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By Pat Lisi

The West Coast Drill Instructors Association met in San Diego, California in September, 2011 for their annual reunion.  The turnout was very good with over a hundred former DI’s and their spouses attending the Saturday evening banquet.

I was a DI at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD) San Diego from January, 1970 – May, 1972.  There are former DI’s in the group who served on the drill field as far back as 1955, and as currently as 2010.

The reunion was 4 days in length and lots of activities were set up for us.  The most fun for me was the day we all hopped on the bus shown below in the photograph, and got up to Camp Pendleton in time to see the recruits march in from the mountains to complete the Crucible portion of their boot camp experience.  We were seated in the bleachers by the parade deck at 0645 awaiting the arrival of the new Marines.  It is at this ceremony that they receive the Eagle, Globe & Anchor, an emblem that is most sought after by every human being who has ever served in the Marine Corps.  By the way, I am standing to the right of my wife who is in the back row wearing a white baseball style cap.

But, that wasn’t all we did at Pendleton.  After the emblem ceremony we headed down into the ‘butts’ for old time sake, to remind ourselves of what that was like.  The butts is the ‘dugout’ downrange where the targets appear and disappear while the recruits are firing their rifles.  The idea is that half the recruits work the targets in the butts area while their buddies shoot, and then they switch roles when it’s time for the other half to shoot their rifles.

We then attended a lecture at the ‘snapping in’ circle, where recruits get into the various shooting positions and then hold there for as long as their range coach tells them to.  We were allowed into the F.A.T.S. range which is an electronic rendition of the M-16 rifle and where you shoot at virtual targets that are computerized.  In reality the screen with the target is about 20 feet away, but the target you shoot with a laser appears to be 300 yards downrange.  It was curiously fun.

From there we had a meal at the Edson Range mess hall that really brought back memories.  After lunch we headed over to the 5th Marine Regiment camp at Pendleton and were treated to a martial arts demonstration put on by the instructors, followed by some lessons on various weapons they had on display like mortars, machine guns, shoulder fired rockets, etc.

It was about 1500 by then so we all piled back on the bus and were taken to our hotel in San Diego.

The other days of the reunion were at least as busy as this day was.  Friday was spent at MCRD with several programs to attend, including a graduation of 500 Marines.  There is a fabulous Marine Corps museum at MCRD that we visited, and all us former drill instructors got to re experience what it was like getting off a bus in a panic and finding a set of ‘yellow footprints’ to stand at attention on while real DI’s hollered at us.

Saturday there was a golf tournament for those who do that, and an outdoor BBQ.  The banquet topped off Saturday’s agenda.  Sunday was a meeting of the association members to discuss future events, elections, etc.  Everyone headed for home around noon.  All in all a great few days spent with people you knew way back when.

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