Marine boot camp is extremely challenging -- both physically and mentally -- and considered to be tougher than the basic training programs of any of the other military services.
All recruits go to one of two locations for basic training; Recruit Training Depot at Parris Island, South Carolina, or Recruit Training Depot at San Diego. Where recruits go depends largely upon where they enlist. Those who enlist west of the Mississippi likely will go through boot camp in San Diego, while those in the East will attend at Parris Island. There is only one boot camp to turn women into Marines -- Parris Island.
USMC Recruit Training
All Marine recruits start their training at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD). This is where America's young men and women are transformed into Marines. Some believe that Marines are forged in a furnace of shared hardship and tough training. Shared, intense experience creates a bond so strong between Marines that nothing can stop them from accomplishing their mission.
Marine Corps recruits are trained not only physically and mentally, but morally as well. Forming the bedrock of any Marine's character are the core values -- honor, courage and commitment. By incorporating these values into recruit training, a Marine is not just a basically trained, morally conscious Marine, but also a better American citizen who will return to society after their service.
Taking Up The Challenge
Marines, both active and veterans, say recruit training was the most difficult thing they ever had to do in their lives. It has to be that way to prepare young men and women to be part of the world's most elite fighting force.
Upon arrival at MCRD, a new recruit begins a three-phase training program -- a virtually nonstop journey -- that results in the transformation from recruit to Marine.
Phase One: Weeks 1-4
The first phase is the transition of civilian to recruit, and it takes place at the MCRD, where recruits undergo strenuous physical training, martial arts and classes on such areas as Marine Corps history and first aid.
A recruit's first stop is called “recruit receiving.” This is where recruits spend the first few days of their recruit training experience. This is where they receive their first haircut and initial gear issue, which includes items such as uniforms, toiletries and letter writing supplies. During this time, they also are given full medical and dental screenings, and take the initial strength test. This test consists of a 1½-mile run, sit-ups and pull-ups to test recruits to see whether they're in shape to begin training. Recruits will learn the Marine Corps values of honor, courage, and commitment. The rest of this phase is spent learning weapons handling from trained experts and completing the confidence course.
Phase Two: Weeks 5-9
The second phase starts when recruits move up north to Edson Range, Weapons Field Training Battalion, and hone their close combat skills and master marksmanship training. Every Marine is a rifleman first and foremost. It is during this time they will develop proficiency and confidence with their weapon. During this phase, they spend most of their time conducting field training and rifle qualifications. Recruits undergo gas chamber training, the field firing range and the crucible event.
Phase Three: Weeks 10-13
For the third phase, recruits move back to the depot, where they undergo swim qualifications, a defensive driving course, testing of Marine Corps history, first aid, physical training, drill, inspections and finally family/graduation.
Special note: During basic training, trainees can receive mail but nothing else -- so please ask friends and family not to send gifts or supplies. Also make sure your mail is not addressed to “Marine” or “Private.'' This is a title recruits earn after successfully completing training.
The following are descriptions and details about some events listed above.
The U.S. Marine Corps Core Values
The Corps' core values are honor, courage and commitment. These values comprise the bedrock of a Marine's character. During your training, you are taught these values and the numerous others attached to them, such as integrity, discipline, teamwork, duty and esprit de corps. Drill instructors, recruit training officers and Navy chaplains teach specific classes about core values, but drill instructors also will talk one-on-one with you after other training events to see what values were learned and how you are affected. For example, a drill instructor might talk about overcoming fears after rappelling or not giving up after a long march.
The confidence course is an 11-station obstacle course, which helps you build confidence as well as upper-body strength. You will tackle this course twice during your 13 weeks of training.
Physical training, or "PT" as it often is called, comes in many forms. Recruit training uses a progressive physical training program, which builds up recruits to Marine Corps standards. Recruits will experience Table PT, a period of training in which a drill instructor leads several platoons through a series of demanding exercises while he demonstrates on a table. Recruits also will run, either individually or as a platoon or squad. Other PT consists of obstacle courses, circuit courses, or three-, five- or 10-mile conditioning marches.
Marksmanship training teaches you the fundamentals of marksmanship with the M16A2 service rifle. This training takes place over two weeks, the first of which is called "Snap-In Week.''' During this week, recruits are introduced to the four shooting positions (standing, kneeling, sitting and prone) and a primary marksmanship instructor (PMI) shows how to fire, how to adjust rifle sights, how to take into account the effects of the weather, etc. Recruits also have the opportunity to fire on the Indoor Simulated Marksmanship Training machine. During the second week of marksmanship training, recruits fire a known-distance course with ranges of 200, 300 and 500 yards. Be prepared: Rifle qualification will be on Friday.
Field training introduces you to field living and conditions. During the three-day field training evolution, you will learn basic field skills -- from setting up a tent to field sanitation and camouflage. Also during the field training, you get the opportunity to go through the gas chamber.
Field Firing Range (FFR)
FFR is a portion of training devoted to firing weapons in a field condition. During marksmanship training, you learn how to fire at a single target while in a stationary position. During FFR, you learn how to fire at moving and multiple targets, while under low-light conditions and wearing your field protective (gas) mask.
