Sunday, March 25, 2007

Nutritious Food

The drill instructor identified nineteen recruits whose hometowns were near us teachers. These trainees were lined up in front of the mess hall when we arrived for lunch. See the picture above.

We teachers gathered in front of the recruits as the drill instructor ordered each young man to take one step forward and yell their name, hometown, and his week in training. This information enabled our group to identify recruits who lived near us.

When the formation was dismissed by the drill instructor, we joined this chosen group and formed a line to to get trays and utensils. We proceeded along the serving line as shown in the first picture below. There was a variety of fresh meat, vegetables and fresh fruit from which to choose.

After other recruits were served, they moved into the dining room to take the next available seat starting in the corner as the second picture below shows.

The last picture shows the teachers' dining area where the hometown recruits mixed with us as we talked with them about their high school and Marine training experiences.

In my opinion, the food was delicious. Military food menus are prepared by the Armed Forces Recipe Center in Natick, Mass. A web link about this group can reached here.

I enjoyed the dining experience with recruits from Asheboro and Greensboro, North Carolina and remembered my "mess hall" experiences in basic training forty-two years earlier.

Have a good week and return here on April 1 for an update.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Agility and Strength

The teachers received instructions on holding a simulated rifle with fixed bayonet and different ways to neutralize an enemy during close contact. The above picture shows a Marine Drill Instructor leading the teachers through several of those type exercises.

The below photos show Marines demonstrating the proper method of negotiating physical obstacles. This course is used to test recruits' agility and strength to navigate obstacles similar to ones that might be encountered on a beach invasion or in battlefield fighting.

Several younger teachers attempted some obstacles after impromptu challenges by colleagues. Although clumsy and with struggle, they mustered adrenaline to conquer their obstacles to a cheering crowd.

Return here on March 25 for an update. Have a good week!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Respect, Admiration & Bright Future

The Marine Corps arranged for us teachers to join a company of recruits in the outdoors where they were gathered for lunch. The picture above shows the recruits in position and waiting for us to join them. We arrived there on two buses and were given boxed lunches and power drinks like the recruits.

We spread out and sat among the recruits under a shelter as shown in the first picture below. This particular company was in their third or fourth week of twelve weeks of training. Most recruits were tense and didn't volunteer much more than to answer a direct question. It was somewhat difficult to get them to relax and open up.

Female recruits were kept separate from males as shown in the second picture below.

Six or seven news outlets followed us throughout the four days. Both print and TV media were represented. The reporters were from hometown areas where we teachers live and work. The bottom picture shows an NBC affiliate crew from a town in Maryland. The press interviewed trainees whose hometowns were in areas of their news coverage.

The lunch was nutritious and we enjoyed our visit and talks with the recruits. The ones I spoke to were proud of their decision to join the Marines and expressed confidence and pleasure with their performance in training. I expressed to them my admiration and respect for their service and assured them of a bright future.

Have a good week and return here on March 18 for an update about our trip to Parris Island!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

One Sunday Afternoon

My front row balcony seat enabled me to count 100 orchestra members and 120 choir singers on stage at the Stevens Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina at 3:00 pm on March 4, 2007.

I was in the audience with hundreds of people that Sunday afternoon to watch and listen to the Winston-Salem Symphony, the Winston-Salem Symphony Chorale, and the N. C. School of the Arts Cantata Singers perform the composition by Gustav Mahler titled Symphony No 2 (Resurrection).

The director, Robert Moody, introduced the piece with remarks about the Vienna artist of the late 19th century. He concluded his remarks by requesting the audience withhold any applause until the end of the 85 minute performance without intermission.

Throughout, the orchestra exploded from a dead silence into beautiful sounds from string, brass, flute and drums. The music sometimes stopped abruptly with a return to total silence. The audience members didn't move or make any sounds of coughs or shuffling in seats. I breathed ever so softly as I believe every audience member inhaled and exhaled in equal silence.

Eighty-five minutes passed as we watched sometimes gentle and sometimes aggressive movement by musicians who produced pleasing music from instruments or voices. My wife was one of the alto voices.

The audience stood and erupted with applause at the end. This clapping and an occasional bravo continued for four ovations.

Have a good day and return here on March 11 for more about Parris Island.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

The Firing Range

Commanders who met and addressed us teachers described typical Marine recruits this way: "Typical young men and women show up at boot camp with under-developed cardiovascular systems. The new recruits have difficulty running or walking long distances." The commanders added that "young people have an amazing use of their thumbs." One told us that if "our nation's thumbs were attacked, the enemy would be destroyed easily." This metaphor about thumbs was the drill instructor's way of describing our nation's young people as growing up flabby and soft from excessive use of television, computers, PlayStations and the lack of exercise.

Commanders quickly added, "after 12 weeks of boot camp these young people perform as well as any Marines of the past on battle fields as demonstrated in Iraq and Afghanistan." The drill instructors reported that these young men and women "yearn for structure and discipline in their lives."

When commanders and drill instructors described these young people, I thought, "what a sad commentary on typical parenting in our country." Then I quickly thought of the past when I was in Army boot camp forty-two years ago. My cardiovascular system may have been better developed than today's young people, but the experiences and knowledge of typical recruits back then didn't measure up to that of today's recruits.

Drill instructors took us to an indoor firing range to receive instructions and practice firing the M16 assault rifle. The targets had sensors to record our hits and the rifles used C2 gas to simulate the recoil of each shot. Some targets were stationary silhouettes while others were life size videos of moving cars and human images in urban settings.

The photo above shows me and other teachers getting a feel of the M16.

The picture below shows me on a live-fire range shooting real cartridges at targets 200, 300, and 500 yards away. We were allowed to fire single shot and three round burst of automatic fire.

This experience cultivated my memory of my basic training and my year in the central highlands of South Vietnam when I used an M16, real cartridges, and real enemy contact on battle fields of jungle and rice paddies. There, I was the target within 10 yards for Viet Cong Guerrillas who had AK-47's, Thompson sub-machine guns, and Chinese style hand grenades (the hand grenades with the short wooden handles).

The bottom picture shows a demonstration firing of a machine gun by a drill instructor. We teachers did not fire this weapon, but I fired an M-60 machine gun in Vietnam many times.

Return here next week for more about our experiences at Parris Island.

Have a good week!