Depot Duties Through the Eyes of a DI

The sounds of their cadence roll through the halls and across the grounds of the depot.

Up to 65 Marines go to Drill Instructor School each cycle. During this training period, students learn methods of training recruits to become United States Marines.

The overall goal of this institution is to give these students as much knowledge from their instructors’ own experiences, as best they can, said Gunnery Sgt. Christopher L. Hambaugh, Drill Instructor School instructor.

Every instructor served time in the trenches before he became an instructor at the school. Drill instructors refer to the recruit training battalions as the trenches.

Instructors do everything they can to ready these Marines for the drill field.

“When we graduate Marines, we make sure they are set up,” said Hambaugh. “The decisions they make while training recruits will determine their success or failure, but every Marine leaves here with the tools.”

The average drill instructor has a shelf life of three years on the depot. He may spend two years with recruits and one at a battalion office or on quota, which is a period in a drill instructor’s term where he may step away from training recruits to specialize in one aspect of training – usually swim qualifications or martial arts.

There are many different billets on the drill field to include a chief drill instructor, company first sergeant and battalion sergeant major. Drill instructors who excel on the drill field may extend their term here.

“Some students are misled to believe that going to D.I. School is like going back to boot camp all over again,” said Sgt. Nicholas C. Hibbs, E Company drill instructor.

“This is not the case,” said Hambaugh.

“I would say it’s intense,” said Hambaugh. “It is stressful. The way it is set up causes a lot of self-induced stress. It gets the students stressed without us even getting involved, but Marines who truly want to be here will make it.”

For 11 weeks and two days, students are educated, tested, monitored and corrected by their instructors. On the third day of the twelfth week, they accept their diplomas and graduate into one of the Corps’ most famous jobs.

Running alongside his platoon, Sgt. Kevin Pirtle checks distance and alignment. During drill competitions, everything contributes towards the final score.

A recruit squad bay is a different obstacle. Facing the recruits for the first time can prove to be as stressful as forgetting a drill movement during teach-back tests at D.I. School. Teach-backs are designed for students to learn on a deadline.

Certain parts of the curriculum, like drilling movements, require students to demonstrate their knowledge in order to move on in the course. This is also a way to ensure proper knowledge and execution of the movement.

“I was worried that I would stutter and stumble and get confused,” said Sgt. Randolph D. Hubert, E Company drill instructor. “You just got to get into things until you no longer worry about what you can and can’t do, but what you need to do.”

“After recruiters, drill instructors may make the biggest impression on recruits,” said Hibbs.

“I do the same thing my drill instructors tried to do – successfully produce a basically trained United States Marine,” said Hibbs. “We are the ones who teach them all the basic knowledge. All the things they learn here, they are going to take to the fleet.”

Sgt. Jorge Maleno currently serves as a martial arts instructor on the depot. Drill instructors are given time away from recruits to serve in a variety of support billets within the regiment.

One of the drill instructor’s biggest concerns is sending a Marine to war without proper training.

“You ask any drill instructor about one of his recruits who died in Iraq, and you will see a grown man cry,” said Hubert. “It is personal pride in yourself that makes you want these kids to be better.”

During the first few cycles, new drill instructors learn how to live in their new atmosphere. Life as a drill instructor can be extremely challenging due to the long hours at work and limited time for anything else. Three months at a time, drill instructors devote themselves to their recruits.

“I expected to work,” said Hubert. “I expected to be hit with different problems. It’s not like the fleet where you deal with 30 Marines. We deal with 80 different recruits every three months – 80 different personalities.”

Sacrificing time for recruits is more of a hardship for some.

“Long hours,” said Hibbs. “Being away from my family was the most difficult part.”

According to Hibbs, some workdays lasted 20 hours or more.

While being a drill instructor may be one of the more tiresome jobs in the Marine Corps, Hubert thought of a few reasons to sign up for the next course.

“I’m making a difference,” said Hubert. “All the Marines I looked up to, master sergeants, gunnery sergeants, they were all drill instructors. I loved their leadership styles – how they lead Marines. In the beginning, I did it to further my career. Now I enjoy it. Of course it’s worked. Your head hurts, feet hurt and you miss your TV shows.”

While their mission stays the same, new drill instructors bring new flavor to Recruit Training Regiment four times a year. With sore feet and soar throats, drill instructors find a way to continue the production of the world’s most powerful fighting force.