This event happened between August and October of the year 2000, in the USMC Recruit Depot of Parris Island, South Carolina. I am Matthew P. Chapdelaine, and I made it through the hell of recruit training in that place, and during that time. I can't give exact days within this range of time because, frankly, they were an ambiguous blur of brainwashing and rushed torture. This is a story of the Rifle Qualification phase of my training.
My platoon had been transferred to the Rifle Barracks on the island, where we would spend a few weeks while we all got qualified on the Rifle Range. It worked like this: Half the day, we would be firing at a target from different distances, and for the other half, we would be behind the birm(a long and high mound of dirt) operating the rising and falling paper targets. It was immediately apparent that I wasn't good at firing a rifle at all. I even got into trouble when I fired a round a half second after we were told to stop firing. It was called a “Negligent Discharge”, and I was in a lot of trouble for it. However, the only reason I had made that mistake was because my instructor was yelling in my face and I turned my head at the worst possible moment. When I explained this, it took some of the heat off me, but it still hurt my chances of qualifying. From then on, it was one disaster after another. While most of the other recruits had qualified and had moved on to kitchen work for the remainder of the time we stayed in the area, I spent day after day in total failure.
It was my last chance on the very last possible day of Rifle Qualification. My Drill Instructor said that he would give me a power bar if I made it. In the murky misery of the time, such a thing was a ray of sweet sunlight. I got over my anxiety, concentrated on my breathing, and focused on what I had learned. In a state of momentary serenity, I forgot where I was, and focused on my goal calmly. It worked, and I hit the target multiple times in a tight grouping.(which means that my shots all landed in the same area of the target)
I had thought that I had gained a victory, for a moment, and then I realized again where I was, the moment my drill instructor discovered that my cargo pockets were unbuttoned and ripped them off my legs.
I had finally qualified on the Rifle Range. I would be able to stay with my platoon and continue without going back to the beginning of training with another platoon. A big relief, in that hellish little world.
I openly balled my eyes out as I scarfed down the candy in the brief moment I was allowed.