The Motivation Platoon

In 1969 I was living in Minneapolis at the time the first draft lottery cam to be. For those who don’t know about this, it was 365 dates in a large fish bowl. This was news, and was covered by all the television stations at the time. Everyone who was eligible for the draft was watching because if they pulled your birthday you were guaranteed to be drafted and had a direct line to the Army or so I thought. Well I arrived at the induction center several weeks later. After we had been tested for a variety of things we were all gathered in a large room. A representative from the Air Force walked up to a podium in the room and asked for “volunteers” to serve two years in the Air Force since they had not reached their quota for the month. Everyone raised there hand, but only six people were actually chosen.

This same process continued through the Coast Guard, Navy and Marine Corps. When the Marine approached the podium he asked for three volunteers. No one raised their hand! The Marine asked again with the same response. The Marine then announced that he had other ways to get three volunteers. The Marine went on to remind us of the tests we had been taking for most of the day and said he had decided that the people who scored the highest, middle and lowest overall test scores were his choice. My name was one of the three and I was immediately moved to a Marine Corps van in front of the induction center for a short ride to the airport. I was taken away to the MCRD in San Diego. The first couple of days there were much like the person who wrote about “Motivation” article. Mass confusion, no sleep for close to two days and many berating encounters with the Drill Instructors. The next few weeks proceeded much like the first two days but we were allowed to sleep. One of the things we were required to do was “PT” physical training! Doing set ups, push ups, a variety of other things including running were part of the agenda. I was what would be called a nerd today and a weakling back then. I weighed 175 pounds and was six feet four inches tall and had never participated in sports of any kind. After a couple more weeks with me always being the last one to complete all the physical exercises I was move to a place called the “Motivation Platoon”! If I thought it was rough in regular boot camp the Motivation Platoon was ten times worse. There was never a minute of the day that we were idle except when we were studying the Marine Corps Manual, at Church, or sleeping. When awake were either doing exercises of some type or we were running. We ran and ran and ran, nine miles a day, rain or shine. Three miles before breakfast, three miles before lunch and three more before supper. The Motivation Platoon was originally formed to help recruits that were over weight to loose the weight and gain some muscle, then return to complete the rest of their boot camp experience. Since I was the skinny weakening I didn’t have any excess weight to loose, all I needed was muscle. When we went to the mess hall for chow the rest of my Motivation inductees ate greatly reduced rations, while I was forced to eat double rations. And I gained the weight, lots of it. I returned to a boot camp platoon weighing 250 mean lean pounds. Boot camp was a breeze and I also made the rank of Lance Corporal at he rifle range by shooting in the top five recruits. After that I was trained as a radio relay operator and was on my way to Viet Nam! The rest is a whole another story.

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