03 September 2020



By Andy Weddington

Thursday, 03 September 2020

Every man has his secret sorrows which the world knows not; and often times we call a man cold when he is only sad. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Last week a Marine sent a photograph of the "O" (Obstacle) Course on what was once the Second Recruit Training Battalion PT (Physical Training) field aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island. 

No exaggeration, I ran it hundreds of times. And supervised thousands of recruits running it. 

But it looked different. And not from a confusing photography angle. Had obstacles been modified - shortened, replaced, and removed? So it appeared. Still trying to confirm.  

Day before yesterday I watched a short YouTube of pugil sticks (hand-to-hand combat) training. Marine type but could not determine if recruits or Marines. No matter. Two "combatants" outfitted in head, hands, and torso protective gear armed with the big Q-tip - female versus male. 

So goes equality. 

Fight outcome predictable. 

Adrenaline pumping, he charged like an enraged bull and pummeled her - "dead" in an eye-blink. Exactly the purpose of training - to survive. 

Multiple male instructors jumped in to restrain the victor from finishing her off just to be sure (as in a real fight); males to the female's rescue (an innate cultural if not species response).

And yesterday, as timing goes, I read article about gender integration of Marine Corps recruit training (topic addressed for years in this forum; not advocacy) down to the platoon level. 

With that I walked into our modest library and at eye-level stared at a row of worn books - 'Battle Cry' by Uris; 'Helmet For My Pillow' by Leckie; 'Fields of Fire' by Webb; and E. B. Sledge's classic, 'With the Old Breed.'

These books, for the uninformed, tell of Marines in ground combat. Sledge's masterpiece is especially brutal and sobering (his wife told of hearing him weep behind the closed doors of his home office while writing).

Reflecting, a thoughtful three-pages letter received little more than seven years ago came to mind. 

A retired Marine general, who once commanded the Parris Island recruit depot, after reading my book 'Making Marines,' wrote ...

" ... My overall emotion, through no fault of yours, is one of sadness. Yours may be the last significant work that describes the Marine Corps recruit training that produced such victories as Belleau Wood, Iwo Jima, Chosin Reservoir, Khe Sanh, Fallujah, and others ... "

Now the last bastion in America for a boy to be tested, really pushed, challenged, and tested - against what at times seems impossible standards, alongside and against peers, and by uncompromising Marines called drill instructor - is dead. 

The hard line feminists, et al., demanding and too those in uniform acquiescing to (of course, duty bound to salute and obey civilian masters) this new model of integrated training can say and spin what they will in defense, but there is no selling that the challenge for males (females, too) will not be sacrificed. 

Fact: The genders are not physical equals. 

Fact: And the genders are not psychological equals. 

Albeit the Marine spirit is a wonderful thing. 

But spirit alone was not the deciding factor for Marines prevailing in epic battles. (To that point, Google the YouTube, still relevant, Senate Armed Services Committee sworn testimony of General Robert H. Barrow, USMC; a three wars authority on ground combat, and for that matter recruit training - once recruit, drill instructor, and commander of Parris Island.) 

There's not much to say, really.

Anymore, as all the services now have gender integrated recruit training, what's the point of service specific?

Why not the long campaigned for model of a single Department of Defense recruit training program?

Establish across the country at existing bases already outfitted for gender integrated training. 

Assign graduates to respective services based on needs of the service, aptitude, skills, and lastly desires.

Surely, service integration (and one uniform) is the next logical objective.

What will be the impact on America's ability to fight and win?  That's way more than another conversation. 

And anyone who says they know is delusional. Like Brad Pitt, playing Oakland A's manager Billy Beane in the film 'Moneyball' said (about predicting), "You don't know. You don't." 

So ...

Turn over the Marine Corps Recruit Depots - San Diego to the city and Parris Island to the sand fleas. 

Like the general who wrote me in 2013, 'my overall emotion (through fault of political correctness) is one of sadness.'

The end. 

Post Script: The author served in Second Recruit Training Battalion, Parris Island 1983-86 - series commander and executive officer F Company; battalion operations officer; and commanding officer D Company. The line sketches for 'Making Marines' done 'en plein air' aboard Parris Island Spring 1996. And the word sketches written to accompany in 2007 - same year the book published. The Marine general - Christian B. Cowdrey - who wrote the Introduction for 'Making Marines' died a couple months ago. The changes to entry-level training disturbed him, too. One day I will follow. And that will be that. 'Making Marines' - a limited edition effort (few copies remain) - is only available through the author: www.weddingtonartgallery.com or on FaceBook Weddington Art Gallery Shops link.

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