The Unbroken Chain

One of our own, LC Cortilaen, will be shipping off for Marine Corps boot camp at MCRD San Diego in the next few days. Yes, I, a Parris Island Marine, just called San Diego “boot camp”. Not everyone can actually go to real boot camp at Parris Island. Somebody has to keep the sun glass and suntan lotion manufacturers in business.

In all seriousness though, please keep Cortillaen in your thoughts and prayers over the next 13 weeks.

He sent me an email asking for two things, advice for himself, and advice for his parents who are in near “panic” mode, as he described it. Below is what I sent him back, but anything that y’all want to throw in would be greatly appreciated.

First off, congratulations on making it through the screening process. In case you didn’t realize it, the Corps has already been evaluating you.

In reality, there’s very little advice that I can give as far as “making it through” goes, either you want it enough or you don’t. Having said that there are a few things that if you remember them will help you keep your sanity.

1. No matter how stupid something may seem, there is a reason for it. EVERYTHING in boot happens for a reason, and I mean everything. And it’s all designed to make you a Marine. That may seem like a trite saying, but it’s not. You will not be the same when, if, you come out the other end. Marine’s are arrogant and think we’re special because in God’s honest truth, we ARE. And you will be too. Everything that happens in boot camp is designed, crafted to an art form in fact, to do just that. When you graduate, remind me to tell you about the blankets and linen day. You’ll understand then.

2. When you reach that point where you just can’t go on, when every muscle is on fire and screaming at you, every fiber of your being is cursing you for being so stupid, when you doubt yourself and whether you’re good enough, and you are screaming at yourself because it seems that the other recruits are dong it and you can’t, remember that they hurt just as bad, if not worse, than you do. Draw from their strength until you get your own back. Because believe me, they are doing the same thing. And also remember, you’re not the first maggot to go through it. And you won’t be the last. They made it, you can too, and those who follow after you will also. You’re joining an elite chain of brotherhood that stretches back to Tun’s Tavern in 1775. Their victories, their hardships, their adversities, will become yours, and yours will become those who follow you. Have you ever noticed that a lot of times when Marines talk about our history, we say “we stormed Iwo” or “We took Hue or Fallujah”, and not “They”. There’s a reason for that too. It’s that unbroken chain. It’s the brotherhood. We won’t fail because they didn’t fail, and we will not be the ones who bring dishonor to those who preceded us.

3. When you think that the DI’s hate your guts, don’t delude yourself. They do. But they also swore an oath to train you, care for you, and make you Marines. And even though they hate your smelly, nasty body (that’s not just a euphemism either, recruits DO stink), they love you also, a love that you will understand when your DI places that Eagle, Globe and Anchor in your sweaty, bloody hand.

For your parents, well I can’t really give any advice worth what you’ll pay for it since when my son shipped out I knew what he was in store for and didn’t worry. I knew he wasn’t gonna die in boot camp. And if he died after that, either in Iraq or even in training, well then at least he died FOR something, not just because the crossed he wrong street at the wrong time. In short, I looked at it more as a grunt than as a father. When he deployed to Iraq there were a lot more fatherly emotions then, but I dealt with them as a grunt too. My wife on the other hand says for them not to worry because you will be in good hands, which is true, and that they should take advantage of all that the Corps offers to keep them advised of your status. When I went through boot camp the only word my parents got was what little I was able to write. Again, they are not the first to go through this, and they have advantages that modern technology offers that are unprecedented in the history of parents sending their children to war. She also said to be proud, not only of the man they raised, but of the man you will be on the other side.

God’s speed and Semper Fi.



  1. 1
    Cortillaen growls and barks:

    Not sure what else to say other than thanks, Crunchie. Like I mentioned to you, Monday (technically, Tuesday is when I’ll be flying out to San Diego, but Monday is the last I’ll see of home for three months) is just shy of two years in the making. I don’t plan on throwing all of that away. I’m more worried about how the parents will handle my being gone than how I’ll manage. A SSGT, now Gunnery Sergeant, Thompson from the RSS once said, “Shut up, listen to what the drill instructors tell you to do, and do it as fast and hard as you can. That’s all it takes.” That’s pretty much the plan I intend to stick to.

