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This article is organised as follows:
- Part 01: Introduction to the US Marine Corps.
- Part 02: Hierarchy of US Marine Corps Recruit Training.
- Part 03: Organisation of US Marine Corps Recruit (Phase 1) Training.
- Part 04: Training Establishments and Units.
- Part 05: Miscellaneous.
PART ONE: BACKGROUND
This article provides an overview of United States Marine Corps (USMC) recruit training or Phase 1 basic military training, sometimes known as ‘boot camp’ or initial military training.
Recruit Marines undergo a physical and mentally demanding period of basic training which is broken down into a number of parts, and is delivered by highly motivated and trained USMC Drill Instructors. Receiving and processing recruits is normally accomplished during a four-day period before the first actual training day. During this time, recruits receive medical exams, vaccinations, classification tests, uniforms and equipment, and begin assimilation into a military environment after being advised of their rights, duties, and responsibilities under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Actual recruit training is conducted in three phases and consists of nine functional areas: Core Values, General Military Subjects, Marksmanship, Field Skills, Martial Arts, Combat Conditioning, Water Survival, Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC), and Close Order Drill. Training culminates with a mentally and physically demanding training evolution known as The Crucible, accentuating a comprehensive values-based training (VBT) programme. The Crucible is followed immediately by an Emblem Ceremony which defines a recruit’s transformation. The US Marine Corps recruit training is designed to send a fully transformed and prepared Marine to the School of Infantry for follow-on or Phase 2 employment training.
Figure 1: US Marine Corps Recruit (Phase 1) Training Landscape
As with other branches of military service and other countries, the USMC has gradually opened more and more roles to women. In 2011, it was stated “Overall, there are 12,339 enlisted females in the Marines, 108 warrant officers and 1,224 officers, according to Marine Corps figures.” (CBS News, 2011).
Since 2016, Marine combat arms roles have been open to both men and women, with 31 women signing “Marine Corps enlistment contracts for combat arms…” (USMC Life, 2016). In October 2016, sixteen of the thirty one females started recruit training (15 remained in the delayed entry programme which allows recruits to delay their entrance date), with nine signing for Infantry roles.
This article is divided into five parts for easier reading. Part One is the introduction and provides a brief history. Part Two outlines the training hierarchy. Part Three is the meat of the article, looking at the USMC’s recruit training programme. Part Four describes the training establishments and units involved in training Marine recruits. Finally, Part Five provides a summary, useful publications and links, and references.
The aim of this article is to describe the initial military training process for enlisted Marines in the United States Marine Corps.
1.2 Brief History
Below is an outline of select dates and events for Marine Corps Recruit Depots (MCRD West and MCRD East).
- 1921: Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD) San Diego (aka MCRD West) is formally commissioned.
- 1923: MCRD West becomes the primary recruiting centre for the US west coast.
- 1940: The 1st Recruit Training Battalion (1RTBn), MCRD East, is established on 06 August 1940, and remains the only battalion in MCRD East that has been in continuous service as a male recruit training battalion.
- 1940: The 2nd Recruit Training Battalion (2RTBn), MCRD East, is established on 07 August 1940, becoming an active command on 12 September 1940.
- 1940: The 3rd Recruit Training Battalion (3RTBn), MCRD East, is established on 07 August 1940.
- 1947: 3RTBn, MCRD East, is deactivated on 18 June 1947.
- 1948: 3RTBn, MCRD East, reactivated to train draftees from 02 August 1948 to 08 January 1949 when it was deactivated again.
- 1948: MCRD West was given its current title and became home to the Recruit Training Regiment.
- 1949: 3RTBn, MCRD East, reactivated on 23 February 1949 to exclusively train women.
- 1949: When the US armed forces were integrated in 1949, 2RTBn was the first battalion to train black recruits. In September 1949, black recruits were integrated into regular platoons.
