Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Faggot: Inside Marine Corps Boot Camp

What is Marine Corps boot camp really like? According to an email that a current recruit sent to a bunch of his friends, it's a lot of being called a "faggot" by your drill instructors. And, if you happen to be brown-skinned, a lot of being called "terrorist." Not to mention "beast mode" workouts.

After the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" act banning gays in the military was repealed in 2011, the Marine Corps' top officer, Gen. John Amos (who argued against the repeal) said he was "very pleased with how it has gone." The Marine Corps even brought the media along to a recruiting event at a gay rights center. But the current reality does not appear to be so loving for cadets.

The email below comes from someone currently attending USMC boot camp. (We've verified its authenticity and removed identifying details, but left it otherwise intact.) It's no surprise that boot camp involves lots of cussing from drill instructors—but this section seemed a bit, well, retrograde: "Don't ask Don't Tell. Shit may have been repealed, but the USMC sure hasn't adapted. We're called faggots 10-50 times a day. 'You think that's yelling? That's sweet faggot.' 'Yeah, you would think that's a pushup, faggot.' etc. Any time we fuck something up, the DI's tell us 'you stupid fucking thing. That's more wrong than two boys fucking.' One captain, when giving an ethics class, and talking about how one mistake can change your life/ identity told the entire company 'you can be a bridge builder your entire life, but you suck one dick and you're a cocksucker till you die.'"

In addition to rolling out the red carpet to gays interested in devoting their lives to their country, the Marine Corps has gone out of its way to note its tolerance for Muslims in the midst of America's endless War on Terror. Abuhena Saifulislam, the Marines' first Muslim chaplain, became a PR machine during the George W. Bush administration, giving "hundreds" of interviews aimed at "personifying the notion that there is nothing incompatible about serving both Islam and the US military."

According to our boot camp guy, however, there may be something incompatible about appearing to possibly be a Muslim to a Marine Corps drill instructor. From the letter: "The one indian looking kid in the platoon gets ripped by the DI's day one they started calling him a terrorist, a cabbie, and a small shop owner. '[Name] are you a fucking terrorist?' 'no sir' 'well, if you were a terrorist, you wouldn't admit to it now would you?' 'no sir' 'so you're probably a fucking terrorist.' 'aye sir' 'because you look like a fucking terrorist, why aren't you driving a fucking cab like the rest of your people?' 'this recruit doesn't know sir.' 'I know though, because you're a fucking terrorist.' Anytime he gets mail the DI's don't say his name and instead go 'oh, great, more terrorist mail.' and drop it on the ground like they don't want to get anthrax, or pretend to listen to it like it's a timebomb. When he answers questions wrong about our classes, they go, 'you know why you don't know the answer?' 'no sir' 'because your brain is full of fucking terrorist information, that's why.' 'aye sir.'"

Indians, terrorists, cab drivers, faggots, "soup sandwiches." The Marine Corps is vigilant to all threats. The full letter is below. Enjoy:

Bros + [friends],

sent this to [friend] to forward to all of you. I have very little time to write letters. I get through 1 or 2 a week. So, sorry for the delays in responding, I'll get you all back individually, but figured this would be the best way pass on shit I'd end up copying and pasting to each of you anyway

Days start at 0400 and end at 2000 on the dot. Wake up w a few hours of pitch dark and go to sleep when it's still light out.

We get out of the "racks" (bunks), get dressed at the same time, "scuzz the house" (fold our towels, align our extra boots/shoes make our racks, sweep the floor while squatting w a hand brush), then go to the chow hall. When we go to chow, like everywhere we go, we march to the drill instructor's cadence. Every time we fuck something up (a movement, not screaming loud enough, not holding our rifles properly etc) we get the old "you don't want to yell? Ok, fuck you, run and touch the trees, ok run back the other way, etc" not so fun at 0430

Chow is pretty Good. Looks like it's US Foods, actually. I see the trucks all over the place and chuckle to myself (on the inside) every time... [...] After chow we go to PT (physical training) This shit is awesome. It absolutely smokes me, which I wasn't expecting. Some days it's circuits like: run 1/4 mile, do 20 burpees, run 1/4 mile, do 40 body squats, run 1/4 mile, abs, run, pull-ups, repeat. Yeah, there are plenty of "fat disgusting pieces of shit." (as the DI's call them) but all that means is they go slower. If you go at your personal max pace, you're guaranteed to be dead at the end.

