Lessons from Boot Camp

A few days ago I had the privilege of attending the family day and graduation ceremony for a friends’ son who had completed Marine boot camp. It was my first time as a guest on a military base (other than a few trips to the Naval Air Museum in Florida), and just being there made me stand taller and straighter. Recruits who had chosen to join the most prestigious fighting force in the United States, and new Marines who had completed a rigorous journey to be called one of the few, the proud, surrounded me.


The military showcases what can arguably be identified as the best example of leadership development in our country. Every moment, from the time new recruits place their feet on the yellow footprints near the receiving building, is filled with instilling leadership principles in these men and women. They spend hours learning about the Marine code of honor, courage, and commitment.


Marine recruits learn very quickly who is in charge (it is NOT them!). Their Drill Instructors help remove every excuse they have for not following their instructions. They learn quickly to become good followers.


But the story doesn’t end there. Recruits who have mastered following their leader (you can read this blog on following or this blog on learning to follow) are now ready to start leading. They learn that putting forth the minimum effort required means that no one wins (in fact, they all lose – and end up with huge amounts of additional push-ups, desk scrubbing, and the like). They learn first hand that the strength of their team is only as good as their weakest member.


It came as a surprise to learn that it is not only the recruits who are judged and graded on their efforts in boot camp. The Drill Instructors are also held accountable for how well their recruits perform. It is no secret that DI’s are a harsh, demanding set of leaders. It must be extremely difficult to lead a team of recruits in a way that challenges, pushes, and refines them to the extreme in a relatively short amount of time (12 weeks) while not pushing them too far. They are only successful as leaders if they create more leaders from the men or women in their platoon.


Our friend left home as a strong, passionate teen that desired to serve his country. He emerged from boot camp an honorable, courageous, confident Marine. Congratulations, friend!


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