This is Part 5 of a multi-part written series on the firsthand experiences of 1stSgt Crouch at United States Marine Corps Drill Instructor School. For Part 4, Click Here.
1stSgt Crouch served in the United States Marine Corps for 23 years, including four years as a Drill Instructor at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island and two years as a Drill Instructor at Navy Officer Candidate School in Pensacola, Florida.
After my two years as a Drill Instructor, I went back to the fleet and worked on airplanes again. However, after six months I began the process of requesting a second tour as a Drill Instructor. I finally got my wish and in October 1990, I was assigned to class 1-91. During the first day, I was asked, “Sergeant Crouch, are you going to be a course challenger or attend the entire three month course”? I opted for the course challenger approach.
Since I had already proven myself as a Drill Instructor, I would be afforded full privileges as a fellow Drill Instructor and not have to do anything but scheduled PT with the class. I would be fast tracked and out of the school in two weeks. Each day I would be taking one or two tests with the understanding that if I failed any event there would not be a retest, I would instead be rolled into the course as a full time student and have to endure the whole three months. What motivation to excel. I certainly did not want to do three months in DI school.
There were two other Marines with me as course challengers, a SSGT and a GYSGT. About the third day, the three of us were in our Charlie uniforms walking in step. When we were about 50 yards from the front of the school steps, an Instructor stepped outside:
Instructor: “STOP DEVIL DOGS – HOW ABOUT UNSCREWING YOURSELVES”.
Us: We looked at our uniforms, at each other and talked quietly about not seeing anything wrong when the Instructor barked, “HOW ABOUT GETTING IN ORDER BY SENIORITY OF RANK”. We looked like the Three Stooges as we changed places and resumed marching towards the school. I kept thinking, “Damn these Drill Instructors just don’t stop looking for errors”.
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When I checked into my room on Saturday, I spent the entire day organizing my wall locker and suggested my roommate do the same. Sgt Dixon’s reply was not what I expected, “I’m not worried, they can’t do anything to me until they give me the uniform preparation class,” he said.
“Look Sergeant Dixon. I am here for my second tour and I know what I am talking about,” I said with veteran authority. It fell upon deaf ears.
On Monday, check-in day at DI school, he had the audacity to park his vehicle (with a U-Haul trailer attached) in the First Sergeant parking spot. Everyone was told to walk to school, leave your vehicles at the barracks, but for some reason my roommate was off in his own world making up his own set of instructions. The First Sergeant walked on stage and shouted “WHO PARKED THEIR VEHICLE WITH A U-HAUL TRAILER ATTACHED OUTSIDE IN MY PARKING PLACE”?
Sergeant Dixon meekly stood up and replied, “I did First Sergeant”. The First Sergeant called him outside the classroom and the sound of Sergeant Dixon getting chewed off by an angry First Sergeant had a surreal feeling to it.
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1stSgt Crouch was a Marine Corps Drill Instructor at Navy Officer Candidate School and wrote a book entitled “The Pressure Cooker: Forging Naval Officers Through Marine Leadership“. The purpose of the Marine Corps Drill Instructors at Navy OCS was different than at Parris Island or MCRD San Diego. At Navy OCS, the job of the Marines was to make the officer candidates WASH OUT. Attrition was the mission.
The Drill Instructors at OCS were usually Gunnery Sergeants on their 2nd or 3rd tour of duty as a Drill Instructor – already having been seasoned with 2-4 years experience as a DI. Click Here to get the book and read stories about Marine Corps Drill Instructors inflicting endless pain on officer candidates with the goal of making them quit.
Near the end of my two weeks of daily testing, I took the weapons written exam. I passed the test scoring in the mid 90s, but when reviewing the few questions that I did miss, I disagreed with the answer on a question regarding grenades. GYSGT Scott Booth, who was not only my neighbor across the street but also a friend from my first tour as a DI and now working as a Squad Instructor at DI school said, “Who cares, you passed”.
“Your test answer sheet is incorrect Gunny, and I can prove it,” I said.
“Look Gunny, I missed the same damn question a year ago when I was a course challenger and I chose the same answer as you. I too challenged the question but lost. You missed the question,” said GYSGT Booth.
I took my time and spent maybe five minutes looking for the answer and I found it. I waited for him to return to the break room where I had taken the exam so I could show him. When he arrived I said, “here it is,” as I pointed to the weapons manual.
After about ten seconds of him studying what I showed him, he lost it and threw the book across the room. I was taken aback because I did not see why this was a big deal. So I asked, “Scott, what’s wrong with you”?
“I failed the weapons exam when I was a course challenger last year, and this one question I knew I had answered correctly. But I could not find the proof. If I had found it, I would have passed the test and would not have been recycled into the regular class for three months”.
I laughed because I thought it was funny it took him a year to learn he could have passed the test. Scott, however, was not seeing the least bit of humor in it.
(For the Final Part of this Series, Click Here)