  2. 2
    Mike M growls and barks:

    I wish I was there with you, LC Cortilaen. You make us proud. And pay attention to Crunchie’s words. He knows of which he speaks… although he needs to check his email.

  3. 3

    Mike M says:

    He knows of which he speaks…

    Only because I learned from the best Mike, those who went before.

    And check your email… :em05:

  4. 4
    Mattexian growls and barks:

    I’ll just tell you the benediction our Battalion’s Chaplain gave us: “Lord please watch over these brave young men and women, and protect them from the bad decisions of their leaders!”

  5. 5

    Cortillaen says:

    “Shut up, listen to what the drill instructors tell you to do, and do it as fast and hard as you can. That’s all it takes.” That’s pretty much the plan I intend to stick to.

    Then you’ll do just fine kid, just fine. And I second Mike’s sentiment, I wish I was going with you.

  6. 6
    Orion growls and barks:

    While I may be Army, Basic Training wasn’t that long ago for me (2007) so the memories are still fresh.

    One of the things that got me through was constantly telling myself “It’s TRADOC. It’s retarded.” – Unlike the Corps, TRADOC couldn’t teach a Golden Retriever to retrieve, much less to sit and stay. 😉

    However, that being said – you can and will make it through if you do one thing: Do. Not. Quit. Ever. If you have to go slower, go slower, just do not QUIT. I broke my knee in week 4 of BCT – about a 2″ split from the head of the tibia down towards the middle. The Drill Sergeant’s knew it, but as long as I didn’t whine or quit they weren’t gonna force me to do anything ‘medical’. They let me sneak a brace in and wear it. My buddies were always there to help me up – the Drill’s looked the other way. They would motivate me, they would help me not to quit. They shared any pain killers or anti-inflammatory meds they got from the Docs. Become a team with your mates – help them, let them help you, work together and you can get through ANYTHING. But do not QUIT. And don’t let THEM quit either.

    Listen to the Drill Sergeants (Sorry – Drill Instructors) and do what they tell you to do as quickly as you can. Get a reputation for being squared away – If you have that, when you NEED to get cut some slack, they are much more likely to cut it.

    Realize that it’s not personal. I’ll disagree with Sir Crunchie on one thing – They don’t hate you. You don’t rate that much emotion. You’re less than nothing, you are a file to be moved through a very scientific process. They’ll see another batch of you in 13 weeks. Nothing that happens is personal; It is strictly business. A business the DI’s have been doing a long time and one that they do well. Don’t take anything – no matter how ‘personal’ the insult, or anything else SEEMS – personally. It’s just business.

    Don’t be STUPID. Do not believe you can sneak contraband past the DI’s. They will find it. Don’t let your buddies do stupid stuff either – no matter how clever they are, in the last 236 years the DI’s have seen whatever clever idea your buddies have and are at least 2 steps ahead of them.

    And finally, when you graduate, make sure to let us know! I’ve got nothing but respect for the Corps. They are truly elite.


  7. 7

    Orion @ #:
    Damned good advice Orion, damned good.

  8. 8
    lc purple raider growls and barks:

    I too wish I was going with you, Cortillian, but my body is broken.

    And some guy named Scheerhorn called me fat.

  9. 9
    LC Old Dog growls and barks:

    Cortillaen @ #:
    I went through Army Basic back in the distant age of 1970 when it was still driven by the Jungle War. Later I wound up spending some time “On the Trail” (crunchie thats pounder slang for Drill Duty).

    As a Drill I did not hate you, I could care less about you. All I gave a crap about was what your useless maggot ass could become! Every seeming insult, every seeming torture were all aimed at one thing; taking that useless hunk of meat and turning it into a Soldier.

    All I ever asked of trainee’s was two things, Effort and Attention-to-Detail! As has been said here before just do not quit and do it by the book!

