SBS 301 Cultural Diversity/Prof. Koptiuch Fall 2009 Personal Memory Ethnographies
Marine Corps Diversity 101
November 13, 1997, leaving Chicago, IL. , and arriving at Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRDPI) Parris Island in Beaufort, SC., is where I and Marsha Mullins, another female, leaving Utah, learned extensively about diversity. Mullins had not been exposed to a variety of differences living in such a small town in Utah and certainly not as intimately as the experience in Marine Corps boot camp. I, on the other hand, had been exposed to a variety of differences just living in Chicago but not as intimately as the experience in Marine Corps boot camp either. The abrupt interjection into an environment of differences such as Marine Corps boot camp is commonly known as a culture shock.
As for me, I did not speak to many words on the bus ride to Parris Island-(PI). Mullins on the other hand was so excited. I sat alongside her on the way to PI. We had been up most of the night processing at the MEPS station. I and a few others were tired and drained from the process but Mullins and many others were up and running off of pure adrenaline from the excitement of this new adventure we were about to partake in. So many of them were talking about why they joined, how they felt, where they were coming from and so on. When I arrived at MCRDPI I didn’t know what to expect. I was anxious, scared and excited at the same time. We were assigned squadrons, introduced to our Drill Instructors (DI), and assigned a bunkmate.
Mullins and I were in Platoon 2008/9, which had 6 DI’S who were very radically, and diverse in selection. 0 dark 30 – That is the time we got up every morning for PT-Physical Training in the Marine Corps, not just in boot camp. We did more before 6am than most did all day. And the rain, I hated it because my hair would look like a used scratch pad once it got wet. The Marine Corps saying was “if it ain’t raining, we ain’t training” because it didn’t matter if it was raining or not, we actually did more of everything when it was. After PT, and sometimes during, we had to acknowledge Colors. Colors happen every morning at dawn in the Corps. We would hear the trumpets play and soon to follow was the raising of the flag. No matter where we Marines were/are we had/have to stand at attention and salute (if in uniform) the passing, raising and lowering of the U.S. National Flag. It has always been such for other branches of the Armed Forces to salute when not in uniforms but not for Marines. A law, which was recently passed for Marines, allows us to be able to salute the flag in or out of uniform.
In the first week of boot camp it was mandatory to have diversity awareness training because of such an eclectic environment. I had been exposed to many different types of people but I had not had to depend on them in such a way as boot camp. I was surrounded by a gathering of 120 females from all different realms of society with a variance of personalities intensely extreme. It was truly a collection of differences and not just by race but status, class ethnicity, nationality, and religion.( I am excluding sexuality because we had a don’t ask don’t tell policy in place.) And so the diversity training commenced!
I grew up on the Southside of Chicago which was predominately black and gang infested. My neighborhood, Englewood, was infamously known for its outlandish gang activities, corruption, and violence. I had Chicago police as security guards at my high school. So enforcing the cliché, I am from the hood, outlines where my perspective comes from.
Mullins grew up on in a small town in Utah which was predominately white, lower and upper middle class. Her neighborhood was known for being conservative, routine oriented and downright boring. She knew all of her neighbors from two blocks down and all the children, who are friends to date, had known each other since they were 3 years old. So enforcing the cliché, I am a small town girl, outlines where her perspective comes from.
In this diversity awareness training in boot camp we had to share explicit details about the environment from which we came, our culture, morals, and values. I self-disclosed about being a black girl “from the hood”, Mullins self-disclosed about being an upper middle class white girl who lived a boring life with no real exposure to anything, a white supremacist self-disclosed, a pampered rich girl, the poverty stricken girl, and another who claimed she was oblivious to race. The diversity revealed was so profound; it truly was a culture shock. I remember feeling angry and engulfed at what I was hearing as did Mullins. She professed that she wasn’t aware of the violence, racism, poverty among many other things that was going on in the world. I was mostly angry because now I had to depend on these females who had such ill and unconscious feeling towards others of different backgrounds: race, class, status.
At the conclusion of the training we were told to disregard all of our differences because now we were a band of sisters in One Corps, for One Country, and One Cause. And if we were going to make it from this point forward we would have to stick together and look out for one another as “Female” Marines. Female Marines is a term that I consider discriminatory and also have come to resent; the title (is what we’re given) and name (is what we’re called). I am a Marine! We went through the same training and endured the same exertion for the same amount of weeks as a male Marine. We even went through additional field training together. You don’t hear the term Male Marine, so why are we to be distinguished as Female Marines? We are all simply Marines! Once a Marine, Always a Marine! This experience was definitely an eye-opener to the various differences we have.
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