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The Drill Instructor conducts the vast majority of training a recruit will receive.

United States Marine Corps Recruit Training, commonly known as "boot camp" is a program of initial training that each recruit must successfully complete in order to join the United States Marine Corps. All enlisted individuals entering the Marine Corps, regardless of eventual active or reserve duty status, will undergo recruit training at one of the two Marine Corps Recruit Depots (MCRD): Parris Island, South Carolina, or San Diego, California. Male recruits from the 8th, 9th and 12th recruiting districts (predominatly, areas west of the Mississippi River) are sent to MCRD San Diego. Male recruits from 1st, 4th and 6th recruiting districts, as well as all female recruits, are sent to Parris Island.

Those desiring to become officers attend training at Officer Candidates School in Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia.

Marines generally hold that their recruit training is the most physically and mentally difficult amongst the Uniformed Services, often by citing that it is longer, a more demanding Physical Fitness Test (PFT), and the strictest height and weight standards.



LtCol Biddle training Marines with bayonets in 1942

Daily schedule

An average day typically begins before sunrise.[1] Reveille is sounded and all recruits present themselves for accountability. After personal hygiene and morning clean-up, recruits will perform physical training (only on Monday through Saturday). After the morning meal, the recruits begin the day's scheduled training, which may include classes, drill, or martial arts. On Sundays, recruits are offered the morning to attend divine worship and personal time. After the noon meal, the day's training continues until the evening meal, typically around 1700 to 1800 (5:00 to 6:00 PM). After this time, recruits will have hygiene time to shower, clean their weapons, and clean their barracks. Recruits also get roughly 1 hour of square away time after this, personal time for recruits to engage in personal activities such as preparing uniforms or equipment, writing letters, working out, or doing laundry. Recruits are not free from their DIs or allowed to leave the squad bay during this time. In preparation to sleep, recruits may hydrate, pray together for 5 minutes, ensure footlockers and rifles are locked, and often recite the Rifleman's Creed or Marines' Hymn before hitting the rack. Lights-out is typically anywhere from 2000 to 2200 (8:00 to 10:00 PM).

Organizational structure

Recruits are organized by regiment, battalion, company, platoon, squad, and often fireteam. A Recruit Training Regiment is composed of three recruit training battalions (at Parris Island, there is an additional battalion to train female recruits). All three of the male battalions are made up of four companies, while the female battalion comprises three. Each company is broken down into two series, designated as Lead and Follow, which may have between one and four platoons, depending on the number of recruits in the company at the time the training cycle begins.

Each company is much like a class at a civilian education institution; each company begins and finishes recruit training together (with the exception of those who are dropped for medical or personal reasons to a different company). Thus, each of the thirteen companies will be at a different stage in the thirteen week training cycle.

Each series is broken down into a number of platoons, usually from two to four in each. These platoons will be the basic unit for recruit training, assigned a four digit number as identification. Drill instructors are assigned to each platoon, and will usually stay from the beginning to the end of training. The Senior Drill Instructor of each platoon will select recruits to billets of responsibility, to mimic command and staff positions of a Marine unit. The selections often change on the whims of the drill instructors, and can include:

  • the platoon guide, the senior-most recruit responsible for carrying the platoon's guidon
  • four squad leaders, each in charge of one-fourth of the platoon; they may choose to further subdivide their squads into four-man fire teams
  • a scribe, responsible for maintaining administrative records such as the interior guard schedule
  • a whiskey locker recruit, responsible for maintaining the platoon's supplies
  • house mouse, who cleans the normally off-limits drill instructors' offices

Drill Instructors

A Drill Instructor provides extra incentives to a future recruit.

Central to the experience, training and development of Marine recruits is the Drill Instructor. Each platoon is assigned three or more Drill Instructors, sometimes informally referred to as "hats" due to their distinctive campaign cover.

