Nudes Can Haunt You Immediately the DI had us marching off, if you could call it marching, to a large brick building. Inside, we were herded into a large classroom full of student desks where other Marine instructors were directing each of us to grab a desk, sit down, and remain quiet. There was a booklet and pencil on each desk. It was one o'clock in the morning and we were about to take a psychological test. After allowing us a brief visit to the drinking fountains and restrooms, we began to answer a battery of questions about what we liked, how we felt, and what we would do if... The questions numbered in the hundreds. Pages later I turned the booklet to the last page. The final question was really my first art assignment in the Marine Corps. The instruction read, “In the space provided, draw a human figure.” As I pondered my first military drawing, the drill instructor announced that we had one minute left to finish. Tired and hungry, I looked at the empty box and immediately thought of Goya's reclining nudes. It was simple. With just a few lines I could complete the assignment. I drew my first line from the neck to the foot for the profile; another for an arm with the hand hidden, and a third line for the second leg and posterior. A line for an ear and and another for the hair. I drew the nude as a back view so I would not have to render a face and worry about the more delicate parts of the female anatomy. Scribble, scribble, scribble, done! Tablets and pencils were collected and off we were to a receiving barracks where we collapsed into bunk beds to get some sleep. During our third week of training, our senior drill instructor came into the squad bay telling us about the base psychiatrist wanting to “interview” several recruits in the platoon. Our DI went on to say that recruits called to see the shrink usually are never seen again. As he referenced loony bins and other places of safe detention, he read off the names of the four recruits who had an appointment with cranial destiny. The last name he read was mine! We stepped forward. He wished us luck, as we were escorted to the shrink's office in another building. When I walked into the doctor's office to report, he invited me to sit down; said I didn't need to call him “sir,” and that I was there for just a friendly chat. I thought the world was ending as all the blood seemed to drain from my brain. The first topic to come up was “Goya's nude,” named after the famous artist who did several paintings of reclining women. I knew I should have drawn a stick figure like most everyone else. The doc wanted to know why I chose to draw a woman, and why in a reclined position. I explained how I needed to draw the figure quickly and that I was nursing a hangover and could only think about bed and sleep. I had learned to do 10-second “life” drawings of models in college, and thought it would be an easy and quick way to draw a human figure. He closely studied the figure, as if tracing each line with a mental pencil. Then he nodded his head in silent approval, smiled, and put the drawing aside. The next question was more serious. He read what appeared to be an evaluation of me. He said that my drill instructor had labeled me a wise guy. I tried to look surprised. He continued by noting that I had not been able to make it over “the wall,” and what did I plan to do about it. (The wall was a smooth, vertical, six-foot wooden barrier which a recruit was supposed to scale quickly, as part of negotiating the obstacle course.) In keeping with my “wise guy” character, I looked the doctor in the eye and said that I would make it over the wall, that next morning. He asked me to repeat myself, and when I assured him I would make the wall in the morning, he smiled, closed my record book, and wished me luck. Immediately, I was marched back to my platoon alone, realizing that I was the only one of four recruits returning to the squad bay. Our platoon had gained three empty bunks that day, and I breathed a big sigh of relief and gave thanks to the Almighty for my good fortune. Now all I needed was to make that wall. The next morning, at about 0930 hours, we lined up at the start of the obstacle course. My heart was pounding. When my turn came, I made the first four obstacles with little effort. Then, 30 feet away, loomed my wooden nemesis – the wall. Looking to the right, I saw the psychiatrist standing on the side lines with my senior DI.  I acknowledged their presence with a wise-guy nod, cleared the wall like a gazelle, and never looked back. It was going to be a beautiful day.
Mail Call was held just prior to the hour of free time we were given each evening to write letters, shine shoes, study our manual, etc. Most times, we looked forward to mail call, hoping to get some needed sympathy and encouragement from a loved one at home. In our squad bay, one of the DIs, seated at a table, would hand out the mail. On the table were two desk lamps glaring with 100 watt bulbs. The DI would closely examine each piece of mail by holding it close to one of the  lamps. If he thought he saw something suspicious in an envelope, he would ask the recipient to open it in front of witnesses. It was against federal law to open someone else’s mail, even if you’re a Marine Corps drill instructor. Apparently, in the recent past, a recruit’s girlfriend was mailing him a pistol, part by part. The recruit was intending to settle a score with his drill instructor. Since that incident, all mail was being carefully scrutinized. It’s worth noting here that girlfriends, sisters and mothers need to understand what not to send their boyfriends, brothers and sons at Parris Island. Sweets, including candies, gum, cookies and cakes are considered “pogey bait” (see USMC Speak). Pogey bait makes you “fat, lazy, and dumb, and it rots your teeth.” In spite of repeated pleas from recruits asking their loved ones not to send anything but letters, the inevitable stick of gum or brownie would show up. Gum was simply dealt with by making the recruit chew the stick or sticks while still wrapped in foil; a terrible experience if you had any silver fillings. On another occasion, a recruit in my platoon received a big box of brownies. His mother thought she would send enough for the whole platoon, but only 72 brownies were counted. Since there were 71 recruits plus a senior drill instructor and two assistants, mom was short by two brownies. The DI did not deny the recruit a taste of his mom’s baking. He made the recruit try to eat the six dozen brownies by himself. After eating about a dozen, the recruit never wanted to see one of his mom’s brownies again.
Clothing and equipment were displayed for inspection on each recruit’s bunk. The precision of the lay-out was incredible for what we fondly called “Junk on the bunk” or “Things on the springs.”
The Wall in an updated photo.
Slide for Life was a confidence building obstacle. You climbed up to a 25-foot high platform to a rope stretched across a muddy pond to another platform. With feet locked around the rope you pulled yourself, hand-over-hand, to the other side. If you did not fall on your own, the DI, at his discretion, could call you to attention. Not the most pleasant way to start the day.
Water Rescue
First Battalion, Company C, Platoon 162
Parris Island, South Carolina
Marine Corps Recruit Depot
United States Marine Corps
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