Principles of Marine Corps boot camp

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Games Marine Corps Drill Instructors Play

Marine Corps Recruit Training isn’t just about physical fitness and combat play. It’s a lot about learning military discipline and bearing, and Drill Instructors use various techniques to instill discipline and punish the undisciplined. Here are a few of the games they play!

Never satisfied

Drill Instructors are always looking for problems. On the battlefield, little mistakes like not bringing a battery or not being able to locate yourself on a map can cause serious issues. Your Drill Instructors will push you and they admire recruits who never give up. Still, expect your DI’s to never be satisfied. They may compliment you for an achievement, but expect the bar to be raised the next day. They really want you performing at your best and able to push yourself beyond where you thought you could.

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You will be ordered to complete tasks like cleaning your rifle, cleaning the squad bay, and preparing uniforms over and over until your DI is satisfied with it. The repetitive tasking serves a purpose, which is to decondition you from any bad habits you had as a civilian. This is how you become a Marine, day in and day out. Your rifle, by the way, will absolutely feel a part of you when you leave boot camp.


Drill instructors will often use humor to break your “military bearing,” which is not having an outward reaction to you while on duty or at attention—no matter what happens. DIs are constantly making fun of recruits, cracking jokes, and trying to get you to crack a smile. Be warned, a smile will earn you a trip to the IT pit or quarterdeck!

Random inspections

During downtime, your DIs may order random inspections of several recruit’s footlockers or weapons. Any issues and all of them will be punished with IT. This can be something as small as a scuff on your boot to a thread hanging off your uniform.

Fire Watch

Fire watch and interior guard are serious concepts, and your DIs will always be looking for recruits falling asleep on post or taking a break. You will be quarter-decked for falling asleep on post! And your fellow recruits will lose sleep as you are ceremoniously PT’d in the middle of the night. As a Marine, there is always 24 hr security. This is especially important when deployed or in a combat zone.

Finding Weakness

It’s your drill instructor’s job to find your weaknesses and exploit them. They want to see that you do well under pressure, that when you are tested, you have the willpower to keep going. It may seem like they are personally taking things out on you, but it’s for a greater purpose. The measure of a Marine isn’t how they perform when they’re fresh, it’s how you perform when you’re tired, don’t want to carry on, and your muscles burn and all you want to do is take a nap. Understand this, accept it, and you will become U.S. Marine.

Incentive Training

Whenever you mess up, don’t sound off with enough volume, or mess up on a knowledge question, you’ll be subject to IT. This conditions you physically—you’ll be doing more pushups, sit-ups, squats, monkey sits, mountain climbers than you ever thought possible. Your drill instructors will find your limit: if you can do 100 push-ups, you’ll have to do 110. If you can do 30 mountain climbers, you’ll be expected to do 40.

Incentive training takes place in a “sand pit”—which you will become quite familiar with; or the quarterdeck, which is the front of your squad bay. You’ll know this as being quarterdecked or going to the IT pit. If you go to boot camp at Parris Island, you’ll become familiar with the notorious sand fleas, and don’t think you’ll be able to swat at them. If you are seen swatting sand fleas, you’ll be up for a second dose of IT.

Your drill instructors will have no shortage of reasons to IT you during the first phase of boot camp, and there’s no avoiding IT punishments. Just move through each exercise as hard as you can, and it will do wonders for your physical fitness. The idea is to stress you out so that you’re forced to run on pure motivation. Just don’t quit!


Drill instructors are tasked with instilling the value of teamwork into recruits—whether you like it or not. A Marine is nothing without the Marine to their right and left. You’ll build a sense of your platoon as a team by doing close order drill. You’ll march to and from the chow hall, to physical training in the morning, and even when you are marching by yourselves in third phase, you’ll be expected to march together.

In fact, you won’t even be able to refer to yourself as an individual any longer. You will be “this recruit.” If you have to make a head call, you will say, “This recruit requests to make a head call, sir!” You’ll also be punished as a group, if the platoon is not performing a task to standard, sometimes the entire platoon will be punished together. Suffering through these moments really builds a strong sense of camaraderie.


On Sunday, you’ll be getting rest for the next week. You’ll be allowed to go to church in the morning, and you’ll spend most of the day taking care of your gear, and conducting “field day.” Field day is simply cleaning the crap out of everything in the squad bay. This is repeatedly inspected by your drill instructors and even they are inspected for how well they are training you. Expect to spend a lot of time cleaning, cleaning, and cleaning—and get used to it. Every Thursday night is field day in the active duty Marine Corps, too!

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“Surviving Marine Corps Boot Camp” is the definitive guide to preparing for Marine Corps Recruit Training. In this book you’ll learn:

  • The complete recruit training schedule 
  • Games Drill Instructors play
  • A complete 12-week strength training & running guide
  • How to deal with injuries & setbacks

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