Why are drill sergeants screaming

USA: Where mosquitoes make elite soldiers

While the US Army is barely getting recruits, the Marines are stormed. In Parris Island civilians are made into the "toughest of the tough".

04/18/2008 | 16:08 | NORBERT RIEF, Die Presse reports from Iowa

Parris Island. You get scared just watching. "What were you thinking", Staff Sergeant Seas roars so loudly that his voice cracks. "You have no discipline!" - "Aye, sir," the poor little spectacle-wearer yells back. "Don't ever do that again! Never, never, never!" - "Aye, sir". "Give me 20," shouts the sergeant, and the recruit is already on the ground doing push-ups.

The young man's offense: he scratched his neck. It takes almost superhuman effort not to do it with all the mosquitoes here on the island. But the staff sergeant saw it, and a recruit is not allowed to scratch his neck or kill the fat mosquito that is sucking on his arm.

Talking like something out of a Hollywood movie

The mosquitoes are not part of the training on Parris Island, the boot camp of the "United States Marines Corps" in the US state of South Carolina. But they help to teach the young boys several things: discipline, self-control and the fact that they are here Not allowed to do anything without orders, not even scratch oneself.

"Marines" have been made here since 1915, as a banner at the main entrance proclaims. Parris Island is legendary: Billy Joel sang about it, Gustav Harford wrote about it ("The Short-Timers") and Hollywood has several films about twelve weeks of hell made that the young recruits have to go through. Every year 20,000 civilians become the "toughest of the tough", the "elite of the US military", the "few, the proud - the marines", as it is called in advertising jargon in a brochure.

Becoming a Marine is no fun: “Is that all? You can't do anything, nothing at all, "shouts a drill instructor (DI), and the whole Plas-6; Otoon yells like a throat:" Aye, sir. " Of course they're nothing, that's why they're here. “We'll make the best soldiers there are out of them. Real marines. "

It's not just talk. Such sayings create an elite thinking that lasts well beyond basic training. Anyone who has gone through this school will be proud of it for life and show that they are marine on bumper stickers and T-shirts. Some of the motivational speeches sound like something out of a Hollywood film - not necessarily the most expensive one. "We fight so that America can sleep peacefully at night," a sergeant explains to his soldiers. "We are the protectors of freedom. The last post. And we never fail."

That morning the first failed at 6:40 a.m. For almost an hour the recruits have been running in circles, the slower ones and those with the white stripes - the sign of being overweight - have to do push-ups every few laps. Always yelled at, always under supervision. “We take care not to finish them off completely. We're pushing them to their limit and a little above - to the point where they didn't think they'd make it at all. "That should bring the self-confidence that allows a Marine to fight on even in a hopeless situation.
"After twelve weeks they are in top condition," explains Staff Sergeant Seas, one of the "Drill Instructors (DI), in a hoarse voice in view of the collapse. Screaming is part of it every day from the very first minute. It is intimidating you put young people under stress and teach them to act when someone yells. "In combat, we don't talk politely to each other either."

"Some cry"

The screaming starts upon arrival. "Get out of my bus, get out," yells a DI when a bus with new recruits arrives late in the evening. Then the "transformation" begins, as they call it here. In the end, after 84 days on Parris Island, a soldier is said to be standing on the asphalt parade ground who, on command, becomes a fighting machine that does not hesitate, does not hesitate, does not question.

You don't want to influence this transformation, so the command prohibits interviews with the young soldiers. You don't want someone suddenly speaking to the recruit in a normal tone, who might then say "I." Because that is also strictly forbidden: "I" and "you" do not exist during the basic training, you are only allowed to "this." Say recruit "or" that recruit. "This is supposed to turn the individual off and encourage team spirit.
The drill, the constant screaming, the constant stress all have consequences, especially in the first week. “You don't know what is going to happen. A few start to cry, "says Seas of the recruits' reactions. It also has an effect on him:" Two to three times a month, "he loses his voice. Nobody can hold out for more than three years, because unlike the recruits, the DIs did not survive after twelve weeks, but have to train the next company after a few days off: sometimes 20 hours at a time, without a weekend.

The most obvious "transformation" the new recruits experience a few minutes after arrival, when two hairdressers shave their heads in a chord. Passing the original entrance test is no art: two pull-ups, 44 jackknives in two minutes, and 1.5 miles in 13 : 30 minutes. If you can't even do that, you get into the "Pork-Chop-Platoon" (pork chops platoon). They have to train more, just like the recruits with the white stripes on the green T-shirt.

"No teddy bears"

The screaming, leaching, talking, the often pointless commands that have to be obeyed - of course, that only works with young people. The other day they had a nearly 30-year-old who one morning simply refused to get out of bed. The trainers were not allowed to attack him, this has been forbidden after numerous attacks in the past and recruits who were bloodily beaten.

The "rebel" didn't care about honor and values ​​that are preached here. Because that should be one of the qualities that characterize a Marine. "We place special value on honor, on discipline, on devotion," says Lieutenant Josiah Nicely. "A Marine is instantly recognizable because he is respectful and decent."
The much touted hardness is of course relative. In a survey by the Corps magazine "Marines" about what the soldiers missed most in the boot camp, the ban on saying me or you came first. In second place: "No teddy bears."

("Die Presse" print edition of April 19, 2008)

The Marine Corps
The "US Marine Corps" is one of the five branches of the United States' armed forces. The Marines currently have almost 190,000 active members, with the number expected to increase to more than 200,000 by 2011. Marines guard US embassies around the world, among other things. New recruits must sign up for four years of active service and four years of reserve.