Why Be a Leader? Become a DI Instead

One of the best SNCOs I knew said, ‘the drill field is the one billet where you can be successful without displaying any real leadership qualities.’

Like all of us, I have quite a few boot camp stories, and don’t hate the ever-loving shit out of the DIs I had. For instance, if one was on fire, I’d cross the street to piss on him. But that’s just common courtesy.

Having said that, let’s get to a couple of examples of the finest leadership in the world.

SSgt BlueFalcon

SSgt BlueFalcon was our 4th DI. Being new, he was a bit clueless. He talked with a voice like a buzzer so everything he said sounded fucked up without having to yell, and he may have actually been a GySgt the month before we got him in phase 2 of our training.

I’m not kidding. This motherfucker showed up in phase 2 with all his gear marked in Gunny chevrons. Now, it’s totally possible that he just got a helluva deal off a retiree, or maybe found stuff in his size at a second-hand shop, but there were signs that something shady was going on, and that my SDI was babysitting the shit out of him. Honestly, for me to notice, it had to be painfully obvious.

So there we were one day with Gunny – I mean SSgt – Blue Falcon in charge of us. I hadn’t eaten lunch and there was a tray from the chow hall for me. I kept requesting permission to eat, and BlueFalcon kept saying no. So I kept asking, because (A) I wanted to eat, (B) fuck him, and (C) I wanted to eat. It got to the point that other recruits were telling me to stop. Apparently, my wanting lunch was getting annoying for the fed.

Eventually, we were forming up to get a class at the movie theater, and I still hadn’t eaten lunch, nor would I since dinner was right around the corner. While there I went to my SDI, who had his own to go tray from the chow hall, and asked him for permission to eat lunch as SSgt BlueFalcon stood behind me, glaring indifferently over my shoulder.

“You haven’t eaten?” he asked.

“No, sir.”

With an incredulous look at BlueFalcon, who honestly could not have given less of a crap, my SDI handed me his own food, which I took because (A) fuck him, (B) I wanted to eat, and (C) fuck him.

I took it outside, where another great act of leadership occurred.

SSgt Charming

Since dignity can be foregone for hunger I sat on the cement facing a brick wall to enjoy my lunch with a swarm of delicious sand fleas, but who should be out there but a male/female DI duo, talking about some such shit. I can’t recall the conversation, so I’ll fill in the blanks the best I can:

“Yeah,” he said, “so I started eating my Chef Boyardee raviolis with a K-Bar.”

“Hmm,” she said, listening intently, her blonde hair pulled.

“It’s a real time-saver, because now I don’t have to tactically acquire my weekly supply of plastic ware from mini PX like I used to.”

“I converted old tea bags into Maxi Pads,” she chimed in, not wanting to seem less thrifty than him, “and vice versa.”

“Hey you!” SSgt Charming said at me, “you better hurry up with that chow.”

“Yes, sir!” I called.

“Did I ask you a question?” he demanded.

“No, sir,” I called, knowing full well that the answer to a question is yes, and the answer to a command is aye, because (A) we’re in the Navy, (B) fuck me, right?, and (C) we’re in the Navy.

“So what do you say?”

“Aye, sir!”

“I just asked you a question, now answer it!”

“Yes, sir!”

“That was a command!”

“Aye, sir!”

The aye-sir-yes-sir game can actually go on for an indefinite period of time, but SSgt Charming had his Snow White waiting, and since she didn’t seem to want to jump in on the action he cut it off.

“Okay,” SSgt Charming told me, “you have sixty seconds to finish that chow.”

I shoved what I could down, and was then told I was done, because, like a leader, he had a girl waiting, and it’s not like I couldn’t just eat anytime I wanted…..oh, wait.

 

The interaction of male and female DIs is actually really funny because they share this completely fucked up lifestyle, must be very lonely, and aren’t functioning in any normal capacity – even for a marine – bringing me to the final story of stellar leadership.

Sgt ImpressHim

It was Liberty Sunday. We had 4 hours to eat food, talk to other recruits, and do whatever, so long as we were with a battle buddy.

At the PX I saw a young woman who I’d shipped out from MEPS with. We started talking and caught the attention of a male/female DI duo. From the corner of my eye he grunted something at her with a chin nod in our direction, and, wanting to impress him with her skills, she came striding in with her manly-march-walk.

“So what’s going on here,” she said, prompting that young lady and her battle buddy to scurry off.

“I was talking to Recruit MepsFriend.”

“So she’s your buddy.”

“No, ma’am.”

Off to the side I could hear Sgt ChuckleFarts giggling to himself with a staccato of shoulder raising.

“You two like smokin’ and jokin’ together.”

“No, ma’am.”

“She’s your MEPS buddy? The two of you hang out all the time.”

“No, ma’am.”

 

Just as recruits should have transitioned from calling the DIs by their rank instead of sir and ma’am, we should have also started engaging in normal human behavior like talking to people without reprisal or games. Had Sgt ImpressHim been an actual leader she would have either (A) done nothing, or (B) come over and said hello. If Recruit MepsFriend got scared and took a step toward escaping, she should have reined her back and excused herself, apologized for interrupting, and paid the young lady a compliment for what a fine marine she is going to be. Lastly, Sgt ImpressHim could have introduced herself to me, and said something crazy like, ‘it was a pleasure meeting you, PFC. Good luck with your career.’

But DIs don’t have to be leaders; they just have to be there: babysitting recruits poorly, making sure they get fed, stay moderately hygienic, and then get the hell out of there.

Author: Chris Pascale

Christopher Pascale is the author of War Poems: A Marine's Tour 2003-2008. He served in the Marine Corps as a combat engineer.