Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Not Everyone Can Be a Marine

The phrase, "If I can do it, anyone can," is something overused in our society. Of that I am sure.

I heard a female Marine say that once and while I hoped she was being honest I now know this is a fallacy.

Not everyone can be a Marine.

I had finally made the decision to make the call that would separate me from the DEP due to my knee issues.

I by-passed my PT and regular recruiters and called the SNCOIC.

When he answered the phone I told him I wanted to talk to him about my enlistment and my knees and he surprised me by saying he'd already taken care of everything. He'd already called the powers that be and they had already approved my discharge. He said that after watching me run at the last poolee function he was sure this wasn't going to be possible for me and he went ahead and took the steps necessary for my separation.

I asked him if I needed to call anyone or meet with anyone and he said no.

"You don't have to do anything. There's nothing to sign. This isn't going to go on any record. You didn't do anything wrong. For these kinds of medical things there's just nothing you can do."

I thanked him for everything.

I hung up the phone and started to cry.

Honestly, I'm really not that emotional. I have a pretty good grasp on things and I can roll with the punches, but this was a pretty hard blow.

And so my short ride that never did start is over.

My husband assures me this won't be the last time I get emotional about it either.

"Ten years from now," he said, "even though you know you made the right decision, even though you are happy and everything is going good, you'll still wish you would've done it, even if it made you crippled or killed you or both."

This has made me respect Marines even more (if that was even possible). Before I started this journey I was absolutely sure I could physically finish it. I told my recruiter that the physical trials of the Corps didn't phase me in the least. "I can do it," I assured him.

I was wrong. I can't. But there are so many men and women who can and do and that makes me very grateful and proud and respectful.

Now I'm turning my concentration to finding something else to do with my life.

I still want to serve. I still want to learn. I still want to be a benefit to my fellow man and my country. I may not be able to do it as a Marine but I will find another way.

This isn't the end, just a chapter in the book.

Sunday, August 1, 2010


While at our last poolee function I was sitting on the ground next to another poolee waiting to be dragged and fireman carried and he asked me what was wrong with my knees.

"I've been watching you limp around all day. What's wrong?" he asked.

I gave him the whole song and dance about the trauma and the bleeding and the swelling and what my doctor said and after I was done he looked at me with dropped jaw amazement and said, "Why ON EARTH haven't you asked for a separation from the DEP yet? Let me tell you, if I had a legitimate reason not to go through with this I would run and never look back. What are you waiting for?"

I shrugged and said, "Because I still really want to do this."

"You are insane. You hear me? INSANE!" he said.

The fact of the matter is, I'm stalling. I'm waiting for a miracle I'm doubting will ever come. I'm expecting to one day wake up and find my knees are magically all better and I can run for mile after mile without pain.

To be honest, I even dream about it. I dream about running. I dream about doing my best and finding it to be more than adequate (not to mention, pain and trauma free).

Then I wake up.

Just today I picked up my son and started walking out to the car and had severe and sharp pain in my right leg to the point I had to pass him off to my husband in fear I would fall with him.

My husband said, "Yeah, there is no way you are joining the Marine Corps."

To which I responded, "Too late. I've already joined."

He gave me that annoyed look we all know so well and said, "You know what I mean."

I sighed and changed the subject.

So many people including doctors and friends, family and veterans and Marine Corps friends are telling me to stop now. To get out. To just give it up and accept the reality that this is something I shouldn't much less couldn't physically do; the reality that my dream is dead; the reality that I am not physically capable of doing what I want so badly.

My mother asked me if I'd requested my separation from the DEP yet and I said I had not.

"You need to," she said.

Do I? Really?



But I don't want to.

Every time I see a picture of a Marine I get a stirring in my heart that tells me to go.

Yesterday I went downstairs to do some laundry and saw my husband's cammie cover next to a picture of him while he was in Iraq, holding his rifle, covered in sand and looking ready to kick some serious butt. I stared at that cover and imagined my own sitting next to it. I imagined standing on those yellow footprints and the pride I would feel at earning my Eagle, Globe and Anchor.