- 1950: at the outbreak of the Korean War (25 June 1950 to 27 July 1953), the 1st Recruit Training Battalion, MCRD East, was the only remaining recruiting training battalion actively training male recruits.
- 1952: On 01 June 1952, 1RTBn, MCRD East, was temporarily re-designated as a ‘Special Training Battalion’ in order to train more than 1,000 college students assigned to officer candidate training with the Platoon Leaders Class programme.
- 1954: 3RTBn, MCRD East, is re-designated the Woman Recruit Training Battalion (WRTB) on 07 May 1954. Male recruits and instructors were re-designated as 3RTBn (MCRD East).
- 1976: WRTB is re-designated Woman Recruit Training Command (WRTC).
- 1978: First females graduate from Drill Instructor School.
- 1985: Females began firing the M16-A2 for qualification, which added an additional three weeks to the female schedule.
- 1986: The WRTC is re-designated 4th Recruit Training Battalion (4RTBn), MCRD East, on 01 November 1986, and became part of the Recruit Training Regiment.
- 1988: Basic Warrior Training/Marine Combat Training was incorporated into recruit training for females, adding another two weeks to their schedule.
- 1989: In January 1989, the 4RTBn (MCRD East) companies were re-designated November and Oscar due to a reorganisation of the Recruit Training Regiment.
- 1996: Female drill instructors were allowed to wear the campaign cover, replacing the scarlet shoulder cord.
- 1996: In October 1996, Papa Company (4RTBn MCRD East) was established to cater for the larger number of female recruits.
- 1997: Marine Combat Training was removed from the female recruit training schedule with the introduction of The Crucible, resulting in the current 12-week schedule for both male and female recruits. Females Marines subsequently began attending Marine Combat Training at the School of Infantry (East), North Carolina, prior to follow-on military occupational specialty training. Female Marines throughout the Marine Corps also started conducting the physical fitness test (PFT) that mirrors the male PFT, adding additional physical training into the schedule.
For further information on the history of MCRD West and East, please look in Useful Publications at the end.
1.3 Recruit Training Statistics
Below are some interesting statistics regarding Marine recruit training from 2007:
- Average initial strength test score was 194.26.
- Average final PFT score was 245.70.
- Rifle range qualification rate was 99.59%.
- Swim qualification rate was 99.99%.
- Recruits undertook:
- 70 training days in 12 weeks.
- 109.2 hours of marksmanship and field firing.
- 64 hours of physical training.
- 54 hours of The Crucible.
- 45 hours of close order drill.
- 30.5 hours of close combat training.
- 18.75 hours of field training.
- 16 hours of combat water survival.
- 15 hours of core values.
PART TWO: TRAINING HIERARCHY
This part of the article outlines the personnel and organisations in charge of initial military training within the USMC.
2.1 Training and Education Command
The US Marine Corps Training and Education Command (TECOM) is responsible for the training, development, and education of Marines. TECOM’s mission is:
“To develop, coordinate, resource, execute, and evaluate training and education concepts, policies, plans, and programs to ensure Marines are prepared to meet the challenges of present and future operational environments.” (TECOM, 2017).
TECOM is located at Quantico, Virginia, and is led by the Commanding General, a Major General (CG) (OF-7). The CG is assisted by a Deputy Executive, a civilian, and a Sergeant Major (OR-9).
TECOM is composed of ten organisations/directorates (TECOM, 2017):
- Five Directorates:
- Centre for Advanced Operational Culture Learning (CAOCL).
- MAGTF Training Education Standards Division (MTESD).
- Training and Education Capabilities Division (TECD): Provides training and education support to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of training and education programs across the mission spectrum
- MAGTF Staff Training Programme (MSTP): provide training in MAGTF operations across the range of military operations, within the context of a Joint and/or Combined Task Force environment, to improve the war-fighting skills of senior commanders and their staffs
- Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC).
- Education Command (aka The Marine Corps University, MCU): MCU is a group of accredited higher-education schools at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia. It was established on 01 August 1989 by General Alfred M. Gray, Jr., then Commandant of the Marine Corps.
