Sunday, August 21, 2011

Psychology in Boot Camp (Fear, Duty and Love)

We spent a day in San Diego with Austin at the end of boot camp. I can’t help but notice the many many Skinnerian learning principles employed to motivate the recruits to be obedient to their drill instructors by instilling an overabundance of fear.

Screaming: The Receiving drill instructors can’t touch you but start screaming at you for moving slow, not holding still, looking around, having things you aren’t supposed to have. They got yelled at if they didn’t take a salad and 2 fruits for dinner. They had to put each item of clothing on “by the numbers” and all shave at the same time. Imagine each tiny thing you do each day is by an order.

Homogenize the appearance: They shave off your hair. They take away your civilian clothes, give you a glow strap, and then and camies (a camouflage shirt and pants). They give those who wear glasses a pair of dorky square glasses so those are all the same.

They instilled a desire to fit in and look like the other, seasoned marines which where there by giving the, newbies the glow strap, making you keep your camies buttoned up to your neck, shaving your head. (observational learning and social pressure) They wait for a week before they will give you your boots. The new recruits are excited to earn the right to unbutton their top button and get their hair cut high and tight to look like the marines that have been at boot camp longer.

Humility and breaking down: The instructors make you yell “yes sir, or aye, aye sir at least 3 times each sentence. You are not allowed to say “I think we should ….” To your Instructor. It’s “this recruit thinks we should…..”

Austin learned to get the most rewards by yelling back a quick loud answer and acting quickly. He was made a squad leader over 13 recruits and a prayer leader. Austin shined at this leadership he had to drag a delirious marine up the “reaper” hill on the crucible hike. So, using lots of consequences like yelling, push-ups, cleaning, the young men were conditioned to fear the drill instructors every second and they became extremely disciplined. Obedience is what a well-disciplined machine like the marine corps needs. Eventually obeying out of fear of the drill instructor turns to obeying out of duty to self, the platoon and country. Eventually the final motivation is love or you are doing it for the marin to the left and right of you.

Austin and Don enjoyed the competition and the physicality of this Boot camp challenge. ( 5 years ago) said the crucible was like scout camp on steroids. They both lost a lot of weight, gained muscle and were at the peak of physical fitness.

As prayer leader Austin had 9 people come to his prayer meeting. After he taught the first discussion there was only him, Dyer, Garcia and one other. Dyer is a guy from Gilbert AZ who didn’t believe in organized religion but had many LDS friends and had taken the discussions before. His mom told us that Austin really made an impression on him and the Elders taught him, he read the Book of Mormon, prayed and was baptized on the 19th after Marine Graduation. Austin did the baptism, the confirmation and conferring the Priesthood. These were things done out of love for the Lord and for the recruit.

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