One trait that I did not have prior to me leaving for boot camp was aggression. I wasn’t a very confrontational person in high school, and I mostly did my own thing and would be the first person to try and talk a situation down. During boot camp I was exposed to a lot of new things that I really hadn’t experienced yet. Straight up violence. There was a lot of fighting, and we shouted things like “kill” or “slay babies”. It is drilled into every Marine that you are a professional warfighter and that your job is to kill. After about a week of being screamed at I completely switched personality types. I was told that it was okay to be aggressive, to be the first person to hit someone.
My first day in the fleet was violent. Our NCO’s had us fight in a thunder-dome-like event after we checked in with our Sgt.Maj. We were still in our alphas, but that didn’t matter. Then twice a week we had sparring and MCMAP. I have never really been all that much of a confrontational person, but the Marine Corps told me it was okay to be confrontational, to be violent, to be angry when you needed to be.
I learned where my threshold was after getting into a fight with another Marine in the barracks. Now that I’m out, I have to find that violent, aggressive switch and turn it off. It took me a couple weeks to realize that. When I was out drinking at a local bar in my home town and someone shoulder checked, there was going to be a fight. On base that same kind of aggression at the barracks would be laughed at and celebrated; someone would have offered us both beer, and we would have walked away probably friends.
With that same aggression just comes directness. I have to realize now that I have to be patient with people because unlike my Marines I can’t scream at them to make them move faster. For the most part I have left that back in the Corps because there is no need for it here and by nature I am not a confrontational person. I would rather try and talk someone down than bludgeon them. Especially being a Sgt., and being responsible for other human beings, you need to be aggressive and assertive. You have to make sure that they are doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing, and sometimes you have to be mean to get accomplish the mission.
Maybe it’s not aggression or anger that I walked away with, but rather a lack of empathy. It’s so easy and quick for me to dehumanize someone in my head: “Be polite and friendly to every one you meet, but always have a plan to kill them.” That’s what General James Mattes taught me. During our transition readiness seminar, our instructors showed us articles and reports about some of our older generations of Marines, and they said that we aren’t the only ones that feel like we might be less of a person or overly angry. In a lot of the places I’ve been only the mean and the strong survive, and it’s something I saw and learned that has stuck with me. It probably will forever.