Marine Corps drill instructors visited numerous Iowa, Nebraska and Illinois locations March 9-13 to join more than 1,000 young men and women who have signed up for the Marine Corps, as well as their families and friends, for dinner, a presentation on recruit training, and an unforgettable 25-minute taste of what these “poolees” can expect at boot camp.
During the evening, the Marines used a slide show to give parents and poolees an informative look at the various components of recruit training, answering any questions or concerns while they enjoyed a catered dinner. For dessert, parents watched their sons and daughters experience what will become reality in the coming months.
Not knowing what was coming their way, the future recruits stood in formation with their heads on a swivel, some scratching their heads. Some in the back were even joking amongst themselves, unaware of the transformation taking place by drill instructors just a few feet away.
“Stand straight up and lock your bodies right now, aye aye sir!” screamed an intimidating drill instructor from a distance.
“Ok, good, sit down right now! Stand up right now! Sit down right now!” yelled Staff Sgt. Timothy Waltman, another of the four menacing “DIs.”
The poolees, a mish-mash of sweaty arms and legs, struggled to respond physically and audibly to the commands machine-gunned at their ears from multiple directions.
“If you don’t scream at the top of your lungs, we’ll be doing this all night, do you understand?”
“Yes sir!” the nervous, but now-attentive poolees replied.
Visibly shaken after 25 minutes so intense that a mop could have been used to clean the sweat off the floor, the DIs put their charges at ease and explained their actions, to instill a sense of urgency, teamwork and instant obedience to orders that may save someone’s life.
When the dust settled, Waltman took off his campaign cover, the iconic “Smokey the Bear” hat hallmarking DIs, and opened the floor for questions. No one raised their arms.
“Ok, we can show (the poolees) what it’s like for another 20 minutes.”
Half the crowd of more than 200 guests suddenly put their hands as high as they could. The drill instructors ensured the concerned parents that nothing between the drill instructors and recruits is ever personal in recruit training.
“The bottom line is, everything we do is for a reason,” said Sgt. Gregory Widmar, another drill instructor present. “As long as they move with speed and intensity, they’ll be ok. What we teach them is what they’ll keep with them the rest of their careers.”
Poolee Christopher Neal, a Hoover High School senior and Des Moines, Iowa, native, said he always wanted to be a Marine and what he, and close to 80 others, went through cemented why he chose the Marines.
“I know the Marine Corps is the best and always has been the best, and what we went through tonight pretty much told me that I made a great decision,” Neal said. “I knew the drill instructors meant business, even though we aren’t even recruits yet. I can’t wait to become one of the best.”
After the drill instructor demonstration, Sgt. Maj. Brad A. Kasal, Recruiting Station Des Moines’ sergeant major and a Navy Cross recipient, talked about the general population’s differences of opinions about military service.
"I meet a lot of people and they say they’re all about the military, but when it’s their son or daughter, they say, ‘Nope, not my son, how about checking down the street at the neighbor’s house,’” Kasal said. “I applaud all of the families tonight for showing their support for the men and women who signed up to be Marines. We are the smallest, but toughest group. We hold the right to be choosy in who we allow to join the Marines. The Marine Corps isn’t for everyone, but as long as you do not quit during recruit training, the drill instructors won’t quit on you either.”