April 26, 2006

Memories From Boot

During the past few days, I've had many things to do. A lot to get taken care of before heading out to meet up with a bunch of degenerates, and then possibly on to Florida. The problem has been keeping focused... I keep running across old things, or things that get me to reminiscing. Not very conducive to getting things done, but it has brought back some great memories.

The other day, with full intentions of scanning the news and then getting to work, I saw a picture gallery of Marine boot camp, at Parris Island. It wasn't a bad group of pics, but it could have been better. But it did cause me to pull out my "yearbook," and dust off it's cover... and my memories.

Platoon 3107, I (or "India") Company, MCRD San Diego. My bootcamp training platoon. I may have told you that before, but hey, I'm getting older. It's time to start repeating myself. My brother was in the same platoon with me, another fact you may know, but we managed to convince our DI's that there was no love lost between us. Something that greatly improved the quality of our training. Oh, they found out later that we were full of shit, but by then, we were in third phase... our last stage of bootcamp. Our "heavy hat," an R. Lee Ermey clone, told us over a beer on graduation day, that they (the DI's) had thought it funny that we had pulled it off the way we did. The "do you love your brother" routine ended early for us. Not so for another set of brother's that went through in our platoon.

Bootcamp was probably one of my favorite things about the Marines. Your schedule is made, the day planned. All you have to do is follow orders and keep up. Granted, I went in when I was a little older (24), so I had a slightly different view. But as long as you understood that everything you did or said had a purpose, whether immediate or eventual, it was easy to take. Hell, it was even FUN. And the DI's we had were some of the funniest dudes you could ever meet. Gott help you if they caught you laughing, but they were funny, nonetheless. Once, one of them lost his straight face, and started laughing before he could turn away. Heheheh... we paid for that one, but I think we were all still grinning from ear to ear.

Anyway, one of the memories that sticks with me most, is our day at the "Bridge Over Troubled Waters." The MCRD Parris Island recruits fought in an Octagon, Eric has a story he could tell you, and we "Hollywood Marines" fought on a bridge. I looked for pictures, and the only good ones I found were in my yearbook. I also noticed that there were more than a couple pics of my bro and I, including the day of the battle, so I scanned them, and they're found below.

BOTW.jpg The "Bridge Over Troubled Waters" is an event that takes place at the end of bayonet training. Combatants face each other in the center of a 6' wide bridge, and try to knock their opponent over the edge, using the tactics learned the day before. If a recruit is knocked to the bridge, he is allowed to stand up again, and battle once more. If he's knocked into the water, he's considered "dead." The way it went when we went through, if you returned to the squad bay wet, you got to spend time in the "classroom." That means, getting bent... "Run. Run. Run... Pushups. Pushups... Run. Run. Run. Run... Leg lifts... Run... Leg lifts... Run..." You get the picture. (Some of this is done for the amusement of all... my cousin had a kid in his platoon that would go into a leglift position in mid-air, and drop on his back. The DI's loved it.) At this stage of bootcamp, it's not that big of a deal. Hell, we had guys, who hadn't fallen in, running up to relieve the "thrashees."

To get back to it, my brother and I were going into this event without a frickin' clue. The one time that our "We hate each other" facade didn't work for us, we got sent to the company office to be runners for the day. So while the rest of the platoon spent the day in the bear pits beating the crap out of each other, and learning, we sat on our butts, unless papers needed to be run to the other side of base. I think I only ran twice, and R may have went out three times. Kinda pointless, but I guess it's gotta be done.

boot camp 1.jpgThis pic is of R (on the left)and me (next to the floating head) watching as the others fight, trying to learn what we had missed from the day before. Kind of a cram session. He's a quick study, I'm... well, you'll find out in a second.

According to Section VI of the "Arts Safety & Training Equipment And Facilities Handbook," the Bridge and the Octogan are "used for Martial Arts training to include various types of free sparring and combative events. It is an outstanding means to instill cohesion as well as motivation and aggressiveness." They aren't kidding about cohesion and motivation. It's like you're at the state finals, and the teams are tied, just seconds left on the clock. Everyone is screaming and yelling... the combatants are pumped up. The waiting watchers are pumped. The kid that may have been working and joking alongside you at the firing range just a couple weeks ago is now your enemy. You end up cheering the kid in your platoon that has gotten you the distinction of being the only platoon of the series to go on an "island hopping campaign" (running to every sand pit on base, and getting bent, seriously, at each)... the kid you'd have loved to given a blanket party, if not for the serious punishment that would occurr should you try. Now, he's your teamate.

