- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 9, 2005

PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. — Recruit Daniel Murphy, who in college was a 325-pound offensive lineman protecting quarterbacks and opening holes for running backs, lost 100 pounds to join the U.S. Marines, the military’s swift-moving, expeditionary shock troops.

“It is a fundamental responsibility, for stronger people to protect and defend those who cannot or will not defend themselves,” says the 6-foot-6-inch Mr. Murphy, who played football at James Madison University.

“The best place to do that is the Marine Corps. The Corps is always the first, and this is where I belong.”

Mr. Murphy is one of 4,500 recruits on any one day struggling to survive the sweltering heat and regimented training here at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD) Parris Island, S.C. — for decades referred to as “Marine Boot Camp.” It’s the first step in a three-month process recruits must undergo before earning the title of Marine.

Unlike the shorter initial regimens of other services — where recruits receive “basic military training” — recruits at Parris Island undergo something more akin to a rite of passage. And they know exactly why they are here.

“Nine out of 10 are going to war,” says Capt. Aaron Lenz, a training series commander at Parris Island, where recruits from east of the Mississippi River attend boot camp. Recruits west of the Mississippi are trained at MCRD San Diego.

The Corps’ recruiting slogan is “The Few, the Proud, the Marines.” The “few” refers to the Corps’ relatively small size. A combined arms force that reports to the secretary of the Navy, the Corps numbers about 179,000 active-duty officers and enlisted personnel out of the nation’s 1.4 million active-duty troops.

Yet the Corps’ forward-deployed role and the fact that every Marine is trained for combat (thus the motto “Every Marine a rifleman”) often results in Marines being called upon as the advance element of any major U.S. offensive.

Marines were the first U.S. ground forces to cross into Iraq in March 2003, and took the lead in the assault last year on the insurgent stronghold of Fallujah, as well as recent campaigns in Iraq’s Anbar province and the so-called Triangle of Death.

Despite the obvious risks to those who volunteer for the Marines, the Corps is at “102 percent of its [recruitment] target for fiscal year 2005,” says Maj. Wes Hayes, spokesman for MCRD Quantico, Va.

The Marines have exceeded their year-to-date goal of 33,806 recruits in training. “That’s 629 new recruits above goal,” Maj. Hayes says.

Staff Sgt. Jose Guerreiro, a senior drill instructor at Parris Island, says many joined in a continuing response to the September 11 attacks.

“There is a sort of vendetta because of 9/11,” Sgt. Guerreiro says. “Also some recruits have had family members in Operation Iraqi Freedom who were killed. That made them want to come here. We tell them chances are they’ll be going [to Iraq].”

Boot camp has changed little in recent years. The Corps still places the same emphasis on physical fitness, martial arts, bayonet fighting, swimming, drill and ceremonies, history and traditions.

“If it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” says 2nd Lt. Scott Miller, spokesman for MCRD Parris Island.

What has increased since September 11, officials say, is the time allotted for first aid training and rifle marksmanship — the armed forces’ most challenging in terms of distance shooting. Marines must be able to hit man-sized targets 500 yards downrange, consistently, and without a rifle-mounted scope, as opposed to the Army’s maximum distance of 328 yards in basic training. Not only that, Marines must master shooting at night and while wearing gas masks and body armor.

For recruit Buddy D’Agostino, 19, a deer hunter from Plymouth, Mass., there is a parallel between hunting back home and Marine training in the Carolina low country. “When you’re hunting, you have to move quietly, listen and sneak up on things,” he says. “Down here, we’re just learning to hunt different things.”



Click to Read More

Click to Hide