Other PT workout will be crossfit stations w a run at the end, and sometimes it's just as long (6 mile) march w/ 40 lbs on our backs. Those are whack, though, bc we go slower than [friend] getting up the stairs to [friend]'s apartment.

We learn a ton of martial arts, which is technically called MCMAP- marine corps martial arts program- bit I call it Karate and ninja training, which my DI's don't like one bit.

It started with boring punches and kicks, tiger shulman tae kwon do style, but now we're learning throws, counters, elbows, stomps, bayonet attacks, bayonet defenses, etc. all of which we do at full speed and intensity on each other. (sometimes w pads but often not) IF the DI's think we're going easy on each other, they flip a shit.

The MCMAP shit is incorporated into our PT workouts, one of the best workouts we did was the martial arts conditioning course: 2 min of jab straight hook vs. a recruit w a pad throw a recruit over your shoulder, carry them back and forth btwn 2 cones 30 yards apart somersault (sp?) back and forth 30 yards apartment roundhouse kicks drag a recruit back and forth for 30 yards elbow strikes choke counters knee strikes run 1/2 mile punch blocks/throws crawl (low) in sand for 100 yards body squats run 1/4 mile

After we finished, when we thought we were done for the workout, we did a pull pushup/ab/mountain climber workout. again, the fat kids make it through bc they'll get to a station and do the exercise like 5 times. But I beast mode it.

We also have done pugil sticks twice (google it.) fun as fuck. Get to wail away on a stranger w DI's encouraging you to knock their head off. I'll admit I've taken my share of blows, but on more than I've lost for sure. Some other fun PT shit has been the "confidence course"- a military-style ropes course, minus the B.S. safety harnesses. Google it. and the "obstacle course" which I think I explained to you all when I did it a while back for OCS. again, google it.

After PT we go back to the squad bay for a "PT shower" which is about 45 seconds under the water each, good enough to turn dirt to mud. Then we get dressed, march to chow, then go to class for the afternoon. Classes are boring as fuck (45 minutes on "honor" or an hour on sexual assault BS) or they're fuckin' sweet (combat care, USMC history, medal of honor stories, etc) they're [name] middle school quality though... if that.

After classes we work on drill— very elementary version of what the dudes in the commercials do, throwing rifles in the air and shit. I can't stand drill. Shit's fucking dumb, but it takes up a lot of our time theses days. It's supposed to "instill discipline" but you can't tame the beast. I came here to learn how to hook, jab, stab, and shoot. Not walk in straight lines like some synchronized swimming shit. Oh well. [...] Enough about that b.s. Some funny shit:

1) [...]

2) [...]

3) Don't ask Don't Tell. Shit may have been repealed, but the USMC sure hasn't adapted. We're called faggots 10-50 times a day. "You think that's yelling? That's sweet faggot." "Yeah, you would think that's a pushup, faggot." etc. Any time we fuck something up, the DI's tell us "you stupid fucking thing. That's more wrong than two boys fucking." One captain, when giving an ethics class, and talking about how one mistake can change your life/ identity told the entire company "you can be a bridge builder your entire life, but you suck one dick and you're a cocksucker till you die." Not much room for bitchassness. Even though only 10% of the corps is infantry, they treat everyone at about like they'll be going to combat.

4) [Name]. This one younger kid from Philly took a shit ton of flak from the DI's the first two weeks. So much so that he was saying "aye sir! aye sir!" in his sleep. One day, he got worked by the DI's and after he was told to go back to the platoon. A DI came up to him and whispered "nobody fucking cares about you, [name], nobody is going to write to you. nobody is going to your fucking graduation." [Name] broke, and started crying. The DI goes "yeah that's right bitch," then wipes the tears off [name] 's face licks them from his finger, and goes "yeah bitch". Shit like that goes down every day except for the crying thing.

