Marine parents take over SOI

31 Jul 2006 | Lance Cpl. Patrick M. Fleischman

Many civilians have no idea of the hardships faced by Marines during their recruit and basic infantry training, but now, some do.

Parents and family members who are a part of Marine Parents United in Raleigh, NC came to the School of Infantry East here to receive a glimpse of the training their Marines go through.
On the hot summer afternoon of July 28, Sgt. Maj. Michael Johnson, sergeant major of SOI, greeted the 23 parents and family members on their bus to explain why they were here and what they will soon experience.

After calmly completing the introduction, Johnson yelled at the top of his lungs “You have exactly 5 seconds to get off my bus!”

Running off the bus as fast as they can, the family members and parents formed up and were instructed on the basics of marching, facing movements and ‘ditties’, which are commands that recruits repeat back to their drill instructors to assist in their learning process.
Upon completion of some basic drill, members marched to the equipment issuance point for students attending Marine Combat Training.

Confronted by 23 piles of gear laid out in the same style students do for gear inspections, parents began to put on the gear, with assistance from Marines currently in the Marine Rehabilitation Platoon here.

“I can’t imagine wearing this all day and having to actually perform combat maneuvers as well,” said Larry Leman, a farmer and parent of Lance Cpl. Nick Leman, a machine gunner with 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, 29 Palms, Calif.

Following their experience wearing full gear in the hot Carolina sun, the group was bussed across the base to have a‘Meal Ready to Eat’ lunch.

“At first, I was afraid to eat it, but now I’m going to keep them in my house for emergencies,” said Katie Wigington, parent of Lance Cpl. Nicholas Nakamoto, a rifleman with Company K, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment.

Col. David Close, commanding officer of SOI spoke to the families during lunch.

“One of the most important things that we’re doing right now is trying to keep the families of Marines educated on what they are experiencing, which in turn keeps that Marine glad knowing his family is taken care of,” said Close.

Loading back onto the bus, the parents and families were transported to their last stop, the Indoor Simulated Marksmanship Trainer.

The ISMT is a virtual training system that allows Marines to train for less in terms of resources, money and more importantly, time, according to, the systems creator.

The use of virtual training systems also provides Marines with training opportunities that would be difficult or impossible to replicate in the real world, such as repetitive training in a controlled environment with instant feedback, after action review, force on force training, and geographically diverse environments, according to

Parents and family members were given a class on how the ISMT operates and were allowed to use simulated M-16A2 rifles and an M-240G gas operated machine gun.

“Having two sons go through this, I wanted to at least have a glimpse of what it’s like for them,” said Paula Zwillinger, a board member of MPU and parent of Lance Cpl. Robert Mininger, killed by an improvised explosive device on June 6, 2005, and Pfc. Gregory Mininger, a riflemen and reservist in Pennsylvania.

Marine Parents United is a non-profit group who has combined their vision and talent to organize events and a yearly national conference for the purpose of education, camaraderie, and unity of Marine parents, according to the group’s website,
“Our goal is to give Marine family members the tools they need to become a strong positive, informative and supportive anchor for their Marine,” said Zwillinger.
For more information about Marine Parents United, visit their website at