I recall a feeling of disillusionment when I arrived to “the fleet” aboard Marine Corps Base Hawaii with 3rd Battalion 3rd Marines, India Company, Weapons Platoon in November of 2006. Up to this point, the only exposure I’d had to real Marines were my drill instructors and the SOI instructors at Camp Pendleton. This led me to believe that all Marines are probably hard-charging, squared away and motivated.
Naturally that wasn’t actually the case.
I didn’t really get it though. Why would these guys hate the Marine Corps so much? Maybe they just had a bad experience, maybe it was actually their own fault and they were just projecting their own failures onto the world around them. It wasn’t that I was in love with the Corps or anything, but up until then it really wasn’t that bad. Then again, I hadn’t been to Iraq yet, I hadn’t witnessed the liberal dispensing of NJP’s and last minute leave block dates (or canceled leave), I didn’t realize that the day I picked up Lance Corporal shortly after entering the fleet was the last time I was going to get pinned. I hadn’t experienced the weekend formations because someone that isn’t in your section got into a bar fight at the E-club, I hadn’t experienced the 0400 in the morning armory formations, the perpetually late 7-tons, the ill-planned field ops, the bullshit courses or the infamous hurry up and wait.
I really hadn’t experienced much.
It’s easy to look at the Marine Corps with optimism and bright eyes when you first get there. I remember our equally fresh-faced 2nd Lieutenants telling the boot-drop (shipment of new Marines to the battalion), “Don’t listen to these old Lance Corporals, they’ve just had a bad time.”
Who would have thought 4 years later I’d be creating Terminal Lance. Terminal Lance isn’t just a happenstance phenomenon of bad luck, it’s a regular occurrence in the infantry and a reality. Since I’ve gotten out sometimes I recant with blissful nostalgia the things I loved about being enlisted, as many of my peers do as well.
It’s easy to forget the bad times, but then I remember… there’s a reason I was counting the days until my EAS.