Combat Water Survival
Combat water survival training develops your confidence in the water. All recruits must pass the minimum requirement level of Combat Water Survival-4 (CWS-4), which requires recruits to perform a variety of water survival and swimming techniques. If recruits meet the CWS-4 requirements, they may upgrade to a higher level. All recruits train in the camouflage utility uniform, but if upgraded, they may be required to train in full combat gear, which includes a rifle, helmet, flak jacket and pack.
Drill is the basic way in which platoons march and move from place to place. At first, you will practice by just staying in step with the rest of the platoon and the drill instructor. During drill training, platoons also will compete in two drill competitions. Drill mainly is used to instill discipline, team pride and unit cohesion.
Family Day and graduation take place on the last two days while on MCRD. Family Day occurs on Thursday and gives new Marines a chance to see their family and friends for the first time during on-base liberty. Graduation is conducted on Friday at the completion of the transition phase. It is a formal ceremony and parade, attended by family and friends and executed on the parade field.
The following is a description of the Marine Corps Crucible, as told by the Marine Corps:
"We have two missions in the Marine Corps -- to win battles and make Marines," said Col. Bob Hayes, assistant deputy chief of staff for operations and training at the recruit depot here. "The Crucible is one piece of that effort."
The Crucible emphasizes trainee teamwork under stress. "Recruits get eight hours of sleep during the entire 54-hour exercise," said Sgt. Roger Summers, a Delta Company drill instructor in the 1st Recruit Training Battalion at Parris Island. "They get 2½ Meals Ready to Eat (MREs), and they are responsible for rationing out the food to themselves. Then we put them through tough physical activities like road marches and night infiltration courses. They march about 40 miles in those 54 hours."
It isn't long before the recruits are tired and hungry, Summers said, but as they keep going, they realize they can call on reserves they never knew they had. "Some of these recruits do things they never thought they could do," he said. "Some of them come from middle-class homes where everything has been handed to them. Others come from poorer homes where nothing was ever expected of them. If they finish the Crucible, they have accomplished something."
One recruit put it best. "I am going to finish this," he said. "And when I do, it will be the most positive thing I have done in my life."
Delta Company begins the Crucible at 3 a.m. with a six-mile road march from their barracks to Page Airfield, the Crucible site. Once there, recruits -- and that's the only thing the drill instructors call the trainees -- place their gear in huts and prepare for the first of four four-hour events.
Each event has a number of "warrior stations" that each team of recruits must work together to overcome or solve. Each station is named for a Marine hero, and the drill instructor has a recruit read a brief explanation of how the hero's actions exemplify the Corps and its values.
"I choose a different leader for each station. That way, all the recruits understand what it's like to be the leader and what they have to do to be a follower," Summers said. "For some of them, they want to run everything. They can't admit that a recruit who may not have been the sharpest in previous training has a good idea. Sometimes it's the quiet one who has the idea and no one will listen.
"You see the team learn as they go along. At the beginning, they just charge ahead without a plan and without asking if anyone has an idea. By the end of the Crucible, you see them working together better, getting advice from all team members and solving more of the problems."
One warrior station, for example, is built around an enemy-mined rope bridge that the recruits must cross with their gear and ammunition boxes. They have only a couple of short ropes and their personal gear to solve the problem. At another event, recruits run into firing positions and engage pop-up targets with 10 rounds in two magazines. Recruit teams battle each other with pugil sticks in yet another event.
The recruits grab food and water when they can. After the first two events comes a five-mile night march. "The night march was the toughest thing we've done here," said 18-year-old Pfc. Josh Lunceford of Charleston, W.Va. "The whole company went on it, and whoever led it set a real fast pace. You couldn't see very well and people were tripping over stuff, and everyone was tired."
The recruits hit the rack for four hours of sleep, then begin another day and finish the final two events. "On the second day, they are tired and hungry, and it really starts to show," said Capt. John H. Rochford, Delta Company commander. "They start getting short with one another, but they realize after the first day, they have to work together to finish. No one gets through the Crucible alone."
At the end of the second day, the recruits go through a night infiltration course and then hit the rack for another four hours. When they get up, they face a nine-mile march and the end of the Crucible.
The march begins at 4 a.m. and, at first, is done quietly. Recruits limp along, because no one wants to drop out this close to the end, Summers said.
As the sun rises, the recruits cross DI Bridge. Once across, the drill instructors start Jody calls and the recruits join in. As they get closer to the main base, the Jody calls get louder until they reach the parade deck. The recruits form up around a half-size replica of the Marine Corps Memorial -- also known as the Iwo Jima Memorial. There, a significant transformation takes place.
"We're not just giving them basic training; we're turning them into Marines," Rochford said. "There's more to being a Marine than knowing how to fire a weapon. There's a whole tradition behind it, and we want these recruits to measure up to the men and women who went before them."
A color guard raises the flag on the memorial. The chaplain reads a prayer specifically written for the finish of the Crucible, and the company first sergeant addresses the recruits. Then the drill instructors present each of their recruits with the Marine Corps insignia -- the eagle, globe and anchor. He shakes their hands and calls them "Marine" for the first time. Many accept the honor with tears streaming down their faces.
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