- Training Command: Delivers officer and enlisted:
- Entry-level Military Occupational Specialty (MOS, aka Phase 2 Employment Training).
- Career progression and career enhancement skills (aka Phase 3 Training).
- MCRD Parris Island: Delivers recruit (aka Phase 1 Initial) training.
- MCRD San Diego: Delivers recruit training.
- Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) Training Command: Manages the MAGTF Training Programme (MAGTFTP) and conducts service level MAGTF combined arms training to enhance the combat readiness of the operating forces and support the Marine Corps’ responsibilities to national security.
2.2 Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island
The Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD) Parris Island, South Carolina, is located on the east coast of the continental US and incorporates the Eastern Recruiting Region (ERR). MCRD Parris Island is also known as MCRD PI and MCRD East.
MCRD East is led by the Commanding General, a Brigadier General (OF-6), who is assisted by the Depot Sergeant Major, a Sergeant Major (OR-9). In June 2017, “for the first time in its 96-year history” (CBS News, 2011), Brigadier General Loretta Reynolds became the first female to command MCRD East/ERR. MCRD East/ERR covers 23 states east of the Mississippi River (CBS News, 2011).
As outlined in Figure 1 above, MCRD East is composed of:
- Recruit Training Regiment divided into four recruit training battalions.
- The 4th Recruit Training Battalion only trains female recruits, and its companies are staffed exclusively by female drill instructors and officers.
- Weapons and Field Training Battalion.
- HQ and Service Battalion.
- Three Marine Corps Districts: Sit within the ERR, part of Recruiting Command.
These units are discussed further in Part Four.
MCRD Parris Island first started training male enlisted recruits in November 1915, and female recruits in February 1949. MCRD Parris Island trains approximately 19,000-20,000 each year (CBS News, 2011; DVIDS, 2017):
- 49% of male recruits; and
- 100% of female recruits (about 2,400).
2.3 Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego
The Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD) San Diego, California, is located on the west coast of the continental US and incorporates the Western Recruiting Region (ERR). MCRD San Diego is also known as MCRD SD and MCRD West.
MCRD West is led by the Commanding General, a Brigadier General (OF-6), who is assisted by the Depot Sergeant Major, a Sergeant Major (OR-9). On 02 August 2006, Brigadier General Angela Salinas became the first female Latina/Hispanic to be promoted to this rank, and also the first female to command MCRD West/WRR on 04 August 2006. In May 2010, Salinas was promoted to Major General, retiring in 2013. MCRD West/WRR covers the states west of the Mississippi River.
As outlined in Figure 1 above, MCRD West is composed of:
- Recruit Training Regiment divided into three recruit training battalions.
- Weapons and Field Training Battalion.
- HQ and Service Battalion.
- Three Marine Corps Districts: Sit within the WRR, part of Recruiting Command.
These units are discussed further in Part Four.
Unlike training at MCRD East, recruits must leave MCRD West to conduct field training. Three weeks of the recruit’s training is spent at Edson Range aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton (Section 4.4), where recruits fire on the rifle range, conduct field training, and undergo The Crucible. At the conclusion, recruits return to MCRD West for graduation.
PART THREE: OUTLINE OF USMC RECRUIT TRAINING
This part of the article describes the initial military training, aka ‘boot camp’ or Phase 1 training, of the USMC.
For most, if not all, the transition from volunteer-civilian to Marine will be a shocking affair, just ask Trace Evans. In 2015, Trace published his memories of the first 36 hours of boot camp – it makes interesting reading!
A recruit’s time and movement is tightly controlled during boot camp, but they will have their peers to rely on, although men and women are trained separately (however this may change (Seck, 2017)):
- Each female company will, on average, have two platoons of 50 to 60 recruits, with approximately 2,400 female recruits each year.
