Editor’s note: Rigel Baron graduated from Los Alamos High School in May and entered USMC Boot Camp less than two days later. He is the son of Miles Baron and stepmom Erica Baron, and mom Pam Crooks and stepdad Bill Crooks. He recounts his three month journey to becoming a Marine.
By RIGEL BARON
Boot camp was, without a doubt, the single most difficult thing I have done in my life. I enlisted into the United States Marine Corps in May of this year, and caught my plane to its location in MCRD (Marine Corps Recruit Depot) San Diego on the first of June, a short 40 hours after I graduated from Los Alamos High School.
Immediately when I arrived it began. Yelling upon yelling upon yelling. However, before I left, I had done my fair share of research and was expecting this. The first week, for me, went by flawlessly. The entire week my morale was high as could be, I was ready to be a Marine. Unfortunately, I still had 12 more weeks of yelling, and sweating ahead of me.
The most difficult part was this mental fatigue every single one of us underwent. Maybe it was the constant hurry to meet a time hack, the unstoppable yelling, or the fact I knew that I would not be able to talk to my family and friends for another three months. Either way, this mental stress took its toll. Every morning we would wake up between 4-5 a.m. to the Drill Instructors yelling “lights lights lights lights!” Then it began for that day, Drill Instructors screaming orders, and my platoon of about 85 recruits executing the commands. As the days proceeded I gradually became accustomed to the new life I had been introduced to.
Although I was beginning to “relax” (if you can call it that) I still longed to see my friends, family, and to be free of the exhausting schedule. Eventually, I made it to the final test of everything we had learned, and been training for… The crucible. The crucible was a two and a half day culmination of all our training. This was by far the most physically challenging part of boot camp. Our food and sleep were drastically limited to simulate a stressful combat environment. Throughout the days we hiked a total of some 55 miles around Camp Pendleton, from obstacle to obstacle, where we would be read a Medal of Honor citation and given a dauntingly difficult task.
Eventually the morning of the final day arrived. Everyone was tired and hungry. It was probably three in the morning when we stepped off on the final challenge before becoming a Marine, the “Reaper” hike. The hike was likely around 10 miles in total, with the midpoint being located at the top of a giant mountain, the “Reaper.” After walking for what seemed like days with our rifles and massive packs, we finally arrived at the base of the Reaper, right as the sun was beginning to rise.
The ascent was painful, but I knew once I got to the top of that mountain, I would have earned the title of United States Marine. As I began to near the top of this steep beast, I pushed even harder, knowing that there awaited the result of three months work. Before I knew it I was there, and as happy as a man can ever be. At the top we were handed out Eagle, Globe, and Anchors (the symbol of the Marine Corps), and commended on all our hard work.
It was then, that I knew everything I had done, all the hiking, running, sweating, and bleeding had been worth it. I was transformed into a United States Marine.