The head drill instructor is called the "Senior Drill Instructor", and must be addressed as such by recruits and drill instructors alike. Often referred to simply as "Seniors", the SDIs often bond with the recruits and ensure that the DIs do not push recruits beyond necessary barriers or violate regulations. Senior Drill Instructors are usually a Staff Sergeant or higher, and are distinguished by wearing a black leather duty belt (whereas other drill instructors wear wide green webbed duty belts).

The second in command is officially the "Experienced Drill Instructor" but is unofficially referred to as the "heavy hat", "j-hat", "strong-j" (notionally for "junior"), or "drill hat" (as they normally provide the majority of instruction in close order drill). The remaining drill instructor(s) are called the "Assistant Drill Instructor", but commonly referred to as the "green belt", "kill hat", "knowledge hat", "bulldog", or "3rd hat", normally charged with teaching the recruits much of their academic knowledge and responsible for the overall discipline of recruits. Additional drill instructors may be assigned in the winter season, when there are fewer recruits, or as a temporary assignment for students at the drill instructor school.

The drill instructors of a platoon are responsible to the Series Commander, a level of command added below that of the company commander, as a safety measure put into place following the Ribbon Creek incident. Drill instructors are trained at the drill instructor schools at each MCRD. Those drill instructors who successfully complete three years of duty are eligible to receive the Drill Instructor Ribbon.

Diet, fitness, and medical care

Recruits engage in a pugil bout.

Prior to arriving at recruit training, all prospective recruits undergo a physical examination by a doctor at a Military Entrance Processing Station. Recruits receive their initial weigh-in during the forming phase.[2] If the recruit is under or over the height and weight standards[3][4][5], the recruit is placed on double rations if underweight, or in a "diet" status if overweight. Recruits on double rations, or "double rat recruits", are given twice the usual amount of food. Conversely, diet recruits are put on a strict diet composed of fewer calories and lower-fat foods such as baked fish and rice.

All recruits receive three meals a day (also known as "chow time"), with the exception of the Crucible. These are either served at the mess facility while in garrison, a boxed A-ration when traveling to a mess facility is not practical, or a Meal, Ready-to-Eat during field training. Meal time can last 30 minutes or less, depending on how quickly the platoon gets in line at the chow hall. Recruits are mandated a minimum of 20 minutes to consume each meal.

Those male recruits who fail the initial fitness test, as well as those that fail to perform adequately later in training, are dropped to the Physical Conditioning Platoon (PCP), informally known as the "Pork Chop Platoon" or "Donut Brigade", and females to the Female Rehabilitation Platoon. Here, recruits are made physically fit by intense exercise, as well as the rehabilitation of recruits who have recovered from an injury or illness.

Medical care is provided by the Naval medical personnel: doctors and corpsmen. Those recruits who sustain recoverable injuries or illnesses that will disrupt training are sent to the Medical Rehabilitation Platoon, and once found medically fit, can join a platoon that is at an equivalent place in the training cycle that the recruit left. Severe or unrecoverable injuries can result in separation from service. Sometimes, a recovered recruit will need to be rehabilitated with the PCP to re-attain the required physical fitness.


The intense nature of recruit training lends itself to competition and rivalry between recruits at every level, from squads and platoons up to the rivalry between the two recruit depots. Each platoon in a given company competes to win trophies for having the highest collective scores in marksmanship, close order drill, academic testing, and the final physical fitness test. Platoons that do poorly are sometimes nicknamed the "booger" platoon. While each company will be at a different point in the training cycle at a given time and thus not able to compete directly, graduates and drill instructors foster an atmosphere of friendly rivalry.

However, the rivalry between MCRDs Parris Island and San Diego is much more pronounced, sometimes being compared to the East Coast-West Coast hip hop rivalry. Marines trained at San Diego are often referred to as "Hollywood Marines",[6] because of the base's location in Southern California. Marines trained at Parris Island are sometimes referred to as "Swamp Dogs" because of the large amount of marshland surrounding the base, and more derisively known as "Hump Waivers" because the terrain there is significantly less hilly than that of the West Coast.