If it were a matter of heart and just wanting it badly enough I know I would go and I know I would succeed.

In the end it's a matter of what I am physically able to do.

If I were single and childless I would say, "Screw it," and do it anyway, consequences be darned. I know I have enough in me to push through the pain and do it despite the inflammation and bruising and pain and long-term damage. I think I would beat my knees to death and not even blink or think twice.

Tomorrow I have some handgun training. Tuesday I'm supposed to check in with my PT recruiter again. It might be time to say goodbye to the Marine Corps.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Ornery Recruiter (Language Warning)

My husband has met my PT recruiter once. They shook hands, the recruiter (let's call him SSgt Crabs) said, "I hear you're a Marine."

My husband said that he had been.

SSgt Crabs said, "That's what I like to hear."

And that was about the extent of their contact with one another.

So when I kept saying that SSgt Crabs was an ornery individual my husband kept saying, "What do you mean? Give me an example."

Most of the time his prickly demeanor is quite humerus.... as long as it's not directed at you.

SSgt Crabs has a gift. A gift for being angry and coming up with a come-back or comment that is both hilarious and humiliating. He can make you feel two inches tall while making everyone else around you laugh his head off while he simultaneously thanks his lucky stars he isn't the brunt of the joke.

He also has the uncanny ability to make two words out of a three-word sentence swear words.

I will give a few examples:


We arrived at the poolee function on Saturday and while we were the largest group of poolees there were other poolees from other substations milling around, waiting for the function to start. Some of them were not wearing the issued navy blue poolee shirt.

Once everyone had arrived, we were told to get into a school circle (which is just everyone sitting in a circle on the ground around someone who is standing in the middle and giving instruction) and my regular recruiter (whom I'll call SSgt Moor) gave a quick talk about paperwork and new changes in the Corps.

Afterward, SSgt Crabs yelled, "Everyone who is not wearing the blue poolee shirt or a variation thereof, come see me right now!"

The five or six poor souls circled themselves around Crabs and the tirade began.

"WHY THE FUCK ARE YOU NOT WEARING YOUR POOLEE SHIRTS!?! Do you think you are fucking special? Why do you think we call them fucking poolee shirts? Did you think, maybe, it was because you were suppose to fucking wear them to your goddamn poolee functions?"

A poolee started to talk but was quickly cut off.

"Shut the fuck up! I didn't tell you to talk. Look at everyone else. They were smart enough to wear their poolee shirts so what the fuck is wrong with you? It is your uniform. That is what the Marine Corps is about: uniformity. And you fuckers don't look very uniform.

"How many of you have not sworn in?"

The poolees looked around at each other, unsure and scarred of producing the wrong answer.

"I asked you a fucking question. Jesus Christ you are pissing me off. Have you been to MEPS?"

Everyone nodded and a few managed to sneak in a "Yes, Sir."

"Okay. How many of you have NOT been back and lifted your goddamn hands and sworn in?"

Three kids raised their hands.

"Okay, you three can leave. You haven't gotten your shirts yet so that's why you don't have them. Go!"

The three scurried away while he started again, "BUT THE REST OF YOU HAVE NO FUCKING EXCUSE!..."


Just as were were getting ready to do the Combat Fitness Test (CFT), a poolee attempted to pick up one of the ammo cans and the handle broke.

Since you are supposed to run half of the course with two 30 lbs ammo cans it was pretty important that you have a handle with which to do so.

SSgt Crabs started cursing while he bent over the ammo can and attempted to fix the handle.

An unfortunate poolee just in front of me said, "Do you have any duct tape?"

Those of us who know SSgt Crabs winced as he stood up, "Yes! I have fucking duct tape. I keep it in my fucking back pocket at all damn times. Let me get it," he feigned reaching for his back pocket. "OH SHIT! Looks like I fucking forget it today, now doesn't it?!"

