Although, we were starting to feel salty, especially when we would pass by a bunch of scared new inductees. We were starting to look like Marines.
We didn’t bounce when we marched and our spit shined boot heels cracked on the asphalt in unison.
We were looking forward to getting out of this place, I suppose, every bit as much as a convict anticipates getting out of prison.
During the last week we prepared for our final inspection. Then the big day arrived. Graduation Day.
We went to breakfast as usual, and then we went back to our huts to get ready.
We laid all our clothing and equipment out on our racks for inspection, exactly as it was shown in our Guidebook for Marines, on page 49, entitled Clothing Inspection – Junk on the Bunk.
The Drill Instructors checked to make sure it was perfect.
Then we showered and shaved and the Drill Instructors inspected our faces using a flashlight to make sure we hadn’t missed any stubble. If we had, we were made to dry shave.
Shoes and Barrack-Cover brims were polished like mirrors. Brass gleamed like gold. Then we got into our dress uniforms. The tropical uniform, since it was summer.
Finally, we were ready.
Our Drill Instructors gave us their final rifle and personnel inspection, and then marched us out onto the Grinder, parade ground. There were four platoons in our series, and we were all lined up side by side.
All the Drill Instructors were in dress uniforms, Campaign (Smokey the Bear) covers and NCO swords. The band was in formation in front of the base theater, and in front of them was the color guard.
Directly across from us were portable bleachers that had been set up for our families and friends.
Graduating From the Marines
Our Battalion Commander and his staff inspected us, and our Drill Instructors were as nervous as we were.
They were being inspected, too. After all, we were the proof of all their work. If we failed, so did they.
We were gone over with a fine-toothed comb. Uniforms were inspected for military alignment, Irish pennants (loose threads), shoes and cover brims checked for any stray flecks of dust, rifles were randomly inspected, and questions were asked. We passed.
The band and color guard started down the parade ground playing a Sousa march and we fell in behind them. It was the first time we had ever marched with a band and it felt good. As we passed the reviewing stand the band played the Marine’s Hymn.
Our senior Drill Instructor turned around and said, “They’re playing it for you.”
I don’t know about anyone else, but this Recruit got a lump in his throat.
We halted in front of the reviewing stand and listened to a speech by the MCRD Base Commander, A Major General congratulating us and welcoming us into the Marine Corps.
Then, the Drill Instructors were ordered to dismiss us and let us have base liberty for the rest of the day. The Drill Instructors saluted with their swords, turned and dismissed us.
One step to the rear, shout “Aye, aye, sir,” do an about face and we were dismissed. A few of the guys had family and friends there to watch them graduate, and they went to be with them. The rest of us stood around, not exactly sure what to do.
This Recruit Becomes a Marine
This Marine just walked around and explored the base for a while, then went to the PX snack bar (Gedunk) and got a milkshake, then browsed the PX for a while, waiting for someone to tear my head off.
This Marine bought a small Zippo cigarette lighter with the Marine Corps emblem on it, for his mother, while in the PX.
We were given free run of the base until late that afternoon. Then we mustered back in our platoon area. Back at the platoon area, we all stood out on the platoon road while our senior Drill Instructor called our names and gave us our new orders.
He also told us what our MOS’ were going to be. MOS stands for Military Occupation Specialty.
Most of the ex-maggots were 0300’s: Infantry. That’s what this Marine became: An INFANTRYMAN. But first, this Marine had to go through Infantry Training Regiment (ITR) at Camp San Onofre, on the Camp Pendleton campus (a little further North up Padre Junipero Serra’s El Camino Real).
We spent the rest of the day and evening turning our rifles, 782 gear and equipment back to the armors and supply pogues. We packed our Sea Bags and got ready to leave MCRD.
This Marine thought that we could pretty much do whatever we wanted to, as long as we didn’t try to escape from Mother Green (Go over the hill). This Marine went down to the telephone exchange and called home.
The next day, we were bused up to the Camp Pendleton Base to join 2nd ITR. As we were riding to the Camp San Onofre Gate, on our way to 2nd ITR, we passed a 1,500-acre patch of green, right in the middle of all the brown of Camp Pendleton.
This “green spot” is the sole remainder of the 1841 Spanish Land Grant: Rancho Santa Margarita y Las Flores (The Flowers of Saint Margarita).
The families that live and ranch this land are the only people, on Earth, who have defied the United States Marine Corps, over real estate, and lived.
Next Week: Camp Pendleton and the End of Basic Training
Note: All photos used by permission of Thomas Gray