Training schedule

Boot camp is a thirteen week cycle of training, beginning with a receiving phase of in-processing or "forming",[7] followed by three numbered phases. Each phase includes intensive education and training on various topics essential for military life. Each phase consists of a predetermined number of training days, these are counted in the training matrix as "T1", "T2", up to "T70" which is Graduation Day.[8]

Receiving Phase

The first activity of a new recruit is to stand in his or her first formation, marked by these yellow footprints

The initial period of Marine Corps Boot Camp is called the Receiving Phase, which begins as the new recruits are on the bus en route to their recruit Depot. They are greeted by a drill instructor, who acquaints them with the Uniform Code of Military Justice, to which they are now subject. Disembarking from the bus, they line up on the famous "yellow footprints", which is their first formation and learn how to stand at attention.

The recruits are given the opportunity to phone their next of kin and inform them of the recruit's safe arrival, then are searched for contraband. They are issued utility and physical training uniforms and toiletries. From here, the males receive their first military haircut, where they are left essentially bald. Females are instructed in the authorized hairstyling, which allow hair to be short enough to not touch the collar or in a bun.

The remainder of receiving involves completing paperwork, issuing a M16A2 service rifle, receiving vaccines and medical tests, and storing civilian belongings under the eye of drill instructors set aside specifically for receiving. This takes approximately three days, usually without the opportunity to sleep, and ends with the Initial Strength Test (IST). The IST is a shortened form of the PFT to assess if a recruit is physically fit enough to begin training. To pass, a male recruit must complete at least 2 pull-ups, 35 crunches in two minutes, and run 1.5 miles in 13:30 minutes or less. The female recruits must hold a “flexed arm hang” (hanging on a bar with their arms bent) for at least 12 seconds, complete 35 crunches in two minutes, and run 1.5 miles in 15 minutes or less.[9][10]

From this point, recruits experience "Black Friday", where they meet their permanent Drill Instructors. They also meet their Company Commander, usually a captain, who orders their Drill Instructors to train them to become Marines and has them recite the Drill Instructor's Creed. At this point recruit training truly begins. Recruits are familiarized with incentive training as one of the consequences of disobedience or failure to perform to a Drill Instructor's expectations. The Drill Instructors physically, psychologically, and mentally challenge the recruits, including yelling at maximum volume and intimidation, to simulate stress of the battlefield and elicit immediate compliance to instructions. The remainder of receiving is made as confusing and disorienting for the recruits as possible, to help distance the recruits from civilian habits and to prepare them for Marine Corps discipline.

It is at this point that a recruit must come to terms with the decision he or she has made and develop the true determination needed to make it through the process of becoming a United States Marine. The final "moment of truth" is offered to those who have been dishonest about their eligibility, such as drug use, judicial convictions, or other disqualifying conditions.

Phase One

A Senior Drill Instructor inspects his platoon prior to "lights out".

Phase One lasts approximately four weeks. Here, discipline will begin to be instilled in recruits by disorienting them and effectively cutting them off from civilian habits and mindsets, as well as reinforcing the mental and physical standards needed to perform under stressful situations that will be simulated in subsequent phases, and experienced in combat situations. Recruits are required to learn and strictly use language and terminology typical to the Marine Corps, often derived from naval terminology.

The purpose of the first phase is not only to physically challenge, but also to psychologically break down the recruit. At this point, civilian thoughts and habits are considered detrimental to training, so they are squashed during this period by intense physical training, unchanging routines, strict discipline, and heavy instruction. The process is designed to enable recruits to learn to survive in combat situations and generally to adapt and overcome any unexpected situation. One of the principal ideals learned during this period is that recruits are not to think of themselves as individuals; they are not permitted to use first person or second person pronouns. Instead, recruits are required to use third-person referrals, such as referring to themselves as "This recruit" and accomplish all tasks with teamwork. Any actions that put the benefit of an individual over the benefit of the other recruits are not permitted, and recruits are expected to conform to a standard that does not tolerate personal deviance or eccentricities. Speed, intensity and volume when speaking are valued as well.

