“Get off the bus! Get off the bus!” the drill instructor screamed.
“Aye, aye, sir!” we all responded in unison. About fifty young men from all different walks of life joined me by emptying that white non-descript bus onto the yellow footprints located on the pavement.
“10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1,” screamed another drill instructor waiting for us outside of the bus. “You are now aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego!”
“Yes, sir!” we all responded together. By now, we filled the yellow footprints that were formed on the ground in a formation that we were unfamiliar with, but not for long.
“You have just taken the first step in becoming a member of the world’s finest fighting force, the United States Marine Corps!” he yelled. “You should be standing at the position of attention.” We all stiffened up our bodies as much as possible. Our arms lay at our side with our hands clenched and our thumbs centered on the side of our trousers. Our feet were close together at our heels, but our toes faced about forty five degrees away from each other. Our eyes and head were faced forward, being careful not to make eye contact with the drill instructor in front of us. It was dark, but we could see through the light and we knew he could see us. We prayed that he wouldn’t, but we were ready for whatever was next.
“Get your butts inside!” yelled another drill instructor as he approached our group from behind. Those in the front row of our group quickly began to move by briskly walking forward into the building. The double doors were open and waiting for us to enter. Inside we saw another set of yellow footprints on the floor and quickly moved to cover those up with our feet.
“Listen up, you maggots. You are going to be issued your gear, compliments of the United States Marine Corps. You will secure your gear and you will take care of it. Do you understand?!!” another drill instructor that had been waiting for us inside screamed.
“Yes, sir!” we all yelled again. It was five in the morning and the sun had yet to rise, but we were all waking up quickly. We were alert and ready for anything or so we thought.
(Later in the chapter…)
Somehow, Steve and I were next to each other in line as we arrived at the pull-up bars. We were always joking around when we didn’t think we would get caught and as Steve left the pull-up bar, he said something funny that caught me by surprise. As I went to pull up my first time, I burst out laughing. Guess, who heard me? Yep, Sergeant Abolins was there again.
“Get over here Congultun!” Sergeant Abolins said. He had finally gotten my name right, or close to it anyway.
“Aye, aye, sir,” I responded and then quickly made my way over to him trying to hide my smirk quickly.
“Something funny?!!” he yelled. His mouth was duck-faced, his nose scrunched up and his eyes peered through me.
“No, sir!” I answered.
“Get over to that sand pit!” he yelled, “Go, go, go!” I immediately ran over to a sandbox area. As I arrived, he yelled again, “Get back here! Go, go go!” I ran back toward him. “Get back to that sand pit!” I ran back. “Get back here!” I turned around and ran back toward him. “Get away from me!” he yelled again and pointed to the sand pit. I ran back. I had started to work up a serious sweat in that southern California sun. “Now get down in that sand pit and give me twenty!” I dropped into push-up form and started pushing as fast I could. I was beginning to wear down, but I had to push them out. “Now, do fifteen snow angels face down and blow into the sand!” I almost laughed inside and would have if I had not been thoroughly exhausted at that point. “Now push! Fifteen more!” he yelled. “Now ten more sand angels!”
He got me worked up as quickly as possible and had me doing snow angels in the sand face down while blowing out, filling my face with sand. I was covered head to toe in sand which stuck to the sweat all over my body. Since we were in PT (Physical Training) gear instead of full camouflage uniform, I was drenched in sweat and sand. Much later, during our free time, Steve and I laughed over that experience and it was just one more opportunity that Sergeant Abolins had to convince us of how hard core he was.