Post-Boot Camp Training: Marine Combat Training

Back in June of this year, I gave you all a few sneak peeks into behind the scenes life at boot camp using my letters from July, AugustSeptember , and October 2003. I know it’s time to also share photos from follow-on training opportunities. I am also including my journal entry on the my experience at Marine Combat Training with minor editing. My apologies for the poor quality of the photos. I took these on disposal 35mm cameras and now that I no longer have a scanner, I photographed them using my iPhone and had to crop the images manually (and obviously, you can see in some of these, I was lazy and didn’t bother cropping the images so you do not see the top of my kitchen island.)

Take care and have a great Friday, everyone.

~Cheryl

Marine Combat Training

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The woman on the right was also one of our instructors.
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Another instructor. I believe he was the senior Marine in charge of us.
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One of our instructors, Cpl Bevens. He’s the only instructors’ name I can recall.

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I couldn’t wait for the chance to launder my camis; these things look so disgusting from being out in the field.

24 December 2003

 

It’s been awhile since I graduated from Marine Corps Recruit Training Depot Parris Island, S.C. (October 10th) but I’m still learning how to be a Marine.

Since the time I left Parris Island, I have traveled to Camp Lejeune, N.C. for Marine Combat Training (actually conducted at Camp Devil Dog and in-processing and out-processing at Camp Geiger) or MCT.

MCT lasted for twenty-one days, of which two weeks were actually spent out in the field. In that time period, I’ve been the dirtiest I’ve ever been in my life. Unlike most of my fellow Marines, I only had two pairs of camis I could wear in the field whereas they had four. My woodland cover was broken from boot camp so I threw it out expecting I could purchase a new one at MCT. Unknown to me at the time, Camp Lejeune had no covers in my size so the only uniform I could wear was the desert camis until I got a cover at the end of my training from one of my instructors.

 

In the field we really had no facilities to wash our camis, although I got desperate and washed one in the shower with me. There is nothing that could really explain how disgusting we got. I resorted to buying enough underwear so I could just throw them away at the end of the day. We kept wet wipes on hand and used them in place of a shower at times (the females at least had ice cold showers for the duration of our field experience) and stocked up on the toilet paper from our MRE’s since the bathroom facilities lacked it.

You’d think most of us females would be uncomfortable being dirty around the males, but after awhile we just didn’t care; it didn’t quite matter was there was little we we could do to fix our situation. And MCT, in itself, was an experience simply for the fact it was the first time we worked with the opposite sex [in the Marine Corps]. As a result, we heard stories of how desperate some of the Marines got and how they resorted to sex in the woods or the portajohns.

MCT was harder than I expected. We didn’t PT (physical training) as I thought we would (which sucked in itself since I gained fifteen pounds from the fattening MRE’s) but did hikes instead. I’ve never been terribly good at hiking (even in boot camp) but this time I had to lug about sixty-five pounds on my back for a ten-mile and a fifteen-mile hike. I was sick for both of them and ended up falling out on the fifteen mile hike. I later got remediated was told to pack pillows in my MOLLE pack and we marched around Camp Geiger.  [Seriously, I am so embarrassed looking back on this experience to admit this situation, but I’m not sure who told us to pack pillows but they obviously didn’t get about us doing the hike properly…just needed it done, I guess.]

We also got to use a lot of weapons which was weird to get acclimated to since all I shot before was the M16. We got to use weapons like the .50 cal, M203 grenade launcher, the AT4 (with training round although we got to see one of our instructors shoot off a real one), hand grenades, and squad automatic weapons. I still enjoyed shooting the M16 the best. WE did some close range combat shooting (fifty yards or so) at paper targets. The grenades were cool though, although we duck behind a wall after throwing them. It would have been interested if from a distant we could have watched them when other Marines were throwing them.

And of course, as part of our training, before we could even use the weapons we did have to learn about them just as we did with the M16. I don’t remember much of it because I haven’t studied any of it since leaving MCT but basically we learned the nomenclature, the range and the effective range of the weapon, and distinguishing features of the weapon like rates of fire. The weapons are pretty bad ass. We learned about smoke grenades, incendiary grenades, and CS grenades.

