Sunday, March 11, 2007

Scuzz Brushes, Punishment, and Evil

There are all kinds of people that attend Marine Boot camp. Most of them you will find are very young, 18 to early 20s. Some are older, very few are younger. Some have had other jobs, like cops, firefighters, or worked in an office. I knew a Marine that ran a computer business, got bored with the work and wanted to do something that meant something to him. He gave up a $65,000/year job in the mid 1990s to make Pvt. pay for the Marine Corps.
This is a story about one person who joined the Corps at 17, all names changed, as usual.

There was this kid, we'll call him Neets. Neets was still in high school when he decided that there was nothing in life that he would rather do that enlist in the Marine Corps. Instead of postponing his entry until he turned 18, he got his parent to sign the waiver and he got in when he was 17.

Marine boot camp is what you might call a stressful environment. Others know of it as a three-month kick in the balls. The trick is, you have to help your buddies, and know when to rely on them to help you out, i.e. teamwork. It really is a marvel of preparation for combat, when I think about it. During and after Iraq I realized how much of boot camp was oriented towards preparing the Marine for all of the little things that can wear one down in the fog of war like lack of sleep, confusion, reliance upon those in charge to make the right decisions, and a deeply help personal refusal to quit under any condition save for being dead. These are just a few of the characteristics that are ingrained in boot camp. Like I said, somewhat of a stressful environment.

A little too stressful for Neets...

He was otherwise a good guy, I think that the stress of it kind of got to him, once in a while.

One of the favorite mind games of the Drill Instructors was the scuzz brush races. To explain, the scuzz brush was a hard-bristled brush, about 6 inches long. This brush was used for everything from cleaning uniforms, boots, knocking crud off of weapons, and as a projectile when one of the Drill Instructors found one lying around.

Racing would entail the recruit placing both hands on the brush, the brush on the ground, and then pushing the brush through the squad-bay.

One day one of the Drill Instructors got a wild hair up his ass and a crazy look in his eye.

Oh, Shit.

He sounded off in the way that only Drill Instructors can...



We new what was coming, and why we had been performing close order drill with everything in the squad-bay. Close order drill is what you sometimes see a platoon doing with their rifles. Right shoulder, left shoulder, port arms, etc. Try to imagine doing a right shoulder movement with a full foot-locker, or a bed, for that matter. The devious purpose of the harried squad-bay redecorating was to clear the 'race track'.

According to the rules of the Scuzz Brush 500, while 'scuzzing' along, the recruits had to make noises of a race car. If your thighs gave out and you fell to the ground, you had to make crashing noises. All alot of fun for the Drill Instructors, I am sure.

After about 10 minutes of this, things were getting interesting. Thighs were getting burned out, shoulders were screaming, and we were still going round and round, with the Drill Instructors adding their own brand of color commentary. At the far end of the squad-bay where all of the foot-lockers and beds were piled, one recruit thought that he might have a few moments of respite. He was crouched down trying to rest his cramped legs, while all of the other recruits were 'driving' past.

WHAT IN THE HOLY HELL DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING, NUMBNUTS?!!!! Queried a curious Drill Instructor. The recruit, thinking fast responded with 'Sir! This recruit is undergoing a pit stop as a normal course of the race, Sir!'

Pit Stops were then officially banned for the duration of the race.

After another 15 minutes or so, on one pass I noticed Neets lying on the ground. A glance over my shoulder confirmed that there were no Drill Instructors in immediate visual, so I stopped to ask what was wrong. All I heard was some muffled sobs and a comment about his legs. I told him that I knew his legs were hurting, everyones were. I also suggested that he get off of the deck before he incurred the wrath of the Drill Instructors.

After that, I proceeded to 'race another lap'. About half-way though the lap, the particular incoherent scream of a Drill Instructor viewing a recruit taking it easy told me that the DIs had spotted Neets.

Poor Bastard, it was nice knowing him...

Coming around, I noticed that there were two Drill Instructors, crouched over him. Their veins were throbbing, they were the customary 1/10000 of an inch away from him, and they were screaming themselves hoarse. Neets did something that was blood in the water for the DIs.

He started crying.

As I was passing by, I don't really know why, I grabbed Neets by the scruff of his cammies, and attempted to pull him along behind me. Perhaps I thought that by showing the Drill Instructors that other recruits were taking care of him, they could cut him a little slack. All it did was make them notice me. They kindly suggested that I lay on the deck (read, they threw me to the ground) in front of him so that they could yell at us both.

Sweet relief for my legs!!!

See, at this time I had long ago developed the ability to 'turn off' the screaming, yelling, and insults. I had realized that this was their job, and that there was literally nothing that I could do to avoid the stress. Neets had not developed the ability, yet.

So now, amidst the almost forgotten Boot Camp Scuzz Brush 500, all of the recruits (save 2) scuzzing around and around, there were two guys laying on the deck, with 4 Drill Instructors yelling and screaming. One of them had even gotten a tent stake and was beating it in a trash can, a la Full Metal Jacket. Neets was still crying, face down. Me, I was directly in front of him, staring straight ahead, enjoying the break for my shoulders and legs.

One of the Drill Instructors decided that it would be a good idea to try to get a hold of the situation. He instructed two of the other DIs to see to the rest of the platoon, and he attempted to reason with Neets. He was trying to explain to him that this was nothing personal, they were just doing their job. They were trying to instill in him the ability to persevere, to accept and handle the stress, to find in himself the refusal to quit. Neets was still whimpering in front of me.

The Drill Instructor wanted to make sure that he had Neets attention and understanding. He told him (actually not screaming, for once) 'Neets. Hey, Neets. Come on. Look at me.

This. Is. Not. Personal.

Stop crying. This is just a job, man, no need to cry. Look into my eyes. Am I telling the truth? Tell me what you see when you look into my eyes.'

In response to the 'what do you see when you look into my eyes' question, Neets raised his head from his arms, tears streaming down his face, and with his own particular half-whine, moaned out


The Drill Instructors could not keep it together.

This was the only time possibly in recorded history that all Drill Instructors could not keep from cracking a smile.

They attempted to maintain composure, even to the point where they all retreated to the duty hut (an office just inside the front door). Periodically, one would come out of the hut with a kick-ass look on his face, start to yell and scream, snort... chuckle, and have to return to the duty hut.


Mike said...

Did Neets make it?

When the DI asks "Anyone here think they can take me down?" There's probably a few recruits that can these days, but I'm thinking they probably shouldn't. Have you ever seen/heard of what happens if that happens?

Murphy said...

He did actually, and from what I could tell, turned out just fine.

There was only one or two times when a recruit... not outright challenged a DI, but more like...what the right way to say it... disrespected(?) a DI, and behavior correction was immediate, loud, and thourough. Probably why we didn't have any problems in my platoon.

I have spoken with a couple of Marines who did have physical challenges from recruits, and the results both times involved several DIs and a recruit having a serious Bad Day.

Fred M said...

A bit late to the game but...

Awesome story, really brings back memories!

"Scuzz brushes ONLINE!"

"Scuzz brushes online, AYE AYE SIR!!"

Murphy said...



Us - *inhalation*

DI - "MOVE!"

Us - "KILL!!!" / *footstomp*

Good times...