Chapter 3: Me versus the rifle and that nasty canteen

Every Marine is a rifleman, so they say. Me? I had problems just cleaning the rifle. While we were cleaning our rifles one night, I stuck a Q-Tip into the bolt carrier group. Big mistake. The end of the Q-Tip got stuck inside the bolt. How in the hell was I going to confess to my Drill Instructor, the one who loathed me and stared at me with hatred, that I broke the golden rule of rifle cleaning…don’t stick a Q-Tip in there? Great. I had nightmares for nights that my rifle would backfire on me and I would die. Cause of death: Death by Q-Tip with a burst of gun powder to the eye. Seriously, I had this dream
for weeks.
We headed on down to the range for a couple of weeks. I am not sure if they just wanted us women to look more pathetic than we already did, but we had to sing songs for everything we did. Our song? “I Believe I Can Qualify”. Fly, qualify, it rhymed, so we rolled with it. We would march back and forth from the range singing that stupid song. From that day forward, I didn’t care for R. Kelley. This song ruined him for me. So did his rape of a minor, but that’s besides the point.
Prior to doing our BZO, the armory personnel checked our weapons out for us. Beads of sweat poured down my face as I wondered if I would take a buttstock to the face for my Q-Tip incident. Great. I am next.
The armorer was easy on the eyes, granted any man at that moment would have been easy on the eyes since I was living with a room full of women. I was feeling hot that day because I was allowed to use my civilian glasses on the range. BCG’s or civilian eyewear? You know I chose wisely. No more PT strap and big, brown frames for me. I made eye contact with the armorer as he inspected my weapon. “What is your rifle serial number?” With all the confidence that I had, I said, “124134” (yes, I still remember my rifle serial number, but seriously, how could you forget that series of numbers? He looked at me and said, “You look good with those glasses. Let me know if you need anything.” And with a wink of the eye, he gave me the best gift every – a new bolt carrier group (start singing Handel’s Messiah in your head right). Praise be to God! I get to live. It had to be the glasses (thank you, Sears).

I shot well during Grass Week. I actually shot a tight grouping on my BZO and impressed my Drill Instructor. It was my favorite one of the three, so it meant the world to me when she said, “Great Job, Cox.” Wow. I wasn’t recruit or maggot, but Cox. I was so elated, until qualification day. I had a lot of pressure on me. I had range personnel, DI’s, the PMI’s and some other strangers watching me, because for a whole week, they kept telling me, “You will be the high scorer with the way you are shooting.” So what happens? I choked. I barely qualified and there went the love from the DI’s. Typical me. Choking when my best is needed. But the armorer did holler at me on the way off the range. “Nice meeting you, Kansas City.” Yep, he had a name for me. It was love at first sight of the new bolt carrier
As the end of my Basic Training neared, I looked back at all my accomplishments. Ran three miles in under 24 minutes (which was good for me), finished Swim Qual like it was nobody’s business, and I passed the “Slide for Life”. I conquered the repelling tower without fear, humped many miles without blisters, yelled my battle cry (since I am now a fierce killing machine), and I conquered the art of laundry. I could clean a squad bay with baby wipes and Brasso, and drill like the Marine Corps Silent Drill Team (okay, maybe not that well, but we did good). Wow. Amazing what 12 weeks does for a person. The last test before I earned the title Marine? The Crucible.
The Crucible is a test of strength, courage and endurance. It was all the hype back in the day.  It was what people feared all through Boot Camp. Me? I feared that stupid canteen that was issued. For 12 weeks, I tried not to drink out of them. For some reason, when I would take a drink out of it, I imagined all the backwash that was probably sitting in it from recruits prior to me. I feared the canteen. Drinking water was stressed to us throughout the evolution. While everyone was worried about completing tasks, I feared the Corpsman with the silver bullet. You see, the silver bullet is equivalent to an anal probing. It doesn't just happen in happens at the MCRD. I remember the Corpsman walking by to check to see the color in our faces. I continued to pretend to drink water as he walked by. You glared at me straight in the eye. I tipped my cover at him and I slowly brought the canteen to my lips. It was like the Good, the Bad and the Ugly (insert whistling sound here). Our eyes locked as he took out his silver bullet. But I fooled him. That Corpsman had nothing on me. I fought the canteen and I won. Okay, really I lost because I was really dehydrated and most likely damaged my kidneys, but hey, no one back wash was going down my throat unless there was a little tongue mixed in with it. The following day, I became a United States Marine.


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