Well, I got to go now. Need to shower (gotta love being able to do that) as I’m planning on going to the Brook’s Christmas Party. Later on I hope to see J. to give him his present. I got him Ka-Bar 100 years commemorative USMC fighting/utility knife. It’s such an awesome looking knife. I’m sure he’ll like it as he and his brothers say you can’t go wrong with weapons. he said he got me one because I don’t own one so I’m sure he’ll be surprised when he receives one from me.

Movie Watching with a Significant Other

I’m taking a little detour from my usual writing today. During my last memoir writing sessions, I read through several entries written from June 2005 to September 2005 and skimmed some from September through December 2005. While I think I’ve covered this subject a little here and there, I do not know how much I’ve reinforced how deployments were times in my life that I fell behind significantly on popular culture in the form of movie going. I worked so much during my first deployment, I never thought to check and see if our recreation center had movies for everyone to watch as part of their off hours activities. During the second tour, I worked a regular shift, but my husband sent me boxed sets of the shows, “That 70’s Show” and “Monk,” that I would occasionally watch with my coworkers.

Unexpectedly, in my life, movie watching became a particular pastime with my husband and I, starting in our dating years. We started working together approximately May 2005 but went on our first date October 14th of that year. I caught some movies that year with friends like “Constantine”, but on September 15th, I wrote this excerpt in a larger Myspace entry reflecting on lost love and what I wanted in someone to be my partner.

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I thought about sharing these sentiments last week but being so close to the anniversary of September 11th and also with September being Suicide Prevention month, I was hesitate to share something so lighthearted. This week it feels ok to take a detour.

I am not a passionate person when it comes to moviegoing. I grew up as one of four kids and later one of six when my step siblings joined my life. It was far too expensive as a family to see movies often and I never imagined as an adult seeing movies would become a regular part of my life. Serving in the Marine Corps and having a pretty substantial regular paycheck due to little debt and no one to support gave me more discretionary income than I think most of my friends in college had around the same time.

When my husband came into my life, a common weekend date routine for us was a trip to Barnes and Noble, a dinner (or two out) and a movie, when and if something we’d like was out in theaters. It’s funny, too, that periods of our military service are reasons why I remember certain movies instead of certain movies reminding me about us also serving at the same time. We saw “Jarhead” with our fellow Marines in November 2005 in the worst seats in the theater. As CBRN Marines, the scene where the guys play football in MOPP is one of my favorites.  The movie, “WALL-E,” stands out for me as we watched it in our hotel room during the 2008 Marine Corps ball weekend in Anaheim. We were experiencing fires in southern California and were advised to stay indoors. We had some great room service which was a delight after the catering for the ball disappointed me. Honestly, who serves apple pie for dessert when the occasion is the Marine Corps birthday?!

2008 Marine Corps ball
2008 Marine Corps ball

 

Movies have continued to play an important part of our weekend activities. By and large, I like comedies and Thomas encouraged me to step outside my comfort zone to see Marvel and DC Comics movies. He put up with watching “Memoirs of a Geisha” with me because I loved the book. We both were pained by the excessive frolicking in the woods during “The New World” and I think every other person in the audience was just as disappointed by the excessive length of the film. It needed more editing. I was embarrassed for a bit by picking out two movies that disappointed us that for a short while, I stopped recommending movies for us to watch.

Our silliest movie adventure was probably the time we ended up seeing “27 Dresses” in theater. We purchased tickets for something else and were misdirected to this theater. When the film began, we contemplated leaving but we sat through the film.

I’ve lost track of all the movies we’ve seen over the years, but I’ve found this person who stands beside me treats me how I wanted to be treated all those years ago, like a princess. He’s helped me cope with anxiety from my first deployment and unpacking those experiences for academic endeavors, building my claim with the VA, and in my work with veterans. We sent love letters and emails when the Marine Corps kept us apart. During one anniversary, he picked up some of our favorite things from Blue Wasabi, including my favorite soft shell crab. I cannot recall the many Disney, Pixar, and Dreamworks films we’ve enjoyed over the years. He started a family with me and to give you a small peek into our family life, he was the one to master swaddling our daughter in her infancy. Our first adventure playing in snow was during our June 2006 adventure to see his family in Wyoming. We played in snow along the side of the road. We don’t live in an area where we rake our leaves, but we’ve done it before in Wyoming. Walks make up the majority of our exercise habits. We walked our dogs around the neighborhood during our apartment living days; we traipsed around town in Cody, Wyoming even around those uneven sidewalks damaged by tree roots; and it is really only the summer here in Arizona that keeps us from daily walks. We may like some pampering experiences but a lot of our best days are hanging around which doesn’t cost a thing. And how do I know he loves my family like I do? He helped my parents surprise my daughter and I when we planned our Disney trip last year. He lends an ear when I need support about how to a better sibling to my sisters and brother. He listens to me when I feel like a failure as a mother.

