Marine Corps basic training is the longest and toughest of all of the armed services. Not only are the physical requirements tougher, but Marine Corps recruits are required to know and memorize a lot more information. All told, Marine Corps basic training is thirteen weeks long, with more than 70 “training days” in a period of twelve weeks. But don’t let that number fool you. Recruits are expected to hit the ground running and you will start training the moment you step onto the yellow footprints. Many Marines say that boot camp was the most challenging experience of their entire lives.
Once you step onto the yellow footprints, your education as a USMC recruit will begin. You will learn three articles from the Uniform Code of Military Justice which you must follow. Article 86 prohibits absence without leave. Article 91 prohibits you from disobeying a lawful order, and Article 93 prohibits disrespect of a commanding officer.
The first stop in boot camp is Recruit Receiving, where you will be given the opportunity to call home and inform your loved ones that you have arrived safely. Then you are searched for contraband and issued basic uniforms and toiletries. You will surrender all of your civilian possessions (including your underwear) to the Marine Corps and issued everything you need. All you need to take with you to boot camp is your civilian ID.
Next, you will get your first haircut, which is essentially bald for male recruits, and close-cropped for females. The remainder of receiving includes filling out a lot of paperwork, undergoing a medical and dental screening, and receive a number of vaccines. You will not be getting any sleep for the first night, and you will probably lie in bed the next wondering what in the world you are doing here. Then you will be given the Initial Strength Test. This test includes a mile and a half run, pull-ups, and max crunches in two minutes. This is a scaled down version of the Marine Physical Fitness Test, or PFT, to ensure that recruits are ready to begin training. If you have only trained to the minimum requirements, expect to have a difficult time. Read more about Physical Fitness Tests HERE (include link to page).
Finally, you are issued an M16A4 service rifle in preparation for Black Friday, when you meet your drill instructors.
On Black Friday,you meet your Drill Instructors and they will give you an experience you will never forget. During this time, they will be relentless. There is no turning back once you are “picked-up” into your boot camp platoon. At this point, it is easier to earn the title than to get kicked out of boot camp. Typically, only 15% of recruits are dropped, however, my boot camp platoon was less than 40% of the original members because of injuries, failing rifle and swim qualifications, and medical issues. Black Friday is a day you will remember for the rest of your life, that few have ever experienced.
This is when Marine Corps basic training begins. You will learn about Incentive Training, or IT. Drill Instructors are allowed to use incentive training to instill discipline and correct mistakes. Outside, they are limited to five minutes of IT in one of the sand pits located around the recruit depot (known as IT pits). Inside, on the “quarter-deck,” there are no limits. Expect to do more jumping jacks, pushups, mountain climbers, and other exercises than you ever thought possible.
Everything your drill instructors do to stress you out is designed to simulate the stress of combat and elicit immediate responses to orders. From someone who has been there, trust me, it works. You will be given your final “out” to come clean about drug use and other disqualifying conditions to your enlistment. From then on, you have no choice but to become a Marine!
The first month of your boot camp experience will be filled with physical conditioning, martial arts, and classes that cover everything from first aid to rank structure and Marine Corps history. You will also be introduced to your best friend—your M16A4 service rifle. You will take disassemble, clean, assemble, and drill with your rifle until the movements become muscle memory. You will learn the basics of DRILL (LINK), run the obstacle course, conduct swim qualifications, and be instructed in the basics of Marine Corps Martial Arts. You will learn the basics of drill, USMC rank structure, and engage in physical fitness every single day. You will be expected to memorize Marine Corps terminology as well (a full list of what you will be expected to learn can be found HERE WITH LINK).
The primary goal of Phase 1 is to distance you from your physical and psychological habits as a civilian. Military routines, doing basic tasks “by the numbers” and you won’t even be able to refer to yourself by name. You are expected to call yourself “This Recruit,” and other recruits as “those recruits.” When asking a drill instructor a question, you will be expected to use the format “Sir, this recruit would like to speak to Drill Instructor (rank) (last name), Sir!”
The third week of Phase 1 includes swim training and qualifications, which is the first event that a recruit may be “dropped” to another platoon to test again. Typically this is a two-week setback, and recruits who are dropped to newer platoons are treated specially by the drill instructors.
The final week includes rappelling, your first MCMAP test which earns you a Tan Belt, and the gas chamber. You will be forced to remove your gas mask three times in the gas chamber and breathe CS gas. Don’t worry, it’s intense but you will learn how to push yourself even in the toughest of situations. Read more about the GAS CHAMBER HERE.
The second phase of Marine Corps basic training consists of learning how to fire your weapon, forced marches, and learning how to live in the field, eat MREs, and survive as a Marine.
The first week of second phase consists of your first competitions between platoons, Initial Drill. All the skills you learned in first phase are put to the test and your drill instructors are scored based on your performance. Anything less than first place gets you Incentive Training. And first place gets you even more so your platoon doesn’t get cocky. I hope you can see the pattern developing here.
The second week consists of “snapping-in” and is known as “grass week.” This is learning the various firing positions that you will use at 200-, 300-, and 500 yards. The third week is all firing on the known-distance or KD course. During this time, your drill instructors will be a little more laid back. They really want you to learn how to fire your weapon effectively. The final week consists of field-firing, which means moving targets, unknown distances, and a night shoot.
At the end of each week of firing on the rifle range, you will conduct forced marches of 3, 5 and 8 miles respectively. Don’t be fooled, with the added weight of your pack, flak jacket, helmet, and weapon, this will be tough.
Phase 3 of Marine boot camp will be much like Phase 1. You will be instructed in drill, take many more courses on Marine Corps knowledge, and be expected to perform better on the obstacle course, physical fitness test, and you will prepare for “Final Drill,” the final competition between platoons and drill instructors. Your performance in final drill will be rewarded as before, and the winning platoon receives a trophy.
It all leads up to the Crucible, a 54 hour event that is designed to test you to the limit with minimal food, sleep, and maximum effort. Read more about The Crucible HERE.
After the Crucible you will be allowed to eat anything and everything you want at the chow hall for one meal. This means waffles with ice cream, desserts, and extra servings to fuel your body. Be careful, as your body has had nothing but good food and fuel for the last two months—junk food comes with a price.
The final week of Marine Corps basic training is known as “Marine Week,” which includes the Battalion Commander’s Inspection (a long day of standing in your dress uniform with rifle), Family Day, and Graduation. Family Day begins with a Motivational Run (Moto Run) which the families will be able to watch, and you are given base liberty for a day.
The final night before graduation you may host a “gong-show” where you will be allowed to joke around about your drill instructors. I personally had a pretty good imitation of a drill instructor going on that I had been quarter-decked for numerous times, and the DI’s were very light-hearted about it.
On graduation day your drill instructors will give you your Eagle, Globe, and Anchor pin and you will be referred to as “Marine.” Congratulations! You’ve made it into the most elite fighting force on the face of the planet.
After Boot Camp
After completing Marine Corps basic training, you will be given 10 days of leave before you must report to the School of Infantry. Infantry Marines will undergo two months of training at SOI, and other Marines will undergo just two weeks before transferring to their MOS school.