In boot camp we were subjected to a barrage of tests and exams after being under stress and awake forever our first few days. After these tests, they took a couple of us out to offer us to be reassigned our specialty.
I had signed a five year contract to be in Aviation Ordinance, basically affixing missiles to fighters as they fly out on bombing runs. This sounded fun and what I thought I'd be doing right out of boot camp.
I scored well on the tests and I was told that I showed a strong ability to learn languages...You can tell that from a test? Hahaha, I remember one of the tests had a totally made up language and you had to translate it, basically like an anagram but with total garbledy goop. So, they offered me a change from putting missiles on planes on the deck of an aircraft carrier to being switching to the intelligence field as a linguist, Morse code operator or even presidential guard (not sure how that is related, but the offer was on the table). I chose Russian but eventually, due to class quotas for Marines, ended up being changed to Korean.Language training was done in Monterey, California at the Defense Language Institute. There was a lot of rivalry between the different service members in my section and base wide for that matter. We had Marines, Army, Air Force and Navy intel people all training together. We, as young Marines, were pretty...well...lets just say that we thought we were "hot poop" and we let everyone else around us know it ;)There were many who expected us to fail and rock out of our classes, and many Marines as well as other service members did fail our or get recycled to other classes. Some of the Army boys were just as high on themselves are we were and they would always make comments as to how they were going to be awarded the Commandant's Award, for the best linguist in the graduating class. Graduating class being all languages, all services on a given graduation day.
Our first concern was not to fail, and for those of us who excelled, we targeted the Army boys. I didn't care about the Commandant's Award (winning the war), I just wanted to win every single battle, every quiz, every test, every "who knows the answer to this question?" I focused on that daily. My class started with two of us Marines (Me and Jesse Zimbauer)and several others from other services...We rocked several due to ability as well as some due to medical problems. But each time we rocked a soldier, we would get one from a class ahead of us. A section was three classes, 7-10 students per class. Our six Marines were evenly spread among the classes, outside of my class...we picked up a third Marine; Desmond (Falcon, Stewy, StewBirdy) Stewart.We were a force to be reckoned with, hahaha, just the perfect combination of mischievousness, cockiness, brotherhood and just all around enjoying youth. We all made it through, graduated and are forever brothers. In the end, I pushed the Army kids and they pushed me like no one's business. A combination of class scores, DLPT scores (Defense Language Proficiency Test), community service and an interview was used to determine each graduating class's top student, who was awarded the Commandant's Award...I knew that I was top for scores for all Koreans graduating, but I had no idea about the Russians, Arabics, Spanish, Philippines, Japanese, etc. scores. Spanish linguists generally had the quickest graduation times and generally scored super high on tests and DLPTs.
In the end, I was awarded the Commandant's Award for all graduates, with Kris (Army girl and study buddy) from my class being awarded another big award on the day...our class took the two biggest awards ;) Not tootin' my own horn, but I tend to think about stuff like this when it comes Marine Corps Birthday time...It was a very enjoyable time in my life.