This past July, the United States Air Force celebrated its 60th anniversary for basic military training. I was asked to "MC" the event and it was wonderful to see a great many TIs I trained with back in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. There were TIs present at the celebration that trained basic recruits as far back as when the Air Force broke away from the Army in 1947. Make no mistakes about all that I say. The Air Force Military Training Instructor is every bit as outstanding as the Marine Corps Drill Instructor. They have the exact same pride, dedication, honor and integrity in all that they do. And the work they accomplish is second to none.
But the Marine Corps has been doing it a hell of a lot longer than we have. This coming November 11th, they will celebrate their 231st year as the United States Marine Corps. And when it comes to the United States Marine Corps Drill Instructors, in my mind, they are the very ESSENCE of pure perfection!! When they say, "The few - the proud - the Marines", they ALL take it very seriously... and rightly so.
The foundation of the Corps is built by Marine Drill Instructors. It is the DIs that prepare the "few" - instill the "pride" - and make Marines of young men and women... and they do it all so very well. In the Corps, a marine remembers his DI for as long as he draws a breath. ALL they are taught - ALL they will remember - ALL that may save their lives, is taught them by a Drill Instructor... the most feared and professional individual in the Corps.
I trained basic recruits as an Air Force TI at Lackland AFB for almost 15 of my 22-year career. And during all those years, I was fortunate to train with fellow TIs who were once Marine Corps DIs. In 1968, I trained with a Staff Sergeant Delgado in the 3706 Basic Military Training Squadron (BMTS). His "Command Voice" was purely magnificient and it was from him that I learned to perfect my own command voice. SSgt Delgado was an outstanding Air Force TI and his military bearing was above reproach.
Each and every time the History Channel runs programming on Marine DIs, my wife and I anxiously tune in. They are a proud breed of individuals, just as Air Force TIs are, and to watch them work their magic is a pleasure, indeed. A Drill Instructor is an "artform" - one that definitely CANNOT be duplicated. A DI need never say a single word - yet, they are immediately understood. However, when they DO speak, it is something one shall never forget.
The Marine Corps Drill Instructor trains warriors in the purest sense of the word. When these young men gradate recruit training, they ARE Marines - and they are HIGHLY motivated! They are ready, willing and very capable of defending the security of our great country. And no matter how much more advanced training a Marine receives, the initial foundation of their lives in the Corps was firmly established and built by their Drill Instructor. As it is written on the Military Training Instructor's Association website: "No other figure in military lore exemplifies leadership more than that of the Drill Instructor. The Drill Instructor preaches a gospel of duty, honor, service to country, and the importance of the team above self. In the Marine Corps, they are Drill Instructors... In the Air Force, they are called Military Training Instructors and their professionalism is matched only by their dedication to duty.
Honor, integrity, dedication to duty and to those basic recruits within their charge, are but a mere few of the characteristics that Drill Instructors hold sacred. To this very day, even though I was a TI for all those many years, whenever I see a Marine DI or an Air Force TI, I cannot prevent the outburst of personal emotion, that at times, overcomes me. Yes, I am still filled with pride and honored to say, "I to, once was a "Brother of The HAT".
When I returned from Vietnam in 1971, I saw a Marine Recruiting poster with the words - "We don't promise you a rose garden." On the poster was a Marine DI with his angry face, nose-to-nose with a marine recruit. I got in touch with a friend of mine and told him about the poster and somehow, he managed to get me a copy. I immediately had it framed and then proudly hung it on my flight-office wall in my basic training barracks. I had that poster for over twenty years, and then, somehow, with all my moving around, it became lost. But if you are to look on my living room wall today, you will see that very same poster, proudly framed and hanging... and signed. Yep, the DI in the poster just happens to be my friend, Chuck Taliano, famously referred to throughout the Marine Corps as, the "Rose Garden DI."
On October 11, I have a scheduled booksigning at the Barnes&Noble book store (#1978) at 7610 Hazard Center Drive in San Diego from 1800 to 2000 hrs. While I'm in San Diego, I will be visiting MCRD San Diego - something I've desired to do for the past thirty years. I have a friend that is based there - Captain Jason Grose, and he told me he would introduce me to some of the DIs and I could visit the DI school. This is something I can't wait to do because I taught in the Air Force TI school in the 60s and then again in the early 70s. I must say, I am looking forward to speaking with the DIs and perhaps even "hoisting a few" with them!
In my book, TUFFY'S HEROES, I wrote a "toast" that I dedicated to all those basic recruit instructors in all branches of the armed forces. I'd like to use it here for the Marine Corps Drill Instructors: "I raise my glass to those very few, who walk-the-walk as Drill Instructors do. Just talking-the-talk is not where it's at, unless you're a Brother or Sister of the 'HAT'".
Tuffy - 2006
Sorry I'm a little late folks, but I thought I'd bring you all up to date on my trip to MCRD San Diego. First, it was thoroughly outstanding! Please bear in mind that I spend about three days a week out at Lackland AF Base with all the TIs. I'm invited to many of the training squadrons, and I do a great deal of "Guest Speaking" at TI graduation ceremonies and things of that nature. But MCRD San Diego was a completely different experience for me. It was an experience I shall never forget, and I made a great friend in First Recruit Training Battalion, Sgt Major Anthony Spadaro. This man is the epitomy of a US Marine Drill Instructor! I'm talking "Poster" qualified!!!
I got to see a ceremony awarding a Lance Corporal the Purple Heart and Bronze Star, Recruit Training Platoons get "pinned", a graduation parade... from the Reviewing Stand (I mean, Hey! Is that cool or what?!)! I observed recruit platoons drilling on the "Grinder" and found myself so pumped, I wanted to hit the Grinder and do a little drilling with the troops!! I was treated extremely well, especially when all the DIs I met realized that I had worn the "HAT" and spent almost 15 years as an Air Force TI during the 60s, 70s and 80s until my retirement in 1983. I must honestly admit that the Drill Instructors I met were outstanding in appearance and military bearing, but no more than Air Force TIs... except on parade day. Man, I'm tellin' all of you, if you haven't seen a Marine DI dressed out on parade day, and wearing a sabor, then you haven't seen anything!!!
I was also impressed with the wearing of "Duty Belts" by the DIs. This is something I would enjoy seeing TIs begin to wear. All in all, gang, it was a wonderful experience for this old TI and I signed and gave several copies of Tuffy's Heroes to the Drill Instructors, and of course, Sgt Major Spadaro. He sent me an email in November and told me he loved the book, and many things in the book resembled Marine Corps training practices. And of course, he also enjoyed the vast amount of humor.
These are the same comments that Gunny Ermey told me after he first read the book. So, all you great Marines out there, give Tuffy's Heroes a try. Believe it or not, I promise you it will definitely revive some of those memories of your recruit training, and if you enjoy military humor, this book will definitely hit the spot!! The book took me almost 28 years to complete. I started writing it in 1977 while assigned to the 3707 Basic Military Training Squadron, and finally finished it in 2003. If you would like to read a sample of it, look through my website and find the story about the basic recruit looking to get discharged by claiming he was a werewolf! It is a true story of a basic recruit I trained during the Vietnam War in 1968... you're gonna love it!!!