Every enlisted Marine has this experience in common: Boot camp.
Thirteen weeks of recruit training that transform a civilian into a U.S. Marine.
And from what Marines have told us, it’s like getting broken down so that Drill Instructors can build you up again with the character and discipline of The Few And The Proud.
No one is special. If you wear glasses, you’re issued a standard pair like any other recruit who needs them. Until this January, the design of those glasses were so ugly, they were nick-named BCGs — birth control glasses. They were that unattractive.
Here at BI Military & defence, we work on bringing you content that offers a different insight into the armed forces. We talk to troops and make sure their voices are included in our reporting. Or we let them do the reporting.
This post about the Marine Corps was inspired by a simple question posted to Reddit:
Photo: Marines/Eric Quintanilla
“I just officially joined the Marines. I leave for boot camp in 8 weeks. What should I know before I get there?”
One Redditor going by USMC_Hill replied, “None of the stuff I’ll tell you will actually click until after it’s happened.”
But he gives it a damn good shot.
And we’ve compiled a play-by-play of what goes on during those 13 crazy weeks when recruits are cut off from the outside world. We’ve provided translations for all the boot camp words too — it’s like a whole other language.
With commentary from Marines, here’s what goes on at Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD) San Diego. Brace yourself: it’s one heck of a journey.
'There are computers and TVs for you to use there. Enjoy it because it's the last time you'll have access to the outside world for a bit.
'If you're one of the first to arrive you'll likely see Marines coming from SOI West (School Of Infantry) and heading to their MOS schools (Military Occupation Specialty; your job in the Corps). Please do not address them as 'sir'. They're f------ pvts and pfcs (low-ranking Privates and Privates First Class).
'Anyways the DIs (Drill Instructors) come in and your arse will stand outside waiting for the bus.
'There's a couple different waves of them so be patient as you can... You'll put your head down and drive to the depot, it takes no longer than 5 minutes.
'Receiving DI will get on the bus and tell you to get the f--- off it.'
After getting off the bus, recruits line up on the famous yellow footprints. Learning how to stand at attention, this marks their first formation.
'You'll end up in the receiving barracks, drop your shit, do medical, dental, admin, and other random stuff.'
- Males get their first military haircut, ie: bald...
- Recruits do the Initial Strength test, a short version of the Physical Fitness Test
- They get issued their M-16A2 service rifle
And then comes Black Friday, when recruits meet their permanent Drill Instructors. Read on the see what Marines sharing their Black Friday impressions have to say.
But first, USMC_Hill shares this insight:
'There's a good chance you will not sleep for quite some time. Also start looking for items you can use for toilet paper (TP). You will understand when you see the heads (bathrooms) in the barracks, it's disgusting. If you can make it through Black Friday, you'll actually get to use on a clean shitter with actual TP after lights go out that first night with your training company.'
From a Leatherneck forum, these Marines look back on their Black Friday experiences. Not every platoon has a Black Friday, but it's common enough:
'I'd equate black Friday to 3 human beings turned into tornadoes...'
'The most intense temper tantrums ever thrown by grown men.'
'I will never forget the sight of seeing one of my DI's fly through the air like Superman and give this kid a flying forearm shiver.. wrecked his day.. unreal. I think he eye-balled, and smirked at the DI.. bad move.'
USMC_Hill sums it up:
'It's just a lot of screaming and running around, you'll have no f------ clue what's going on, just roll with it I guess.'
USMC_Hill takes us through a recruit's typical day, starting with a unique wake-up call.
0500 -- ''Lights lights lights motherf------'. Everyone jumps through their arseholes to make their racks (beds) and get dressed within the absurd time limits.'
DIs will mess with you even when you're doing a good job. He also notes, 'the last hour of firewatch gets IT'd' (see below).
What this means:
'Fire watch is sentry/guard duty. It used to be literally watching for fires and alerting others and the term stuck', prior Marine infantryman Paul Szoldra explains.
'IT stands for incentive training. It's a drill instructor term, also known unofficially as a smoke check.
Push ups, run in place jumping jacks, etc. All in rapid variation and high intensity.'
0600ish -- 'Morning chow, best damn meal of the day. Mix your yogurt with your cereal, put ketchup on your hashbrowns, eat lots of peanut butter.'
What this means:
Be smart about breakfast.
0700 - 'Get your shit and get ready for training. Usually means grabbing your knowledge for classes or changing over into PT (physical training) gear.'
What this means:
1200ish -- 'If you did PT, you'll wagonwheel through the rainroom and change back into cammies, go to chow and return to the squad bay.'
Translation: hurry up and shower, change into your camouflage uniform, eat lunch, and get back to the barracks.
1300 -- 'More classes, mcmap (Marine Corps Martial Arts Program) or drill'
1700ish -- 'Evening chow'
What this means:
The day isn't over yet.
1800ish -- 'Hit the sticks on the mini-grinder, then platoon PT. Push ups, sit ups, pull ups, known as PUSIPU (pronounced 'pussy-poo').'
What this means:
The mini-grinder is the squad bay (barracks) where recruits sleep. Recruits will move their racks to the sides of the room for drills, such as with weapons, which is what 'Hit the sticks' refers to.
