For some reason I just noticed the identity of the current Commandant of the Marine Corps, Lt. Gen. Neller. General Neller was my boot camp series commander (then Lt. Neller) and was a certified wild man, at least at the time! I am not sure what kind of Commandant he is or the career he had after my interaction with him. His actions as a series commander deeply impressed me as a Marine (even with the limited and distant relationship we had). He certainly would not remember me as I would be lost in an ocean of recruits and Marines he has known over the last 40 years.
Lt. Neller, to us lowly recruits, was a big chested, no-necked Marine officer. No nonsense, terminally serious, stickler for protocol, and personally involved with the training of his Marine recruits. One of the training objectives that intimidated many recruits was the rope climb. I cannot remember how high the actual rope climb was but I think it was 400 feet (maybe a little less)! Many recruits struggled with the demonstrated leg assist technique and opted to use their arms only…disaster for most. Many a recruit either quit before “slapping” the top crossbar or froze or fell. I accomplished it by using my legs and an intense fear of my drill instructors!
One of my fellow recruits froze at the top of the climb, the second in as many days. The previous recruit froze at the top and then passed out or something and fell all the way down. The D.I.s freaked thinking he was dead or seriously hurt. After determining he was physically fine they attacked him as a loser and made him climb it again! The next “frozen” recruit caught the attention of Lt. Neller. He grabbed two of the ropes next to that freaked recruit, one rope in each hand, and began to ascend the ropes by one hand on each. He went up that rope as fast as I have ever seen! At the top he held onto one rope and with the other hand on the shoulder of the recruit, talked him down (with some yelling as well) following along the way.
That scene impressed me because THAT was a Marine I wanted to be in combat with…not his strength…but his attitude and his Marine-ness, so to speak. Call it espirit de corps and loyalty or whatever. I respected it and I wanted it.
Another event forged his name in my mind. Boot camp is the process of rewiring the recruit’s mind for responding to orders, pain, discipline, and loyalty. We were instructed that no one, NO ONE, physically comes between your platoon and the appointed drill instructors and officers. That was most evident while in “formation” at attention or simply “formed” for orders. No recruit from another platoon or series was allowed to walk between our platoon and its leadership, even accidentally.
Well, a distracted or oblivious recruit wandered between our senior drill instructor and our series commander, Lt. Neller. Instantly, three or four of my platoon mates literally pounced on him and bodily and forcibly ejected this recruit behind and away from our leaders. This action received hearty praise from our commander and drill instructor!
Lastly, near the end of of training, we had a “forced march” and attack on a hill that was very difficult and we were trying to achieve a platoon record. Marines are famous for their “oorah” cry for motivation and encouragement, but the lieutenant decided we needed a new battle cry. He came up with the dumbest replacement: Ganzo! Dumb. I hope he abandoned it.
May God bless Lt. Gen. Neller and I pray that he will lead with the same energy and loyalty that so deeply impressed me…I now believe that he truly is a Marine’s Marine.
Semper Fi, General Neller