The Crucible, Garza said, was "like forging metal with fire. You put them under pressure. They are either going to crack or they're going to shine."
Daniel, Daryl and Steven grimly trudged uphill, their faces expressionless. They huffed and grunted, trailed by Garza's screams: "Finish it! Finish it!"
Halfway up, a friend of Daniel's faltered. Daniel told him to hang on to his pack, and he dragged his friend along. Both made it to the top, as did Steven and Daryl.
Like most platoons, 2103 was burdened with at least one weak, uninspired recruit. He was a slender, baby-faced boy who seemed resigned to his own limitations. He responded to the drill instructors' screams with a barely perceptible mewing that enraged them.
Marching up the Reaper, the recruit stopped several times and bent over in pain. Finally, other recruits pushed, shoved and half-carried him to the top.
There, Garza gave a pep talk, citing the sacrifices of Marines who had earned the Medal of Honor. Each drill area on the Crucible is named after a medal winner and marked with a plaque honoring the Marine.
"Do you think he was tired? Do you think he was scared?" Garza asked after reading a citation for a Marine who earned a medal for heroism in Vietnam. The recruits replied wearily: "Yes, sir!"
"Just imagine how tired you are now," Garza said. "But now you have to get to a firefight. You can't stop just because of the pain. If that was the case, we would not win a lot of wars. . . .
"You've heard of mind over matter? You don't mind, it don't matter."
Garza mentioned the laggard recruit, who sat staring at the dirt.
"I told you at the beginning this is all about heart," he said. "And you had the heart to take him in. You carried his weight. That's the only reason he's here."
The recruit was later dropped from boot camp for FTA -- failure to adapt.
Now the platoon headed down the mountain for the final five miles. Two recruits injured their ankles and had to be loaded onto a medical truck. A third collapsed from the heat and received the rectal thermometer. He, too, was loaded onto the truck.
When recruits faltered, Garza berated them, calling them "babies" and "quitters." Daniel, Steven and Daryl slogged to the end and collapsed in soggy heaps in a base parking lot with the rest of the platoon.
As a reward, the platoon was allowed to shower for the first time in three days. In fresh uniforms, they were set loose at the mess hall for a "warriors' breakfast." They were allowed to eat all they wanted: eggs, steak, bacon, pancakes, waffles.
Predictably, several vomited afterward. "Sort of a tradition," Garza said.
After breakfast, Daniel, Daryl and Steven were permitted to sit for interviews, their first since their disastrous experience weeks before, when they lost military bearing.
Now, as they answered questions, their manners were formal. They said "yes, sir" and "no, sir." Each referred to himself as "this recruit."