The bulk of first-phase education consists of classes about the Marine Corps and its history and culture, first aid, rank structure and insignia, protocol, customs and courtesies, the 11 General Orders, aspects of the five paragraph order, prepare equipment for use (such as how to properly make a rack), regulations regarding uniforms, and other topics. Recruits learn through the use of rote memorization and mnemonics; recruits are expected to be able to recite a passage or quote in unison, without error, and on demand.

Close order drill is an important factor in recruit training, and begins from their first formation on the yellow footprints. In the first phase, they learn all of the basic commands and movements, memorizing the timing through the use of "ditties", or mnemonics, that help synchronize a recruit's movements with the rest of his or her platoon. Constant repetition and practice are used to facilitate muscle memory, so that any given movement can be rendered immediately and accurately upon order without hesitation. To aid in this development, drill movements are worked into other parts of daily life, to help increase the platoon's synchronization and muscle memory; this same technique is used with other non-drill activities as well. The first inter-platoon contest, held in the last week of the first phase, is termed "initial drill", where the platoon and junior-most drill instructor are graded as a whole on their performance in close order drill.

During this phase, recruits are familiarized with their rifle. This weapon, never referred to as a "gun", stays with the recruit through the entirety of recruit training, being locked to his or her rack at night, while platoons will stack weapons together under guard for activities where retaining it is impractical, such as swimming. Recruits must memorize the rifle's serial number, the four weapons safety rules, the four weapons conditions, and go through preparatory lessons in marksmanship. In addition, recruits use the rifles in close order drill, and will spend considerable time cleaning their weapons.

Recruits begin work toward earning their tan belt in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program. Physical fitness gradually becomes more and more intense as recruits begin to get stronger and their bodies accustomed to the strain. Recruits undergo the first of their conditioning marches, which will grow in length. Periodic fitness tests assess which recruits need more attention, and those who consistently fail to meet the minimum are in danger of being sent to the PCP. Recruits will conduct two pugil stick bouts and are introduced to the obstacle course.

By the end of the first phase, recruits can march, respond to orders, pass the first written test, and keep up in physical fitness.

Phase Two

Recruits learn marksmanship fundamentals, and must qualify with the M16A2 service rifle to graduate.

Phase Two of recruit training is an introduction to field skills, and includes two weeks of marksmanship training, a field week, and "Team Week".

In the first week of the second phase, recruits are taught swimming and water survival. This is the first event where failure to pass will result in a recruit being dropped to a different company to restart training and attempt to qualify again. If a recruit fails twice, he or she will be evaluated to see if a third chance is warranted, or if the recruit will be deemed unable to qualify and administratively separated from service.

The second week is known as "Grass Week". This week is partly spent in a class setting to learn about marksmanship principles of the M16A2 and how to shoot efficiently. When not in class, recruits are snapping in, or practicing their firing positions. Recruits are taught how to shoot by a Primary Marksmanship Instructor, a Marine of the MOS 0931. While range personnel wear campaign covers similar to drill instructors, PMIs are not drill instructors and generally not as strict in enforcing discipline upon recruits, focusing on marksmanship and expecting recruits to uphold their own discipline.

The third week is called "Firing Week", which ends with Qualification Day. This week recruits are awakened early in the morning to prepare the rifle range for firing. They spend all day running through the Known Distance Course of fire (also known as table 1), in order to practice their marksmanship skills with live rounds. Half of the platoons will fire at the 200, 300 and 500 yard lines (182.88, 274.32 and 457.2 meters), in the standing, sitting, kneeling and prone positions; the other half will mark targets in the pits. Friday of that week is qualification day, where recruits must qualify with a minimum score in order to earn a marksmanship badge and continue training. Those who fail to qualify are given a second opportunity during Team Week; if they fail again, they are dropped and will repeat Grass Week. The Marines are the only branch of the United States armed forces that require the 500 yard line qualification. A trophy is awarded to the platoon with the highest cumulative scores.