1900 -- 'SDI (Senior Drill Instructor) time, also known as the 5 by 5. Here you get mail, and if you're lucky, Powerbars. Recruits ask their stupid arse questions.'
What this means:
The Marine Corps reminds members of the public, 'During this time the recruits can receive letters but nothing else -- so please do not send gifts or supplies.
'This is Recruit Training, so don't address letters with 'Marine' or a rank, like 'Private'. This is a title they will earn after they successfully complete training.'
2000 -- 'This can vary by what phase you're on. First week: this is pure hell. You'll be counted down by DI's in the shower, while shaving, brushing your teeth, etc.'
'Once they let up you've got about an hour to shit, shower, and shave. If you've got mail you can read it or write letters, but if you need to square away (tidy up) gear do that first.'
2100 -- 'Lights lights lights, go to sleep bitches'
Firewatch -- 'Sucks during 1st phase. The DI's will always f--- with front post for the first hour, sometimes two. Be a rover and skate in the back of the squad bay.'
What this means:
Recruits are forced to drop their civilian habits and adopt the discipline necessary for success as a future Marine. Getting punished builds character, especially when you thought you were doing a good well. Being humble is a virtue.
The Marine Corps is an amphibious assault force, so every recruit needs to know how to survive in water -- wearing all their gear. This includes a rifle, helmet, flak jacket and pack.
If a recruit doesn't know how to swim, this week will be especially challenging, as everyone trains towards Swim Week qualifications.
Among other tests, recruits encounter the gas chamber.
Also known as a confidence chamber -- it simulates the type of environment a Marine may encounter in a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear warfare situation, says the Marine Corps.
Getting hit with components of tear gas as a form of training happens across the Corps.
A Marine responding to this photo here, recalls:
'Ha! Remember that from Camp Le Jeune like it was yesterday. After removing your mask, you have to walk around inside the building for about 2 minutes, singing (trying to) the Marine Corps Hymn, before the open the door and let you out. Then you have to run a mile, to get it out of your lungs. Even then, it was in your fatigues so bad, it took another day to air out. And the later you go into the building (about 10 at a time), the worse the gas was. I was at the end of the line, so it was in there like a cloud cover that you couldn't even see through.'
USMC_Hill continues with Week 6:
'You'll head up to Edson Range, Camp Pendleton. Once you get off the bus it's pretty much Black Friday part two.
'1st week there is called grass week (learning the 4 shooting positions). You'll meet your PMIs (Primary Marksmanship Instructors) and begin marksmanship classes, please pay the f--- attention, your rifle score depends on it.
'During this time you're away from your DI's so enjoy it while you can.'
'Thursday is pre-qual (qualification), Friday is qual, so don't dick around the first 3 days.'
What this means:
A Marine's rifle qualifications follow him/her through their service: all recruits strive for the coveted 'Crossed Rifles' of the Rife Expert badge. Recruits can also earn the Rifle Sharpshooter and Rifle Marksman badges.
'Once this is done with you'll get ready to head out for field week. Field week is more like two days in the field, you'll do landnav (land navigation) during the day, and then you do it again at night, which is easy as f---.
'Oh yeah there's three hikes. One each Saturday that you're there. I don't remember doing much after coming off the range every day, usually it was drill or shit like that.'
The 3rd Phase starts with Team Week and the days are relatively calmer, although there are some tests and classes. Otherwise, USMC_Hill explains:
'You come back to the depot and don't do shit during team week. If you're sick that would be the time to go to medical, just don't let it interfere with uniform fittings that Friday.'
'Some recruits do not know what to do with this temporary freedom. Since many recruits believe they are going to starve to death, you may see instances of stealing food from the mess hall.'
She points out: 'Overall, team week is a chance to take a break from training and work with your fellow recruits. Team week comes just before A-line, the day and night movement course, and finally the Crucible.'
Find out about the Crucible next..
The Crucible is a 54-hour mental and physical test that every recruit confronts. Over 3 days, recruits are deprived of food and sleep, and have to power through combat obstacles and Battles, says the Corps:
• Recruits will travel 48 miles on foot during the event.
• There are 29 problem-solving exercises during the Crucible.
• It consists of 36 different warrior stations.
• The recruits will only have three meals, ready-to-eat (MREs) during the 54 hours.
• The recruits will be required to carry 45 pounds during the Crucible, in addition to gear, uniform and M16 A2 service rifle weight.
Up until and after the Crucible, recruits are only potential Marines.
After one final hike up..
'Get to the top of the Reaper and yay, you're a Marine. Now you've still got the other half of the hike to finish,' laughs USMC_Hill.
New Marines receive their Eagle Globe and Anchor (EGA), the official emblem of the Corps. Every Marine must earn the EGA -- it marks a recruit's transformation into a member of the fleet.
Of course, the Corps takes care of its own, so new Marines are treated to a breakfast fit for only true warriors -- all-you-can-eat steak, eggs and potatoes.
The last part of boot camp is appropriately called Marine Week. It ends with a public family day, and Graduation.
But as ever, USMC_Hill offers this candid take:
'Marine week is just sitting there cleaning your weapon for the Battalion Commander's inspection and getting ready to f------ leave that shithole.'
Perhaps after 13 weeks of boot camp, you'd share the sentiment.
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