It was a terrible feeling to know that I would begin training with a sore throat, because I knew that I would be doing a lot of yelling. My roommate at the hotel the night before leaving the processing station (MEPS) had the air conditioning on full blast, and I woke up with a miserable sore throat. As we drew closer to Parris Island, South Carolina, most of the talking on the bus stopped. There were a few nervous guys who kept talking in order to hide their nervousness, but once we were all told by the drill instructor to put our heads between our knees, all the talking stopped. They had us do that so that we would not know what the surroundings of the base were. In the event that we tried to make an escape, they wanted to make sure we did not know the route out of there. I had seen enough of the recruiting videos that I thought I had a pretty good idea of what was coming.
The receiving drill instructor stepped on the bus and “welcomed” us to Parris Island, and instructed us to fall in on the yellow footprints painted in formation on a street running parallel to a dimly lit sidewalk. The crisp spring air was soon replaced by the musty smell of the receiving hall. The dark brick structure was the first impression we had of the island’s “charm.” It was an intimidating place with the echoes of shouting drill instructors bouncing down the hallways seemingly from all directions.
The first few days were surreal. I was past the point of no return. No matter how tired, sick, confused, or uncomfortable I was, there was nothing I could do but continue on. When I watched the boot camp preparation videos in the months leading up to my departure, I never guessed how unnerving it all would be. To this day I still do not like to be yelled at, but at the time I was too nervous to care. At one point during that initial night, a recruit of Colombian nationality who did not understand English very well simply could not comprehend the instructions given to him by a drill instructor. He was yelled at so loudly that it was uncomfortable for my ears to handle it—like turning on your iPod with volume in the headphones at full blast.
The most unbelievable part was that the drill instructor was in a different room. After the recruit joined the rest of us, I could see the fear and confusion in his eyes, and I wondered how he had gotten himself into such a mess. There were actually a few suicide attempts within the first few weeks by different recruits, which punctuated just how difficult it was for some.