Drill Instructor duty, Parris Island: A retrospective

Drill Instructor duty, Parris Island: A retrospective

I don’t intend this to be some exhaustive, bullshit guide on everything you need to know before coming out to The Island as a drill instructor. I’m sure San Diego is altogether different. In fact, I know it is because I’m a “Hollywood” Marine. I volunteered for Parris Island for the change of scenery and the challenge of relocation. The comfortable, easy thing to do would have been to go San Diego – most west coast Marines do. I didn’t. Simple as that. I don’t want to give you the gouge on this duty. You’ll have to figure it out yourself. But I’ve got some things you should consider first.

For Sergeants

  • If you’re single, go MSG. Just shut your filthy piehole and go MSG. Case closed
  • If you’re married, go recruiting. DI duty is not a “break” from the fleet and deployments. DI duty is three month pumps for three years. Six days a week. Overnight duty every three days, and when you’re not on duty you’ll be pulling, on average, 12-18 hour days. You’re wife will resent you. Your kids will forget who you are.
  • Come to think of it, if you’ve got less than two enlistments, stay the fuck home and don’t even look at a recruit. Your visions of recruiting training are of campaign covers and parade deck drill into the setting sun. Sure, you can run circles all day because you were told. But you work harder and not smarter. You’ll grow to resent Marines senior to you in rank and junior to you on the drill field for moving up the billets faster, but the fact of the matter is you probably just figured out you shouldn’t be hanging out with your turd boot camp buddies who just picked up Corporal. When you want to be a Staff Sergeant in order to be a Gunny, then sign the papers and come on out.
  • If you can’t learn anything from a junior drill instructor who happens to be a senior Marine, teach him how to be a better drill instructor (because you’re a shit hot recruit killer, right?), then shut your damn mouth in the SDI house and learn how to be a better Marine from him. You can’t possibly expect him to know everything about the drill field, just like I can’t expect you to know shit about filling out an MRO worksheet. Learning goes up and down the rank structure.
  • If you pick up Staff Sergeant on the drill field, understand that, when you return to the fleet, you’ll be just another happy asshole who has been out of his MOS for three years and no one give s a flying monkey shit that you were a drill instructor. In fact, they’ll resent you for it because you A) Don’t know what you’re doing as a SNCO, B) Haven’t properly lead Marines in your current billet, C) Haven’t matured in relation to your MOS, D) Still have a Sergeant mentality saturated with drill instructor procedural bullshit and can’t get over the fact that you’ll have to learn from junior Marines (my, how the tables have turned). I could go on, but you get my drift.

For Staff Sergeants

  • Staff Sergeant is a rank that separates you from the Sergeants and teaches you to become a Gunny. That’s all. It’s a transitional rank, one where humility is learned from dealing with the snot-nosed Sergeant you were six months ago and the crusty, lifer Gunny you dream to be. You don’t know everything. You are not King to a Sergeant. You are his mentor. You are not a Gunny’s equal, so don’t address him as such. Accept it. When the Gunny opens his mouth about the Marine Corps, yours better clamp shut faster than a hillbillie’s sister during a circumcision. Open your ears and listen, because that old sonofabitch probably has something to pass that’s fairly important.
  • Stop hating. Stop hating on the Sergeant’s for being too much like teenagers, on the Gunnys for being too slow, on the class behind you for being too nick, on the class ahead of you for rotating before you, on the other platoons/companies/battalions/depots because of blah blah blah. Remember that you’re learning to be older, wiser, more insightful, and being a Staff Sergeant who is constantly regressing to the emotional outbursts of a young Sergeant is not cool. You are learning to control and focus your mouth diarrhea so everyone enjoys an earful. Be calm. Be convincing. Be smart about the shit you say.
  • You can still learn from the Sergeants around you. You’re not that good.

