Reporting from San Diego — When the recruit staggered out of the Thunderdome pugil-stick arena, he had the early signs of concussion: glassy eyes, confusion, unsteadiness on his feet.
His face had been gashed by a smashing blow from his opponent — another would-be Marine desperate to please drill instructors with a display of unrelenting aggression.
Heh. They say "unrelenting aggression" like they don't understand exactly what it is that Marines do, like it's a bad thing even.
I remember my rifle-butt-and-bayonet training with the pugil stick. Barely. In my first bout I was too slow and got my bell rung like the kid above. I wasn't about to let that happen again. In my next bout, maybe during the same session, maybe not, I took an unauthorized two-handed grip like on a baseball bat and waded in fast and swung for the fence. Smacked my opponent upside the head with all my might and down he went. I didn't want him getting up and coming after me so, with the same grip, I raised that thing up in the air intending to bring it down on his noggin as hard as I could like splitting firewood. I was gonna do him.
I never got the chance, thank you Jesus and two Drill Instructors, one each from his platoon and mine, who grabbed me one to either elbow and lifted me right off the ground and set me down gently (for Drill Instructors) a few feet away with a "good work, Private". I swear they grinned at me, which Drill Instructors generally only do when they're inflicting great discomfort.
They liked my "unrelenting aggression", for that was the whole point of the training.
I got the message this training was meant to impart, other than just plain old knocking your opponent's head off with a simulated 10-pound M-14 before he can do it to you, which was hesitate and die. Get there fustest with the mostest and prevail and live to fight another day.
There are (or were, may not be PC these days) signs all over the Marine Corps that said something like "Nobody ever won a war by dying for his country. We win wars by making the other bastard die for his." Also, particularly in training areas, one that says "Let no man's ghost ever say we failed to do our job".
Aye, aye, sir. Message received and understood. We weren't there to learn how to dance.
In those days, the protective gear was a football helmet. Period. Today the recruits wear all kinds of protective gear we never imagined. "Thunderdome" (two men enter, one man leave) hadn't been invented, but I wouldn't doubt it's the same sand pit we used.
All that said, the article is about the Marine Corps responding more quickly to recruit injuries. I'm glad of that.
Recruit training was and is very physical. Running, calisthenics, obstacle courses, swimming, crawling, lifting things. Did I mention push-ups? Lotsa push-ups. Regular push-ups, knuckle push-ups, knuckle push-ups holding an M-14 which must never touch the ground (those hurt), push-ups with another recruit sitting on your back, push-ups on asphalt, push-ups in sand, push-ups in the chow line, push-ups with yer head in the toilet, push-ups in every clime and place.
There were bone injuries, shinsplints, green stick breaks, the occasional real broken bone. There were dual injuries too, like a black eye on a recruit and a corresponding injured knuckle on a Drill Instructor. There were recruit bruises elsewhere with no damage to the Drill Instructor.
There was almost always a Navy Medical Corpsman, "Doc", present, except when the recruits were getting fist-shaped bruises. Their function was to give first-aid, call for a meat wagon, decide if the recruit was faking it, and hand out APCs (All-Purpose Capsules, fancy name for aspirin) for everything from concussions to traumatic amputation, and tell you to suck it up, you'll be OK. If you were really hurt or sick, you got taken care of. A lot of recruits wouldn't report an injury until they were almost dead because they didn't want to be set back to another platoon.
I'm sure things are safer in recruit training these days and that's good. We just didn't know any better way back when.
Couldn't resist. The funny part is all the civilians watching.
Recruits conduct pugil stick bouts in front of a circle of educators from Chicago and Minnesota
A new element of school curricula perhaps?