    Orion, I once had a squad practically burn themselves out getting two team mates through an obstacle course to the tune of at least five or six nursing low grade muscle strains that they did not wish to take to the Doc. Bunch of good maggots who the world could see had become a team that was going to make it. I would guess they never did figure out how that 250 count bottle of Ibuprofen appeared in their Squad Bay (Nope , it was not me the 1SGT had beat me to it).

    We don’t hate you anymore than you will hate yourself what you had been when you get that Eagle, Globe and Anchor.

  10. 10

    LC Old Dog says:

    Later I wound up spending some time “On the Trail” (crunchie thats pounder slang for Drill Duty).

    I learned something today, good. It’s called “The Grinder” or the “Drill Field” in the Corps.

  11. 11
    LC Draco growls and barks:

    Orion @ #:

    As an Active Duty Army mustang (If you do not know that term, just ask!!), I went thru Basic in 1985. Yes, believe it or not, there really is a reason for what they tell you to do. Even marching in formation has multiple purposes.

    Great advice from Crunchie and Orion!!!

  12. 12
    LC TerribleTroy growls and barks:

    Leave the “World” behind. Please dont take this the wrong way. Don’t worry about your parents (or anything else for that matter) they are adults and will be just fine. This is a time to focus entirely on what is in your immediate environment.

    Keep your MOUTH shut. Best to be the guy who was always third row back in the middle of the photo.

    Don’t do anything you haven’t been told to do. Do everything you have been told to do exactly as you have been told to do it.

    Pay Attention to detail,

    Don”t “lock” your knees.

    Maintain a sense of urgency

    You cant get “away” with anything, stay the fuck away from those that think they can.

    Lite Breakfast fruit and protein, Protein Lunch with lite carbs, Heavy Carbs at dinner. Hydrate whenever possible.

    FUCK FEAR & DOUBT! You can do this, just as others have done it before.

    You are capable of way more than you think.

    In some things, slow is smooth, smooth is fast. Don’t be in such a rush as to get sloppy

    Prayers are with you for your success.

  13. 13
    NR Pax growls and barks:

    Yes, I, a Parris Island Marine, just called San Diego “boot camp”. Not everyone can actually go to real boot camp at Parris Island.

    That’s fine, Crunchie. We Hollywood Marines know that they had to soften PI a bit since they take the women. (I kid, I kid.)

    Cortilaen, I’m an alumni of MCRD San Diego, Class of 98. If my 27-year-old ass could get through Boot Camp with a bunch of kids, you’ll do fine. The best pointer I can give is this: The Marine Corps will never quit on you, even when you have given up on yourself. And believe me, there will be times you will feel giving up on yourself.

    And remember: You will be there because you stepped forward and volunteered. When it’s all said and done and you are on the parade deck, you will understand why it was worth it. Good luck.

  14. 14
    LC Old Dog growls and barks:

    LC Draco @ #:
    Draco hit me with a private e-mail (you can get mine at my site) and I will give you a Mustang story you will get a kick out of.

    Two points: 1. It explains why I did not attend the Hudson River School for Delinquents 2. You need to go into the archives and find “The Man Who Never Was” by crunchie to understand.

    Also I might point out that if I send you this story and you are dumb enough to share it with said crunchie I Will Find You!

  15. 15
    glasshalfempty growls and barks:


    As a graduate of MCRD San Diego in 2003 I’m looking forward to hearing that you have completed Boot Camp (I expect nothing less than success from a member of this esteemed group) and joined the Misguided Children. Good luck, Semper Fidelis, and we’ll see you on the other side.

  16. 16

    LC Old Dog says:

    Also I might point out that if I send you this story and you are dumb enough to share it with said crunchie I Will Find You!

    :em05: What are ya skeered of Old Dog? 🙂

  17. 17
    LC R6 growls and barks:


    Much great advice here. Orion particularly nailed it. Don’t ever quit. I went through Infantry school at Ft. Beginning (Benning), School for wayward boys in 1985 and broke my leg in the six week (hand to hand). Unlike Orion I was put in a cast from the knee down (old plaster walking cast).