The poolee, in attempts to defend himself said, "Well, I thought maybe you had some in your car."

"Shut the fuck up! No, I don't have any in my goddamn car. I know. I'll just fucking materialize some." He tilted his head and pretended to be concentrating. "Well, it seems I've lost my fucking powers. FUCK! Do you have a leatherman?"

The poolee said, "No."

"Well, why the fuck not? You expect me to have fucking duct tape, I expect you to have a goddamn leatherman. Looks like we both failed at our fucking jobs. Damn! Shut up!"


One very motivated poolee was asking all of the Marines at our poolee function how many pullups or crunches or ammo can lifts they could do or how fast they could run. Every time he would get an answer he would say something about the superiority of the Marine Corps and how much they kick ass.

No one was really paying much attention to him. If anything it was kind of funny to listen to his oozing motivation.

Apparently it was getting under SSgt Crabs' skin because after one final comment about how great the Marine Corps is, SSgt Crabs lost it on the kid.

"Shut up! Seriously! Shut the fuck up! Do not.. I say again, DO NOT open your mouth for the rest of the fucking day. Fucking shit head."

You would have thought this kid was just punched in the gut, how wounded he looked.

As I said, these are just a few examples and the principle reason as to why I find it easier to fly beneath his radar. I give short answers, never try to explain anything, and do as I'm told without so much as a single deviation to his directions. Anything to avoid setting him off.

Here's hoping I can continue to avoid his wrath.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Poolee Function #3 - IST, CFT

Wow, we are already on number three? It seriously feels like I swore in yesterday. I can't believe I've been in the DEP for three months already.

Either way, ready or not, I got my skinny butt up at six o'clock this morning and headed down to the recruiter's office where I met up with the rest of the poolees from our sub station and down we went to meet with the other recruiters and poolees from our region and have our poolee function.

I was quiet again on my way down and I have discovered that my silence is more of a result of a dislike of my PT recruiter than anything else.

My actual recruiter doesn't work out of the nearest office anymore. Recruiters, as it turns out, move around a lot. My actual recruiter is a pencil pusher with a very bubbly personality and never gets mad. The recruiter who replaced him and with whom I am supposed to do my PT is pretty much the complete opposite. He's as ornery as a snake, has quite the temper and the high opinion of himself. I suppose he has his own way of getting things done and while I don't hate him or begrudge him anything I find it easier to fly beneath his radar than accidentally find myself on the receiving end of his wrath.

So, in attempts to stay out of his verbal cross-hairs, I virtually disappeared into the back seat of his pontiac for the drive.

Once we got to the office we were informed that we were doing the IST (Initial Strength Test) and a modified CFT (Combat Fitness Test).

Apparently it is new Marine Corps policy that all poolees have to do two ISTs before they ship for Boot Camp. They have to do one 30 days before shipping and then within 96 hours of shipping. If poolees do not pass, they do not ship.

The requirements are as follows:

- 2 Pull Ups
- 35 Crunches (2 minutes)
- 1.5 Mile Run in 13:30

- Flexed Arm Hang for minimum of 12 seconds
- 35 Crunches (2 minutes)
- 1 mile run in 10:30

We started with the pull ups and flexed-arm hang and I was very proud of myself for doing 75 seconds. I maxed it with five seconds to spare!

We were supposed to be doing some kind of warm-up runs but my knees were hurting and I opted out of them.

Then came the sit ups and I bombed with only doing 44. Once again, I'm not sure why I did so poorly as I have done so much better.

As though I were not kicking myself enough my PT recruiter screamed out my name when he saw my crunch count and demanded to know why I did so poorly. My other recruiter was there and stepped in saying if my knees were bothering me the pain could have affected my crunches. The PT recruiter argued that knee pain should have no baring on abdominal muscles. My other recruiter disagreed. And while they battled it out I shrugged and slinked back to the rest of the group without saying one word either way.

