A Marine Mom’s Guide to Boot Camp

From the moment that your son/ daughter signs their enlistment contract for Marine Boot Camp it is normal to experience a host of emotions during this time. Intense pride, anxiety, and fear of the unknown are common feelings for parents, family and friends of  service members.  Understanding what to expect when he/she leaves for boot camp will, hopefully, alleviate some of your fear and soothe your anxiety. Here is one moms guide to boot camp. 

“The Yellow Footprint Epidemic” Part 1

marine corps mcrd parris island yellow footprints

yellow footprintsDon Miller was a Marine Corps Drill Instructor on Parris Island before becoming Community Director of Sandboxx.

So before people go nuts and think that this is me saying anything negative about my beloved Corps, it is no such thing. My title describes the period of time where Marine “poolees” arrive on Parris Island (and although I did not serve on San Diego, I can only guess its the same) and allow the Mystical and world famous Yellow Footprints to suck every bit of common sense that they had out of there brain. Now I am no different, I was the very civilian that I will talk about. I was just as lost as everyone else when I got to Boot Camp to, but when your on the other side of it and see the complete loss of the most underrated skill a human has, it can be frustrating.

I have decided to give you a little bit of context into what I am talking about before we get into explaining what the “Epidemic” is. I can’t remember the exact date, but it had to have been late summer. I was a Senior Drill Instructor at Receiving, which I want all to know is the same name that the all Recruits will come to think of as Mommy or Daddy after they pick up with a training platoon,  but are also two entirely different positions. A Senior Drill Instructor at Receiving is more of a Supervisor of Recruits, and mentor to new Processing Drill Instructors that have just been put on Quota( not going to explain that as it would take to long and could spin off in so many directions, so just accept the fact that its different then actually training Recruits on a daily basis.) The Senior Drill Instructor that all Recruits come to idolize is much more of Role Model and overall savior of the well being of a Recruits soul.

Sorry about the detour, but I had to explain that. So here we are in what seems like the hottest place on earth trying to teach a civilian how to become a Recruit. All while making sure they pass all the necessary requirements to even become a Recruit in the first place. The platoons are always bigger ( mostly averaging 80 and 90 strong) this time of year because of what is referred to as JJAS ( figure it out), so focusing on making sure every single civilian is competently learning the process is almost impossible at this point.

So you focus on teaching the very basics on what and how a Recruit is supposed to act like. Things like saying ” This Recruit, That Recruit, Those Recruits”, ” Good Afternoon Ladies, Good Afternoon Gentlemen.”, walking in a military manner, standing and sitting up straight, not making eye contact with a Drill Instructor, or talking unless being spoken to or asked a question by a Drill Instructor. That is just some of the few of a ridiculously long list of what you would think are simple tasks to teach. If you think those are easier than how I am describing them I suggest you sign the dotted line, become a Sergeant, and go to DI School to see for your self, otherwise I guess you’re going to have to take my word for it.

So it was probably the second or third day that these civilians had been on the Depot when then SSgt Smith and I walked upstairs where the civilians were making a head call ( if you don’t know what that is, its another one of those seemingly simple tasks you have to teach a civilian to do in an orderly and timely manner.) before their next appointment they had to be at. We had just made it through the Squadbay door when we heard the most painful sound a Drill Instructor that wears a Green Belt can hear. The sound of laughter in the head.

So what do we do, as we were taught early in your training to become a good Drill Instructor, you investigate with your voice and demeanor. We take a look into the sink area of the head and see two civilians seemingly losing all touch of reality and actually visibly laughing. SSgt Smith began to very gently and with the upmost sincerity open his mouth to simply correct the civilians ( I wish there was a way to make words on paper show the extreme sarcasm when writing ) on their obvious slip of the mind in thinking that they could enjoy any time in Boot Camp. So what were the words that SSgt Smith spoke with a great presence, well it was simple.

