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.

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

25 comments


  • Toby Maes

    In reply to Al Johnston.
    I was 5’8″ and weighed 117 but because I couldn’t keep from “eye fu*****” the area (caught three times), I was sent to motivation platoon one Sunday afternoon. Fun filled day, loaded with running, squat thrusts, making a hole in the sand and filling it with water (all the while running)…taught me several good lessons but I graduated in June of 67, Plt 374. As far as making L/cpl out of boot camp..never happened back then. Our series honor man made PFC.


  • Erv Paulson

    In reply to Gary Chandler.
    I think you refer to the CC (correctional custody) plt…those were the ones who really ‘worked out’ all day long. One guy in my Plt got sent there, and when I saw him later (in another Plt) he was pretty squared away. I was in plt 1096 arrived Aug 1966 at 135 pounds. When I went home on boot leave I was 185 on the same scale. I gained most of the weight at Camp Pendleton ITR where we had some great chow and as much as we wanted…after all you ran everywhere with equipment up the mountains and needed the calories. And yes, I never heard of anyone making L/Cpl out of boot camp ever.


  • Chuck Downey, Cpl, 1975-79, A Co. 2nd Radio Bn, Camp Geiger.

    Full disclosure. I’m one of the younger guys around here (won’t turn 60 until later this year). Anyway, I went through Parris Island 19 Aug 75 – 11 Nov 75 (Platoon 390). Around week three I had the brazen gall to eyeball a brick while marching column left into the 3rd Battalion mess hall for breakfast. My eyeballs must have made a lot of noise and did not escape the notice of Sgt Van Overloop, who threatened to send me to Motivation. Time passed until the day we went to rifle range…and came to a halt in front of a large red “M”. Names were called out from each platoon, mine not among them. Relief. Then each platoon was to supply one more volunteer. Van Overloop inspected each of us in my squad, looked me over and moved on. More relief. Then he returned to me, barking a bunch of stuff about how I liked to eyeball bricks. So that was how I got to spend one miserable day of attitude adjustment, yelling “motivation” again and again, while Van Overloop taunted me about eyeballing bricks. We had to shower is scrub brushes and Wisk. Regarding LCpl out of boot camp, we did have one guy in our platoon who had a guaranteed E-3, probably for recruiting his high school class. Think his name is Willie Ford. But that was 1975. I heard that the mot ditch is no longer there. BTW – In DI Van Overloop reads this, no hard feelings. Oh, and Pensacola was terrific after leaving PI.


  • Earl Roy GILPIN, MSgt, USMC Retired

    Lots of great stories, some just plain “c’mon man”, others pretty good. Boot camp 1972 PLT 1010, MCRD< San Diego, yeah I believe we sent the women to PISC, correct me if I may be wrong.Yuk Yuk, always pisses off PI Graduates. 5’10", 237lbs, enlisted under medrep cause of scores, supposed to go pcp t-10, thank God and Chesty 2nd sqd ldr got sick and because I busted my beer barrel ass, they made me sqd ldr, and there was no way I would relinquish that position. Missed honor man by a hair,1st class pft, expert on the range off to the fleet at a solid 185 and fought that weight thing for 20 plus years, still shooting expert and scoring final pft 261 after major surgery retiring as a MSgt. In the 80’s they had some hinky 6 year program guaranteed Cpl in like 2 years. Served a tour of recruiting and off to the duty first station had a young Marine work for me directly that I enlisted. Best part of my career was all 20, highlight to serve along young men I recruited in Beirut/Grenada/Beirut 82-84 back to back deployments. When I returned to recruiting it really helped me to train fellow recruiters that these young men and women may be serving right alongside of you, so f–k any shortcuts and enlist the people you want to serve with as Marines. Enlisted over 200 personally and thousands as NCOIC, Recruiter instructor and such, now retired in the area I recruited and have the pleasure of running into former recruits doing quite well from time to time, have had them retire as MGySgts, full Bird and even spoke at some of their retirement ceremonies. Mother Green was very good to me. OOH RAH


  • Daniel Miller

    In reply to Nick Martin.
    I remember CCP. Plt. 3105 9/’74 to 12/’74. During first phase we were drilling on the Grinder when the DI stopped us to give instruction. One of the recruits in the back (who will remain nameless) raised his hand and asked to make a head call. The DI told him no and we continued drilling. This went on for about 30 or so minutes until we stopped again for instruction. This recruit snapped to attention, did an about face, unbuttoned his fly and pissed right there of the parade deck. Needless to say the DI’s went crazy and he was sent directly to CCP, but was reunited with our platoon during third phase and graduated with us on time. Not sure what happened, but I believe the DI’s may have been found at fault and that was why he was allowed to graduate with us. He wouldn’t tell any of us what happened and he may have been ordered no to talk of the incident.


Leave a comment