Next came the run and I was nervous about it. My PT recruiter, as usual, wanted to make me run while my other recruiter said he didn't want to put me in more pain. He told me to get in the "safety vehicle"--the vehicle that drives behind formations and runs and picks up anyone who's fallen out--and off we went behind the other poolees who were running.

I felt bad and like a failure. Yeah, my knees hurt but this was just a repeat of the last poolee function where everyone looked sideways at me while I "got out" of the hard stuff.

It was amazing the difference riding with my recruiter vs my PT recruiter. He chatted away about his kids and asked me how I felt. He said they'd push my ship date back to see if I could get my knees in shape but if it wasn't possible it just wasn't possible and they wouldn't make me go to Boot Camp with shot knees. He was reassuring and easy to talk to and my spirits started to lift a little.

We also noticed a young man falling out of the run. Even the young PFC, home from Boot Camp on Recruiter Assistance couldn't motivate him to run. He was giving up and everyone was only about four minutes into the run.

"Let me out of the car," I said.

"Are you sure?" he asked.

"Yes. Let me out."

I got out and limped up beside the young man. "Come on. Let's go. I'm the cripple and I'm going to run with you. Keep moving your legs. Just walk fast. Don't slow down."

I grabbed his arm and pulled him along encouraging him to go just a little faster.

"I feel like I'm going to throw up," he said.

To which I responded, "If you have to throw up, throw up, but don't slow down."

From time to time I could coax him into a jog and even though it hurt in my legs it still felt good to be encouraging someone and helping them along.

When we came into view of the park I started sprinting and said, "I'm the cripple. If you can't beat me to the park then you've got problems. COME ON!"

He ran and finished one step ahead of me. I'll regret that tomorrow.

Then it was time for the CFT.

The CFT is rather new. The full version includes an 880 meter dash (I think) but we were not going to be doing the running portion and so they called it a "modified" CFT. The rest of the test means lifting a 30 lbs ammo can from your chest to the sky and back down a minimum of 40 times while wearing a flack jacket and helmet.

I managed to make it to 41. It's not as easy as it sounds.

Next, still in helmet and a flack jacket, with a dummy rifle added you are to run 25 yards, drop into a low crawl for 10 yards and then a high crawl for 15 yards. Then you weave through a series of cones for five yards where your "wounded" partner is waiting for you.

You drag him or her 12 yards, negotiating cones then then fireman carry him or her all the way back to the starting line.

When you drop your partner you pick up two 30 lbs ammo cans, run 50 yards, navigate 25 yards worth of cones, drop the cans, throw a dummy grenade, do three pushups, pick the cans back up and run back to the starting line.

Well, it looked like as much fun as it sounded and when it was my turn I found myself on the line, helmet on, rifle in hands, flack jacket secure and ready to go.

My PT recruiter said, "What are you doing? Are you sure you want to do this? You don't have to."

"I'm doing it," I said.

"Okay," he said though I noticed he did not sound convinced.

I ran. I low-crawled. I high crawled. I maneuvered the cones. I grabbed my partner and dragged her. I fireman carried her to the starting line. I grabbed my ammo cans and ran. I maneuvered some more. I threw my grenade and almost hit the Staff Sergeant keeping score. I did my push ups and I limped my ammo cans back.

And I did it all in 3 minutes and 50 seconds.

Not bad for a cripple, says I.

I think even my PT recruiter was impressed. My other recruiter sure was. The Staff Sergeant just teased me for almost hitting him with the grenade.

It felt good to do it and to pass it. I felt accomplished and proud of myself. I think I won some respect back amongst the other poolees especially when there were guys who were dropping cans and their partners.

When it came time for the run back I fell into formation and my recruiter asked me if I was sure I wasn't overdoing it.

I said I probably was but that I wanted to do it.

I ran my heart out and passed a lot of people on the way back.