After the rifle range, recruits begin Team Week. During this week, recruits are placed in various service jobs around the depot, such as yard work, cleaning, maintenance, etc. During this week, recruits will be able to revisit previous instruction and retake tests. Recruits that need to have medical or dental needs addressed, such as the extraction of wisdom teeth, have those procedures done here so that recovery time impacts training as little as possible. Recruits are also fitted for their service and dress uniforms.

Many companies choose to end team week with a weekend "field meet", where platoons will compete in several military-related sports events, such as a rifle assembly race, sprints, a short marathon, an obstacle course race, and a tug of war.

Because MCRD San Diego is located in the center of a dense urban area, it is impractical to conduct rifle qualification and field training there. Instead, recruits are sent to the Edson Range at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton for three weeks during the second phase. At the conclusion, they are returned to MCRD San Diego to continue training.

Phase Three

Recruits performing pushups as part of physical training.

Phase Three is essentially the 'polishing' of the recruits, when their skills and knowledge are honed and tested.

Third phase begins with A-line, where recruits learn to fire their rifle under more realistic combat conditions, such as unknown distances, at night, and wearing a gas mask.

The next week sees recruits at Basic Warrior Training (BWT), where they learn the fundamentals of combat and will sleep in the field and eat MREs. Skills taught include camouflage, low crawling, land navigation, basic squad tactics, rapelling, and other foundations of military skills. BWT ends with the gas chamber, where recruits must don and clear their gas mask while exposed to CS gas, in order to be confident in its use in case of exposure to a lethal agent. Recruits who attempt to flee from the chamber before finishing or refuse to enter are dropped.

After this week, recruits return to garrison for the final drill competition, take the final PFT, and take the final written test (which culminates all of their academic and classroom topics); each event has a trophy for the highest-scoring platoon. At this point, recruits will take their MCMAP test and earn their tan belt; those who fail are dropped. Recruits then prepare for the Crucible.

The Crucible

A recruit aims his M16A1 rifle in 1984.

The Crucible is the final test in recruit training, and represents the culmination of all of the skills and knowledge a Marine should possess. Designed in 1996[11] to emphasize the importance of teamwork in overcoming adversity, the Crucible is a rigorous 54-hour field training exercise demanding the application of everything a recruit has learned until that point in recruit training, and includes a total of 48 miles of marching.[12] It simulates typical combat situations with strenuous testing, hardship, and the deprivation of food and sleep. A recruit is given three MREs (previously two and half) and four to eight hours of sleep through the entire 54-hour event.[12] For this event, recruits are broken into squad-sized teams (possibly smaller) and placed under the charge of one drill instructor. West Coast recruits are returned to Edson Range for the Crucible. Parris Island recruits will conduct the Crucible in the derelict Page Airfield on the south end of the depot.

Throughout the Crucible, recruits are faced with physical and mental challenges that must be accomplished before advancing further.[13][14] Teamwork is stressed, as the majority of tasks are completely impossible without it; each group must succeed or fail as a whole. The others will result in failure unless every recruit passes through together, requiring the team to aid their fellow recruit(s) who struggle in the accomplishment of the given mission. Also stressed are the Corps' core values of Honor, Courage, and Commitment; events sometimes present a moral challenge.[11] Many challenge events are named after Marine Medal of Honor recipient or otherwise notable Marines, and drill instructors will often take the time to read the citation of the award and hold a guided discussion with the recruits to evaluate their moral development. Drill instructors are also vigilant for those recruits who succeed and fail in leadership positions.

Some of the challenges encountered during the Crucible are various team and individual obstacle courses, day and night assault courses, land navigation courses, individual rushes up steep hills, large-scale martial arts challenges, and countless patrols to and from each of these. Often, these challenges are made even more difficult by the additions of limitations or handicaps, such as the requirement to carry several ammunition drums, not touching portions of an obstacle painted red to indicate simulated booby traps, and evacuating team members with simulated wounds.

