Crucible leader inspires through motivation
By LCpl. Virgil P. Richardson
| | July 19, 2002
MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT/EASTERN RECRUITING REGION PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. - --
The lore of the Corps is bigger than any one person could ever be, and anyone who has served even one day has a unique story to tell. Many of these stories focus on the one common denominator of all enlisted Marines - recruit training.
For many Marines who graduated from Parris Island since 1999, one figure stands out and reaps the same ghost-story reverence usually reserved for drill instructors.
"I rappelled off the helicopter skid and didn't break my rope on time," said Cpl. Nate Rymill, a bandsman with the Marine Band, Marine Forces Pacific, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. "I landed flat on my back and had the wind knocked out of me. After everyone figured out I was alive, Sgt. Ferguson stood over me. He asked me, 'You gonna live?' I mumbled something to the effect of 'yes, sir.' He got this sinister smile on his face and said, 'Good, cause that was some motivating trash.' He was completely psycho."
Flattered by the compliment, Sgt. Drake A. Ferguson, Crucible instructor, Weapons and Field Training Battalion, says influencing recruits is what helps him keep his edge.
"The Crucible is my day-to-day job," said Ferguson. "Recruits only get one Crucible. If my motivation makes a difference to them, it's all worth it to me."
Ferguson carries motivation in a seemingly unending supply the way some carry sarcasm and contempt. As to where that motivation comes from, Ferguson imposes a politician-like persona when touting his beloved Corps.
"I honestly and truly love the Marine Corps. It's that simple," said Ferguson with a smile.
From the moment he stepped into the recruiting office, Ferguson had embraced the idea of Corps unity and brotherhood.
"I wasn't impressed by all the pretty ooh rah stuff all over the office. What got my attention was the poster hanging behind my recruiter's desk. It had 'Band of Brothers' on it. As I read it while I sat there, I realized that's what I wanted."
Ferguson was referring to the monologue in William Shakespeare's "Henry V," in which King Henry is preparing to lead his men off to war. The Marines have unofficially adopted it as a mantra explaining the Corps' unwavering willingness to die for a stranger in Marine utilities, for no reason other than he is a member of our "band of brothers."
Supreme leadership is another characteristic Ferguson referenced when explaining his personality.
"I had phenomenal non-commissioned officers coming up as a young Marine. The ones who were gung-ho in everything they did were the ones I tried to emulate," said Ferguson.
"If I'm a psycho maniac - good! That's the kind of leader Marines need - someone who believes in what they do and loves doing it. They're the ones you'd follow to hell with a smile on your face without question."
Necessity was never a factor in Ferguson's decision to join the Corps.
"I joined the Marines because I wanted to, not because I had no place else to go. I volunteered for this," said Ferguson. "The intangibles are what drew me in. I never cared about being an army of one. I had been one of those my whole life. I didn't need the military for that. We're a collective group, and that makes us special."
Ferguson is taking a break from the rigors of recruit training to work in the Field Training Platoon maintenance shop. The time spent there will also give him time to recover from a motorcycle accident.
"It's rough going from a Crucible demigod to a maintenance NCO, but this job has its merits," Ferguson said frankly.
While he does miss the crucible, Ferguson enjoys working with a group of top-notch Marines, and says the two sergeants he works with personify the brotherhood idea.
"I know for a fact that if I ever needed anything, Sgt. [Justin] Brown and Sgt. [Shaun] Wahl would be right there to get my back. They know what it means to take care of their people," Ferguson said humbly.
Behind the imposing rappel tower hangs a hand painted sign, in homage of the previously mentioned crucible demigod: "RESERVED FOR ANIMAL MOTHER."
"Animal Mother was given to me at the School of Infantry by my squad leader," said Ferguson. "We were firing the old M-60 machine gun and we had a load of ammo left after the exercise. I was the guide, and they let me dispose of the spare rounds. The method with which I did that earned me a nickname I have had ever since."
The comparison to animal mother is an appropriate one. In Stanley Kubrick's Marine staple "Full Metal Jacket," a seemingly rabid grunt operating under the Vietnam moniker "animal mother," lives bigger than life and cares more about mission accomplishment than his own safety. For Ferguson, this is a typical way of life.
"Can't is not in our vocabulary. Failure is not an option. As Marines, we improvise, adapt and overcome. That's what makes us better," Ferguson boasted.
As far as what the future holds for the Marines, Ferguson hopes the focus of the Corps will once again be on the basics that we were grounded on.
"I think a lot of people have forgotten what we were put here to do. We are trained killers. Regardless of whether you are a bread baker or candlestick maker, if you wear our uniform, you can get 'the call' at any time and be on your way to war," said Ferguson. "If that call comes, you had better be ready to go."
After two tours in the Marines, Ferguson is ready to move on. After his discharge later this year, he'll continue his faithful service to our country as a federal agent, and the Marine in him will never go away.
"It's been a fun eight years. I've gained so much, I only hope I influenced as many people as influenced me," said Ferguson.
When asked what he'll miss most, Ferguson again referred to his love for the brotherhood he has found in the Marines.
"The band of brothers is unique to the Marine Corps, and it can never be taken away."
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; for whoever has shed his blood with me shall be my brother. And those men afraid to go will think themselves lesser men as they hear of how we fought and died together. - Henry V, William Shakespeare