.—‘If it ain’t raining, we ain’t training,’ a popular mantra of the Marine Corps, rose to another level as an unseasonal snow storm whipped through Minnesota during Recruiting Station Twin Cities’ Annual Mini-Boot Camp April 25- 27.
For 392 members of its Delayed Entry Program (DEP), also known as poolees, with a few friends and family members there to observe, it was an opportunity to prepare for boot camp and promote the DEP by increasing exposure to the Marine Corps.
“Nobody expects a blizzard at the end of April,” said Master Sgt. Tobie Matherne, the RS pool coordinator, “but it offered us a unique opportunity to show the poolees how we adapt and overcome. We revamped the training schedule and went on seamlessly.
Moreso than the snow, a hurricane in the form of four drill instructors ensured that poolees had an unforgettable weekend.
“One of the biggest things about boot camp is the shock factor,” Matherne said. “By exposing them to drill instructors now, it gives them a taste of what’s to come.”
He said the experience also helps recruiters identify attrition risks by seeing who can’t take the pressure.
“The first night was like, wow!” said Elizabeth Judd, a senior at Shakopee High School , in Shakopee , Minn. , when describing her first meeting with the DIs. “I was nervous when they came into the room. They were very intense.”
“We came here blindly,” said Nicholas I. Gisi, a student at Alexandia Technical College . “The DIs were other-worldly, very dynamic and quick paced. When they told us to do something, they made sure we did it with speed and intensity.”
With the weather being anything but cooperative and the drill instructors instilling good order and discipline in the poolees, the night ended after the moment of truth.
“In boot camp, when the recruits first get there they go through a moment of truth where they are given a last chance to fess up to anything that may disqualify them from joining the Marines,” explained Matherne. “We wanted to do the same thing; we are just doing it before they even leave for boot camp.”
With the shock and awe settling in, the snow still falling and the moment of truth out of the way, the poolees caught a few hours of shut-eye before the next day’s training.
“Due to the weather, we had to cancel some of our events such as the obstacle course and land navigation,” said Matherne. “For the most part, we kept them so busy they didn’t notice.”
The poolees went through several different classes including Marine Corps history, customs and courtesies, and weapons familiarization. They also used M16-A2 service rifles, crew-served weapons and tanks on weapons simulators in different scenarios.
“I think the most important thing for someone going to boot camp is to learn the terminology and the customs and courtesies,” expressed Staff Sgt. Demetrius Quinnie, Chief Drill Instructor for Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego , who was on hand to assist with the event. “We normally have to teach recruits this from scratch, so this is going to help them when they get there.
“We didn’t focus too much on drill, they’ll get enough of that when they get to the depot,” said Quinnie.
What poolees got a lot of instead was a taste of what happens when they inevitably mess up at boot camp.
“[The drill instructors] are very persuasive,” said Judd who enlisted in the Marine Corps to be a linguist. “When I hear them, my heart speeds up uncontrollably, and my body starts thinking for itself. I have a much better idea of what’s to come.”
On the last day of the evolution, the snow finally let up and the poolees were treated to a meal prepared by some special guests, members of Twin Cities Metro Marines, former Marines who chose to keep supporting the Corps even after they took the uniform off.
“It was good for the poolees to see the tradition of ‘once a Marine, always a Marine’ being carried on,” said Matherne. They got a chance to see the entire life cycle of the Marine Corps.
“On Sunday, you could see the change in the poolees’ sense of urgency, obedience to orders and the respect they had for the Marine Corps,” said Matherene.“It was worth every minute of planning that went into it.”
“This was my first time in snow,” said Quinnie, a Mobile , Ala. , native. “The weather made it more stressful. (The poolees) were wet and cold, but nonetheless they stayed motivated and looked like they wanted to be here. I think they will remember this weekend whether they come to MCRD or not.”
The trip to MCRD San Diego is not too far away for some of the attendees, including Gisi who leaves for boot camp in July.
“This was an invaluable experience,” he said. “There is a lot more effort than meets the eye to being a Marine. I need to start preparing myself a lot more. Then again, I don’t know if anyone can really be ready for it.