Offended? That was the Point!

By now everyone has heard that R. Lee Ermy, a Marine, an actor, and a really good man who did a lot to help the men and women in the military in his own way, has died at age 74. The role he is most famous for was in Full Metal Jacket, where he played a Drill Instructor.

For those not familiar with the military, the DI is the man or woman tasked with the hopeless, impossible job of turning recruits into sailors, soldiers, and Marines. A Marine recruit is the only thing on Earth lower than whale sh-t, and the DI’s job is to raise said recruit to the level of Marine. All while serving as an example of what a Marine, sailor, or soldier is to aspire to become. No pressure, right?

So, since the excerpt is highly offensive, but isn’t really, it is below the fold.

The first minute and thirty seconds gets the sense across.

A friend of mine wanted to be a Marine DI, but the slot she was assigned was in August. She perspires when she gets warm, perspires heavily, and that Is Not Done by DIs. So she had to find something else to do.

People get dreadfully offended by these scenes, and if you can find the expurgated versions, they are wildly funny because of the long beeps or silences. But that’s the point the sergeant is making – all are equally scum. He must have been a Calvinist, total depravity and all that. You can be a dago, kike, spic, Chink, wop, Mick, or whatever other cultural and ethnic group comes to mind, and he doesn’t give a sh-t. You are scum, to be made into a Marine. All are equal in the recruit barracks. There’s no discrimination.

I have quoted modified versions of this at students when appropriate. They are often surprised to learn that there were ethnic epithets long before “the N-word” became such a hot button.

Now a days, DIs are not supposed to use that kind of language and such abusive techniques on recruits. And recruits are all volunteers, not draftees or men who were ordered to join the Corps or go to jail. Something tells me, since Drill Instruction goes back at least as far as the Roman Republic and beyond, that centurions and sergeants have and will find ways to, ah, properly impress upon the wayward or slow that said recruit has committed a most grievous error or judgement and is worth less to the military than is the chewing gum on the sole of a private’s combat boot.

“Sir, yes sir!”

21 thoughts on “Offended? That was the Point!

  1. The whole concept of D.I. does go back millenia. At least in civilizations where you had a standing army. Honestly? Most of that invective in FMJ was probably scripted. It’s the attitude that was terrifying. I know my recruit training was interesting with a master corporal going on at length about how useless we were and not using one single four letter word. It was awesomely terrifying.

  2. The quality of new Privates reporting to duty after completing Basic Training has dropped remarkably over the last few decades. The response by the Brass has been, so far, to order the Drills to be nicer to the recruits, and make Basic longer to add in more PC lecture time. Army Basic was eight weeks when I went through in the ’80s. It’s eleven weeks now, and they’re talking about adding another week to instill the proper respect, discipline, and obedience.

    And we’re not even talking about physical training, or rifle marksmanship, or common task skills, and the lack thereof. Passing troops just to meet quotas (total numbers, race, and sex) is corrosive to good order and discipline.

    • No offense intended, but part of that problem is probably the way that a lot of Army commands have where they treat their soldiers like borrowed gear– it’s one thing to use your troops, it’s another to actively try to screw them over when they break because you did something stupid. I don’t know if it’s more common now, or if people just hear about it more– but even Air Force folks who are just on Army bases are getting that kind of “let’s try to screw them over so our numbers look better, rather than not doing dumb stuff’ crud.
      Examples: Like having your computer technicians move furniture Right Now instead of letting the contractors do it, even though there are only two of them…that guy was on year two of “I cannot feel my hand” and they kept trying to screw up the claim because the neuropathy is advancing. Or the reservist who was also a DOD employee, where they tried to “decline to re-enlist” him after he was diagnosed with cancer on active duty. Which is HUGELY illegal. Or the guy whose knee went out during a mandatory “Fun run” in training, was put on inactive reserve, and they’re now almost two years into the medboard…and that command has still not forwarded the medical files. Mandatory is 60 days, and they claimed to have done it already.
      And that’s just stuff I know about, from one base.
      Contrast with the Navy’s habit of “losing” medical records, especially when they document stuff you should be able to claim; that goes way back, but can be bypassed by keeping your own copies.

      • That is typical government bs, not restricted to the military. Which in no way means it is acceptable, just that it is a malaise that tends to run through those in power in any government bureaucracy, and needs to be weeded out whenever possible.

        I do agree with McChuck though, passing people to meet quotas is an extremely bad idea. It might be necessary if we were in an actual manpower intensive war where we needed cannon fodder. It would still be a bad idea. Doing it to satisfy somebodies tender sensibilities is either stupid or actively treasonous. I lean towards stupid 95+% of time.

      • You’ll have to work harder to offend me, Foxfier. đŸ™‚

        I’m talking about TRADOC – The Army’s Training and Doctrine Command. You know, where the Command Sergeant Major was once relieved for raping troops. They’re responsible for all basic and advanced individual training, and several other things.

        • Always a good idea to avoid hopping on toes, especially when it’s related to a very honorable subject– and if you can’t avoid stepping on the boots, at least say sorry. ^.^

  3. Ohio History. The infamous eating of UK-friendly Piankeshaw chief Old Britain’s heart by a bunch of French-friendly Ottawa, led by a half -French half-Ottawa trader/chief. (The rest of the guy got eaten too. But De Longlade ate the heart.)

    It all happened up in Piqua, close to us. So a big deal.

    Other traumatic readings included some bits of How the friendly Chief Logan was made unfriendly, and Why Gnadenhutten is a historical monument. I don’t think we got How 3/4 of the US Army got destroyed down the road at Fort Jefferson, probably because that teacher did not sing. (Gruesome local folksong.)

  4. Having been on the receiving end of a Navy Chief’s ‘dialog’ in boot camp a couple of times, it’s NOT limited to the Jarheads… sigh… And there are TWO goals for the DI, one to break down the individual, and two, to piss them off to the point they will do damn near ANYTHING to redeem themselves as a part of the ‘team’. It has worked throughout history, but today’s US military, not so much… When you can get a timeout, and go to your ‘safe space’, I fear for our military…

  5. “Now a days, DIs are not supposed to use that kind of language and such abusive techniques on recruits.”

    There were no doubt excessive abuses, so of course the answer is to not to watch for and weed out the abusers, but clamp stupid rules on everyone else.

    When I went to The Airborne School at Fort Benning in 1981, even then I found that the Black Hats — instructors, sort of the jump school equivalent to drill sergeants, but wore black baseball caps — could not call us D##&@$$ or any other profane noun, nor use any cuss word. So they had to come up with substitutes. Since I snuck into The Airborne School from the flank, as an AFROTC cadet that had not been through Army basic training first, I had not heard any of the quaint little sayings that had been developed in lieu of “soldier language”.

    So the first time one of these guys that looks like R Lee Ermey, jumps all redfaced and angry in my face and yells “DID YOU EAT STUPID SOUP FOR BREAKFAST?!?!?!?!” it was all I could do not to laugh at the incongruity of “stupid soup” during a butt-chewing. And he could tell I was trying not to laugh. Which did not please him. At all.

    Now the Army had also restricted its instructors on how much PT they could dole out as punishment in one go, one of which was only 10 push-ups could be meted out in a single instance. So the work-around, which the Black Hat kindly clued me in on, was “10 to the North, 10 to the East, 10 to the South, and 10 to the West!” That way I had to jump up and execute a facing movement between each set, and in their eyes that counted as four separate instances.

    And Lord help you if you didn’t know which way was North!

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