- Each male company will, on average, have six platoons of 60 to 80 recruits, with approximately 16,600 to 17,600 male recruits each year.
A number of platoons form a company, with a number of companies forming a battalion, with all sitting within the aegis of the recruit training regiment.
USMC recruit training has slowly increased in duration to its current period of 13-weeks, 70 training days divided into four phases (Seck, 2017; Staten, 2017). Recruit training was extended in 1996 from 11 to 12 weeks to accommodate The Crucible and, in November 2017, a fourth phase was introduced, although the overall period of 13-weeks remained the same (Seck, 2017; Staten, 2017).
The USMC is also contemplating further changes to recruit training such as further “gender-integration” and training female recruits at MCRD West (Seck, 2017).
As outlined in Figure 1, Marine recruit training is a total of 13-weeks in duration and is divided into (for the purposes of this article) five phases:
- Phase 0a is known as Processing and usually takes 4 days.
- Phase 0b is known Forming and usually takes 2-3 days.
- Phase 1 is the start of actual or formal training. Formal training does not include processing, forming, Sundays, or holidays. This phase focuses on building discipline, physical fitness, drill, water survival, and mastery of Marine common skills.
- Phase 2 covers Table 1 marksmanship qualification and small unit leadership.
- Phase 3 includes Table 2 marksmanship qualification, field training, and the Crucible.
- Phase 4 is known as Transition, and includes family and graduation.
Each of these phases of training is discussed in further detail below.
Phases 0a and 0b are not counted in the training time for Marine recruit training meaning that, although recruits attend for 13 weeks in total, only 12 weeks is considered actual or formal training time.
3.1 Marine Corps Recruit Training Syllabus
During their basic training recruits will undertake the following military subjects (Table 1):
|Table 1: Outline of military subjects|
|Drill||This is the basic way in which platoons march and move from place to place. At first, recruits will practice just staying in step with the rest of the platoon and the drill instructor. However, as training continues, the platoon becomes a well-oiled machine performing synchronous, complex drill movements. During recruit training, platoons will also compete in two drill competitions. Drill is mainly used to instil discipline, team pride and unit cohesion.|
|Physical Training (PT)||PT comes in many forms and uses a progressive physical training programme, which builds up recruits to Marine Corps standards. Recruits will experience what is known as Table PT, a period of training in which a drill instructor leads several platoons through a series of demanding exercises while the drill instructor demonstrates on a table. Recruits will run individually, or as a platoon or squad. Other PT consists of obstacle courses, circuit courses, or 3-, 5- and 10-mile conditioning marches.
During the fall of 2006, based on lessons learned in Iraq and Afghanistan, new combat fitness training was enacted which stressed strength training over stamina through simulated combat tasks.
|Academic Training||Recruits will also exercise their minds through academics training in subjects ranging from Marine Corps history, Marine customs and courtesies, and basic lifesaving procedures (i.e. first aid). Recruits will also take an academic test while in recruit training.|
|Corps Values||The Corps’ Core Values are Honour, Courage and Commitment. These values make up the bedrock of a Marine’s character. During recruit training, recruits are taught these Core Values and the numerous others attached to them, such as integrity, discipline, teamwork, duty and esprit de Corps. Drill instructors, recruit training officers and Navy chaplains teach specific Core Values classes, but drill instructors also talk one-on-one with recruits after other training events to see what values were learned and how they affect the recruits. For example, a drill instructor might talk about overcoming fears after rappelling or not giving up after a long march.|
|Marine Corps Martial Arts Programme (MCMAP)||MCMAP is a combat system developed by the USMC to combine existing and new hand-to-hand and close quarter’s combat techniques. Discussed further in Section 3.4.1.|
|Confidence Course||The Confidence Course is an 11-station obstacle course that helps recruits build confidence as well as upper-body strength. Recruits will tackle this course twice while aboard MCRD.|
