How Marine Corps drill instructors are trained at Parris Island


Following is a transcript of the video.

Narrator: These are Marine Corps drill instructors conducting a pickup of new recruits in boot camp. But before they get there, it all starts here, at Drill Instructor School at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in Parris Island, South Carolina. Insider spent three days with a class of students in week six of their nine-week training.

Brian David Hall: Drill instructors are the front-facing element of the Marine Corps to those new recruits that are joining the organization. We make it abundantly clear to them that, at the end of the day, they’re setting the example for the future of the Marine Corps.

Drill instructor: You will be turned over to a team of drill instructors, who will train you for the next 12 weeks.

Narrator: A Marine Corps drill instructor is a non-commissioned officer responsible for training recruits from the moment they step on the yellow footprints at boot camp to the moment they officially become Marines 13 weeks later. The base pay for a drill instructor is about $30,000 a year with opportunities for extra pay.

Drill instructor: Do you understand?

Recruits: Aye, sir!

Student: Fall in! At close interval, fall in!

Narrator: This class has 75 students, including 12 females, one of whom ranks as class commander.

Students: Here we go! On the run!

Mayra Arambula: Being in this institution, where the female rate is low, nothing is just given to you just because you’re a female. You have to work 10 times more than probably a male Marine.

Arambula: It all goes back to boot camp. From recruit training, I told myself I wanted to come back to Parris Island. I wanted to change people’s life. I want to give back to the Marine Corps and make Marines.

Instructor: Class, attention!

Students: Snap!

Instructor: What are we here to do?

Instructor: Make Marines, right?

Hall: Our curriculum is 540 academic training hours packed into 57 training days, about 10 hours of training a day. They come from all walks of life across the Marine Corps. Some of them are very young and junior, beginning their second enlistment, and other ones are more senior and have maybe seen combat. There’s a whole breadth of experience, talent, and skill that shows up.

Narrator: Movies like “Full Metal Jacket” have created a perception of Marine Corps drill instructors that the school is trying to change.

Hall: I think the general stereotype of what a drill instructor is is just this uncompromising, foreboding disciplinarian that lords over a recruit.

Narrator: But the stereotype isn’t just based on pop culture. The Marine Corps has confronted multiple reports of abusive treatment by drill instructors for years, something the school says it acknowledges and addresses directly with students in its curriculum. A true drill instructor will have the respect of the recruits.

Instructor: We all understand these concepts, right?

Recruits: Yes, sir!

Vanbeekom: Yet you can be stern with them, strict, ’cause we got a job to do here, but at the end of the day, we’re here to take care of you.

Arambula: My EDI, she was the role model I wanted to follow. I told myself I wanted to be like her.

Narrator: Students review cases of past drill instructors who were found guilty of abusing recruits.

Narrator: One of the most important responsibilities as a drill instructor is in the name: leading drill.

Instructor: It’s time to perform. The grind don’t start once you get out in the regiment, it starts now.

Student: Left, right, left.

Narrator: Drill instructors teach recruits how to march in step, perfectly spacing themselves apart and executing precise turns as a group.

Instructor: Do it again!

Narrator: So in training, they’re expected to do everything a recruit is required to do with perfection.

Hall: This job is incredibly physical for them. They are on their feet for as much as 14 to 16 hours, and the drill instructor has to have the physicality to develop the recruits throughout the training day.

Arambula: Even when you think you’re tired, you need to keep pushing because you’re in front of recruits. If you’re tired, don’t let it show off, because they’re looking up to you. You’re that role model that they want to emulate in the future.

Narrator: Students don’t just train their bodies. They also train their voices.

Vanbeekom: The voice is the No. 1 tool we have to have. So, on average, you have around 70 to 90 recruits that you are instructing with three to four drill instructors. You make a correction on a recruit, yell it out, and then if that recruit hears, every single recruit hears. How many paces from crack to crack? Three paces, right?

Narrator: Even the most cordial commands are delivered at a high volume.

Instructor: Take your time! There’s no rush!

Arambula: They tell us to use our diaphragm, not to use your throat, ’cause that’s how you get the froggy voice. So, at night, I drink tea with honey, and sometimes I put lemon, and that actually helps get my voice back the next morning.

Narrator: And this tool gets plenty of practice.

Narrator: The place where the drill instructor will spend the most time with their recruits is in the squad bay. For this exercise, students are practicing BDR, or basic daily routine protocols, where recruits prepare for bed after a long day of training. Three students are chosen to take the role of drill instructor, while the rest of the students act as recruits. Half of the platoon prepares and cleans their racks, while the other half goes to the head for hygiene protocols.

Hall: They’re gonna be responsible for the livelihood and the welfare of as many as 80 to 90 young adults, many of which don’t necessarily understand the tenets of basic hygiene.

Vanbeekom: Everyone comes from different places in the world. Some of them never had a big brother or big sister. Some of them never had a good mother, a good father figure, and that’s what we really are for the first time, and they look at us like that. And I say everything that we do is setting that example.

Narrator: Leadership training in the classroom prepares students for conversations with recruits making the transition into adulthood.

Vanbeekom: There’s a lot of important aspects that we teach here besides – you know, drill and physical fitness, but inside, we teach a lot of core values.

Hall: We don’t really have a good way to measure our moral and our mental strength, right? Those characteristics and those fibers that really make up who we are. OK?

Narrator: The school administers mental-health screenings for students and gives them an assessment of their perceived strengths and weaknesses.

Manny Gonzalaez: It’s about being proactive, trying to be able to look at identifying these things earlier. We overestimate our abilities, or we underestimate our abilities. Inherent to that new role of being a drill instructor and training at Drill Instructor School, there’s some unique stressors that happen regarding that, and we’re trying to understand both personally and professionally what we can do to set them up for success.

Instructor: So, what you’re telling me now is you have no attention to detail, at all.

Narrator: As the end of training nears, students report to the parade deck for a strict uniform inspection. Any mistake, like a strand of fabric hanging off a uniform, known as an IP, is critiqued. Even the class commander had issues with her uniform.

Instructor: Double crease in the trousers. Double crease, double crease.

Narrator: The finishing touch for a drill instructor uniform is the campaign cover, which students receive upon graduation from Drill Instructor School. After graduation, new drill instructors commit to a three-year tour working with recruits in boot camp.

Speaker: Receiving special recognition for superior achievement in physical excellence is Sgt. Arambula from 3rd MEF Information Group.

Arambula: It feels amazing to wear the cover and finally walk across that stage. I want to make sure once I get to my company that I make an impact on every single recruit. That’s my main aspiration. I want to show up and give 100% at all times to those recruits and be that example, ’cause I want to lead from the front.

Students: I will train them to the best of my ability. I will develop them into smartly disciplined, physically fit, basically trained Marines thoroughly indoctrinated in love of Corps and country.