Marine Corps boot camp is thirteen weeks long and consists of three, four-month phases. The second phase is one in which recruits pack up their stuff and are bussed to another base where all of the field training and rifle qualification will take place. It’s exciting because the scenery changes, but stressful because it’s just boot camp in an unfamiliar place; at least one less familiar than the place that became home for the first four months.
Anyway, during this second phase recruits have to train in a number of field operations (basically training outdoors and sleeping on the ground at night, if you get to sleep at all). These field ops could last anywhere from two days to a week, and recruits get their first taste of an MRE, or Meal Ready To Eat. Anyone who has been in the military has most likely tried one; those who had more rigorous jobs have probably lived on them at one point of another. They are vacuum packed, which means they could survive the apocalypse. They are also calorie packed, which means they are designed for those living in harsh conditions and burning immense amounts of calories every day. It also means that each one has some sort of sweet treat in it, like candy or pound cake.
Drill Instructors don’t like candy or pound cake.
So, before each field op, we had to “field strip” our MREs before we put them in our pack, which just meant, “take out all the good stuff.” They made us throw all of these goodies into a giant footlocker that they put in their room and did God-knows-what with (as good of shape as they were in, I doubt they ate any of it, but maybe).
In boot camp, one must always be ready for a random search/absolute destruction of all their stuff. Go figure, this happened the day before our first field op, and, as it turned out, one recruit had decided he didn’t want to give up his M&Ms and Skittles. Well, he decided wrong. They found his stash.
What happened next will live in my memory for the rest of my life.
While the rest of the platoon sat at their footlockers and cleaned rifles, this genius recruit had to sit up on the quarterdeck (the open area of the squad bay near the Drill Instructors’ office, the main exit, and the bathrooms/shower rooms) in front of that giant footlocker and eat goodies from it and chug water until his stomach could take no more and he had to scramble to the toilet to expunge what he had just ingested . . . and then they made him do it again . . . and again . . . and again.
We all watched, with sick humor that eventually turned to disgust, and vowed to ourselves that we would never try to hide goodies as long as we drew breath.