I Remember Marine Corps Boot Camp

I Remember Marine Corps Boot Camp

“Get off my bus, you slimy-eyed maggots!” shouted the Drill Instructor at the top of his lungs. Thus began my “near death experience” all through nine weeks of Marine Corps Recruit Training…after we entered the gates at MCRD, San Diego…the Marine Corps Recruit Depot…on that “fateful” Monday night, September 16, 1968.

In mere split seconds we were standing at our best “attention” on those yellow footprints at the Receiving Barracks for what seemed like hours.  The hazing and swearing never stopped!

I was shocked senseless.  I thought I would be treated as a man, not as a “maggot.”  This was when the Vietnam War was explosive and controversial, to say the least.  My “Home of Record” was Pasadena, California.

I remember talking with some of the guys on the bus ride to San Diego from the A.F.E.E.S. Station…somewhere in downtown Los Angeles.  We all had great personalities…we thought.  We were students, surfers, camp counselors, part-time grocery clerks, and “street guys.”  Once we had our first haircuts, I didn’t recognize anyone; we all looked exactly alike.  It was true what the Drill Instructors said about us: we were a bunch of worthless, slimy-eyed maggots…with no personalities.  And we felt worthless.

A.F.E.E.S. stands for Armed Forces Entrance and Examining Station.

As rough and tough as boot camp was, there were some personal “fond” memories.

To my surprise and delight, I could outrun every private/recruit in my platoon on our near-daily three-mile runs.  Although I lettered varsity in cross-country track in high school, I continued to run a lot on my own during the three years after high school…my junior college days…before joining the Marine Corps.

Our almost-daily three-mile runs were not races, but I made them into races.  I was one of the shorter recruits, so I was always marching…and running…at the tail end of our platoon.  By about the second week of training, I realized that I could catch up to the front of the platoon with very little effort.  Those guys, including the platoon guide and the squad leaders, were running very well, but working very hard at it.  I often wondered if some of the recruits ever ran very much before Recruit Training.  Again, these were not races, but merely our routine three-mile runs.

My Platoon Commander, our Senior Drill Instructor, was always insisting and demanding that I run even faster.  “Yes, Sir, the Private will run faster and harder the next time,” was my usual reply.  I soon realized why he was telling me this: he held four track records at his high school.  Even though he was twelve years older than I was, he could still outrun every one of us recruits in the sprints.  At 21, I was considered one of the “old men” in boot camp.  Nonetheless, I came in first place all through Recruit Training in our three-mile runs, but never fast enough for my Platoon Commander.

I had just spent the entire previous summer working as a camp counselor at a Boys’ Club camp in the Big Bear Lake/Barton Flats area about 100 miles east of Pasadena, and at an elevation of 7,000 feet.  During my free times at camp, I would run long and hard around and near camp with a lightweight cedar log over my shoulders.  (I had already enlisted in the Corps on Monday, June 10, and would depart for boot camp on Monday, September 16.)  And now, running at sea level was a breeze.  My personal training at 7,000 feet paid off at sea level.  I felt very little pain running…and loved it.

Here is another “fond” surprise for me: not only did Gunnery Sergeant Ray Fitzhugh hold four track records in high school, he held them at…my high school!  I was totally surprised and amazed to learn this…at about the third week of training.  This didn’t make life any easier for me in boot camp, but I felt much better about it.  We both graduated from John Muir High in Pasadena, California…the same high school famed baseball player Jackie Robinson attended.  Later when I was stationed at MCRD, San Diego, Gunny Fitzhugh became the First Sergeant in the barracks I lived in.  It was really good seeing him again.  And he was as mean as ever, which I now liked.  This was in HQ. CO., RTR (Recruit Training Regiment.)