    The DI said I was an automatic recycle, but one day in the barracks with the sniveling, whining EPTS’s waiting to be discharged I was downstairs and in PT formation cast and all. I did pushups or situps when I couldn’t do the jumping exercises and because we has 6 contiguous weeks of reserve drills in for annual training the regular drills looked the other way.

    Long story short, I broke four casts, got threatened by the doctor with an article 15 for destruction of government property, but I did not quit. Got my cast off the day before our graduation 12 mile forced march and made it through.

    Turning blue was the proudest day of my life. The senior drill even shook my hand (and he DID NOT touch recruits).

    You can do this. Couple of practical tips:

    Your feet are your life. TAKE CARE OF THEM!!!

    For long marches, vaseline your feet, then put on knee high panty hose, then your wool socks. The motion will be between the panty hose and the sock NOT the skin on your feet. No blisters.

    Mole Skin is your friend.

    Zip lock bags with contents of your cargo pockets will save you a lot of grief.

    Make sure to clear your protective mask in the right order . The smell of puke takes a long time to go away.

    NEVER volunteer for anything.

    Do not make yourself a target. If your DI’s don’t know you by name at the end of the cycle you’ve done it right.

    Good luck and welcome to the club.

  18. 18
    MasterGuns Imperial Swampmaster growls and barks:

    On 8 Mar 68, a young lad from MN enlisted.

    After he graduated from high school, a few days later on 6 Jun 68 he found himself in the wee hours of the morning standing on yellow footprints while a bunch of lunatics wearing “Smokies” were screaming at him in San Diego. He wondered what the f*ck he’d done.

    The young man retired after a bit more than 26 years in the Corps. He was no longer young but he was and still is a Marine. And if he had to do it over, he’d do it the same way.

    Good luck and Godspeed Cortilaen. As a future Marine you are about to embark on a journey you will never forget.

    Semper Fi and we’ll be pleased to welcome you to a rather exclusive club.

  19. 19
    FrankOK growls and barks:

    You kids are making this old squid feel old – Company 492 Great Lakes NRTC, 1969. Then on to NATTC Memphis ADJ (A) School. We had a lot of Marines in the classes, about 50/50. Since then, all aviation training has moved to Pensacola.

    At any rate, you’ve been given damned good advice here, Cortillaen, and take good care of your squad’s Pecker Checker when you get in the middle of things later on – they might be green but they’re Navy.

  20. 20
    LC HJ Caveman82952 growls and barks:

    Cortillaen, Thank You for yur service……from a squid machinist mate long past, got out in early seventies. My duty was easy compared to yours, stationed on the Enterprise.
    I always have admired you guys, had a few friends, they would tease me about having to get them to the war…..but I lost a friend too…he wore what you soon will………….think of us when you can’t take any more…….take our strength and make it your own.
    And post you addy, we can sent care packages…..Crunch can tell you about that…
    I received a car package once, my eighteenth birthday in boot camp, San Diego. My commanding officer kept my girly mags, the chief took first choice on the munchies, the company mugged me for the rest. And seeing how it was my birthday I got my ass beat with a duty belt……
    Good luck and Godspeed my friend………………….you are joining the finest military outfit on Earth… small accomplishment.

  21. 21
    Library Czar growls and barks:


    It might help you mentally to learn a little history such as Fox Company, George Company, Belleau Wood.

    I have to disagree with Old Dog and Orion about the DI’s not caring. I sometimes teach at a University and I want everyone to do well. When one does not do well I almost always ask myself what did I not do to help this person succeed. Though there are those times when I recognize that the person is just a fuck up and needs to be tossed out.

    Lots of good advice in the above comments that I really can’t add to. Listen carefully to instructions and follow them exactly is what will get you through.

    And to be clear I was AF, not a Marine, and would never claim that Honor.

  22. 22
  23. 23
    BigDogg growls and barks:


    Good luck to you … you’ve already received a wealth of great advice. Basic is like any other challenge in life – a case of mind over matter. If you’ve got your head right, it can make your body do or survive just about anything. I am sure you will make a great Marine … you’re a Rottie, after all.