I couldn't help my limping once we finished the run but it felt good to complete the run with everyone else (in front of several).

On the drive back I was a little more chatty with one of the other poolees and a much needed Sub finished off my morning.

My knees are protesting but I'm not sorry or regretting what I did. I had fun and I did it. I pushed through the pain and I made it to the end. After all, depending on how things turn out with my knees, this might be the closest I get to the real deal. I'm going to live it up for what it's worth and be proud in my little poolee accomplishments.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Doctors and Diagnosis

Upon returning from vacation I made two appointments with my physical therapist while waiting to get in with my orthopedic surgeon.

My therapist did another extensive evaluation on me and said that the placement of both my feet and my hips is contributing to my knee pain. Also the flexibility in my knees is continuing to be a big problem resulting in a lot of trauma when I do high-impact sports like running.

In my next appointment I had another therapist who did a separate evaluation and said the flexibility in my knees combined with the tension of the tendons on the outside of my leg is pulling my knee caps to the outside of my legs and resulting in a lot of trauma to the inside of my knees. He also said my hips were both causing and being affected and my limping is causing a lot of wear and tear to my right hip.

His evaluation had to be one of the most painful things I've experienced in a long time. He also confirmed that almost all of the muscles and tendons around my knees are very inflamed and in need of rest, therapy and strength training.

Finally, off to the orthopedic surgeon today.

I gave her the notes from my therapy sessions and she did ANOTHER evaluation and said, "You cannot run."

Just to make sure we were being brutally honest I asked her if I would be able to handle the requirements of Marine Corps training and life and she said, "Absolutely not."

She said the flexibility of my hip, knee and ankle joints cause for a lot of space between the bones and impact causes a lot of trauma and bleeding which leads to the swelling and bruising I've been experiencing. She said if I kept it up I would destroy my knees and that she is going to write a letter stating I will not be able to safely complete Marine Corps training.

She recommended I continue with my therapy and keep doing low-impact exercises but sustained high-impact and weight bearing exercises will probably never be possible for me without pain and trauma that could become permanent.

On a good note she took an x-ray and said I don't have arthritis but that she would like to do an MRI to make sure the cartilage of my knees hasn't torn (whatever that means).

I'm very depressed by this news.

I called my recruiter and told him. His response was, "Suck it up."

He then said we would talk to the SNCOIC at the next poolee function in the upcoming week.

I guess we'll see what happens.


Seeing my brother for the first time in four years was great medicine to me. I love my brother very much and even though he's a bit cooky at times, he's still a great guy. I've missed him a lot.

Being with him and the rest of my family gave me a chance to really recuperate and was a great morale booster. Granted, it would have been better if my husband could have been around but I'll take what I can get.

My brother asked me how my enlistment was going and I told him everything that was going on. He's a good listener and a great support. He assured me that no matter what happens he will always be proud of me and my willingness to serve.

I'm proud to have such a good, strong brother who has served our country so faithfully for fourteen years now. He's a huge inspiration to me.

We were able to do some shooting together, which was fun and I got to teach him how to detail strip his newest 1911 handgun. We had a lot of fun together and it was a sad day when we both had to say goodbye.

Who knows the next time we will ever see each other.

In the mean time I pray he remains safe and well.

Poolee Function #2

The last poolee function was rather fun even though I was excused for half of it.

I'll admit that I am very quiet around my recruiters and other poolees. I don't think I said more than five words the entire morning. I'm normally not like that. I'm usually very outspoken and energetic but I'll also admit that I was worried about the pain in my legs.

I had no idea what we were going to do for our Poolee function and when I was informed that we were going to be running to a park and then playing football I internally ran away to that place where my pain goes and hid in the corner, steeling myself for what was to come.

For the entire 45 minute drive to the office I didn't so much as look at anyone.

I was bound and determined to push through the knee pain of the run and the football just to show how tough I can really be when the Staff Non-Commisioned Officer In Charge (SNCOIC) came out of the office and said I wasn't running.