We watched in nervous anticipation, keeping track of who we might battle. In that pic, R is putting in his mouthpiece, about to take his turn. I ended up going before he did. Not sure why, other than the kid I drew was a pretty stocky dude. I had about two inches height on him, but we had to be similar in weight. We made our way to the middle of the bridge, and awaited the start.

The whistle blew, and I made a serious mistake. My great plan was to react to his moves. I thought for sure that I could nail him before he hit me hard enough to get me in trouble. Wrong. No sooner had that whistle went off, than I saw a flash, and I hit the bridge... my feeble attempt at ducking being just enough to keep the impact from knocking me into next week. As it was, it was a solid hit. Of what happened next, I don't remember a whole lot.

I do know I was pissed... to me, I considered myself "dead." But R told me that no sooner had I hit the bridge, than I had let go of the pugil stick, and upended my opponent. As he hit the ground, the whistles were going crazy trying to stop the bout, and I was going crazy, climbing on top of him, holding his weapon immobile, and punching him. I don't remember this...

boot camp 2.jpgI was pulled off of the kid, handed my weapon, and set to restart. The kid's eyes had a look of terror in them. Seriously. I do remember that...

That bout was over before it began. I wanted to knock him out, and as soon as the whistle went, I shoved him, and clobbered the snot out of him. I dropped my hands down so that I was gripping the stick like a bat, and smashed him once more for good measure, as he was falling into the water. I kinda remember that...

One thing I remeber clearly, is hearing my platoon's side of the pool cheering like a bunch of madmen. I was pissed off, and pumped up, which you can kind of see in the last pic. I wish that they had gotten R's grin, because that's one thing I'll never forget.

R was up next, and he was fighting the mirror image of himself, as far as build, and reactions. R a lefty, and his opponent right handed. When they began, it was a very short "getting to know you" phase, and then it was on. R got him a good one, but when he went to finish him off, the guy got R off balance. Back and forth like this it went. They stopped and restarted the bout. Same thing.

The next restart, they stood back to back. When the whistle blew, they both turned the exact same way, blocking each other's moves. Once turned around, it was a repeat of the previous starts and stops. Neither could land a "killing" blow, though they were hitting HARD. The instructors were having a blast with it, and everyone was yelling and screaming. A couple of DI's from another battalion stopped by to watch.

They stood back to back, with their toes over the edge for the next restart. Same thing. We were yelling and laughing... it really did look like a mirror at times. Once they got themselves established in the center of the bridge, it was again stopped. This time, they had to sit with their legs dangling over the sides.

They came up, and the kid caught R weakly in the side of the head. R went with it, and came all the way around to smack him. They nearly repeated their earlier acts once again, but R managed to catch him dead in the face. His downfall came from trying to smash the dude as he was falling... he lost his balance, and nearly went in. Just as he got his balance, the instructor laughingly gave him a shove. Told him he'd been on his bridge long enough.

When we got back to the squadbay, yeah, R got bent, but it was no big deal. The big deal was that the whole series was talking about his match. I'm always proud of my siblings, but I've gotta tell you that this was one of those times that I couldn't be proud enough.

And though my story didn't do it much justice, it was one of the greatest fights that I'd ever seen. On both sides.

Posted by That 1 Guy at April 26, 2006 12:51 PM

Awesome story!

Posted by: oddybobo at April 26, 2006 02:25 PM

Sound's just 'bout like the "boards" in football, except the o'line coaches loved to watch those big fuckers throw us db's around like tin foil... ;)

"Can't move the fat man... get your ass back on those boards"...

Right, we had a nose guard, big ol' Italian dude. Reminded me of Fred Flintsone in real life. His dad had a kick ass pizza shop though, and we were never short on that, but he used to sling me around no matter how hard I hit him, or how I used to use(way back now) my quicks to try to take advantage. He'd wrap those big ol'l Yetty paws 'round me and sling me like a rag doll.

Great fun it was...

Good post man. I dig it.

Posted by: RedNeck at April 26, 2006 06:25 PM

Great story and great pics to boot! :)

Posted by: Richmond at April 26, 2006 07:17 PM

Remind me never to come near you with a stick that is padded on both ends. I'd hate to see you have a boot camp flashback. Great story.

Posted by: Jerry at April 26, 2006 08:10 PM

Great post! I can so see it...

Posted by: Laughing Wolf at April 27, 2006 09:16 AM

Damn Hollywood Marines and their soft "water" to fall into... ;)

Posted by: Ogre at May 2, 2006 11:28 AM