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Surviving Marine Corps Basic Training

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I'm often asked what females do during their (to put it politely) "time of the month," at basic training. The answer is nothing different. Pads and tampons are readily available, and women use them and continue with training. Bathroom breaks are given often enough that changing pads/tampons are not a problem. Many women report that they don't have a cycle during their entire time at basic training, due to the high levels of activity and stress. The thing to remember is that thousands of women have been to basic before you, and they survived just fine.

Marine boot camp is officially 12 weeks of training, plus 1 week of processing -- this isn't quite fair, as the training and discipline starts as soon as you step off the bus at Receiving.


The first stop is at Recruit Receiving, where new recruits spend the first few days of their recruit training experience. Here they will receive their first haircut and their initial gear issue, which includes items like uniforms, toiletries and letter writing supplies. During this time recruits will also be given a full medical and dental screening, and take the Initial Strength Test. This test consists of a one and a half mile run, sit-ups and pull-ups to test recruits to see if they're in shape to begin training.

The other services give you a slight break during the in-processing phase. Not the Marine Corps: Discipline starts the second you walk off the bus. Like Air Force Basic Training, you'll immediately find out that Marine Corps drill instructors are addressed (loudly) as "Sir," or "Ma'am." You won't even get into the building before you're given your first lesson -- you'll be instructed that Article 86 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice prohibits absence without leave. Article 91 prohibits disobedience to a lawful order. Article 93 prohibits disrespect to a senior officer. Those are absolute, non-breakable laws that you will live by for the next 13 weeks.

You'll most likely begin the process late at night, or in the early morning hours. The other services do a quick processing and allow you to rack out for the rest of the night. In the Marine Corps, you'll be up the entire first night, and all of the next day (so get plenty of sleep on that bus, train, or plane).

During this day and a half, you'll complete paperwork processing, get your hair all cut off, turn in every single bit of civilian clothing and articles you own, be issued initial uniforms & field gear (canteen, web belt, poncho, field jacket, gloves, etc.), and various needed personal items which will come from the PX (these items will be deducted from your pay).

During this period, you will learn something very important about Marine boot camp: everything is done "by the numbers" -- including the simple process of going to the bathroom (excuse me, "head") and taking a shower.

  1. Line up
  2. March to shower head
  3. Pull the ring and wet your head
  4. Soap your head and face thoroughly
  5. Rinse
  6. Soap your left arm. Etc.

You'll spend between 3-5 days in Receiving. During this time, you'll think you're already in boot camp. Drill Instructors will be yelling at you, you'll do some drill, some marching, wear uniforms, eat, drink, shower, and um.....other things "by the numbers," get chewed out some more, learn to make your bunk (I mean "rack"), etc.

While in Receiving, you'll be given the Initial Strength Test (IST). To pass (and avoid the Physical Conditioning Platoon), you'll be required to do 2 dead-hang pull-ups, 44 crunches in 2 minutes, and a 1.5 mile run in 13.5 minutes (males). Females are required to run 1.5 miles in 15 minutes, perform a flex-arm hang of 12 seconds, and do 44 crunches in 2 minutes.

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