Marine recruit’s viral email from boot camp raises questions
A Marine Corps recruit’s supposed account of his boot camp experience is an entertaining read, but raises a few questions — including how he was apparently able to send an email to his buddies.
The recruit, apparently currently attending boot camp at one of the Marine Corps’ training depots, is supposedly telling all his friends about how they’re called gay slurs by their drill instructors between 10 and 50 times per day. He also states that anyone with “brown-skin” is referred to as a “terrorist” and is the butt of consistent racist jokes.
But he’s apparently telling them via email, which caught my attention.
The email from the recruit was posted by Gawker in its entirety Tuesday, and has been gaining some serious online traffic. Gawker claims to have verified the email, but they also refer to Marine recruits as “cadets” and lists the commandant as “Gen. John Amos.”
The Marine Corps did not provide an immediate response when I asked about the report, but a public affairs officer at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Calif., confirmed my suspicions that recruits there are not afforded access to email. They do things the slow and painful way you’d expect at boot camp — they hand-write any letters they send out.
That raises questions about the validity of the recruit’s message. I know my recent visit to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., didn’t yield any trips to recruits’ computer labs.
Still, the recruit’s account of boot camp seems fair enough in other areas. He explains the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program — or as he likes to call it, “Karate and ninja training” — to his buddies. He tells them about their CrossFit-style workouts, which are likely High Intensity Tactical Training workouts — the Marine Corps’ brand of CrossFit. And he swears a lot about drill, calling it stupid and likening it to “some synchronized swimming sh–,” which many Marines might agree with.
But the troubling part is back to his claim that the DIs routinely refer to them by gay slurs and that while Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell might have been repealed, he claims the Corps has not adapted. He wrote that when they do anything wrong, it’s likened to same-sex relations. And he’s not just hearing this from his enlisted drill instructors — he said his captain made similar statements during an ethics class.
Equally troubling is his claim that recruits with dark skin are the butt of racist jokes about bombs and anthrax attacks.
But to be clear, the recruit doesn’t appear to be bothered by any of it. He appears to enjoy most aspects of boot camp, even going so far as to say it’s impossible to remember all of the funny stuff that happens and that his DIs are hilarious every day.
One of the funny moments he references is when another recruit in his squad bay killed a bug while they were cleaning. One of the drill instructors saw him do it, he wrote, and immediately asked him why he killed the bug.
“Was that your bug?” the drill instructor asked. “No! That was the senior drill instructor’s bug. You just killed the [senior] DI’s bug. You better find him another one.”
I had the opportunity to spend several days aboard Parris Island a few months ago. I saw recruits in their squad bays, completing the Crucible, practicing MCMAP, taking combat fitness tests and being incentive trained. Of course I was armed with a photographer, pen, notebook and recorder, but any interactions between DIs and recruits I witnessed was as professional as you’d expect at boot camp.
Did I see some recruits get picked on for being too slow or because they had a funny last name? I did. But I never saw or heard anything inappropriate or racist when I was there.
Of course what happens when a reporter isn’t watching what’s going down at a recruit depot isn’t always perfect. Marine Corps Times reported last summer that a drill instructor faced a special court-martial for allegedly mistreating eight recruits in San Diego. As seen in that case, what’s considered hazing in the Corps is different than what might be allowed at boot camp where incentive training is allowed.
So it’s not immediately clear if this recruit’s allegations are true. To me, it’s not even immediately clear how an email could have even been sent from a training depot at all.