|Combat Water Survival||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 (CWS-4), which requires recruits to perform a variety of water survival and swimming techniques. If a recruit meets the CWS-4 requirements, they 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.|
|Field Skills Training||Field Training introduces recruits to field living and conditions. During the 3-day field training evolution, recruits will learn basic field skills from setting up a tent to field sanitation and camouflage. It is also during this training that recruits go through the gas chamber. Discussed further in Section 3.6.1.|
|Marksmanship Training||Marksmanship training teaches recruits the fundamentals of marksmanship using the in-service rifle. This training takes place over two weeks, discussed further in Section 3.6.1.|
|Field Firing Range (FFR)||FFR is a portion of training devoted to firing weapons in a field condition, and is discussed further in Section 3.6.1.|
|The Crucible||The Crucible is a test every recruit must go through to become a Marine. It tests every recruit physically, mentally and morally and is the defining moment in recruit training. It is discussed further in Section 3.6.2.|
|Transition Phase||This is the period in which the recruits begin to transition from the role of recruit to Marine. Discussed further in Section 3.7.|
|Family Day & Graduation||Family Day and Graduation take place on the last two days while on MCRD, and is discussed further in Section 3.9.|
3.2 Phase 0a: Processing
Processing, also known as recruit processing or recruit receiving, is where new recruits spend the first few days of their recruit training experience (Marine Corps Order 1510.32F, dated 20 December 2012), and glimpse the celebrated yellow footprints! Here recruits 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 introduction to physical training. Activities include:
- Haircuts for males only, as females receive a class on appropriate hair styles.
- Initial medical and dental examinations.
- Recruits cannot be subjected to any form of physical conditioning, swimming evaluation, running, or unnecessary stress prior to receiving a medical examination.
- Review all classification tests and enlistment contracts.
- Provide initial indoctrination into the military way of life, appropriate instruction on Marine Corps and recruit training regulations, and personal assistance agencies available to the recruit.
- Initial clothing, equipment, and weapon issue.
- Urinalysis testing.
- Confirm prior testing for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) or administer the required tests.
- Complete the Initial Strength Test:
- Males must complete the 1.5 mile run in 13 minutes or less, at least two dead hang pull-up, and do 44 crunches in two minutes.
- Females must complete the 1.5 mile run in 15 minutes or less, a flexed arm hang time of a minimum of 12 seconds, and do 44 crunches in two minutes.
Processing usually takes 4-5 days and is delivered by the Recruit Processing/Receiving Company (Section 4.1).
3.3 Phase 0b: Forming
Forming is the period between the completion of processing and the start of the formal military training schedule, were processed recruits are formed into platoons and ‘meet’ their drill instructors for the first time (Marine Corps Order 1510.32F, dated 20 December 2012). Forming varies in duration, depending upon the time required to amass a full recruit series or company to begin training.
During these 2-3 days, initial housekeeping tasks, elementary training and the actions listed in the processing phase will be accomplished (i.e. how to march, how to wear their uniform, how to secure their weapon, and so on). This period of time allows recruits to adjust to the recruit training way of life before the first actual training day.
As a rule, the combined period for processing and forming should not exceed eight days.
During the following 12 weeks, recruits train hard to acquire the knowledge, discipline, team work and fitness level required of a Marine.
3.4 Phase 1 of Recruit Training
Phase one focuses on building discipline, physical fitness, drill, water survival, and mastery of Marine common skills (MCO 1510.32F, dated 20 December 2012).
The physical training (PT) programme is progressive and designed to build strength, flexibility and endurance, and continues across the three phases of training. It includes a graduated running schedule, calisthenics (body weight exercises), rappelling, pugil sticks and bayonet skills, combat water survival training and martial arts, as well as the obstacle course, circuit course, and the 11-station confidence course.
The various elements of the PT programme give recruits faith in their own abilities as well as overcoming their fears.
