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Training Wrap-up - Chris Sarno Memoir

The five-day war with the failed water discipline was just one of many facets to the close combat training which the Marines received at Camp Pendleton in their final days stateside. Two mornings a week, they were taught very basic judo. They learned how to use the K-bar (similar to a large Bowie knife) as an effective back-up to replace a rifle. "A Marine always has his weapon and his K-bar," explained Sarno. "The K-bar is the last line of defense if your weapon goes out of commission." The Marines also spent an afternoon at the base pool, but not to swim and bask in the California sun. "We thought we were going swimming," recalled Sarno. "But instead, they taught us how to use our poncho to transport our weapons across a river stream without getting them wet. In the shallow end of the pool, we learned how to fold the poncho to turn it into a makeshift raft so that we could carry our pack and rifle into the water and not get them wet. They showed us how to use the bottom of our dungarees as flotation."

Troubles were not yet over for the Marine who had foamed at the mouth from heat exhaustion during the five day war. Another training requirement at the base pool was to listen to a lecture at the side of the pool. He fell fast asleep in the middle of it. An angry swimming instructor woke him, and pointed to a thick manila rope that was strung from the shallow part of the beginning of the pool up to a high 50 foot diving board. Sarno said that the instructor ordered him to get up on the high platform with his pack and rifle, and then shimmy down the rope. Sarno noted that this was the same rich kid who was hated by the older guys in the platoon. "They were screaming, ĎFall, fall, fall. Donít make it. Donít make it.í He didnít have far to go, and Iím sure he wanted to show them up. This was his moment. Heíd finally come through for himself. But then he fell, and everybody cheered. He went right to the bottom of the pool. Thatís the last we saw of him." Another weak link was gone from the chain of Marine strength.


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