To build character, to toughen the mind, to break your spirits, to strengthen your nerves, and to break you down emotionally. These are just some of the reasons why mind games are played on you, and during boot camp you are guaranteed to experience some very motivating and interesting mind games.
There isn't much you can do to prepare for them, so just understand and accept the fact that they are coming. In the end you need to always remember that no matter how silly or pointless you may feel mind games are, you are the one who asked to join and believe it or not, these mind games may save your life one day. And despite not realizing this at the time, mind games do make your mental state much stronger.
If there were no mind games played on you during boot camp, Marine boot camp would just be a regular military boot camp, so think of the mind game bullshit as a rite of passage.
SOME OF THE MIND GAMES I WENT THROUGH
Understand that not all boot camp platoons play the same games, so many of these events will not be the ones you go through. But there are many varieties of these games and the concepts are basically the same. The term "thrashing" refers to extra physical training (I.T.), or unwanted PT.
- If a foot locker was left unlocked, we all had to lock our locks together in several balls. Then the balls of locks were tossed into the center of our squad bay and we were given one minute to find and to unlock our locks. An impossible task, but a great character builder. Since we were not able to complete our assigned task we were thrashed for several minutes and we were told how useless and pathetic we are.
- If one recruit did not have his PT shoes, or boots in the correct place, or if they were not lined up straight, we would toss all foot gear into the center of the bay and we were given less than a minute to find our gear and to have them back in their proper place. Another impossible task, but ill be dammed if we didn't try. Once again, we were thrashed for failing the mission assigned to us. During these games you build attention to detail skills and you learn to move quickly and orderly, despite the task being impossible to complete. Yes sir, very pointless but a thing of pure beauty.
- As a punishment I was made to hold my foot locker out in front of me for about 30 seconds. These lockers are very heavy and large. My favorite DI placed his [Smokey the Bear] cover underneath on the deck and said, "if I had any balls than I would not let anything happen to his Smokey the Bear." Well just after he said that I dropped the foot locker and it crushed his campaign cover. These covers are sacred and the DI did not say anything, he simply looked at me and then picked up his crushed cover and walked away into his duty hut. I felt really bad and I wanted to cry. I was sweating profusely and I expected a swift kick to the balls, but luckily that never transpired. He never said anything and I learned a very big lesson that day. When I dropped the locker I did not lose my bearing and I did not reach for it. That was the lesson to be learned, or so I think. Stay disciplined through the tough moments....and I did. He did not crack me. He scared the shit out of me, but I never wilted. To this day I wonder if he had an extra cover in the duty hut because my foot locker smashed it up pretty bad.
- After wining our initial drill competition our senior drill instructor was happy. But instead of praise we were given a dirt pit to play in. We had just won our competition and we were now getting punished for it. We had spotless rifles, spotless uniforms, and boots that were shining like a diamond in a goats ass. We got thrashed in the pit for about ten minutes. The reason was that we should of won by a larger margin and this victory was unacceptable. When given the opportunity to defeat someone, pounce on it. Crush your enemy and ensure you strip them of all and any will to proceed.
- A favorite mind game is when they ask you a question and you are 100 % certain you know the correct answer, so you respond with it. Well they will say, "are you sure about that", and of course you now think it's wrong and you change your answer like an idiot. This lesson is simple. Have faith in your answers. Be confident and trust in your instincts. When they ask you if you're sure, immediately respond with a "YES SIR." Right or wrong you build your confidence and that is the main lesson.
- AHHHHH, the never ending cleaning of any one particular thing. You will clean stuff and clean it again and again and then for shits and giggles you will clean it some more. Why? Who knows. Just understand that after you finish cleaning your squad bay, it will be filthy in the minds of your drill instructors and you will pay for having a nasty living area. Attention to detail is key here, because no matter how clean you think something is, they will ALWAYS find something wrong with your trash. Always check and then re-check your work, because there will always be something wrong with it.
- Our guidon (flag on a stick) was never meant to touch the deck and we never knew this early on. Often as a sign of disgust in our performance, the DI would toss our guidon into the dirt and no one would react to pick it up. So he yells at us for not caring and we quickly learn that anytime the guidon is about to go down, we must save it. It is to be treated like the US flag. A few days later he does it again and the entire platoon makes a move to save the guidon. But now we find ourselves in the dirt pit because of our lack of discipline. While in formation we are not allowed to do as we please and we only move when told to do so. So we are wrong for doing a right and vice versa. Good ol' mind games. Morale to the story. Save your guidon and stand by to get dirty...
- Out in the field we were told to set up our hootches (tents) and to properly secure them. So after we were done we went on some mission out in the field. Upon our return later on that evening, every single hootch was yanked from the ground and tossed aside. It looked like a hurricane had passed through our bivouac site. This game even got me wondering what we did wrong. We were hungry, tired, and filthy and now we had to deal with this cluster fuck. Our DI's explanation was that one single hootch was left partially open and the infamous "hootch monster" had gotten inside of it and destroyed our camp. Lesson here was , our day is never over. Always make sure you can go for more. It's all in your mind. God bless the hootch monster. If I ever get my hands on that son of a bitch....