For Gunnys

  • Nothing is worth your career. Not a recruit, not a Marine, no one. You don’t have to know shit about being a drill instructor to know right from wrong, so don’t let anyone compromise your years of dedication.
  • Be cool. There are assholes everywhere, wearing every rank, thinking their shit doesn’t stink because they put on funny green hats when they go to work. Chances are your blood pressure is high enough as it is. Relax, figure out why you suck then fix it.
  • Be humble, and by that I don’t mean take shit from some boot bitch who happens to have 1 or 6 cycles on you. It means learn learn learn from everyone everywhere. Talk to your SDI, your Heavy, other nicks and 3rd hats to see what they’re doing to be better, then try that.
  • Just because you’re a Gunny doesn’t mean you know a damn thing about being an effective green belt. Eventually your billet will catch up with your rank and experience as a Marine, and you’ll be Gunny awesomeness once again. Until then, scream as loud as you can (without passing out, because that just looks bad), and run as fast as you can without breaking your hip. You have a few years to retire. Don’t kill yourself on the drill field.
  • While your figuring out how to be a drill instructor, make sure every second is teaching those young Marines everything you know about the Corps. They’re alone and unafraid out there, and believe it or not you are a symbol of stability and maturity among the madness.
  • Remember that drill instructors are Marines too. By addressing fellow drill instructors by their rank and name – without the title “drill instructor” – it actually helps snap them out of hypnosis long enough for whatever it is you need to say to sink in. Believe me, it works.
  • Be the Gunny that drill instructors can count on and Marines can go to. Yes, there’s a difference. Too much of one and you’ll suck at the other. If you can’t find the balance, the switch, if you will, save your drill instructor mentality for when you wear your funny green hat. The real “Gunny mentality” is rare out there. Keep it real and/or bring it back. Just don’t forget where you came from.

For all

  • Don’t lose your minds or you identity. Eventually, you’ll go back to the fleet and you won’t have recruits to (insert menial task here) for you.
  • The drill field is not the top 10% of the Marine Corps. Don’t expect to be surrounded by the cream of the crop, not even at the end. Even the “top 10%” has the bottom 20%. In fact, any unit will have 1/3 of their Marines who are stellar, 1/3 who are average, and 1/3 who just plain suck. The drill field complies with vigor.
  • You’ll see Marines getting kicked off the drill field for some ridiculous shit. You’ll also see Marines finishing their three year tour who never should have made it past their first cycle. Bad shit happens to good Marines and good shit happens to bad Marines. Think about it too much and your head will explode.
  • Don’t expect DI school to teach you how to be a drill instructor. Weird, right? Expect to become intimately familiar with the rules, regulations, drill movements, and uniform care, then anticipate hitting the streets and sucking. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

Was this as good for you as it was for me? That’s therapy, assholes.

Good luck out there.

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7 Responses to “Drill Instructor duty, Parris Island: A retrospective”

  1. shaun out of the hat says:

    “If you pick up Staff Sergeant on the drill field, understand that, when you return to the fleet, you’ll be just another happy asshole who has been out of his MOS for three years and no one give s a flying monkey shit that you were a drill instructor. In fact, they’ll resent you for it because you A) Don’t know what you’re doing as a SNCO, B) Haven’t properly lead Marines in your current billet, C) Haven’t matured in relation to your MOS, D) Still have a Sergeant mentality saturated with drill instructor procedural bullshit and can’t get over the fact that you’ll have to learn from junior Marines (my, how the table have turned).”

    I have to disagree with this statement.

    • Jayme says:

      Of course these aren’t blanket statements (they just sound better that way). I believe you know why it doesn’t apply to you: TIS, maturity, reputable history in the unit you went back to. Again, maturity.

      This is for a typical, modern day Sgt picking up SSgt in 6 – while on the drill field. Dangerous combination.

  2. OLD BOOT says:

    ANOTHER POST OF EXCELLENCE!

  3. John says:

    I mean damn. Is there anything good about leaving to go the drill field? I’ve read your other posts about it and obviously it’s going to suck a little but there has got to be somethings that you have appreciated about it, both for yourself and for your career.

  4. Adda says:

    Jayme,
    Spot-on! This must be the 6th time I’ve read this and my reaction is has been the same each time! You’re an awesome writer…thank you!

    Adda

    • Jayme says:

      I’m glad SOMEBODY can relate. I was a bit miffed when leaving DI duty. At least my quota at WFTBn helped me mellow out before getting back to the fleet. The world doesn’t need more douchebaggery.

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The author.Born in the year of the Dragon, the author grudgingly accepts the fact he has too many interests and not enough time. A cyclist as long as he can remember, an avid yet inconsistent writer since age eleven, and a U.S. Marine since age twenty-one, the author also adds peak bagging, diving, snowboarding, and computers to his list of interests. Incidentally, he is aware of his inability to make a living from any but the Corps. The author accepts this as fact and remains optimistic. Feel free to drop him a line.

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