Who says Drill Instructors don't bounce? (A memory)

This personal anecdote was inspired by my recently establishing correspondence with one of my Drill Instructors after 31 years. Ahh Paris Island! What a place!

Drill Instructor Sergeant Gilchrist once told us that "Marines don't walk, they glide." That was his way of imparting a little style and bearing into our otherwise ungainly selves.

Let's face it; his was a difficult task in turning a pack of total civilian pukes into something resembling Marines in a mere 13 weeks. Indeed Sgt. Gilchrist had a unique gliding walk that was as far from a diddy-bop as he could possibly manage. The guy had style I tell you!

His usual demeanor was cool and unflappable, and he presented a stone-faced mask of hard military bearing at all times. And I only saw him lose that cucumber cool just one time. I no longer recall if it was day or night. That's not just the passage of nearly 31 years either; Marine Corps bootcamp being a strange place where the intensity of events at any given time can crowd out such mendacities as whether the sun is up or down.

Our footlockers containing all our worldly goods were neatly grounded in front of our racks. The narrow distance between the racks translated into very even distances between the footlockers, and Drill Instructor Sergeant Gilchrist was walking in a slow and measured fashion along the tops of those footlockers. He was monologuing as I recall - about what I do NOT recall. We, were standing "on line" at our usual position of Attention, listening to the drone of his voice.

Ahh but the floor was slick concrete. And one false step by Sgt Electro-glide sent one of those footlockers flying out from beneath his foot, and him crashing to the deck!

Hmmm... here was something we hadn't ever seen before: A DI in a compromised or embarrassing position. I mean, these guys had their sh*t in one sock 24/7/365! You NEVER saw one do something amiss. And here we were, witnessing one literally BUST HIS ASS!

I've never seen a human rubber ball - until that exact moment!

He went down.

And in a nanosecond he was back on his feet. Bruce Lee would have envied the speed with which our esteemed instructor righted himself.

If a disinterested party had walked into the room at that precise instant he would have presumed that WE had flung Sgt Gilchrist bodily onto the floor. He breathed dire threats of such doom and destruction that adequate words of description fail me utterly. Mostly it took the form of a grievous warning that none of us dare laugh - something along the lines of "I'll PT you all until you f*cking die!!!"

It was a struggle to keep a straight face let me tell you. And there was precious little to laugh or smile about there in 1st Bn. B Company Plt 1086 during the Fall of 1978. But there was the time Drill Instructor Sergeant Gilchrist busted his ass; and the memory of it makes me grin from ear to ear.


Diogenes said...

The D.I.'s of Parris Island were Gods and The Devil incarnate all rolled up in one. I remember all of the DI's for 2101 vividly and remember their names as if it were yesterday. The only time there was any break on the exterior was on the rifle range. That was from Sgt Skiles. He was a Camp Perry shooter and he made the range time exceedingly profitable to all of us in that platoon.

Ryan said...

Basic Training is a very interesting experience for sure. I went a couple decades later and for the Army but I imagine a lot of the basic themes are the same.