  24. 24
    FrankOK growls and barks:

    By the way, Sir Crunchy – I remember your piece on the hog hunt to “have proper food” for your son’s send off – excellent post.

  25. 25

    FrankOK @ #:
    Good times, good times.

  26. 26

    LC Old Dog says:

    Two points: 1. It explains why I did not attend the Hudson River School for Delinquents 2. You need to go into the archives and find “The Man Who Never Was” by crunchie to understand.

    Here ya go Draco, figured I’d save you the headache. I wanted to read it again anyway.

  27. 27
    Emperor Misha I growls and barks:

    Some great advice all along here, Cortillaen, take it to heart because it, and you, will carry you through.

    A word or two on DIs or whatever the heck you choose to call ’em over here, they’re really the same all over the world.

    When you step off the bus they do view you slightly less favorably than they would something they just stepped in. That’s not personal, as has been said already, it’s simply a fact. They’ve just shepherded a bunch of recruits through basic and the memory of the washouts, the innately outstanding ones and every DI/whatever’s favorite ones, the ones who never thought they could hack but, through dogged perseverance and the right attitude made it anyway, all of this is still fresh in their minds. You’re a new bunch of unknowns and, as you stagger up to make a sad, sorry, puke-worthy attempt at formation, expectations compared to the last bunch will be very, very low.

    It’s just the way it is. The only thing worse than being handed a fresh bunch of civilian wannabes is saying goodbye to them after basic has turned them into men.

    But it will change. As they get to know you and find out that maybe you were meant to be there after all, they’ll be less disdainful. Just don’t ever expect them to show it, because they won’t. Maybe after graduation, but never up until that point, no matter how much you impress them. It’s not part of the program.

    And yes, you too will survive boot camp. You’re not the first one and you won’t be the last. And you sure as fuck ain’t the only one to ever feel, at various points as you go through hell, that you really ought to be something else and that you weren’t cut out for it. Forget that nonsense. If you don’t at some point feel that you’re the worst excuse for a human being to ever pretend being worthy of wearing the uniform, then your DI isn’t doing his job right. That’s part of the test.

    You see, what you’ll be learning is to believe in yourself when nobody else does, even when you yourself don’t. And you’ll make it if you keep that in mind. If it helps, think of some of us old retired war horses and remind yourself that we made it too.

    If we can do it, boot, then you sure as hell can too.

    You just have to want it bad enough. Want it bad enough that nothing else matters. Want it bad enough that you’ll keep going, never quitting no matter how impossible it seems to go on, and it will seem impossible at times. But it isn’t. Never quit, keep going. You can fail to do something you’ve been ordered to do, you can collapse on a forced march, end up having to be fished out of a stream you were trying unsuccessfully to ford, you name it, but what you can’t do is quit. Nobody will hold it against you if you give it your all. As long as you don’t stop trying there’ll always be tomorrow.

    That’s the attitude that we’re looking for. We can always work your ass good and hard to make you more buff and improve your constitution, but we can’t plant the right attitude in your mind if you don’t open up and let it move in.

    Once you’ve got the attitude, the rest is just formalities.

    You can do twice as much as you ever thought you could, five times as much as your mother thought you could and ten times as much as your grandma thought you could.

    And then some.

    Finally, thank you for your service and good luck out there.

    You’ll make it and you’ll be a better man because of it. You will know that when it’s all over, and you’ll be glad that you did it.

    Carry on, boot.

  28. 28
    Cortillaen growls and barks:

    It’s been a busy weekend putting my affairs in order (and isn’t that a morbid way to put it…). Don’t have enough time left to respond as I’d like, so I’ll just have to say thanks to everyone. I did read every piece of advice, and I’ll do my best to take them to heart. The 8am briefing before getting on the shuttle to MEPS will be here all too soon. My next visit here should be around the middle of December, maybe longer in case of injury, but they won’t be getting rid of me without the title. See you all then.

