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Posted on Dec 15, 2006 in Books and Movies, Front Page Features

The Few and the Proud – Book Review

By Richard Bledsoe

few.jpgBook Review: The Few and the Proud: Marine Corps Drill Instructors In Their Own Words

You ask any Marine (even former ones) today the first thing they remember about joining the Marine Corps and it is guaranteed that they will all say their Drill Instructors. Most Marines can also relate “Sea Stories” from their Drill Instructors. Larry Smith’s new book; The Few and the Proud: Marine Corps Drill Instructors In Their Own Words, takes a look at how not only Marine Recruit Training, but also the Marine Corps itself has evolved since World War II. It covers topics such as racism, gender equality, and even examines the “Old Breed” against the “New Breed.”

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The book is divided into six parts:

“The Old Breed” details interviews with Marines like Chuck Taliano, the infamous “We don’t promise you a rose garden.” Drill Instructor and others such as Sergeants Major “Iron Mike” Mervosh, Bill Paxton, Ed Walls, and Dave Robles.

Part Two examines the Ribbon Creek incident where six recruits had died and the methods of Marine Recruit Training were brought to light. This contains interviews with the Drill Instructor who was court-martialed, Staff Sergeant Matthew McKeon, as well as assisting attorney Morton Janklow and court reporter James Wheeler. These gentlemen show a different side of the Ribbon Creek incident, and the changes that followed in the Recruit Training SOP (Standard Operating Procedures), or how they were initially brought to bear and have grown from an initial three pages to a full size book.

Part Three, a very short area, deals with Marines and the movies, more notably Jack Webb’s The D.I. and Gunnery Sergeant R. Lee Ermey and the fame he has brought to himself and the Corps.

Parts Four and Five detail minorities in the Marines. Starting with the African American training camp at Montford Point, all men who overcame adversity in the segregated and then (in 1948) the desegregated military. Five coincides in this by telling the story of the evolution of female Marines in the Corps, from current Marines to women whose Boot Camp consisted of “wearing of the uniform and makeup.” The book also tells the story of the two women who challenged the Marine Corps to change its policy on women with dependants under eighteen (which would discharge a woman with any kids or gave birth).

Part Six culminates the entire book by showing the “New Breed” of Drill Instructors and their opinions of modern and older training methods. Between the “Old Breed” and the “New Breed” the consensus remains the same: Even though the kids that enter Recruit Training today have changed, as well as the way recruits are trained, the end product remains the same, a US Marine is produced and the opinions on all sides remain high about what young Marines are accomplishing in Afghanistan, Iraq, and around the world.

Personally, as a current serving Marine, I find the book “highly motivating” and it helps answer my question of what the “Old Breed” thinks of Marines of today. The Few and the Proud is currently available in hardback for $26.95 US.

Overall Rating: 4/5 A must read for any fan of the US Marines and for Marines both young and old.

Lance Corporal Richard Bledsoe is an active duty Marine, currently serving as an F/A-18 Hornet airframer with VMFA-314 (The Black Knights). He has been interested in military history since the age of 12.

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