The infamous Marine Corps drill instructors have played a vital role in the Corps' mission to make Marines at both recruit depots for more than 200 years, but recruiters have found that borrowing a few DIs from time to time to drop into middle America also means stronger pools and more supportive families.
Drill instructors Staff Sgt. Damian Rodriguez and Sgt. Edgar Ramirez from Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego and Sgt. Beth Abbott from MCRD Parris Island toured Recruiting Station Lansing’s area April 14-18 to give Marine Corps hopefuls a taste of boot camp and answer questions from parents and family members.
The pinnacle event of the tour was a family night DI visit to more than 100 Michigan poolees and their families from Recruiting Station Lansing’s Kalamazoo and Battle Creek substations.
“I think that this is a great opportunity for the poolees to get out some of the pre-boot camp nervousness and get a small taste of what to expect,” said Gunnery Sgt. Jason Keller, noncommissioned officer in charge of RSS Kalamazoo. “It also gives the parents and family members who may be skeptical of the Marine Corps, and mostly recruit training, an opportunity to see first hand what recruit training will be like for their sons or daughters.
The family night event began with introductions from all of the Flint and Saginaw area recruiters.
The guest speaker, retired Maj. Randal Vandyke who is now the principal of Olivet High School , talked about how his experience in the Marine Corps prepared him for his current position.
Then the ‘fun’ began with the introduction of the drill instructors.
“This is a rare opportunity the parents and the poolees have to ask a drill instructor questions about the training and lifestyle of a recruit,” said Ramirez.
He said the biggest advantage for poolees here is getting a preview of how to listen and respond to orders from DIs.
The poolees stood tall as the three drill instructors entered the room. With the intensity DIs are known for, Staff Sgt. Rodriguez and Sgt. Ramirez began by teaching poolees some basics that they would need to know immediately upon arrival at boot camp, like how to properly address Marines, stand at the position of attention and execute basic close order drill movements.
“When you are addressing a drill instruction the first and last words out of your mouth will be ‘sir,’ do you understand?” roared Rodriguez to the poolees.
“Sir, yes sir!” answered the poolees in an immediate and earsplitting reply.
Sgt. Abbott talked to the parents about the transformation their sons and daughters would go through during their 13 weeks in recruit training before joining the other DIs in teaching the poolees basic physical fitness exercises that they would also come to know well in recruit training.
After 45 minutes of teaching, drill and a lot of push-ups and running, the future recruits were formed up by the DIs in front of their parents to demonstrate some of the drill movements and responses to orders that they had just learned.
Later, the drill instructors answered more questions from the poolees and their families.
“I was amazed by the difference I saw in Justin that quickly after an hour with the drill instructors,” said Kathy Miller, parent of poolee Justin Miller. “I have a hard enough time getting him to clean his room. Now, he’s saying ‘yes ma’am’ and ‘yes sir’ all the time. I just can’t imagine what he’ll be like when he gets back from boot camp.”
“I had a slight idea of what to expect,” said Joshua Gall, an RSS Kalamazoo poolee who is scheduled to ship to recruit training Aug. 25th, “but this experience has put the whole process in prospective. I know what I can work on to be more successful in boot camp. The best part has to be the chance to ask the drill instructor how to better prepare for boot camp and things to work on.”
“I can spend hours trying to teach my poolees drills and different movements and some still won’t get it,” said Staff Sgt. Andrew Ryciak, RSS Battle Creek SNCOIC, “but 30 minutes with the drill instructors and they all are locked on and know what to expect.”
“After this experience and seeing it first hand,” said Rodriguez, “I hope the parents take away a good, clear understanding, and they better support their young adults’ choices to join.”