- Often in the chow hall our DI's were not allowed to yell at you unless you did something really bad. Chow time meant chow time. But often DI's would sneak behind you and just stare at you while you eat. It was the most uncomfortable feeling ever. Many times we didn't even finish our food or we ate it much quicker then usual. We thought he wanted us to get out ASAP. This was not a favorite game of mine as I was always hungry. He never said to "get out", but we always did. Lesson here. Eat faster next time.
- Often when our senior drill instructor would leave, our remaining DI's would make us say this saying as he walked out the hatch, "good night senior drill instructor SSGT Foreman, you are leaving us in well hands and soon we will be punished." And yes we were punished because they assumed we were treated "softly" by our SDI. Lesson here. There are good people in life and there are bad people in life. Get used to them.
- The international airport is directly behind the training depot in San Diego. Often recruits would get caught looking at the jets as they took off or landed. When caught they were made to stand there at attention and recite the Marine Hymn to all the passengers arriving or leaving. Lesson here. Memorize the Marine' Hymn.
- We were often made to feel like trash and failures despite doing good. We were made to feel guilty many times for things we had no control over. But at the time we didn't know that. Never expect praise and always expect to get treated like scum, because until you graduate that is what you are, SCUM. Lesson here. If you don't want to be treated like scum, then join the other branches.
- A DI from the platoon across from us loved to pick on me. I have no idea why. He would come over to our bay and ask my DI's if I could come out and play with him. Of course they said "sure", so off to play I went . He would thrash me in the morning, afternoon and evening every single chance he got. When I graduated he told me it was nothing personal. Lesson here. I don't know??
- The ever famous countdowns by USMC DI's. When you have one minute to do something it means you have about 15 seconds. They count in their own way to mess with us. A one minute countdown might go like this: 1 minute, 59, 58, 50, 40, 35, 23, 10, 5, 4, 2, 1, YOUR DONE. This teaches you to always move with the sense of urgency and never use the allotted time.
- One time a DI told me to get onto his quarter deck for some needed thrashing. He said it was only going to be about 10-20 seconds worth of diamond push-ups. Inside I was happy, so I began my punishment. It was one of the worst thrashings I had ever endured. He counted so damn slow that I almost cracked. It went something like this: 10 seconds, 9 seconds, 9 seconds and a half, 9 seconds and a quarter, 8 seconds and three quarters, 8 seconds and a half and so on and so on, but as he was counting down he was draaaaaaging each word out as loooonnnnnng as possible. The ten seconds lasted about five minutes and I was covered with sweat and was very very very sore. A classic mind game and a very brutal one.
- Many times drill instructors from other platoons mess with you. They will try to make your platoon react to what they say. You have to listen to who is giving the command. If we failed then he would tell on us and so begins the chain of events. Since we wanted to be lead by other DI's not in our platoon, then we were sent to the pit. Awaiting us there would be the DI from the other platoon and our DI would leave for several minutes. When he returned he simply would tell us, "maybe next time you will only listen to who is in charge of you." and that was a lesson to be remembered.
- The never ending attempts by DI's to make you lose your bearing. Often DI's will say the silliest of things to get you to crack up. One dark green DI said I was a racist and that I hated him. He asked me why I hated dark greens and at the time I had no freakin idea what a dark green was. It is how Marines refer to black Marines. I told him I did not hate dark greens and he simply left me alone. Another DI told me I had a body shaped like a cartoon character. I almost busted out laughing because I had never heard that before. He asked me "what the hell is wrong with you recruit?'', and I didn't know how to respond. Many questions they ask you do not have answers and they are merely trying to test your bearing and attack your character. They want you to react, but it is never personal. Now when I look back I kind of do look like Homer Simpson somewhat..DOH''
- Many times to show off our Di's would march us directly towards a wall. I guess they wanted to see if we would smash into it. But at the very last moment they would give us a column right or left command and we would be spared the humiliation. As long as the squad leaders did not flinch we were good to go. Trust in yourselves and remain disciplined.
- Many times while on the massive parade deck practicing our close order drill, civilians would stop by to watch us. If caught sneaking a peak at them we were made to go stand at attention next to them for several minutes. I can only imagine what the poor civilians thought of this punishment. Keep your eyeballs where they belong and don't worry about the nasty civilians. This technique also made the civilians go away which only led to more mind games.
- These were just some of the mind games played on us by our five drill instructors. They sucked at the time but they do accomplish their mission which is to build character and to toughen the mind. So get used to them because they continue well into your USMC career, but not as often.
- Mind games do not end after boot camp. This is what makes serving in the Marines so hard for many. Many do not like the mind games played on you all throughout your career. This is why you must accept what you get into. Don't enlist and then bitch and moan when you see it is not for you.