Drill instructors are good at what they do, but their methods of
teaching are only successful because they teach with a specific end result
in mind, which is why their method could never be successful in a
civilian classroom. Drill instructors are preparing their recruits for war
while teachers are preparing their students for the American workforce.
It is important to note that there are good drill instructors and bad drill
instructors like there are good teachers and bad teachers. More
interestingly, these two models are often opposites. Good drill
instructors would be terrible teachers, and bad drill instructors embody
more characteristics that are seen in good teacher’s classrooms and that
conform to The Hollywood Model. It is important to note that drill
instructors are not bad people and actually care deeply about their
recruits. They show it in different ways consistent with The Military
Model of Teaching, but this makes sense because they are preparing
their recruits for a different task. Drill instructors take responsibility for
the lives of their recruits, and it is for that reason they are as intense as
they are depicted. At the end of the day, they are training soldiers to
enter into a lasting bond that will define the rest of these recruits’ lives.
The stakes are high and demand a different model of good teacher.
1 Boot camp is for enlisted members of the military; officer candidate school is for potential officers.
They are similar yet different. Both serve as a screening process, but OCS is meant to test and
develop leaders of marines; whereas, boot camp is aimed at molding the “finest fighting force on
the earth.” For the sake of clarity in this chapter, I will refer to everything as boot camp unless a
distinction is crucial or necessary.
1 Those who enlist in the military are referred to as recruits when going through their basic training;
those who commission, or become an officer, are referred to as candidates in their basic training
1 The Instructor in G.I. Jane is not technically a drill instructor – this movie documents the first
female to attempt CRT (Navy SEAL school) – but the Command Master Chief embodies the
same archetype and is in a similar role. The only difference is that those going through CRT have
already completed boot camp.
1 Boot camp environments usually emulate the organizational structure of a battalion in combat. What
that means is that there are between three and five companies. Within each company, there are
four to five platoons, and within each platoon there are between 40 and 70 people. These numbers
can vary, but the structure stays the same.
1 Drill instructors are referred to as “hats” because of their distinct, “Smokey the Bear” cover. These
covers are very distinct from the covers worn by non-drill instructors.
1 During BUD/S, the main part of the Navy SEALs training, the Command Master Chief serves in the
same capacity that a drill instructor does during boot camp.