Surviving Marine Corps Basic Training, Part 2

Sgt. Justin Glenn Burnside motivates a recruit with Echo Company, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C. Burnside, originally a signal intelligence specialist from Bristol Fla., is one of about 600 drill instructors who shape the approximately 20,000 recruits through Parris Island annually into United States Marines. This handful of dedicated DIs is entrusted with sustaining a more than 237-year legacy.
U.S. Marine Corps / Lance Cpl. David Bessey

Continued from Part 1

As you move away from the first week, you'll continue learning the basics of close combat skills, including the infamous "pugil sticks." Many recruits are somewhat apprehensive about this phase of training, but then find out how much fun it really is. It's almost impossible to get hurt. The recruits are protected by a football helmet and mask, rubber neck roll and crotch cup, and only two kinds of blows are permitted: the slash and the horizontal butt stroke, both to the well-protected head and neck.

A clean shot ends the bout. The secret is aggression -- this is not a defensive sport.

A word here about competition. Marine platoons compete against each other in almost every aspect of training, from drills to inspections to pugil sticks to P.T. to academics. For each and every event, trophies are won and displayed prominently in the barracks on the award's table. This is no small matter -- the competition is stiff and the D.I.s (and recruits!) take victories and defeats very seriously.

You'll learn field first aid, attend classes on core values (as well as other academic classes), and receive several hours on basic weapon handling.

Around week 3, in addition to more re pugil sticks and close combat training, additional classes on first aid and core values, you'll participate in a 3 mile march (with packs).

The Confidence Course consists of eleven obstacles, designed so that each obstacle is more physically challenging then the last.

The obstacles are: (1) Dirty name (2) Run, Jump & Swing (3) The Inclining Wall (4) The Confidence Climb (5) Monkey Bridge (6) The Tough One (7) Reverse Climb (8) Slide for Life (9) the Hand Walk (10) The Arm Stretcher, and (11) The Sky Scraper. While these names sound daunting, the course is designed so the average platoon can run it in 45 minutes.

Like pugil sticks, the Confidence Course is a great morale builder, as most of the recruits find out they can negotiate the obstacles with ease (after a little practice and "encouragement" from ever-vigilant D.I.s).

During the fourth week, there will be even more training with pugil sticks and additional training in close combat skills (I told you there was increased emphasis on this). In addition to the daily P.T., there will be further academic classes (including more core values training).

The highlight of week 4 is the individual drill evaluation. Your platoon will be evaluated, graded, and compared to the other platoons. The winning platoon, of course, receives a trophy for the trophy table. The losing platoons receive the wrath of their respective D.I.s.

The biggest event of week 5 is Combat Water Survival. All Marines must pass basic water survival skills in order to graduate from boot camp (those who don't pass will receive extensive remedial training until they do). Training in Combat Water Survival develops a recruit's confidence in the water. All recruits must pass the minimum requirement level of Combat Water Survival-4, which requires recruits to perform a variety of water survival and swimming techniques.

If a recruit meets the CWS-4 requirements, he may upgrade to a higher level. All recruits train in the camouflage utility uniform, but those upgrading may be required to train in full combat gear, which includes a rifle, helmet, flak jacket and pack.

Also this week will be a 5 mile hike a test on Marine Customs & Courtesies, more training in first aid, a full-blown inspection (uniforms, rifles, questions, etc.), and (of course) more classes on core values.

Weapons Training . Marksmanship training teaches recruits the fundamentals of marksmanship with their M-16A2 service rifle. This training takes place over two weeks, the first of which is called Snap-In Week. During this week, recruits are introduced to the four shooting positions (standing, kneeling, sitting and prone) and a Primary Marksmanship Instructor shows recruits how to fire, how to adjust their sights, how to take into account the effects of the weather, etc.

Recruits also have the opportunity to fire on the Indoor Simulated Marksmanship Training machine. During the second week of marksmanship training, recruits actually fire a known-distance course with ranges of 200, 300 and 500 yards. Recruits prepare for rifle qualification on Friday of that week.