  29. 29
    Emperor Misha I growls and barks:

    Cortillaen says:

    I did read every piece of advice, and I’ll do my best to take them to heart.

    You’ll be fine, boot. Just don’t ever quit.

    If it helps, keep in mind that the Army somehow managed to turn this particular momma’s boy into a soldier. They had their work cut out for them, but they succeeded, and if they can do that with raw material like me, you’ll be juuuust fine 🙂

  30. 30
    Grammar Czar growls and barks:


    Since I am posting this late, you probably won’t get a chance to read this, but I wanted to address your parents’ panic. I come at it from both sides; I’m former Air Force AND a mom who encouraged her son to join up. I wanted so badly for my son to carry on the tradition. Yes, I knew there was a possibility that he wouldn’t come home, but none of us is guaranteed tomorrow, military or not.He ultimately chose a different profession.

    Reassure your parents that you are doing this because you love them (and your country) so much that you are willing to fight to keep them safe, and so that they retain their freedoms. Unless they are cold-hearted, flaming, barking moonbats,they will be proud (despite the tears and the panic) that their son is a United States Marine.

    Ooh Rah!

  31. 31
    LC Old Dog growls and barks:

    LC 0311 Sir Crunchie I.M.H., K.o.E. @ #:
    Not a damn thing crunchie. The thought of keeping a juicy story like that might be the payback I once promised!

  32. 32
    LC Draco growls and barks:

    OldDog…email sent….

    Crunchie…thanks for that link!!

  33. 33

    Cortillaen says:

    See you all then.

    G-d Speed Cortillean. We’re looking forward to seeing another Rotty Marine the next time you log in.

    As for Crunchie….Dammit! Why is it that anything you write manages to make me cry??

    That was just flippin beautiful.

  34. 34

    LC Old Dog @ #:
    Ah, revenge is a dish best served cold eh? 🙂

  35. 35

    Lady M-ITT™-Imperial Sniper G.L.O.R says:

    As for Crunchie….Dammit! Why is it that anything you write manages to make me cry??

    Just a skill I guess, or hormones. :em05:

  36. 36

    From Cortillaen, sent at zero dark thirty today.

    I wish I’d had more time to thank everyone personally for all the advice, but I seem to have misplaced the past two days. Thank you, everyone.

    Now it’s bedtime, then an 8am briefing at the RSS before I hop on the shuttle to MEPS one last time, so see ya mid-December. Might take a bit longer in case of injury, but they aren’t getting rid of me without that title.

    God’s speed Cortillaen, with your shield or on it.

  37. 37
    LC Sir Rurik, K.o.E. growls and barks:


    I offer you Good luck and Godspeed, and for now the little congratulation the Big Congratulation will come in 13 weeks. I too wish I were going with you, but even back in 1991 the Recruiter told me I was too old, go home and gie somebody else a turn. So now its your turn. I’m a weakened warrior.

    All the best advice you’ve already been given. I can only add the observation that there are four things you should never miss. Always take the opportunity for food, a shower, to attend the head, and take a nap. Every chance you get, because you can never be sure when you will get another opportunity. I refer to the Four Sacred S’s – Snack, Shower, Shit, and Sleep. You will learn to like kiving at an elemebntal level. That’s part of the plan. And as Crunch said. – With your shield or on it.

  38. 38
    Teufelhunden_JD growls and barks:

    1. Wake up.
    2. Do as you’re told.
    3. Repeat until graduation day.


  39. 39
    Mike M growls and barks:

    I just met a young lad…the grandson of a neighbor… who’s enlisted in the Corps and will be arriving at MCRD/San Diego in early October. He was pretty willing to share with us his initial impression of the Marine Corps; that being that his recruiter was a “douchebag”. I’ve got a hunch he’s about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime… one that he won’t soon forget.

  40. 40

    Mike M @ #:
    The DI’s are gonna have a lot of fun with him. Hope he’s ready. :em05:

  41. 41
    LC LittleRott84 Imperial DJ growls and barks:

    Good luck kiddo. Can’t wait to talk to you again, when you’re a MARINE!!