Welcome to Quantico
There is no yelling. No invective. No spittle-laced derision.It is a long story that covers five internet pages and follows some of the candidates though the first three weeks where the intensity level builds to a point where some question why they are there.
Instead, there is a soft, warm welcome for the dozens of young men and women reporting to Officer Candidates School at Quantico Marine Base in Virginia.
Arriving in polos and khakis, they check in at their leisure, anytime between 8 a.m. and 11:59 p.m., filing off buses or dropped off by well-wishing parents at what could just as well be the first day of college.
This is no Parris Island, the legendary boot camp in South Carolina where the drill instructors' ferocity explodes almost the instant that recruits arrive. But for the next six weeks, as Col. Rick Mancini told the candidates in his orientation speech, "every part of your body, your mind, your spirit will be tested. . . . Your world will be rocked."
For the U.S. Marine Corps, this season's crop of candidates is vitally important. Marines are leading the way in Afghanistan and continuing the fight in Iraq, with increased numbers to satisfy the demands of the two simultaneous wars. The Marines need more young men and women who are willing to face combat while most of their peers stay home.
My recollection is that it started out much more intense. We got our hair removed and were issued gear and a foot locker on the first night then seem to spend the rest of the night making and remaking our "rack" or bed.
By the time the candidates finish there will be little the staff does not know about their reaction to stress and their physical abilities. You cannot fool these people. But they will remind you of the honor of being a Marine officer. It is worth the sacrifice to be a leader of the best troops in the world.