Before you actually get to fire however, you will practice aiming and dry-firing your rifle until you simply can't stand it anymore.

By the time you fire that first actual shot, you'll have dry-fired your rifle in every conceivable position thousands of times.

In addition to rifle training, during these two weeks, you'll receive basic training on grenades and other types of weapons.

Field Firing Range (FFR). FFR is a portion of training devoted to firing weapons in a field condition. During marksmanship training, recruits learn how to fire at a single target while in a stationary position. During FFR recruits learn how to fire at moving and multiple targets, while under low-light conditions and wearing their field protective (gas) mask.

During week 7, you'll also experience a 6 mile night march, and get another chance at the Confidence Course.

Week 8 is called "Team Week," which means you get to spend all of your time working at the "mess hall" or some other glamorous detail.

This is much better than it sounds, however; for an entire week, you'll be free of the incessant presence of the D.I.s (to be replaced with the relatively gentler attitudes of the mess sergeants). Additionally, you'll enjoy using your status as a "senior recruit" to help, um.....motivate brand new recruits as they stumble throw the chow hall lines.

(BTW, the best way to tell "senior" recruits from the newbies is to look at their haircuts. Bald heads indicates new recruits, while stubble, or "high & tights" indicate more senior recruits).

One word of warning. Enjoy it while it lasts......when you return to your platoon at the end of this week, you'll more likely than not discover that your D.I. thinks you've grown sloppy and undisciplined during the week, and will expend extra effort for the next few days in returning you and the rest of the platoon to his/her version of disciplined recruits. This "re-transformation" will most likely require several applications of "quarter-decking."

The ninth week will consist almost entirely of the fundamentals of field firing, in preparation for field training during the tenth week. There will also be a 10 mile march (with packs) during week 9.

If you havn't experienced blisters yet during your time in boot camp, you most likely will experience it during week 9.

During week 10, you'll start putting all of your training together during field training. "Field Training" is "practice war." You'll operate and live in a simulated combat environment, and learn the fundamentals of patrolling, firing, setting up camp, and more. Basic Warrior Training introduces recruits to field living conditions. The majority of a Marine's field training is conducted after recruit training at the School of Infantry.

During the 3-day Basic Warrior Training conducted during boot camp, recruits will learn basic field skills like setting up a tent, field sanitation and camouflage. It is also during this training that recruits go through the gas chamber.

During week 11, you get a chance to put everything you've learned in boot camp to the test. The week starts with the biggest competition of all: The Company Commander's Inspection. Not only are you being judged here, but your D.I. is being judged as well. It will behoove you to give this inspection every single thing you've got (hint: to don your trousers without breaking the crease, stand on your foot-locker).

Once you've gotten the Company Commander's Inspection out of the way, you'll experience the event to top all events: The Crucible. The Crucible is the final test every recruit must go through to become a Marine. It will test you physically, mentally and morally and is the defining moment in recruit training.

The Crucible is no walk in the park, unless your idea of a walk in the park takes place over 54-hours and includes food and sleep deprivation (only four hours of sleep per night)and approximately 40 miles of marching. The entire Crucible event pits teams of recruits against a barrage of day and night events requiring every recruit to work together solving problems, overcoming obstacles and helping each other along.

The Crucible Event is designed around Core Value Stations, Warrior Stations, the Confidence Course, Reaction Course, and Movement Course as well as other various mentally and physically challenging events. A final foot march will conclude with a Morning Colors Ceremony and a "Warriors" Breakfast."

The famed "Eagle, Globe and Anchor Ceremony" is conducted immediately after the Cruicible. The Eagle, Globe and Anchor is the Marine Corps Emblem -- It signifies that you are a member, always and forever, of the few and the proud.

The ceremony is the most emotional time of basic training, even more so than the graduation parade. Ever seen a grown Marine cry? Try to find a dry eye during this ceremony. The event used to be held on "family day," the day before the graduation parade. However, this life-changing event is now a private (Marines only) ceremony, held immediately after the Cruicible.

