Good morning ladies and gentlemen, and happy new year. Before I get started, I’d like to warn you that it’s been a VERY long time since I’ve performed any type of public speaking, so please be gentle. Also, my feelings don’t get hurt, so if you feel I’m doing a terrible job, feel free to leave… and I will hunt you down in the parking lot. Okay, now that I’ve inspired a great deal of confidence in you towards me for the next twenty minutes, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Patrick Turley, I am the author of “Welcome to Hell: Three and a Half Months of Marine Corps Boot Camp”—which by the way, is the greatest book you’ll ever read. If not, then you must have got one from a bad batch and should buy another to try again. That one should be better. I served five years in the United States Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq in 2004 with a security battalion in the Al Anbar province–I’ve also heard many of you are prior service military, but I’ll try not to hold that against you airmen, sailors and soldiers–Regardless, there’s nothing special about me. Well… allow me to rephrase that. Outside of these rugged, extremely handsome good looks, there’s nothing special about me.
I gave a lot of thought about what to talk to you about this morning, and when it boils down to it, there’s really nothing I can teach you. You’re all successful business men and women who have accomplished what you have because of exceptional leadership principles, innovation and much more. But while I can’t teach you anything, I think I have some interesting thing to share and hopefully even remind you of some of the specific traits and principles that helped make you a success along the way.
After all, the meek will inherit the Earth, but not today. For better or for worse, capitalism is natural selection. Capitalism is survival of the fittest. And if you don’t belong at the top, then you don’t belong.
“The Marine Corps has just been called by the New York Times, ‘The elite of this country’. I think it is the elite of the world.” -Admiral William Halsey, U.S. Navy
“Devil Dogs”, “Leathernecks”, “Jarheads”, the “tip of the spear” of the United States military, but what is it that can forge ordinary men like me into the world’s most respected and elite fighting force? In a word: pain.
Discipline through pain.
Not much over a decade ago, I was living the ideal life for an early 20s male: I was in school with legions of beautiful, hormonally charged women, and supplementing that with bartending where my livelihood literally depended on flirting with women. I had closed the bar one night, and accustomed to these late nights, went home and worked on my writing with the radio on in the background. That “night” was the early morning of Sept 11th, and well, we all remember where we were and what we were doing in that moment. All too vividly.
Needless to say, I was young, bulletproof, and ready be a part of history and fight in World War 3. Fortunately the latter never came, and fortunately luck allowed me to be bulletproof, but within weeks, I had found myself at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego and the very moment your bus arrives, you’re herded to yellow footprints in a screaming explosion of threats toward the fiber of your being, and saliva spittle. It’s on those footprints that you become a statistic, but in doing so, you head down a path toward so much more. There’s a lot to learn about yourself within the pits of humility, uniformity and conformity. After all, in an era of over celebrated individualism, the “conformists” have become the true individuals. Those yellow footprints lead to so much more.
“Welcome to Hell”. The title of my book… and also the first words spoken to us by our Senior Drill Instructor before he left us at the mercy (or lack thereof) of our junior drill instructors on a day that will always haunt Marines: Black Friday, and the most intimidating experience I can imagine. To maintain some modicum of class—more than I personally possess, at least—I’ll censor the language in the coming reading, but I chose this segment to illustrate the severity of the situation:
We scrambled to our feet, sprinted before our footlockers, and snapped into our position.
They explained to us that the middle of the squad bay was the “Drill Instructor Highway”, and anyone caught in that highway would, in fact, die. Then they paced up and down the two lines we formed on each side of the squad bay, waiting… waiting for someone to give in to any impulse. Waiting to catch someone. A fat kid across the way flinched, sending Drill Instructor Staff Sergeant McFadden into a dead sprint, then into a two yard slide and coming to a halt in front of the recruit.
“Oh, so we want to flinch, huh? We want to do our own thing, huh,” his eyes wandered to the name-tape on the recruit’s cammie blouse before finishing, “Bequet?”
Bequet began yelling “No, sir!” repeatedly.
“We’re on our own freaking program, aren’t we Bequet?”
Bequet accidentally yelled “No!” this time.
Drill Instructor Staff Sergeant McFadden’s eyes lit up. “No, huh? No?! We’re drinking buddies now, aren’t we Bequet?”