My recruiter made a small sound of disgust and said he didn't agree (although he used much more colorful phraseology) but the SNCOIC said it was his decision.

I was surprised he even knew about my knees. I hadn't told anyone but my recruiter about the pain and he had dismissed it to the point where I thought he would never deem it necessary to pass it up the chain of command.

I was grateful for the decision and was driven with one other injured poolee to the place where we were to play football.

My team was definitely the "outcast" team and we were slaughtered by the "football jock" team comprised of every football star in our pool group.

Every step felt like a knife to the knees but I hobbled along through two games of football. I managed even to complete a few passes and limb a yard or two before being tagged. Our team won the second time and I managed to have a little fun. Then I was driven back to the office while the other poolees did a formation run with cadence. I would have liked to have done that.

I was angry. At my knees. At the attitudes of those around me and the way they looked at me as though I weren't trying. And when my recruiter told me to stop limping I was furious at him.

For the drive back I was deadly silent again thinking only of the growing heat and pain in my knees and the frustration that I felt.

After a stop at the grocery store I went home and sat on the rocking chair with ice packs on each knee.

My husband, bless his heart, approached me gently and said, "Honey, I'm not trying to discourage you or make you feel like I don't support you, but I'm beginning to think this might not be physically possible for you."

Much to my wounded dreams and pride I said, "I'm beginning to see that."

I promised to take it easy and to go back to the doctor and then I left for my parents to visit my brother who had just returned from Iraq.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

PT #2 = Not-So Colossal Failure

After my poor performance at PT last week and the general pissed off mood of my recruiter, it was no surprise to me that his FaceBook status the next day was, "Good PT for those who made it. For those who didn't, I have a surprise for you." (except his grammar wasn't as precise and his caps lock was most definitely engaged)

I started the C25K running program but only had time to do one day before it was time for PT again (my recruiter scheduled PT early this week).

Terrified for what was in store for me I began hydrating on Tuesday and all day Wednesday. I was praying that he wouldn't have up do another 3-mile run, especially since the weather called for the hottest part of the day to be exactly when we were to meet for PT.

I arrived at his office a good ten minutes early with my son, as usual, and immediately was put to work on crunches. No problem, except that every time my shoulder blades hit the floor my son would try to hug me which didn't do great things for my time.

Thankfully there is a football at the recruiter's office and my recruiter took to tossing the football with my son to keep him occupied while I finished my crunches.

For as burly, gruff, tough and rough as my PT recruiter is I am warmed and touch by how well he treats my son. He plays with him, talks to him gently and in a friendly manner and will play ball with him at any given chance. It would be just as easy for him to ignore my baby or get irritated that I have to bring him for the first few minutes of PT until my husband gets off of work but instead of making a deal about it he simply said, "Don't worry about it. It's not a problem," and has accepted my son's presence with ease which makes me much more comfortable.

Next I did my flexed arm hang and then went out to stretch when my husband arrived to pick up our son.

Then the recruiter came out and said, "We are doing another 3-mile run."

Oh joy.

We split up into teams and before we headed out the leader of our team looked at me and said, "By the way, if you fall out, you're getting carried." I assured him I would do my best to prevent that from happening.

This time and I'm very very happy to say that I did a mile and a half before I even felt the overwhelming need to slow down.

When we passed another team I heard someone say, "Common! They have the girl on their team and they are passing us."

One of the guys on my team said, "That was offensive."

To which I replied, "Not considering my performance last week."

"True," he said, "How about I just call it sexist?"


On the way back was when I started to have trouble. I never slowed to a walk (at least not a walk for me though at least one guy in my team complained that all we did was walk half the way) but if I slowed I kept it to a jog.

We came in second out of the three teams which I was very happy about, especially since no one had to carry me.

Today, however, my knees feel like someone has hit them both with hammers and I find myself irritated and frustrated. Perhaps a bit worried as well.