5) terrorist recruit. The one indian looking kid in the platoon gets ripped by the DI's day one they started calling him a terrorist, a cabbie, and a small shop owner. "[Name] are you a fucking terrorist?" "no sir" "well, if you were a terrorist, you wouldn't admit to it now would you?" "no sir" "so you're probably a fucking terrorist." "aye sir" "because you look like a fucking terrorist, why aren't you driving a fucking cab like the rest of your people?" "this recruit doesn't know sir." " I know though, because you're a fucking terrorist." Anytime he gets mail the DI's don't say his name and instead go "oh, great, more terrorist mail." and drop it on the ground like they don't want to get anthrax, or pretend to listen to it like it's a timebomb. When he answers questions wrong about our classes, they go, "you know why you don't know the answer?" "no sir" "because your brain is full of fucking terrorist information, that's why." "aye sir"

It's impossible to remember all the funny shit that happens, it never ends. The DI's are fucking hilarious every day, but it's hard to explain, especially in writing. Let's see... a few kids have gotten pretty fucked up during training . First, a kid in my platoon...got pissed at another recruit and pushed him. the recruit who got pushed, stood up and swung his rifle at my buddy, hitting him in the face w the muzzle. it ended up breaking my buddy's eye socket, which dropped his eye. He'll probably need facial surgery. He was put in a medical platoon to heal, which will take 4-6 weeks just to know whether he needs more work. He doesn't go home and hardly earns any more means to communicate w family/ friends. Just sits there waiting to get better and restart training. the recruit who swung the rifle was taken from the platoon. Word was he could be charged w assault and put in the brig.

Yesterday, (thurs 4-19) we ran the obstacle course. A kid about 5 people behind me jumped from an obstacle awkwardly and broke his leg like that dude from [town] ([friend] sent me a pic) I didn't see the kid go down, but it was gruesome apparently. We waited for the parameds, then went right on training. Heard from a recruit in the kid's platoon that he snapped his femur. Nasty. Not what I heard at first. But that's way way worse. Another kid didn't hold his rifle properly during the bayonet assault course hit a tire, lost control, couldn't hold the rifle, and it bounced back and knocked his two front teeth out. Sucks to suck. [...]

We have this shit called "incentive training" or IT which is fast and furious, impromptu workouts w/ one drill instructors when we fuck up for anything. They're like 10-15 minutes of pushups cruces, mountain-climbers, high knees, planks, jumping jacks, and burpees. They'll wreck anyone. If you put out, which you have to do, end up unable to hold yourself up, no matter what shape you're in. [...]

Sometimes, on days when we already have hard PT, I'll have another 4 IT sessions. Beast mode. Gotta say I love it. Someone jacks up a drill movement we get IT. Someone talks in formation, IT. I moved my neck in formation once and got IT but that's rare.

[...]

There are a number of kids who are "failing to adapt" but they're coming around. I don't have much to do w/ them though (other than getting IT'd for them and yelling at them as squad leader) There are leaders and followers, fat kids and beasts, smart kids and dumb fucks, guys who are squared away and guys who are "soup sandwiches", understandable w 55 guys.

[There] is a black kid from [southern state] named [name]. He's the definition of slave genetics. I call him Django. He's dumb as rocks, but a PT animal. He keeps me motivated during PT, I teach him how to speak english better than a combo the old guy in "duck dynasty" and Big Black from "Rob and Big".

Since most of you asked, I haven't fired my rifle yet. We go everywhere with them and I sleep w my head between two of them. But we aren't at "firing week" - it's in two weeks. Then, we'll pour rounds down range. While we haven't shot, other platoons are on the range every day from sun up to sun down so there's a maelstrom of gunfire blasting around the base all day. Pretty awesome sound.

No, we don't even stand near female recruits. I wouldn't want to anyway... they smell worse than we do. Only 3-4 per platoon are even attractive. We see them at church (which is required, basically) and rarely at the chow hall. That's it.

Anyway, I gotta get a lift in before lights. If this didn't come across, I love it down here. None of my big concerns became realities. I get to learn badass shit, workout constantly, and am rewarded for being as intense as physically/mentally as possible for 16 hours a day. Life's good, hardly ever been as satisfied when I go to bed as I am now.

Thank you all for your letters. They mean a lot to me and keep me more motivated than you think. Sorry again for the lack of personal response, but I really get no time to write... I hope your'e all well. Take a shot for me when you're closing tabs at 0400... I'll be waking up to a barrage of hateful, hateful yelling.

All love... and as we say 100x a day... Kill!

[Name]

[Image by Jim Cooke. Photo via Getty]