“Then what? Are you forking my sister?”
“You’re friggin’ nasty, Bequet. Why didn’t your mother stop feeding your fat, ugly bottom?”
“This recruit’s mother is dead, sir!”
Drill Instructor Staff Sergeant McFadden paused and gave him a nod. He turned to leave, but then looked back at Bequet. “So that’s why she barely moved when I forked her.”
This was the moment where the reality of my situation really settled in on me. I’ll remind you that the United States is a volunteer military, so this was truly a mind blowing moment. But there’s no dipping a foot in this pool until you adjust. Only diving in headfirst.
From there, we learned pain. From there we learned discipline. From there we learned an immediate obedience to orders. With no hesitation. Everything we did was “by the numbers”. Our Drill instructors would have us wash our backsides before our faces. Chug water until we vomited all over the deck. Then close the windows, put us on our hands and feet with a towel and race up and down the vomit soaked deck until the humidity had us passing out. We would attempt the impossible without any hesitation when ordered… and in that mayhem, misery and sacrifice, something beautiful happens. You see that attempting the impossible and failing didn’t kill you. You see that you even came pretty close. And you learn that your true human limitations far exceed anything you may have imagined.
For me, this stressful and influential situation was about to become a lot moreso. “The deadliest weapon in the world is a Marine and his rifle.”-Gen. “Black Jack” Pershing, U.S. Army. From our first “Welcome to Hell” moment, everything had been left over right. From our boot laces, to our legs when we sat. It wasn’t until we had reached the rifle range when we learned that this was for much more than uniformity’s sake. One of our primary shooting positions is seated, left leg over right, providing proper bone support so you aren’t muscling the weapon. We had already spent months adjusting and growing comfortable with the position. Another example toward the value of attention to detail. We would spend another week growing comfortable with the shooting positions and other principles like slow, steady trigger squeezes, sight alignment and sight picture, stock weld, breathing, without any live ammo before finally shooting.
When the day came, I was unbelievably good… and humble too. The following excerpt from my book follows this moment and remains to this day, the most influential moment of my life:
“Turley, come here!”
The Senior was calling me over. I was proud. After all, I was sure he wanted to congratulate me on how good I was shooting on the first day. What else? The series commander and the chaplain were waiting there with him. I ran up and stood at port arms and yelled, “Good morning, gentlemen.”
Captain Wiles grabbed the M16 out of my hands. “Let me see it, Killer,” he said to me, not even giving me a chance to run a proper inspection arms before handing it off.
I was confused now.
Senior Drill Instructor Staff Sergeant Jameson looked at me. His face was stone cold. “I’ve got some bad news, Chuck.” Right then and there I knew what he was about to say. “It’s your dad, he’s dead.”
We all reach an age where life stops giving us things, and starts taking them away. And there I was, in one of the most stressful situations you can find yourself in life, now compounded with another one of the most stressful situations. Never had I felt more alone. I’d often lie awake after an exhausting day of training and feel like I was drowning. Things could never be the same again.
In life, we have no external enemies. They’re all within. Hesitation, fear, regret. They’re paralyzing. I began to rationalize leaving. It was an easy out, and who could blame me considering the circumstances? The short answer was “me”. I could blame me. I would blame me. And so, realizing this, quitting was never an option.
As humans, a part of us will always try to rationalize the path of least resistance. But “Courage is endurance for one moment more.” And that’s exactly how I dealt with it. One moment at a time. One emotion at a time. One order at a time.
True power is control over yourself. It’s knowing that no matter how painful or insurmountable the obstacle in front of you is… you can overcome it. One step at a time. Enduring one moment at a time.
The culmination of Marine Corps recruit training is known as the “Crucible”. The Marine Corps officially describes the Crucible as “The Recruits’ Final Test: For 54 straight hours, recruits’ endurance, teamwork and skills will be pushed to the limit. Through perseverance and courage, they will finish as platoons and earn the title Marine. During The Crucible, recruits face obstacles that must be negotiated as a team, day and nighttime marches, night infiltration movement, combat resupply and casualty evacuation scenarios, combat field firing as a team, minimal food and sleep, simulating combat, leadership tests, and core values training.”
