Thursday, May 5, 2011


The Marines refer to getting your feelings hurt as "butt hurt." Specifically, this term was associated with an incident that recently happened where educators came to view Parris Island. When given the opportunity to fight a Marine with pugil sticks, one teacher viciously attacked the Marine. The Marine responded with a dizzying blow to the educator's head which the educator decried as unfair. That is "butt hurt."

We were allowed to watch hand-to-hand combat and pugil stick fighting. This was at the beginning of a 50+ hour grinding ordeal called simply "The Crucible" where recruits, who were almost complete with their training, were put into an arena reminiscent of Gladiator (albeit a smaller version). 

Two by two, they entered into the arena (one through each of the four chutes), running as fast as they could, pugil sticks above their heads, and yelling at the top of their raspy voices. At each doorway inside the arena, a recruit with a shield stood inside the doorway, waiting to prevent the recruit charging down the chute from entering his "porthole." He did this by slamming the recruit into the wall.

Some of these boys looked like they had never fought before. Some of them fought liked they had (especially several of the tatted ones). If the instructors did not believe the recruits to be fighting hard enough, the refs would stop them, sometimes sending them out to do crunches.

After a minute or two, the instructors would make them lie their sticks at the front of their doors, come back to the middle, and lie on their backs in the sand with their heads together. When he blew the whistle, they had to get up, retrieve their pugil sticks, and fight again.

The pugil stick exercise actually taught the recruits how to fight using their rifles. It is the length of the rifle, and the placement of the hands are roughly the same distance from the rifle butt to the handgrip near the barrel. When recruits were finished, they were made to line up outside the arena against the wall. One recruit signed me.

It was eerie watching these recruits go at it, especially as many of them (I am sure) were prevented from having these kinds of fights growing up. The recruits had no idea who was waiting for them in the arena. Sometimes the sizes were woefully unmatched. But it didn't matter. I watched a Hispanic recruit barely five feet pummel this kid who stood over six feet.

There was no "butt hurt" here. It was about resolve before you see how large your opponent is. It is about representing your battalion. It was about pushing beyond yourself to do what needed to be done under the watch of your DI (none but the four recruits inside the arena could see what was going on as the chutes were angled). But they could hear the blows, the shouts from the refs, the whistleblows, and the cheers or instructions from the DI's (which, interestingly, had a lot to do with food like "Recruit, eat him up" or "Recruit, I don't want seconds"). Regardless as to how built these recruits were, I saw men with mental resolve that would outlast mine by light years. 

Standing on the upper deck, looking down upon the recruits, many of the South Carolinian educators egged the boys on. I stood grimly, making eye contact with the underdogs who were finished and lined up to go through again. All I could do was to give them secret thumbs up. They stared back at me or else nodded their heads. 

I had an opportunity to pugil stick battle a Marine, but I chose not to do it. So I beat a Marine or he beats me, and what is learned? It doesn't really count. Many of the educators were trying to beat the hell out of the Marine instructor and others applauded when he would get in a good hit. 

I was seriously in too sober a mood and had too much respect for the Marine-making process and for these recruits who felt they were on display. I will save beat-downs for cocky educators. Maybe I am butt hurt at how too festive the mood was amongst us.

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