Through intense training, U.S. Marines learn how to react in combat without taking time to think. Then why—for example—while I was in Vietnam in 1966, did other Marines I depended on literally jump in the fire ignoring all of the training designed to mold boys in to a fighting, killing machine?
“Without doubt, Marine boot camp is more challenging—both physically and mentally—than the basic training programs of any of the other military services. Not only are the physical requirements much higher, but recruits are required to learn and memorize a startling amount of information. There are more than 70 training days in a period a little longer than 12 weeks …” then after boot camp, there’s training at the School of Infantry—another 51 days. Source: Surviving Marine Corps Basic Training
But in Vietnam, that training failed for more than one Marine putting others on their combat team at risk.
The first incident: I was on a night patrol, and the patrol leader—without telling the rest of us—took off through the rice paddies in the inky darkness. He thought he heard the enemy and without much thought decided he wanted to be a John Wayne.
After he vanished without a sound, the rest of the patrol—including me—set up a defensive position thinking we were going to get hit hard, and we almost shot our sergeant when he returned after chasing his imagined enemy that turned out to be a panicked duck and her chicks as they fled this manic Marine.
The second incident took place on Hill 50-something [hills were named by their elevation]. Four of us were out inspecting the barbed-concertina wire along the camp perimeter. Under the wire were landmines and in front of the wire, outside the defensive perimeter, were trip flares.
We were inside the wire thinking we were safe in the darkness—it was midnight, cloudy and raining and visibility was a few feet—when one of those trip flares outside the wire went off and lit us up as if we were in Law Vegas on a sidewalk.
Continued on July 31, 2013 in Forgetting basic training and jumping in the fire: Part 2
Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran.
His latest novel is the award winning suspense-thriller Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.
And the woman he loves and wants to save was fighting for the other side.
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