My other “fond” memory was that of being in boot camp on the 193rd Birthday of the Marine Corps…10 November 1968, a Sunday.  Training was a little lighter, close order drill was about the same, and our three-mile run was as fun as ever…for me!  Plus, we attended the Marine Corps Birthday Ceremonies and Festivities on base where the oldest and the youngest Marines would eat the first piece of Birthday Cake.  The noon and evening chow times were splendid banquets, and not too dissimilar to those meals on any Thanksgiving Day.  And…we even got a few extra minutes to eat, instead of rushing as usual.  We recruits did not attend the evening Marine Corps Ball.

My other Drill Instructors were Staff Sergeant R.D. Stride and Sergeant Kenny Joy.  We were in Third Battalion, India Company, Platoon 3081…16 September – 21 November 1968.

I did not fight in Vietnam.

Semper Fidelis


Sgt Grit wants to hear from you! Leave your comments below or submit your own story!


  • Jose Perea

    I joined the Marines in Oct.8.1958 and did a tour of 4 yrs. I have vivid memories of Sgt Tom Dooly. At that time they would get physical with you. Sgt Dooly was a 150 lbs. Marine, but he could take down a 200 plus recruit. SSgt Heins was a crazy Marine, but tough. Sgt Lazenski was a body builder with 15 inch biceps.
    My great grand son whom we raised from 1 yr. and now he is 19. I am so proud of him. He was an all state running back in high school. I told him how the Drill Instuctors are lean and mean. I can not hardly wait to see him after boot camp. Sempre Fi

  • Robert Terry

    David it’s been I believe 52 years since I was in MCRD San Diego plt 3081 I remember you just wanted to touch base with you

  • Cathy Rusher

    Please call me 928 444 0210

  • David T. “Nitro” Nyerges

    Hello, my fellow Marines. I am Sergeant Nyerges, David T. Thanks for your kind notes on my Boot Camp story. Regarding staying in formation while running our three miles, I don’t remember our Drill Instructors telling us to stay in formation. Our half-way point was at Harbor Drive, not too far from the airport. There was another Drill Instructor there making sure we didn’t cheat by turning back too soon. He marked the bills of our covers with a chalk mark. By the last half of the run, some of the guys were slowing down, and thus out of rank/formation already. I am guessing this gave me the incentive to pick up the speed, and come in first place…every time we ran. In about the year 2000, I reviewed my high school directory, and found Gunny Fitzhugh’s address. He retired as a Sergeant Major, and was living in Irvine, California, not too many miles from Disneyland. I have corresponded with him over the years. We were, after all, both from Pasadena. I have not heard from him in the past two years, or so. If he is still alive, he will be 84. (I am only 72.) I hope he is doing well, of course. He and my other Drill Instructors taught me everything I needed to know about life: how to march, how to properly fold my clothes, how to stay in shape, how to brush my teeth, how to kill other men, how to shoot straight, how to keep my rack tight, how to run long and hard, how to keep my brass shiny, and how to keep my boots and shoes brightly spit-shined. Keep in touch if you wish, Marines. Sgt. Nyerges, David T. My nick name for the past forty years has been Mr. Nitro, or just Nitro…given to me by the delinquent teen boys I worked with for eight years. It was easier than Mr. Nyerges. My email: libertykid@juno.com Semper Fi

  • Cpl Flores T. 1968

    I went to boot camp in January of 1968 and our senior DI was Gunny Blue, and our Drill Sgt was S/Sgt Zoucha and S/Sgt St Pierre. We were honor Plt 123. After we were all discharged we held our 1st reunion which was our 10th year, on our 30th I believe we had another reunion and were lucky enough to get all our Drill instructors to join us. We held this in Thousand Oaks, Ca.Our Plt were all from California and our DI’s would have us count cadence in a pussy cadence which was in a high voice like a woman every time another Plt would march by. It was kind of embarrassing for us but got us motivated to say the least! At our reunion some of the guys were bragging about what they would do if they ever ran into one of our Instructors, well when they came out of the restaurant with their smokey bears and yelled Atten-hut we all jumped up to attention. It was a beautiful reunion but a few years later our Gunny died. Cpl Ted Flores, Plt 123

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