Expecting a full-metal jacket style greeting, we midshipmen arrived at Camp Geiger, a subset of Camp Lejuene, N.C. Instead, the sergeants issued us Kevlar helmets, flak jackets, camping gear, and canteens with a “we want to yell at you but we’re not allowed to” attitude.
The Lieutenant in charge of Professional Training-Midshipmen (PROTRAMID) told us that we would sleep well during Marine week. He was right. Every day we woke up at 0530 or earlier for morning formation. After forming up in platoons, we marched over to the chow hall- eliciting bad Plebe Summer memories. We then commenced the day’s evolutions. The officers worked hard planning Marine week. We stomached the Hercules, Hornet, and Prowler simulators; saw every artillery piece in the Marines’ arsenal; rode on a Sea Stallion and an Amphibious Assault Vehicle; fought with pugil sticks; ran the obstacle course; and scaled the rappelling tower.
However, the highlight of Marine week was the firing range. After the Marines fired a dozen mortar rounds, the midshipmen fired the MK 19 automatic grenade launcher, M240G machine gun, M249 SAW, M203 grenade launcher, and the M16 rifle. The Marines recruited many more midshipmen that day, as midshipmen found firing these weapons in real life way better than firing them on a video game.
While we certainly enjoyed our time, we realized that the Marines had a war to fight. Camp Geiger houses the Marines School of Infantry (SOI). Marines who chose infantry out of boot camp report to SOI for more advanced infantryman training. Many of those newly-minted PFCs would deploy to Afghanistan after their 59 days at the SOI. Whenever I would consider complaining about the early morning wake-ups or the seemingly needless hurry-up-and-waits, I would look at those PFCs and stop all my complaints. I think a lot of midshipmen experienced a wake-up call when these young Marines called us Sir/Ma’am.
On the last day, the Marines inspected every piece of gear issued to us upon arrival, from the canteen pouches to the kevlar helmets. Naturally, one mid misplaced his canteen on the last day. The Marines made us go back in the barracks and look in every nook and cranny for the missing piece of gear. While we midshipmen griped about losing one canteen, we learned that Marines don’t mess around with accountability and will never leave anyone or anything behind. We ultimately found the canteen.
Overall, Marine week gave us a good understanding as to how Marines operate and what Marines expect out of their officers. Our PROTRAMID Company will spend this upcoming week on a ship in Norfolk, Va., and train with the SEALs one morning.