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Surviving Marine Corps Basic Training

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Marine Corps Basic Training

The First Haircut is a right of passage from "civilian" to "recruit."

Official USMC Photo

There are two locations that turn men into Marines: the Recruit Training Depot at Parris Island, South Carolina, and the Recruit Training Depot at San Diego, California. Where you go depends largely upon where you enlist. Those who enlist west of the Mississippi will likely go through boot camp in San Diego, while those in the East will attend at Parris Island. There is only one boot camp to turn women into Marines -- Parris Island.

Other than geographical differences, such as the lack of sand fleas and better outdoor exercise weather for "Hollywood Marines," the training is virtually identical at both locations.

Parris Island graduates more than 17,000 Marines per year. The average daily male recruit population is 3,786. The average daily female recruit population is 600. San Diego graduates more than 21,000 Marines per year. The average age of male recruits is 19.1, and female recruits is 19.3.

Without doubt, Marine boot camp is more challenging -- both physically and mentally -- than the basic training programs of any of the other military services. Not only are the physical requirements much higher, but recruits are required to learn and memorize a startling amount of information. There are more than 70 "training days" in a period a little longer than 12 weeks (but don't let that fool you. There is lots of "training" going on on the "non-training days," such as the time in Reception, the time spent in "forming," and on Sundays and Holidays. It has been said time and time again by former Marines that Marine Corps recruit training was the most difficult thing they ever had to do in their entire lives.

The more you can prepare in advance, the better off you will be.

It's important that you get into some semblance of physical shape. Concentrate on running three miles and long marches (up to 10 miles). Sit-ups and pull-ups are also important. If you are unable to perform basic exercises, you may spend a significant amount of time in PCP (the Physical Conditioning Platoon). PCP is tough: PCP's objective is physical fitness, and that's what you'll be conentrating in while in the program. Individual remain in PCP until they can While it is normally a 21 day program, once you're in, you don't get out until you can do 3 pull ups, 40 sit ups in 2 minutes, and run 3 miles in 28:00 minutes.

If you arrive overweight, your Drill Instructor will put you on a "Diet Tray" for your meals. (On the other hand, if you arrive underweight, you may be put on "double-rations.")

In Marine boot camp, you'll start drill almost immediately. A few hours studying basic drill and ceremony will help immensely. As with the other services, you should memorize U.S. Marine Corps Rank.

Additionally, your recruiter should have told you to memorize the 11 General Orders for a Sentry. While not mandatory, the Marine Rifle Creed is nice to know. You should also memorize the Marine's Hymn, all of it, if possible, but at least the first verse.

Wait -- that's not all (I told you it was tough). You'll need to memorize the USMC Core Values, study Marine Corps history, and commit the characteristics of the M16A4 Rifle to memory. Round all of this out by memorizing the Code of Conduct.

If you don't know how to swim, try to learn before you leave for boot camp. Before you graduate, you'll have to demonstrate basic swimming skills.

The other services have lists of what you should or should not bring with you. The Marines make it simple: Don't bring anything except your important papers (such as driver's license, social security card, and banking information), except the clothes on your back. Everything you need will be issued to you. For non-issue items, it will be issued, and the cost taken out of your pay.

Medication. Over-the-counter medication is not allowed in basic training. If you bring any with you, it will be taken away. All prescription medication will be re-evaluated by a military doctor upon arrival. If the doctor determines that the prescription is necessary, the civilian medication will be taken away, and the recruit will be re-issued the medication by the military pharmacy. This includes birth control pills (for women). Women are usually encouraged to continue taking birth control pills during basic training, if they took them before going to basic, to ensure that their systems maintain their regular cycle.

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