Thanks for joining me for this little detour in writing today. I’m not ready yet to do homework and wanted to share a little positive story this morning.

Have a great Sunday!

World Suicide Prevention Day

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In the past, I’ve touched on September being Suicide Prevention month. In no way have I been the best educator on suicide prevention but I’ve opened my heart and platform to join others in reducing the stigma associated with mental health and suicide ideation, prevention, attempts, and victims. It is the single most difficult subject which I write about and therefore, I do not write about it often.

For the past ten days I’ve wondering should I write? This year, in particular, the world has lost a lot of average people like you and I and there was an outrage that followed the suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. Some people were angry that privileged people who succumbed to their demons absorbed so much attention. I think what gets lost is that it was so easy for many people to feel a sense of loss because we’ve grown to know their names and faces, their stories have transformed our own ways of understanding the world and our identities. It is not that their deaths were more important; it was the fact that so many of us felt like we lost a family member, not a public face.

I think this is how we need to understand suicide within our individual cultures and between our cultures. We experience a lot of the same stresses, underlying health conditions, and at times, add traumatic experience(s) on top of an already burdened life, that starting over seems impossible. Each community member in trouble is someone who needs treatment as one would treat a loved family member. There should not be judgement for “failing,” for expressing self-doubt, for “taking the easy way out.”

I am just as guilty for making those mistaken assumptions. I felt that way when news reached me a Marine committed suicide outside my barracks in Iraq. I slept through it. I was too wrapped in my own sense of self to understand I did not know him, I did not know his past, and I did not know what ailed him to think he had no way out of it. It took time to understand and feel compassion and I believe if I grew up in a different world that did not shame people the way we have towards someone who has struggled with suicidal thoughts or attempts or lost a family member this way, I would not have made those harsh initial judgements.

But we can start over today. All over the internet and perhaps in your local newspaper, you will find stories of survivors. Take a small chunk out of your day to understand someone else’s life. Read one of these stories. It is difficult for the reader but it is more difficult for the person who has chosen to share his or her story of struggle. He or she is no longer a statistic, but a face and a name.

Last month I learned National Geographic would be covering the story of a suicide survivor. The photos are graphic so think of your surroundings and what you need to read and see someone transformed by trauma. If you cannot finish the article today, thank you for attempting to change your current viewpoint surrounding suicide. I do not judge you if it may take you several tries to read her story and see the photos. (I still cannot bring myself to watch a number of war movies, so I have my own fires to walk through.) Honestly, I’m sweaty just thinking about reading the story from beginning to end and I’ve only skimmed it as I write to you today.

On my deployment our chaplain said to us, “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.” Please keep this advice in mind for any struggles you have and for the struggles of those around you. We do not always see our problems as temporary, but suicide is 100% preventable. When our communities take the time to share a difficult subject like this, it is because there is power in numbers.

Support each other. Educate. Help someone feel valued today. You never know the difference you can make until you try.

 

 

Kirstie Ennis Foundation

She keeps moving, and she keeps learning. More than those feats, she keeps building others up. The woman I speak of is a fellow Marine veteran. We’ve never met but I’ve enjoyed watching her accomplish her dreams via Instagram@kirstie_ennis. I love seeing the discipline she applies to her life and her willingness to share her recovery from her helicopter crash in Afghanistan to her trials and successes getting back into physical activities after becoming an amputee. She impresses me immensely so when I found out she was at Shot Show this year, I told one of my girlfriends who was in attendance to hunt Kirstie down and say hi. I think Kirstie is a great representative of our generation and her community work inspiring. You can also catch a glimpse of what she does at Adventures Enabled if you don’t use Instagram (or check out the myriad of articles written about her, for that matter).

She recently announced on Instagram her organization, Kirstie Ennis Foundation, is ready and I encourage you all to check it out and (if you use Instagram) give her a follow @thekirstieennisfoundation. Please also take the time to share with others about her foundation so we can help get the word out.

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