My knees are what stopped my running in November and then again in January. It was my knees that stopped my exercise routine in April and after a month of physical therapy for my knees I'm back to feeling pain in them. Will I ever get to a place were my knees won't hurt? And if my knees can't take a few miles of running with nothing but body weight, how will they handle multiple-mile humps with 30 lbs packs and loads and loads of gear?

I know that if, in the next four months, I'm not able to find a solution to my knee-pain problem, it very well may kill my enlistment which I'm really not sure I'm ready to face.

In the mean time I'm icing, icy-hoting, low-impacting and trying to strengthen them. Only time will tell what they can handle.

Friday, June 4, 2010

PT #1 = Colossal Failure

Let's just say it's a DARN good thing I don't ship to Boot Camp until October. My flexed-arm hang and my crunches may be good but my run is pathetic at best.

Since hurting my knees, being sick, taking weeks off to go to MI to be with my mother-in-law before she passed away, and then having to go back for the funeral when she did, I have done absolutely no running.

Yes, I have been able to swim but there is no good substitute for running.

Yesterday was the first PT I was able to make since enlisting.

We started out with pull-ups and the flexed arm hang for us girls and at least I did 64 second there. Next we went out and stretched and did some warm up exercises that I was keeping up with.

It was about 90 degrees and I had had less than a glass of water all day. This was my biggest mistake.

Then the recruiter came out and said we were going on a nice, long run.

How should I say this? I thought I was going to die!

In the three mile circuit, about half way my whole body went bone dry. I stopped sweating, my mouth felt like it was full of sand and my tongue felt like it was swelling up. My side started cramping and, as you can imagine, I started slowing down.

Bless his heart, there was another poolee who fell back with me and didn't leave me the entire time. He even helped me find a water fountain.

Needless to say, our recruiter was... disappointed.

Okay, angry is more like it.

On the way back the same poolee stayed next to me, talking to me, encouraging me the whole way. He even stayed with me during the walking-off period and to get a drink. I'm confident that he will make a FINE Marine as he truly took the "leave no one behind" to heart. No matter how irritated I'm sure he was with me he didn't show it even though others made comments along the lines of, "I wonder who's going to drop out of boot camp?" and the like.

I don't blame them for those comments or thoughts but I wasn't horribly affected by them either.

I have that determination to go and to succeed and I know that my run is something I need significant work on.

So, I'm getting to it and going to run at least three times a week. Here's hoping that nothing else happens that will interfere.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Female Marine Hair and Sock Bun

On the list of top questions asked by soon-to-be, female recruits are questions about hair.

Should I cut my hair? How do I do my hair? Do I have to cut my hair? If I cut my hair, what is a good length? How long is too long? Is it easier to have short or long hair?

I'll admit it. I've asked those questions myself.

The answers are as unique as the individuals asking them. There are female Marines who swear that short is best and some that vow longer is better. Some female Marines I have heard from said they were glad their hair was short so they didn't have to fuss with it and others have said they were glad their hair was long so they didn't have to worry about it growing out or getting in their eyes.

I have been battling that question myself and debating whether or not I should cut my hair or grow it out.

While I was debating I let my hair grow deciding that if I chose to grow it out then at least I'd have a head start knowing that I could cut it at any time.

By chance, I wandered into a salon in Michigan where my stylist just happened to have an aunt in the Marine Corps and, after learning that I was joining the Corps this fall, had quite a bit of advice about my hair.

"Grow it long," she said.

She went on to explain that with my wavy, almost curly hair and no opportunity to really style my hair I would end up with unruly waves that would get into my eyes, stick out all over the place and generally be hard to manage without styling products like a blow drier, mousse and a nice round brush.

I had to give it to her. She knew more about my hair in five minutes than I was able to figure out all through high school.

My hair, when short and left to its own devices can take on a frightening life of its own.