“Uh, hey there RRREECCRRUIITTTT are we supposed to be laughing in the head?” Now this feeds into the whole idea of this article, and you will see why. That question from SSgt Smith seems like a pretty easy question to answer, does is not? Well, for this particular Recruit it might have well as been the ancient language of the Mayans, because he just stood there in complete and utter bewilderment. SSgt Smith being a pretty experienced Drill Instructor at that time realized that the civilian had no idea what to say or do, so SSgt Smith took it upon himself to help that civilian out without having him even answer. ” Let me see those teeth, ONE more time, and you WILL regret it!!” Pretty common expression I would say, wouldn’t you? I mean, SSgt Smith obviously meant don’t do it again…. Right?  So what does the civilian say back…. nothing. What he does next will last in my memory for the rest of my life. The civilian with every ounce of fear in his body showing in the 43 muscles in his face begins to and I kid you not….. Open his mouth to show his teeth to the Drill Instructor in a manner that I still have no idea how he even was able to do it. Picture the most awkward yet fearful smile of a pimple faced 18 year old kid thinking that for what ever reason a Drill Instructor just told him to show his teeth and by God he was gonna do just that.

I immediately left the area. If you are/were a keeper of traditions carrying the tremendous weight that comes with the responsibilities of wearing the cover, then you know that losing bearing in front of a Recruit is not going to happen… at least not willingly. So covering my face with my Cover while leaving was my only option.   That is just one of the many stories that helped me discover that this “Epidemic” was indeed real.

So how do we stop the “Epidemic”, or keep it from spreading. Well, the first step in any problem we face is to clearly identify the problem. This is probably the most over looked step in the process. It sounds easy right? It can actually lead you in all the wrong directions if you do not clearly state what is happening. For this instance I will use an old idea I once heard. It came from my Father. ” Boy, you look like you’re trying to put a square peg in a round hole.” I think I was trying to fix something around the house when the first of many of my father’s loving quips came out, but if you think about this thought of trying to fit a square peg in a round hole, it fits perfect ( pun intended) into what happens in boot camp.

If you imagine that every single Poolee that ships to bootcamp is the “Square Peg” and the eventual goal of becoming an elite warfighter as the other side of the “Round Hole”, you can see how at first when you are Square Peg you can not fit through the round hole. After the 13 weeks of extreme widdling, molding, heating, and polishing process of Boot Camp the square peg that once existed as that Poolee has now become the seemingly perfect fitting cylinder that when pushed through the round hole glides perfectly through to the other side forging what you all see today as a U.S. Marine.

The first step that I talked about that allows the eventual goal of making the cylinder is widdling. When you widdle you are taking a knife to a piece of wood to shape it into whatever you see fit. In this case the knife is the Processing Drill Instructor and the block of wood is the Civilian getting ready to become a Recruit. The most common misconception about when a young man or woman ships to Boot Camp is that as soon as they get there they automatically become a Recruit. That is very much incorrect. That happens on Black Friday or Pick up Saturday depending on which Depot you are on. The whole first week that a new civilian is on the Depot is meant to further screen and test them to make sure that they are indeed fit to begin the world’s most respected entry level military program called Marine Corps Boot Camp. Now back to widdling. The first chance a Drill Instructor gets to widdle is during one of the most memorable moments of Recruit Training. After you get off of the Drill Instructor’s bus, you immediately start the indoctrination into our beloved Corps by receiving the spine chilling Yellow Footprints speech.

There is a running joke that Drill Instructors use. The joke is that there is a highly advanced machine directly under the yellow footprints that when activated by the voice of the Drill Instructor will suck every bit of common sense that a civilian has out. I have no doubt that their parents spent approximately 18 years trying to teach their children the life skills needed to survive, and being a parent myself I understand that the parents of these civilians might take offense to that fact. It is not easy for anyone to think that they might not have prepared their offspring enough to be able to take on the world, but that is not what I am saying. At that point in civilian’s life on the Depot all the teaching and parenting in the world that parents give would not change the inevitable outcome of the Yellow Footprints Epidemic.

Sandboxx is a mobile app that enables comms to exist throughout the military journey. The entire DOD organizational structure built into Sandboxx lets those in uniform and their families stay connected like never before possible. Sandboxx Letters continues the mission by give loved ones the ability to send physical mail to those in basic or on deployment. Learn more about how Sandboxx is revolutionising the way our military community thrives at www.sandboxx.us and download the app here, www.sandboxx.us/app.