3.4.1 Marine Corps Martial Arts Programme
The Marine Corps Martial Arts Programme (MCMAP), established in 2001, is a combat system developed by the USMC to combine existing and new hand-to-hand (H2H) and close quarters combat (CQB) techniques with morale and team-building functions and instruction in the warrior ethos.
MCMAP trains Marines (and US Navy personnel attached to Marine units) in unarmed combat, edged weapons, weapons of opportunity, and rifle and bayonet techniques. MCMAP also stresses mental and character development, including the responsible use of force, leadership, and teamwork.
MCMAP uses an advancement system of coloured belts similar to that of most martial arts (Tan, Gray, Green, Brown, and Black).
The Tan belt is the minimum requirement of all Marines with a training time of 27.5-31.5 hours, and has no prerequisites. The Tan belt syllabus focuses on the development of the basics of armed and unarmed combat:
- Students start with the Basic Warrior Stance and break-falls are taught for safety, before moving on to;
- Basic punches, uppercuts, and hooks;
- Basic upper-body strikes, including the eye gouge, hammer fists, and elbow strikes;
- Basic lower-body strikes, including kicks, knee strikes, and stomps;
- Bayonet techniques;
- Basic chokes, joint locks, and throws;
- Counters to strikes, chokes, and holds;
- Basic unarmed restraints and armed manipulations;
- Basic knife techniques; and
- Basic weapons of opportunity.
Students must prove proficiency with 70% of (35/50) techniques, through a practical application test, to pass and earn their Tan belt. The tan belt syllabus is delivered to both officers (as part of The Basic School) and Marine recruits as part of their respective training curriculums.
3.5 Phase 2 of Recruit Training
Phase two of training covers Table 1 marksmanship qualification and small unit leadership (MCO 1510.32F, dated 20 December 2012).
Marksmanship training is discussed in Section 3.6.1.
3.6 Phase 3 of Recruit Training
Phase three of training includes Table 2 marksmanship qualification, field training, and the Crucible (MCO 1510.32F, dated 20 December 2012).
3.6.1 Marksmanship Training and Field Skills Training
Recruits will undertake a total of three weeks marksmanship training and field skills training, and includes:
- Week 01:
- The first week is known as Snap-In Week or more commonly Grass Week.
- This teaches recruits the fundamentals of marksmanship with the in-service rifle, safe weapons handling, basic marksmanship principles, and mastery of basic firing positions.
- During this week, recruits are introduced to the four shooting positions (standing, kneeling, sitting and prone) and a Primary Marksmanship Instructor (PMI) 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.
- Week 02:
- The second week is known as Table 1 or Firing Week, previously Marksmanship Phase 1.
- Table 1 is a known-distance firing range with targets at 200, 300 and 500 yards.
- Recruits prepare for rifle qualification on Friday of that week.
- Week 03:
- This third week is known as Table 2 or BWT, previously Marksmanship Phase 2. It is sometimes termed Field Firing Week (FFR).
- Provides instruction in basic individual combat skills such as field living and the fundamentals of tactical movement. During the 3-day field skills training evolution, recruits will learn basic field skills from setting up a tent to field sanitation and camouflage. It is also during this training that recruits go through the gas chamber.
- During Week 02 (Table 1), recruits learn how to fire at a single target while in a stationary position. During Week 03 (Table 2) recruits learn how to fire at moving and multiple targets, while under low-light conditions and wearing their field protective (gas) mask.
- The Table 2 marksmanship qualification includes firing while wearing combat gear.
Edson Range complex (Section 4.4) is where (MCRD West) recruit Marines receive field and rifle training and conduct their rifle qualification. It is also home to four of the largest firing ranges on Camp Pendleton.
Recruit Marines receive two weeks of marksmanship training followed by one week of infantry field skills at Edson Range, which is known as ‘up north’ by both recruits and drill instructors (the MCRD West being known as ‘down south’). The Crucible, a three- to four-day combat simulation with little food or sleep, also takes place at Edson Range.