On the final day of the Crucible, recruits are awoken and begin their final march (known as the "Reaper" march on the west coast). Immediately following this, recruits are offered the "Warrior's Breakfast", where they are permitted to eat as much as they like, even of previously forbidden foods, such as ice cream. Following this is the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor ceremony, where the recruits receive the eponymous emblem, and thereby cease to be recruits, finally becoming Marines. In recent years, this ceremony has been moved to the day before graduation, and signals the start of Family Day.


A Senior Drill Instructor and his platoon await Final Inspection.

The final week of Recruit Training is referred to as "Marine Week" and includes the Battalion Commander's Inspection, Family Day, and Graduation. During this week, Marines are instructed in some of the recruit behaviors that are no longer appropriate as Marines, such as referring to self in the third person. Final photos are taken, a representative from the School of Infantry will conduct a brief, and travel arrangements are made for a ten day leave.

The last full day before graduation is called Family Day. The public day begins early with a "Motivational Run", when the new Marines run (by company, then by platoon) yelling Marine Corps Cadences, past their families; circling the base and ending at the parade deck. The newest Marines are dismissed to on-base liberty with their families from late morning until early evening. During the last night, some platoons allow the recruits to host a gong show, where they perform skits regarding humorous moments during training, especially of their drill instructors. Some drill instructors will use this as an excuse to perform incentive training on their platoon one last time.

The next morning, the new Marines form for their graduation ceremony, march across the parade deck, and are dismissed from recruit training by their senior drill instructors.

Continuing education

After ten days of leave, Marines will attend the School of Infantry (SOI); east coast graduates will attend SOI East at Camp Geiger, while west coast graduates will return to Camp Pendleton for SOI West. Non-infantry Marines will attend a course called Marine Combat Training for 29 days, then proceed to the appropriate school for their Military Occupational Specialty (which vary in length). Infantry Marines attend the Infantry Training Battalion for 59 days. Then these newly-trained Marines are assigned to their first unit.

See also


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Marine Corps.

  1. ^ MRCD Parris Island. Recruit Training
  2. ^ Marine Corps Order 1510.32D. Recruit Training 25 Aug 2003
  3. ^ Marine Corps Recruit Weight & Height Requirements - Male
  4. ^ Marine Corps Recruit Weight & Height Requirements - Female
  5. ^ Marine Corps Order P6100.12 W/Ch 1. Marine Corps Physical Fitness Test and Body Composition Program Manual 10 May 2002
  6. ^ Tomajczyk, Stephen F. (2004). "Appendix 1: Marine Speak". To Be a U.S. Marine. Zenith Imprint, 2004. p. 153. ISBN 0760317887. Retrieved September 20, 2008. 
  7. ^ MCRD Parris Island. Frequently Asked Questions
  8. ^ MCRD Parris Island. Recruit Training Matrix: Phase I
  9. ^ Headquarters Marine Corps (10 Feb 2004). "3: Qualificationd for Enlistment; para. 3274". MCO P1100.72C: Military Personnel Procurement Manual. Vol 2: Enlisted Procurement. pp. 3–89. PCN 10200590400. 
  10. ^ Smith, Stew. "Marine Corps Initial Strength Test (IST)". Retrieved May 16, 2009. 
  11. ^ a b Cheney, Steve (January/February/March 2008). "No Torture. No Exceptions.". The Washington Monthly. Retrieved 16 February 2010. 
  12. ^ a b Garamone, Jim (January 14, 2003). ""The Crucible"". Rite of Passage: Making Basic Training Tougher. Armed Forces Press Service, United States Department of Defense. Retrieved June 20, 2006. 
  13. ^ "The Recruits' Final Test". United States Marine Corps. Retrieved May 21, 2009. 
  14. ^ "The Crucible", U.S. Marine Corps. (Retrieved on June 20, 2006.)

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