She went on to explain that each woman is different. If one has very regular and controlled curls that are predictable or stick straight hair with no wave at all they could easily get away with a short wash-and-go bob that would be hassle free.

For those of us with unruly hair, however, it was easier for us to go with longer hair and tie it back.

She explained about not using too much mousse or gel and perfecting the military sock bun before I even left for Boot Camp so that my hair would be a quick and easy fix and not a source of stress.

I'm happy to say that after five or so times of trying to do a sock bun I finally got it right.

So, in case you are wondering what I did, I'll tell you.

1. My husband donated one of his socks to my cause. I read somewhere that dress socks make the best sock bun socks and so I asked if he would give me one.

I used a tan sock so that it would be as close to my natural color if any sock were to poke through.

2. After cutting off just the toe portion of the sock at the toe seam, I rolled the sock up starting from the toe side and working my way to the ankle side. The reason for this is that the ankle side is more stretchy and will hold the sock together better.

3. With my hair still damp (a recommendation from the hair stylist) I made a low pony-tail and secured that with a scrunchi.

4. Then I placed the sock around my pony-tail.

5. I fanned my hair around the sock using a comb to make sure the sock was evenly covered.

6. Next I used a second scrunchi and placed that over my hair and bun to make the bun look even.

7. I twisted and pinned the excess hair that was sticking out.


Below is a good video to show the process.

I guess, when it all comes down to it, I will do what I need to do and deciding on what to do with your hair before leaving for Boot Camp, for a female, is a bit scary. My theory is simply that I can always cut it, I can't put it back. I will try it long and if it gets to be too much for me I will chop it off. It's not like I have anyone to impress in Boot Camp.

There are those who say something silly like, "Why don't you just do a GI Jane?" (If you don't know what that means it's just when a girl shaves off her hair like Demi Moore's character in the movie GI Jane did). To that, I would respond that the "GI Jane" hairstyle is actually against military grooming standard regulations.

As per the Marine Corps Grooming Standard:

The requirement for hair regulations is to maintain uniformity within a military population. Women's hairstyles require non-eccentric styles. Female Marines will be well groomed at all times and when in uniform will abide by the following:

Hair may touch the collar, but will not fall below the collar's lower edge. Hair that would fall naturally below the collar's lower edge will be neatly and inconspicuously fastened or pinned. During physical training periods in which physical training clothing is worn, hair will be allowed to fall naturally, without being fastened or pinned. This does not apply when conducting physical training in the utility uniform.

Hair will be styled so as not to interfere with the proper wear of the uniform headgear. All headgear will fit snugly and comfortably around the largest part of the head without distortion or excessive gaps. Hairstyles which do not allow the headgear to be worn in this manner are prohibited.

Faddish and exaggerated styles to include shaved portions of the scalp other than the neckline, designs cut in the hair, unsecured ponytails and styles which are distinctly unbalanced or lopsided are prohibited. Multiple braiding is authorized. If hair extensions are used in the braiding of the hair, the extensions must have the same general appearance as the individual's natural hair. Braided hairstyles will be conservative, and conform to other guidelines listed herein.

So, there you have it, girls. Don't shave your head.

There are other people who say, "Why worry about it?"

Well, I'll tell you why. According to a good female friend of mine who served as a Drill Instructor for a number of years, you only have a select amount of time to "master" your hair or the Drill Instructors get out the scissors. And, according to her, when the Drill Instructors get out the scissors it is guaranteed to be the worst hair cut of one's life.

To us women, our hair can be our identification and when my cold, hard husband heard of this even he winced and said, "That's COLD."

It is cold. The humiliation. The sadness at losing your hair to a Drill Instructor's scissors. No thank you. If I'm going to lose it it's going to be on my terms.

This is why I don't blame any gals who wish to cut their hair before they go. I think everyone should do what she thinks is best. I've decided to go with long hair. Because of that decision I've also decided to master the sock bun LONG before I ever get to Boot Camp. I'll let you know how it all turns out for me when I get back in January.