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“I thought, 'What did I get myself into.'” Todd Johnson was twenty years old when he joined the marines. He had already been in the army for two years but wanted more of a challenge, and thats exactly what he got.
When did you join the marines?
I joined the marines in 1985. I was twenty years old.
Why did you decide to join the marines?
I had been in the army first for two years, but I was bored with it. I wanted more of a challenge.
What did your family think when you told them you were joining the marines?
That I was dumb. My mom was worried and my brother, Randy, thought I should join the air force instead.
What were you feeling the first day?
I thought, what did I get myself into. As soon as we got off the bus at the airport, our drill instructors started yelling at us.
What was training like?
Hard and strict. We had to march a lot. We would climb a mountain at night and stay over, then come back in the morning.
Where was that at?
In San Diego.
How long did it take to become fully trained?
Twelve weeks for basics. Then a year for recon and a year for marksmanship instructor.
What is recon?
You're trained to be the first to be sent into battle.
How early did you have to wake up and go to bed?
Basically 5 am. We went to bed at 9 pm. It varied.
Were your drill instructors hard on you?
In basic training they were very rough but afterwards they weren't.
Did you get a lot of punishments?
In boot camp. We would have to do bends and thrusts in sand pits and push-ups.
Did you make a lot of friends?
What did you have to wear?
Khaki's mostly and camouflage.
What were your living conditions like?
It varied. We had nice places to live in Okinawa, Japan. There were three-man rooms, like dorms. But we lived out in fields in lean-to's during survival training. We lived in barracks, too, with fifty men.
Did you have any free time?
Fifteen minutes a night during boot camp to write letters but it varied. We would get a weekend off once a month too.
Did you have to participate in any missions?
No, because there was no war going on at the time.
Did you have to travel a lot?
Yes, to the east coast, west coast, Okinawa, Thailand, Korea, and the Philippines.
Why did you travel to these places?
We were on a navy ship and we would take port there. I was on Kitchen Patrol for a month because we were short-handed. We would work twenty hour days.
What were the living conditions on the ship?
They were like little rooms, like trains have.
What was going on in the world when you were in the marines?
There was nothing going on between 1985-1989. We just had riot control in the Philippines because Ferdinand had been ousted.
How long were you active?
Four years, but six years of active duty including the two years in the army.
What is your status now?
I was a corporal E-4 but I'm retired now.
What was the hardest part?
Boot camp, getting broke down, getting spit on.
Did you enjoy being in the marines?
What did you learn from your experience?
Respect and self-discipline.