What Your Son or Daughter Needs to Know Before Heading to Boot Camp

Aliyah Meehan, Director of Family Affairs, Proud Military Wife and Mother

So your child is heading to boot camp? There are countless emotions running through your mind as you preparing to send off your baby. We can agree that as parents we all want nothing more than our children to be healthy and successful at the goals and dreams they set for themselves. As a proud military wife and mom of three, I can certainly empathize with any parent during those few weeks leading up to the big day, and understand that you want to make sure your child is as prepared as possible for whatever lies outside the comforts of home.

Regardless of whether your child grew up in a military family or is a first generation military member, it is nearly impossible to be fully prepared for the physical and mental challenge of boot camp – and that’s ok. They’ve never done anything like this before. With that said, there are a few tips I would want to know before my firstborn walks out the door. Hopefully the following are lessons that you can share with your son or daughter to help them prepare for this very exciting and challenging chapter in their life.

1) Physical prep will put them ahead of the game

Physical conditioning is a big factor in boot camp. Surprisingly, many men and women go into training and are not physically prepared, resulting in undue stress. Therefore, encourage your child to start personal training ahead of time. This includes everything from push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups and running. Believe it or not, there IS a proper way to do a military style push up. (See video below) Ultimately, this is one of the few things recruits can control and the more prepared they are physically, the less challenging the first few weeks of training will be and the more likely they will be to make it to graduation.


2) Ensure their financials are secure

While your child is off the grid, their personal bills will continue to come in per usual. Help your child to make sure these payments don’t fall behind. This is especially important since many military jobs require a Security Clearance, which often includes good financial standing. Without good financial standing, the government will consider them as a person of risk. If your child allows, help them out by keeping track of their credit score while they are away to look out for any red flags. It’s worth mentioning that they can always plan ahead by contacting their phone company, insurance provider, etc. and asking about automatic pay systems.

3) Have they defined their mission?

Simply put, basic training is meant to be challenging. It’s also just as much of a mental exercise as physical exercise. Therefore, encourage your child to deeply think about what brought them to the decision to enlist – whether that’s a good career, physical health or character building. In the hardest of times, their personal mission is the only thing that will keep them going.

4) Make sure they know that they will hit the ground running

There isn’t much time for your son or daughter to get acclimated to their surroundings, as basic training gets right down to business. They cut their hair and test their physical fitness standards all in the first 24 hours. That being said, instead of your child partying before they leave, it is a better decision to rest up and get plenty of sleep because first impressions are important. Remember…a drill sergeant never forgets! The truth is, the upcoming six weeks will likely be the toughest your child will ever experience in their life, but the reward, once they graduate, will be well worth the hard work and sacrifice for both them and you.

5) Leave the ego at the door

Once again, no matter what background your child comes from, once they arrive at bootcamp, they are no longer in charge of their own life. They are a member of the United States Armed Forces, and the sooner they realize and accept that, the sooner they will succeed. This is a great learning period – the fundamentals of their entire military career. Every moment at basic training is an important one, so encourage your child to walk through the door with an eager and open mind.

6) Communicate with your Recruit through Mailboxx

This is probably going to be the first time in your child’s life that they will not be able to instantly communicate with their friends and family back home. That’s right –Twitter, Snap Chat, Email, Facebook and Google Hangouts are no longer at their fingertips. They will soon come to realize that Mail Call is the best part of their day while they are off the grid. I also understand that you hardly have time to sit down at a desk and write physical letters anymore. That’s why we created Mailboxx.

Now while your child is away, family and friends can keep them updated on all the special moments taking place back home as quickly and easily as you would send a text message. Pictures and messages sent from smartphones back home will be converted into a physical letter that we, at team Sandboxx, will print out and send straight to your soldier’s Mail Call. The best part? Each Mailboxx includes a stamped and addressed return envelope making replies from them just as simple. CLICK HERE TO WATCH HOW IT WORKS.

We know you have already downloaded Sandboxx as you are reading this because, trust me, I know how hard those first few months without seeing his or her Facebook updates or hearing their voice can be, but be sure to spread the word to your family and friends too. Have everyone download Sandboxx before your Poolee leaves so that they can receive Mailboxx after Mailboxx to brighten their days and lend encouragement. We wish your Poolee the best of luck as they head off to boot camp, and thank you for supporting your child as they serve for our freedom.

We salute you,