the Admin Chief (a SSgt billet) at Division Schools as a Corporal, and was also able to attend the Scout/Sniper and Combat Motorcycle Instructor courses there, toward the end. While at Division Schools (this is also where ITS, RFTD, and other schools are), I saw then-SSgt Morris once and chatted briefly with him.
A Cpl Johnson (yet another Johnson) and I went to 29 Palms with the combat motorcycles (Kawasaki KLX 350 dual-purpose, water-cooled singles) for a couple combat exercises over most of August, 1988, shortly before I went back to 3/9 and got out. It was hot as hell during the day, but great fun. As part of the exercise, he and I were testing sidecars. I gave an unfavorable review; they got stuck too easily in the sand. Although one purpose of the sidecars was to transport an officer somewhere, none of the officers dared to climb in and ride with us. I wrote up an extensive after-action report that attracted a lot of attention around Camp Pendleton. A Colonel from Base even came over to talk to me about some of the observations in my report, during my last few weeks in the Corps. It was very tempting to stay in, and help the Marine Corps enhance and expand the combat motorcycle program and/or finish the Scout/Sniper training to get the 8541 MOS. Unfortunately, the Corps wanted me to first go to Okinawa for 6 months again with K-3/9, with no guarantees of anything I wanted when I got back, so I decided not to stay in.
When it came time to reenlist, it was a very tough decision I struggled with for quite awhile. In fact, on my last day of driving the 50 miles down to Camp Pendleton, on Oct. 2, 1988, I still struggled with wanting to stay and wanting to go. I got out, though, and joined the STA (Surveillance and Target Acquisition) platoon at the 2/23 reserve unit in Encino, CA, where I was promoted to Sgt. I was there until I moved back to NH at the end of 1990. To me, STA is even better than Recon. It's the same "snooping and pooping" (sneaking around in the bushes and gathering intelligence information), but with the added plus (for Scout/Snipers) of carrying a custom-made .308 sniper rifle, as well as heavy emphasis on self-reliance and fieldcraft. When Desert Shield was heating up, I considered trying to get back into the Reserves, so I could go to the Middle East as a Marine, and perhaps even as a sniper, but I didn't think Desert Shield would ever turn into anything real, so I didn't pursue it.
Whenever I go back to Southern California for a visit, I often schedule a visit to MCRD on a Friday morning, to watch the graduation.
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