Old Corps vs New Corps
I have read several submissions on the subject, ?Old Corps vs. New Corps,? and I have to say it is rather ironic to read these, as the old salts of yesteryear frequently assume the Corps was better when they were in, was harder and tougher, and the training superior.
Here?s the irony: Many of the former Marines in the ?Old Corps? joined 20, 25, 30 years ago in the Seventies, Eighties, and maybe not quite in the Nineties ? yet. I enlisted in 1978 and went to beloved MCRD in September of that year. Well, guess what I learned upon arriving and the next couple years following? I was in the ?New Corps,? and the ?old salts? who joined in the late Fifties and early Sixties were the ?Old Corps? when the Corps was better, harder, tougher, and superior! Do you think it might have been possible that when they joined in the Fifties, they, too, were ?New Corps? to the Marines of WWII?
It is somewhat mythological, in a sense, that no matter when you join, you automatically are in the ?New Corps,? but that somehow 20 or 30 years later you mysteriously morph into the ?Old Corps.? If nothing else, it certainly bodes well for nostalgia!
During the month of August of this year, I and my family had the privilege of being invited guests of Sergeant Major Brian Jackson, the Depot and the Western Recruiting Region Sergeant Major. We arrived on the depot at San Diego on 11 Aug 2009 and were warmly greeted by the Sergeant Major who introduced us to Staff Sergeant Daniel Rodriguez, Chief Drill Instructor of Receiving Company, a Marine at least 6-foot 1 or greater, rock hard, piercing eyes, yet of a quiet demeanor. (The Marine Corps does such an awesome job teaching one how to carry themselves.) I had previously asked the sergeant major if we could take a brief tour of the depot for the benefit of my children, five girls and a son, though only four of the girls could make it. SgtMaj Jackson and SSgt Rodriguez met us dressed in crisp desert cammies and campaign covers. The Sergeant Major presented my son with a medallion memento and explained that pressing duties called so the Staff Sergeant would give us a tour of the depot and training areas.
My expectation was simple. We would hop into our vehicle, drive around the depot, and point out areas of significance. That wasn?t to happen. Sergeant Major Jackson saw to it that all areas of the depot be made available to us beginning with the Marine museum. SSgt Rodriguez took us on an eight-passenger golf cart to the museum, showed us the Hummers used for Marine Corps public relations, drill instructor?s training area, recruiter?s training area, to receiving barracks, the yellow footprints of today and years gone by, into the recruit?s PX, the barracks, confidence course, bayonet fighting, rappelling, the whole nine yards. As we drove and walked around the ?restricted areas,? I felt strangely odd, as if we were on ground we should not tread.
When we entered into the swim qualification building, Marines looked at us like, ?What the &*#$,? as seven civilians strode in. The gunny in charge bolted out of his hut staring at me like I was from another planet. I bellowed down the corridor, ?Staff Sergeant Rodriguez, I think the gunny here is wondering why civilians are walking into his tank.? The gunny responded, ?Yeah, you might say I?m thinking something like that!? The senior drill instructor cleared our way, and into the tank room we went, just in time to see recruits on the platform, dressed in full camouflage fatigues, ALICE packs (that?s what we used to call them, have no idea what they are today), boots, helmet, and mock M-16 rifles jumping into the tank and qualifying. Let me say this: In 1978, I swim qualified, but we did not do it with packs, helmet, and rifle. We did it in cammies and boots. So to a certain extent, these ?New Corps? recruits were receiving better and harder training than we ?Old Corps? Marines did.
The point of my letter is this: We watched these recruits walk their way down slide-of-life ropes, fall into the net or pool, climb telephone pole apparatus and cross over, one recruit stuck at the top and being coaxed to get his swinging you know what over the top and down. As we cruised in our golf right through the center of bayonet training, a recruit did not even acknowledge our presence as he turned and thrust his bayonet inches from our cart yelling at the top of his lungs, ?KILL!? Fifty percent of the training I observed I did not receive in my old Corps days, or at least not on the level I was observing.
As we walked through Receiving, we watched raw recruits who had arrived the night before being herded down the corridor; we witnessed recruits in ?the pit? being thrashed. If you have been in the Corps, you know what the pit is! At one point I asked SSgt Rodriguez if they still call the recruits ?maggots.? His response: ?I will neither confirm nor deny.? Spoken like a true Marine!
The tour was awesome. My kids were very impressed, and I think I could rightly say a bit awe struck. My son was presented with an Essential Subjects and Guidebook. He has read both, and all of my children received dog tags that SSgt Rodriguez had made for us while at Receiving. SSgt Rodriguez explained each and every aspect of Marine Corps boot camp to us. Many aspects of training today are more refined and equally as difficult, if not more so. Today?s recruit also experiences the ?Crucible,? which is sort of a rite of passage for recruits becoming Marines. The Crucible did not exist in 1978.
I left MCRD San Diego that day feeling extremely confident that the Marines of today are receiving no less training than their forefathers. Someone once said, ?Old Corps, New Corps, it?s all Marine Corps.? I agree wholeheartedly. I was looking hard that day to see if I could find any area of boot camp that was less than what it should be or once was. I didn?t find it! So?that said, should we once and for all end the age-old controversy of Old Corps vs. New Corps? Heck no! It makes for fantastic stories of yore and holds today?s recruit accountable to the standards that of days bygone. We can rest assured, though, that today?s New Corps Marine is every bit as sharpened and hardened as their ?Old Corps? ancestors.
SSGT USMC (former)
1978 ? 1987
P.s. I have attached three photos, one of my children and SSgt Rodriguez in front of the Hummer; one of my kids on the “Old Corps” yellow footprints (sorry about those salutes); and one of my family and I at the flag pole.