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“Born Again Hard”

Submitted by Bradley Scott Burris

Like all Corpsman, I started at Navy Boot Camp, 1980. Over the next seven years, I was with the Blue Side. But in 1987, the Navy saw fit to train me "Green". Despite graduating from Field Medical Service School in December of 1987, I didn't "get it" until February 1988. I was assigned to the Northern Training Area, Okinawa. Within two weeks, the Marines signed me up for Rappel Master Training. Never having Rappelled before, I was "unsure". When it became my turn to do the slack-jump off the helo-simulator on the cliff, I panicked. The thought of having to slack jump out of an actual helo the following day pushed me over the edge. I walked off the obstacle, not realizing what the reprecussions would be. For the next three months, I was piraha. A non-being. At a command of less than 40 personnel, isolated in the Okinawa jungle, I was in hell, branded a coward. After a month of being cut off from everyone at NTA, I was begging the senior Corpman for a transfer. He said it was impossible. "What else can I do?" He said, "earn back their respect." For the next two months, I stayed in the bush. If there was a training op, I stayed out there, night and day. I didn't expect to be acknowledged by the NTA Marines. And I wasn't. Then one day, three months after my mistake on the cliff, I was making my way across the Commando Crawl obstacle. Halfway across the Shanghai River, I spoke to the Chief Instructor on the farside of the cliff, "I can't take back what I did that day on the cliff Staff Sgt. But given these past two months, I wish I had done the slack jump. If the rope had snapped, I would have been better off than I am now." As I came off the obstacle, I went past him. He didn't acknowlege me. I didn't expect him too. A week later, my senior Corpman took me aside and said, "The Senior Instructor acknowleded your efforts today, saying, "At least he's out there trying."  A couple of nights later, we were doing a night rappel into training smoke. The Rappel Master yelled out, "Navy, on rappel!" (I hadn't heard the term "Doc" in over three months). I came off the line and couldn't see my hand in front of my face. Then the Chief Instructor's voice was next to me, "Now that you've grown a pair, put in another request for enrollment. I'm not saying it will be accepted. It's never been done before." And he was gone. The next morning, he walked into his office and found my request chit with a pen, sitting on his desk. A couple of days later, the next class of Rappel Master started. When it came time for the slack-jump, I was all over the process of tying the knots. The lead instructor for the obstacle spoke to me, "I know you want to be the first one down Doc (my first time hearing that title), but I have to go first, then you." The obstacle was being run by a student, but one of the NTA Marines took over. He grabbed me by the blouse and looked me in the eye. "Just do it. Don't think about it." He hit me on the helmet and I jumped. I got to the ground and every available NTA Instructor was on hand to clap me on the back and tell me, "good job, Doc!" From that moment in my life, I strived never again to bring dishonor upon myself, or upon Corpman, or upon my Marines. When I look back, I consider that the day I was "Baptised in The Corps."

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