USS IWO JIMA, Arabian Gulf --
“I am Gunnery Sergeant Ermey, I am your senior drill instructor,” announces the actor and Marine Corps icon. “From now on you will speak only when spoken to. The first and last words out of your filthy sewers will be ‘Sir!’ Do you maggots understand that?”
The Marines and sailors aboard the USS Iwo Jima respond immediately and with fervor, “Sir, yes Sir!”
“Bull--! I can’t hear you; sound off like …” responds the former Marine Corps drill instructor, repeating lines he immortalized on the silver screen.
This time even louder, the Marines and sailors answer, “SIR, YES SIR!”
“If you ladies leave my island, if you survive recruit training, you will be a weapon; you will be a minister of death, praying for war. But until that day, you are pukes, you are scumbags, you are the lowest form of life on earth, you are not even human beings. You are nothing but a lot of little, unorganized, grab--, pieces of amphibian --! Oorah!”
Repeating these lines to most people would scare and offend them. But nothing could motivate the Marines and sailors of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit more.
R. Lee Ermey, most famous for his role as Gunnery Sgt. Hartman in the movie Full Metal Jacket, paid a visit to the Marines and sailors aboard the USS Iwo Jima, Dec. 8, 2008. On his entrance to the Iwo Jima hanger bay, where hundreds of Marines and sailors awaited his arrival, Ermey greeted them with this rendition one of his most memorable on-screen moments. The Marines and sailors responded with resounding cheers.
Ermey’s visit was part of a Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) event for deployed troops during the holiday season.
“I’ve worked it out with MWR where we’ll make this a traditional thing,” he said. “They’ll bring me over every year for a couple of weeks and we can do this. And you know, maybe I’m not a great entertainer, maybe I’m not that much of a novelty to some, but you guys are stuck out here in the middle of nowhere, so I know you will laugh at my corny jokes … right? And that’s the important thing to me.”
Going on, “There’s nothing like … getting the troops to laugh at my corny jokes. Because it makes me feel good, it breaks the monotony for them, so it works both ways. It’s good for everybody.”
During his visit Ermey gave away thousands of tee shirts, dozens of hats, took hundreds of photos with Marines and sailors, handed out mail, and toured the ship - greeting every Marine or sailor he saw along the way.
He also presented flags to ten Marines who helped reinforce levees during the June flooding of Elnora, Ind. The flags, donated to the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit by citizens from Elnora, represented the town’s gratitude to all of the Marines and sailors who participated.
Ermey was grateful toward every Marine and sailor he saw throughout his visit.
“As far as I’m concerned, you’re over here doing the hard work, the heavy lifting and the least I can do is come over and say hello to you, give you a little pat on the back and maybe a word of encouragement,” he said. “For me it’s a privilege to be able to come over here and just hang out with you guys for a little bit.”
However, the privilege was not all his. Having been at sea for nearly four months, some of the Marines and sailors aboard the Iwo Jima were glad to have something break up the monotony of everyday work.
“It's a definite motivation boost when we heard Gunny was coming aboard," said Cpl. Trevor Blackburn with Golf Co., Battalion Landing Team 2/6. “For me it's like meeting a living legend … It's just a great motivation boost for all of us. We've been out here for a few months, it's starting to get tedious, and for him to show up and break the monotony, it's just great. The motivation just went through the roof with him showing up.”
Corporal Cory Beverick with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron-264 (Rein) said he was happy to have someone come aboard who understood what he was going through.
“Gunny Ermey's a pretty well-known character throughout the Marine Corps,” he said. “It just lets us know that everyone's still thinking about us, and we're on everyone's minds. It's always good to have someone like [him] come out and put a smile on your face and make you laugh, ease the transition."
“He knows what it's like to be away from your family,” he said. "He can just relate to everything we're going through right now. So it's always nice to talk to someone like that.”
Despite the obvious following Ermey has aboard the ship, he made sure the Marines and sailors knew this visit was not about him, rather it was for those who choose to serve.
“It’s a pleasure to be out here with you. I consider this an absolute honor to be able to come out here and socialize with you folks, ‘cause you are the people that I admire,” Ermey said. “You guys are my heroes.”
The 26th MEU is currently forward deployed aboard the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group in the Arabian Gulf in support of Maritime Security operations.