Marine Drill Instructor Fulfills Purpose in Corps


San Diego -- Drill instructors have the responsibility to ensure recruits are physically and mentally trained to bear the title “Marine.” This is a daily routine for drill instructors aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, from the early-morning dawn to late-night sunset. For drill instructors, this cycle lasts 12 weeks at a time.

One of the many Marines responsible for molding civilians into Marines is Sgt. Luckner L. Desma, drill instructor, Platoon 2169, Company H, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion.

Desma recalls his experience as a recruit when he first stood on the famous yellow foot prints eight years ago. His lifestyle changed when the barber shaved his head as is customary for all male recruits. He remembers marching to the sound of his own drill instructor’s cadence from one place to another. For the Port-au-Prince, Haiti native, these memories aren’t just moments he reminisces about, but are moments he re-lives daily—this time as a drill instructor.

“I hated drill in recruit training,” said Desma. “Now I’m teaching it.”

Desma’s day starts quick and early from the moment reveille is sounded.

“It’s harder than teaching a baby how to walk,” said Desma. “You can’t teach them something once. Half of the platoon gets it and the other doesn’t.”

The secret to teaching recruits is repetition, according to Desma. His methods are paying off with dividends.

During his three years as a drill instructor, Desma’s platoons have won several competitions including Final Drill, rifle range and the Combat Fitness Test. One of his teams also received the Band of Brothers Award which is given to the team of drill instructors who worked best collectively.

Working as a team allowed Desma and other drill instructors within their platoons to win the Band of Brother award, said Sgt. Jeffrey R. Neely, drill instructor, Plt. 2169, Co. H, 2nd RTBn.

“All of us collectively working together with the recruits helped and made sure they performed when it was time to perform,” said Neely.

Neely explained Desma is a perfectionist and that his push for perfection is another reason why his platoons are so successful.

“Sgt. Desma expects success from them and explains how to (achieve) that success,” said Neely. “He constantly puts pressure on the recruits and doesn’t stop.”

Neely explained Desma has taught his fellow drill instructors the importance of one very important skill for the job.

“I have learned more time management,” said Neely. “We will pass on the knowledge from one drill instructor to another.” 

After completing six successful cycles as a drill instructor, Desma will be hanging up his campaign cover after Plt. 2169, his last cycle, graduates recruit training Jan. 11.

“I would say becoming a drill instructor kind of gave me a purpose as a Marine,” said Desma. “For me it’s a major accomplishment. It’s like the peak of a mountain.”

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