The climax of this “event” is known as the Reaper… for any earlier generations of Marines, it’s former name was Mount Mother… effer. The latter is a much more apt description. You’re already past the point of exhaustion from rigorous physical strain, lack of sleep and near starvation, then you set off on an 8 mile hike with a heavy, awkward fitting pack on your back, flak jacket, helmet, rifle slung over your shoulder, and you come face to face with what’s more “sheer cliff” than “mountain”.
Now, I entered the Crucible an emotional wreck due to circumstance. But out of those same circumstances, it became a trial of self-realization. After all, this was an internal test more than anything else. Through inhuman obstacles and subhuman conditions, I gained the most valuable thing we can find in life. A mastery of ourselves. In a few short months, I had become so much more than I was before. Even the aforementioned impossible didn’t seem so difficult anymore.
Take aways for success:
So while this flies in the face of everything you’ve heard about realistic goals, set impossible goals for yourself. It’s a New Year… set one thing, just one thing, that you’d love to achieve, that you don’t have a prayer in realistically accomplishing. Make a methodical plan with a military inspired attention to detail like you would for every other goal, and then attack with every fiber of your being, every last vestige of effort, and I promise you, nothing but great things will come of it:
Even in failure, you’ll find yourself achieving and growing more than you could have imagined, and you’ll beat your own enemy within into submission. Your self-imposed fear of failure will be gone, your internally set “limitations”, vanished. Your subordinates will see your leadership by example and they will become inspired through your fearless pursuit, and focused drive.
And when things seem insurmountable because your own mind is telling you so, remind yourself, “Courage is endurance for one moment more”.
My goal in writing this book was to provide an insider, modern, first-person account of Marine Corps boot camp so people could get a perspective on what people sacrifice on our great nation’s behalf, and to create a nostalgia book where Marines could look back on this formative time within the comfort of hindsight.
I wrote two chapters of this book in early 2003. On a whim, I sent them to some of the best literary agents in the nation. I received an immediate response from one asking to read the rest of the manuscript because she loved my proposal and samples. Of course, I had nothing, but I accepted and asked for a week to “polish up” the manuscript. Which didn’t exist. So, I worked 18 hour days at Camp Pendleton, and then would write until I was too exhausted. Within two weeks I was done… luckily she loved my rushed manuscript, but we did give it a mutual once over before courting publishers.
An imprint of Penguin known as Plume picked it up immediately. But right before we could get into contracts, I received word that I’d be deploying to Iraq with 72 hours of notice. The contract fell through, I shipped out, miraculously returned in one piece, but couldn’t get the book back off the ground in a new fiscal year when I returned. Soon after, I lost the book entirely.
Several years later and fortunately my girlfriend is an avid reader, which drove me to look for my old manuscript once more. A friend of mine found it on an old floppy disk and within months, my story was under contract with History Publishing Company.
Many, many traits learned and imprinted within me from USMC boot camp elevated me to where I am today and made this a successful endeavor. The immunity to criticism and rejection from countless hours of being screamed at for any perceived imperfection, the attention to detail that allowed me to organize my promotional efforts to isolate what was most effective in the modern literary market, outside of the box thinking that allowed me to create new, innovative marketing techniques to streamline getting a hold of my demographic, and the dogged persistence toward the impossible where I managed to secure endorsements and back cover quotes from former USMC members, actor Jim Beaver, Pulitzer Prize, Tony and Academy Award winning writer John Patrick Shanley, and even a former Commandant, General Charles Krulak, all despite a multitude of very “un-PC” moments.
Now, if you have no interest in my story, firstly you’re a buffoon, but that’s fine, the world needs buffoons. However, I do need you to look into the charity my book supports, the Children of Fallen Patriots foundation. For every child left behind when a service member passes on, the CFPF provides education and counseling for these children who have sacrificed so much more than anyone ever should at a young age. I cannot imagine a nobler cause, so please, take a look at Fallenpatriots.org and consider getting involved. Every penny goes to the children.
A special thank you to Mr Billy Wagner for inviting me to come here and participate with you all. It’s been a great experience for me, and I genuinely thank you all for your time. I’ll take any questions you might have at this time. Semper Fidelis