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U.S. Marine Staff Sgt. Esteban Ramos, swim instructor, Support Battalion, Recruit Training Regiment, Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, stands at the edge of the pool to ensure safe swim qualifications are conducted aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., Feb. 4, 2013. In order to graduate from Marine Corps recruit training, recruits must complete swim qualifications. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Aneshea S. Yee/Released)

Letter Three – Letters from USMC Recruit Training

If you haven’t read the first two letters yet, you can catch up on them here.

I become valuable to the platoon for having the only copy of the recruit training schedule, become adept at disassembling and reassembling my M16A2 rifle, but hate marching drill so much when there’s a war going on.

“There are things that go on here that don’t leave the depot.”

Important note: my rackmate at the time couldn’t do a single pull-up, and guess what? He never became a Marine and I still don’t remember his name.

Letters From Boot Camp


Dear Mom and Dad,

San Diego is nice. The weather hasn’t gotten too hot ever, and it’s always cool at night. Boot camp is a mix between feeling really good and wishing you weren’t here. We spend a lot of time doing drill, which kind of drives me crazy. I want to spend more time training and less marching. It’s hard to be into marching knowing that troops are at war, including people I went to school with and knew well. I can’t wait to get to Camp P.

The drill instructors told us you can send socks, underwear, letter writing gear, and sports cremes like BenGay. So I might ask for something later.

The mornings are still tough for me. They make us drink a full canteen [1 quart] before bed so I have to get up like three times a night. Going from sleep to fluorescent lights and some drill instructors yelling at you at 0530 is still rough. Time is going by faster though.

They shave our heads every Monday, so just when you start looking normal, they take it away. Keeps us recognizable too. One of the recruits in our battalion tried to sneak off base [as in escape] and was picked up by the MPs. He got 1 month hard labor for it. Think ‘prison chain gang.’ After that he gets discharged. I want to ask you a favor, go on to, there’s a website for MCRDSD there. On that site there’s a RTR schedule in .pdf format. I’d like you to send me that if at all possible so I know what’s going on.

Sorry about the phone call, we were given three minutes and [I] used half of it trying to figure out how to use the USO phone card we got. I really didn’t know what to say because we hadn’t done anything yet.

We learned how to disassemble and clean the M16 and I’m already down to 1:15. I’ve got it under 1 min assembly. All of our drill instructors are infantry MOS so they train us hard. No one says to get a higher profile MOS like they did to Brian.

From what I hear around here, all Marines in Iraq go on patrols, stand guard, and all that other stuff. Every Friday is a graduation, so that is pretty motivating. Also a new company can be seen moving around, it’s their Black Friday. I can’t wait to get on that parade deck.

Boot camp is more mental than physical, at least so far. Once I saw a recruit at MCMAP get yelled at by 8 drill instructors. That was quite a site. They get in your face and yell, grab you, push you around, and you just have to keep your bearing. Don’t be fooled by that book, there are things that go on here that don’t leave the depot. For instance, being within arms reach of a DI and making eye contact is taken as a physical threat. Some people I’ve already seen cry. A couple of those will probably drop soon. My rackmate can’t even do one pull-up. I hope we can get rid of them soon, they’re holding the platoon down. 53 get punished for one person’s mistake. Harsh, but in war that one person may get those 53 others killed.

I haven’t gotten any letters yet, though it seems like I’ve been here a long time. Please send me grandma’s address too, she wanted me to write.

I hope to hear from you soon.

Love, Mark