Week 11 is also known as "Transformation Week." During this week the new Marines are given 1 hour extra free time each evening and wear the rank insignia of the grade to which they were either guaranteed upon enlistment, or earned during recruit training. Also during this week, more responsibility is given to the privates and privates first class and the supervision from the drill instructors is decreased.

In fact, drill instructors don't wear their duty belts during this time and many of the Drill Instructors will allow the new Marines call them by their rank, not as "sir" or "ma'am." This week helps these new Marines adjust from being a recruit to being a Marine. (One should note that after boot camp, one should never call enlisted "sir" or "ma'am" again, as some senior enlisted hate that. One should also never use the "third person" when speaking after boot camp.)

The final week. D.I.s are no longer yelling (as much). You'll spend this last week learning about theHeroes of the Corps, a class or two on financial management, the relatively easy Battalion Commander's Inspection, more (of course) core value classes, and finally, graduation practice and graduation.

The minimum (core) graduation requirements are:

  • (1) Pass the physical fitness test and be within prescribed weight standards

    (2) Qualify for Combat Water Survival at level 4 or higher

    (3) Qualify with the service rifle

    (4) Pass the batallion commander's inspection

    (5) Pass the written tests

    (6) Complete the Crucible

    If you fail in any of the above areas, you are subject to be "recycled" (sent backwards in time to another platoon), or may possibly bedischarged.

    Seem simple? It's not. Here's how your 13 weeks breaks down in actual hours:

    • Instructional Time (The Crucible / Combat Water Survival / Weapons and Field Training): 279.5 hours
    • Core Values / Academics / Values Reinforcement: 41.5
    • Physical Fitness: 59
    • Close Order Drill: 54.5
    • Field Training: 31
    • Close Combat Training: 27
    • Conditioning Marches: 13
    • Administration: 60
    • Senior DI Time (nightly free time): 55.5
    • Movement Time: 60
    • Sleep: 479
    • Basic Daily Routine: 210
    • Chow: 179
    • Total: 1518 hours

    Still not impressed? Check out the complete list of tasks you will be tested on.

    If you do a great job, you just might get promoted. Based on the recommendations of the Senior Drill Instructor, the Commanding General can meritoriously promote recruits who have consistently demonstrated superior performance in the following areas and have no nonjudicial punishment infractions.

    • a. Physical Fitness
      b. Marksmanship
      c. Leadership
      d. Motivation
      e. Academics
      f. Field Skills

    All Marines are authorized 10 days of leave, immediately following graduation from boot camp. You'll need the rest, however because boot camp is just the start. You're training is not finished. Following your leave, you'll go on to further your training at the School of Infantry (East) which is located at Camp Geiger, MCB Camp Lejeune, North Carolina (for those who attended basic at Parris Island), or the School of Infantry (West), at Camp Pendleton, CA, for those who attended basic training at San Diego.

    Marines who are designated as infantry Marines are assigned to Infantry Training Battalion at the school of infantry for infantry-specialized training. All Marines, entering the Military Occupation Specialties (MOS) of 0311 Rifleman, 0331 Machinegunner, 0341 Mortarman, 0351 Assaultman, or 0352 Anti-Tank Guided Missleman, attend this 51 day course. The course is broken down into two phases, starting with a 14-day common skills course, which must be completed by all infantry Marines regardless of specific MOS. Upon completion of the common skills portion, all Marines will then continue to train in their particular infantry MOS for an additional 26 days in the specific technical and live fire qualification skills required of their particular MOS prior to graduation. After graduating from there, these Marines will be assigned to their first permanent duty station.

    All other Marines (male and female) are assigned to the School of Infantry to attend the Marine Combat Training (MCT) course. MCT consists of 22 days of battle skills training which enables Marines, regardless of MOS, to operate in a combat environment. Following MCT, Marines attend their MOS schools to learn the trade they are expected to perform for the Marine Corps.

    The length of MOS training varies, depending on the job. Following MOS training, Marines are assigned to their first permament duty station.