This is Part 2 of a multi-part written series on the firsthand experiences of 1stSgt Crouch at United States Marine Corps Drill Instructor School. For Part 1, Click Here.
1stSgt Crouch served in the United States Marine Corps for 23 years, including four years as a Drill Instructor at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island and two years as a Drill Instructor at Navy Officer Candidate School in Pensacola, Florida.
We were broken up into ten squads and assigned a Squad Instructor. I was assigned to 3rd squad, GYSGT Kelly. We were all told that after the next break, we were to line up outside our Squad Instructor office and report in for initial counseling. When I reported into GYSGT Kelly, he stood up from his desk and said “Sergeant Crouch, welcome to Drill Instructor school …” and he continued to rattle on for about three minutes about what I can expect from him and this school. I answered questions he had about my career experience to date. At the end of this initial meeting, he really pissed me off as he gestured to shake my hand and met me half way before pulling his hand back and saying “On second thought, I will shake your hand if you graduate”. How pompous, I thought. From that point forward I had little respect for the man. I was an outstanding Marine who had an exemplary record, one of only a few volunteers and he wants to act as though Drill Instructors are too good to shake the hand of common Marines?
In that first week he broke his leg and really became useless. They should have divided us up and given us to the other Squad Instructors but they did not. He was never present. Other classes were getting great guidance from their Squad Instructors and our class was left in the dark. Finally after three weeks, a couple of the other Squad Instructors realized our plight and began sharing information with us.
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Thursdays throughout the Marine Corps are when Field Day (cleanup of barracks and work places) is conducted. My squad was assigned outdoor cleanup. It was about 20 minutes before dusk when my body ached all over from the PT program and lack of sleep. I had been vigorously raking leaves for an hour in the hot, humid South Carolina weather when I decided to take a momentary break. I stood for a period of maybe ten seconds with one hand on my hip and the other supporting my body as I leaned on the rake, when I heard the window crank open from one of the Squad Instructor offices.
GYSGT Wiggins: “SERGEANT CROUCH, COME HERE”.
SGT Crouch: I ran over to the window about 25 yards away and halted and reported “SERGEANT CROUCH REPORTING AS ORDERED GUNNY, I MEAN GUNNERY SERGEANT WIGGINS”. I was still having a hard adjustment to this regimented Marine Corps approach to protocol, as I had spent seven years in the laid back aviation community.
GYSGT Wiggins: “Do you know why I called you over here Sergeant Crouch”?
SGT Crouch: “WHY YES GUNNERY SERGEANT, WE’RE NEIGHBORS. I LIVE ACROSS THE STREET FROM YOU AND YOU WANTED TO GET TO KNOW ME”.
GYSGT Wiggins: With a look of total astonishment (I realized at this moment before he replied I screwed up again) “NO SERGEANT CROUCH, THAT IS NOT WHY I CALLED YOU OVER HERE. YOU HAD YOUR HAND ON YOUR HIP. YOU COME SEE ME AFTER PT TOMORROW MISTER “I WANT TO GET TO KNOW THE DRILL INSTRUCTOR””.
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1stSgt Crouch was a Marine Corps Drill Instructor at Navy Officer Candidate School and wrote a book entitled “The Pressure Cooker: Forging Naval Officers Through Marine Leadership“. The purpose of the Marine Corps Drill Instructors at Navy OCS was different than at Parris Island or MCRD San Diego. At Navy OCS, the job of the Marines was to make the officer candidates WASH OUT. Attrition was the mission.
The Drill Instructors at OCS were usually Gunnery Sergeants on their 2nd or 3rd tour of duty as a Drill Instructor – already having been seasoned with 2-4 years experience as a DI. Click Here to get the book and read stories about Marine Corps Drill Instructors inflicting endless pain on officer candidates with the goal of making them quit.
The following day after another grueling 2 ½ hour PT session we were told we had 30 minutes to be in the Charlie uniform for inspection. I reported directly to GYSGT Wiggins’ office as instructed in my PT gear. After executing the office entry procedure I was standing six inches and centered from his desk.
SGT Crouch: “Sergeant Crouch reporting to Gunnery Sergeant Wiggins as instructed Gunnery Sergeant”.
GYSGT Wiggins: “What is the uniform of the day Sergeant Crouch”?
SGT Crouch: “Gunnery Sergeant, the training event that just ended is the PT uniform and is the yellow PT shirt, green shorts, white crew length socks and running shoes. The uniform of the day for the next event is the Charlie uniform with ribbons and no badges”.
GYSGT Wiggins: “Is PT over Sergeant Crouch”?
SGT Crouch: “Yes Gunnery Sergeant”.
GYSGT Wiggins: “Then come see me in the uniform of the day before the scheduled inspection”.
SGT Crouch: “Aye Aye Gunnery Sergeant”. I executed my office exit procedure and ran as fast as I could to the barracks across the street, showered and threw my uniform on and got back to his office just before time was up.
SGT Crouch: “Sergeant Crouch reporting to Squad Instructor Gunnery Sergeant Wiggins as Instructed”.
GYSGT Wiggins: “BEGIN”
SGT Crouch: I was dumbfounded, what the hell was he asking me to begin. “Begin what Gunnery Sergeant”?
GYSGT Wiggins: “I SAID BEGIN”.
SGT Crouch: I was still as clueless as I was ten seconds ago “Gunnery Sergeant Wiggins, this Marine does not know what he is to begin, would you please explain so I can begin”.
GYSGT Wiggins: He chuckled and looked at his partner in crime who shared the office GYSGT Marshall and then looked back at me and said “PUSHUPS YOU IDIOT”.
SGT Crouch: I looked at GYSGT Marshall in disbelief and he instantly replied “HE SAID PUSHUPS NOW YOU GET ON YOUR FACE AND PUSH”. I thought about it for a brief two seconds thinking I had never known a Marine to have to do punishment PT after graduating boot camp but obviously things were different outside of the comforts of the air wing. I dropped to the deck and started pushing. Of course my failure to count out the repetitions only added to the scrutiny I was receiving. After about one minute I was told to get up and I thought to myself “This wasn’t so bad, I am not even tired”.
GYSGT Wiggins: “Shut the door and resume pushups, I don’t want you distracting students”. I would know the meaning of tired after this office visit and I also thought students doing punishment PT was not a sanctioned event, but who was I to challenge right from wrong, I wanted to be a Drill Instructor and would do just about anything to earn the coveted title.
(For Part 3, Click Here)