The Oakland MEPS station was a crowded busy terminal where families said their goodbyes. I did not get the chance to say goodbye. I sat alone as I waited for my bus to the Oakland airport. Little did I know that the process would lead me to a new way of life, a life as a U.S. Marine. I arrived at the San Diego airport at approximately 11:30pm setting me up for the longest night of my life.
As I stepped out of the bus, drill instructors lead us from one location to another making sure that the indoctrination process was complete. The processing began at midnight and did not end until 3:30 am. By the time morning had arrived, my civilian clothes and sneakders were packed in boxes and exchanged for cami’s and boots. After my shoulder length hair was cut unceremonously I quickly realized that the other recruits I met on the bus or plane disappeared as we became one melting pot of different colored recruits. Hair apparently is the one key feature that allows us to identify each other, without it, I had to rely on other features such as eyes, nose, mouth and ears. My drill instructors quickly identified the more mature recruits and quickly weeded out the weak in the first week. We had not even done any real physical exercises, it was more of speaking loudly and in your face that broke many of the recruits down. As soon as the recruit started crying and asking to go home, they would him if they were sure and got them out in a matter of minutes. Platoon 3115 lost 7 recruits in 7 days for unfit for military duty.
The indoctrination continued the following week as we shuffled front to back with our heads down from the chow hall to the fitness fields. There was no routine, every day there was a different activity. Most our time was spent on learning how to become Marines; from polishing brass and boots to ironing our “woodland cami’s” and folding our t-shirts. Wrinkles, smudges and mistakes were not tolerated.
There were 4 drill instructors, the most memorable one was Sgt. Wesley. He was a stocky dark green Marine. He was in the airwing and was working on becoming a staff NCO and serving as a drill instructor would allow him to earn points towards the cutting score. He was probably the most human out of the 4 drill instructors and was the only one that could sing a cadence that was at least motivating to hear.