Updated: Apr 10
I dropped out of Bible school at the end of the semester. Everyone there acted like I was Jonah or something. Running away from God. I showed up to Boot Camp in San Diego on February 12, 1996. Guaranteed Infantry. I won’t talk much about Boot Camp. You can watch Full Metal Jacket for that. But I will say that the Marine Corps manages to accomplish an awful lot in three months. After that I went to the School of Infantry (SOI) as an 0311 – Rifleman. Afew weeks into it we had some guests come in. They were all jacked, and their sleeves were rolled up to just below their elbows – which was out of regulations - and they wore sunglasses on their heads and big watches and afew of them were “dual cool”. They wore shiny gold jump wings and a dive bubble on their chests. It was Recon. People always talked about Recon but no one really knew much about them. They were taking applications for their selection course. The line to sign up was long. There was still a good chance I could get into the Naval Academy from the Marine Corps, and I had no intention whatsoever of derailing my hopes of it by mucking around with the snake-eater shit that that Recon guys were there to sign us up for, so I stayed in my seat. Until there was only one guy left signing his name. Then I couldn’t help it. I went up and signed my name too. I was the very last one. There were well over 200 names on the paper. 12 of us were selected and invited to take the Recon Indoctrination. 3 of us passed and got orders to 1st Recon Company after SOI.
I was at Recon but no way I was a Recon Marine when I first showed up. Not until I went through a lot of shit. They called us “Ropers”. We wore a 12 foot sling rope, doubled and tied in a sheet bend in a big loop that went behind the neck, in front of the shoulders and ending at the lower back with the knot. We ran everywhere we went, and at any time any of the Recon Marines, regardless of rank, could stop us and ask us questions pertaining to our knowledge of various subjects we’d been taught, test us on our knot tying, or just make us do push-ups or anything else they felt like doing, drunk or sober. I was one of a handful of Ropers floating around waiting for a RIP (Recon Indoctrination Program) class to start up for about a month and a half. It was constant thrashing and studying. There was so much that we had to learn: Radio antenna wave propagation, land navigation, demolitions, patrolling, equipment, calling in air support, calling artillery, calling Naval guns, small craft rigging and handling, nautical navigation, tidal currents, Initial Terminal Guidance, reporting, combat swimming, combat life saving... it was a lot, but all with a very heavy emphasis on patrolling. Patrolling was everything. Patrolling is what makes Recon super-ninja. We do it better than anyone else.
We used to run telephone poles up Margarita Peak all the time. Margarita Peak. Fuck. You didn’t exactly run up it. The last 100 yards was more of a crawl on all fours, because the face was so damn steep you could just stick your arms out in front of you and you were crawling. When I went in to see the dentist one time, they ask me why there were bare spots behind my ears were all of the skin had been rubbed off. I said it was from carrying the telephone poles on my shoulders, and then I fell asleep while they worked on my teeth. They woke me up after they did their dental work and I left and joined the others to do it again. Another fun game was thrashing in the laundry room. They used to lock us in the laundry room and turn all of the dryers on high heat and we would live in there and thrash and thrash and sweat all night long.
Pre-scuba. Pre-Fucking Scuba. The hardest thing you’ll ever do in this life, my Son, is a legit Pre-Scuba. I did 2. Mother – T - Fucker! I did the first one because, like I said, I was a Roper and I was waiting for my RIP class to start and there were not enough new guys at the Company to start up a class yet, so I ended up going to a company Pre Scuba just to pass the time. Holy Shit. They put us in teams in the second week. My dive buddy was a Hispanic dude who they had let into the Marine Corps in spite of the demonic rat tattooed on the side of his head. We called him Chewy. Motherfuckin’ Chewy and me tore that shit up. When they’d “hit” you, you just had to make yourself relax in spite of every urge to struggle, and hold on to your dive buddy. Hold on to your dive buddy with one hand and to your tanks with the other. We wore the dive tanks full of air (so they were heavy and negatively buoyant), but no regulator, just a snorkel to breathe through. I tried to breathe shallow so they would hit me on my inhale. It didn’t work. The hand comes over the snorkel on the exhale or a knee to the solar plexus. Or both. You have no breath left in your lungs. And down you go in a swirl of violence to the bottom of the 12 foot pool. You can feel the water pressure in your ears. You can only hear dull and flat sounds. It’s a flurry of punching and knees and ripping off equipment. Anything that can be ripped off, tanks are stolen if possible, fins come off, masks, everything comes off or is fucked with except for the weight belt that drags you down… and then it’s over. It’s you and your dive buddy on the bottom of the pool with all your equipment spread across the floor of it. You want to breathe like mad by now. But you know you have to stay calm and conserve your oxygen. If you don’t you’ll fucking die. Keep your head. Don’t panic. Don’t shoot to the surface, control the fear and gather up your shit. Help your buddy. Once it’s done and you are properly wearing all of your equipment again, you give your buddy the ok and the hand signal to surface, four fingers, and ascend slowly with your hand in a fist above your head. Your mask is still full of water and so is your snorkel. But if you break the surface of the water with your face and gasp for air you’ll go down again in a flash and without so much as another breath. You break the surface with your snorkel and the top of your head, face still in the water. Use all the air left in your lungs to clear the snorkel of water, then blow the water out of your mask with your nose and continue with the rest of the class to swim slowly in a circle, head and eyes down, waiting patiently for the next hit. Job well done. Me and Chewy were top of the class. He died in a helicopter crash a couple years later. I have scars on my face from when I got drunk that night. One of the best men I’ve ever known. After that Pre-Scuba my RIP class started.
NOTE: Finally Somehow Home is a separate book from The Perfect Fucking Life, and is not yet in publication at the time of this post.
All this shit is written and created by Jason Lee Morrison © 2022