Midterm Motivation

When I went to the Marine Officer Candidate School they had something called Midterm Motivation. I was in Navy ROTC and it was a six-week program- it was ten weeks for regular OCS or the one-term Platoon Leaders Class, or two six-week terms in two separate summers for the two-term PLC.

It was after two and a half weeks, which since the first week was largely in-processing and the last week largely out-processing, was closer to a third of a way through, but that’s how they scheduled it. I suppose the reason they did this was they figured at a certain stress point they got a lot of drops, or a lot of candidates getting so discouraged they failed by giving up even if they didn’t formally drop. These people aren’t as stupid as they try to appear, and I think they wanted to make the training as hard as possible but have some check on attrition.

They marched us into a classroom after evening chow- we had evening classes sometimes- and showed us some of the standard motivational films. The highlight was Major Rollings, the company commander, getting up and giving us a few words of encouragement. It was the only time he, or anybody else was ever nice to us. “If yer doin’ good, that’s good, if you ain’t doin’ so good, keep tryin'” is the part I remember.

I can’t speak for anybody else, but I was getting the stuffing knocked out of me, so that helped a little. I was always very marginal as far as the Marines were concerned. The worst thing was the peer evals- I was regarded by the other candidates as bottom of the barrel. When I got to Basic School- the first school you go to after getting commissioned- we were talking to a student and he said peer evals were part of our official grade at Basic School, not just a tool for the instructors like at OCS. I thought to myself, “Oh boy, I’m in big trouble here” and I was. That leads to my quality spread story, but this is a Christianity blog, not a Thrasy’s funny stories blog, so I’ll skip that.

Anyway, I graduated from OCS, I graduated from Basic School, I did my term and went on to other things. It wasn’t pretty, and I got a lot of harsh words and judgments in the process, but I made it through and did my duty. That should be enough, but of course it’s not- in the Marines you can be a posthumous Medal of Honor recipient and have people slag on you.

There is a Calvinist concept called the perseverance of the saints, meaning the chosen will stay with God until the end. I’m about the half-century mark, so I don’t know where I am in my journey- a little past midterm, to be sure, but I may have five more years, or 45.

Frankly, it’s a struggle just to keep going a lot of the time. Just getting by is my usual goal, so I pray for that a lot. I fully expect to get a “marginal” if I get a passing grade at all, but right now I’m just hoping for some midterm motivation.

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One response to “Midterm Motivation

  1. I didn’t know you were a Marine…I’m pleased. It’s rather like finding out someone is from the same small town. I spent a summer at Quantico as a Sergeant Instructor (for those readers unfamiliar with this term, a Sergeant Instructor is the Marine OCS equivalent of a Drill Instructor, but not nearly as impressive. No DI school, no Smokey Bear Cover, no exalted status…just a one-off thing that looks good in the service record), running a class through OCS. It was great fun, and very instructive. It was while serving as a Sergeant Instructor that I learned something about myself: a natural tendency towards cruelty. This was probably influenced by my own experience at the hands of my Drill Instructors in boot camp at MCRD San Diego, but I quickly realized that I was adept and inventive beyond measure at constructing creative ways to make officer candidates’ (OC’s) lives miserable. That penchant for cruelty served me very well in the Corps; it has been a constant and often painful liability as a follower of the living God.

    One other memory from Quantico…I was a complete pagan during my time in the Corps, and I remember another Marine, whose name was Baca if I recall correctly, “sharing the gospel” with me and some other leathernecks one day at the rifle range. His demeanor and presentation were very much like what I have always found repellent in Christianity: the earnest, memorized-by-rote statements, the inability to answer hard questions, the suspicion of people who ask hard questions, etc.

    Between then and now, I (like you) have struggle to keep going, and have longed for some midterm motivation. I have at points BECOME a clone of Baca, spouting the easy answers, avoiding the hard questions, seeking man’s approval, desiring to fit in and belong, content to be part of Churchianity, Inc. I’ve morphed into many other manifestations of One Who Believes, but I have come to realize that each of these phases was absolutely necessary to bring me to where I am, and also that I may very well morph into a bunch of other manifestations before this is all over and I am perfected for His use.

    Keep writing, keep digging, keep fighting, keep asking questions. You’re going to run into opposition and confusion. You’re going to encounter abrasive twits like me. You’re going to get weary and disillusioned. And you’re going to be in the grip of Him Who loves you all the while.

    So look up, brother. Your redemption draws near.

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