3.6.2 The Crucible
“The Crucible emphasizes team work and endurance around Core Values, Warrior Stations, Leadership Reaction Course (an evaluated event focusing on core values), and movement course, as well as other mentally and physically challenging events. A final foot march will conclude with the Emblem ceremony that defines a recruit’s transition to a Marine. This ceremony is followed by a “Warrior’s” meal [of steak and eggs].” (MCO 1510.32F, 2012, p.3).
The Crucible is a test every recruit must go through to become a Marine. It tests every recruit physically, mentally and morally and is the defining moment in recruit training. The Crucible was introduced by General Charles C. Krulak, the 31st Commandant of the USMC, as a culminating event that would develop the mental, physical, and moral capability of new Marines.
Krulak introduced The Crucible for two reasons (Woulfe, 1998):
- A change in the operating environment in which Marines would be employed;
- Subtle changes in the societal norms and expectations of America’s youth.
On 12-14 December 1996, the first recruits went through ‘The Crucible’, with training being extended from 11 to 12 weeks to accommodate it (Woulfe, 1996).
The Crucible takes place over 54-hours (3-days) and includes (Clark, 2016):
- Food deprivation: two and a half Meals Ready-To-Eat or MREs, which recruits must ration themselves;
- Sleep deprivation: three to four hours per night, up to a maximum of eight hours; and
- 40-45 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.
When introduced in 1996, The Crucible consisted of eight major training events, augmented by ‘Warrior Stations’, making a series of 32 challenges distributed over a course covering more than 40 miles.
- Major training events:
- A day movement resupply;
- A combat assault course;
- A casualty evacuation;
- A reaction course;
- An enhanced confidence course;
- An unknown distance firing course;
- A night infiltration course; and
- A night march.
- Warrior Stations which are team-building obstacles aimed at teaching teamwork, small unit leadership, problem-solving and adaptability.
Twenty years later, 2016-2017, The Crucible does not have appeared to have changed much, and included (Clark, 2016):
- Long marches with weight:
- The Crucible starts with an 8-10 km rucksack march at 03:00 am.
- A 5-mile night rucksack march on the first night (Garamone, 2017).
- It culminates with a 15 km rucksack march, starting around 02:00-03:00 am.
- Combat assault courses. For example, “the Weaver obstacle during the Crucible Confidence Course at Edson Range.” (Recruit Parents, 2015).
- The problem-solving reaction course.
- The team-building Warrior Stations:
- Composed of six main events and a number of smaller ones at MCRD West (Clark, 2016) or “four four-hour events” at MCRD East (Garamone, 2017).
- The events are designed to simulate the rigours and stress of combat and require the recruits to work as a team to successfully navigate the obstacles.
- Recruits takes turns being the leader during each event (developing combat leadership decision-making).
- Each Warrior Station is named for a Marine hero whose actions epitomise the values the USMC wants recruits to espouse, with the citation being read out before commencing the event.
- Examples of Warrior Stations include (Garamone, 2017):
- An enemy-mined rope bridge that the recruits must cross with their gear and ammunition boxes. They have only a couple of short ropes and their personal gear to solve the problem.
- Recruits run into firing positions and engage pop-up targets with 10 rounds in two magazines.
- Recruit teams must battle each other with pugil sticks.
- The final event is a night movement course (Clark, 2016) or night infiltration course (Garamone, 2017).
The 15 km rucksack march ends with the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor event, “the ceremony where the recruits are presented the symbol of their service.” (Clark, 2016) and signifying the beginning of the new Marine’s journey (Staten, 2017).
Recruits are now called Marine by their drill instructors and the new Marines call their drill instructors by their rank for the first time (Clark, 2016).
Ultimately, The Crucible is a rite of passage that, through shared sacrifice, recruits will never forget. With that memory and their Core Values learned in recruit training, they can draw upon the experience to face any challenges they may face as either Marines or civilians.
As of February 2018, recruit Marines at both MCRD West and East will undertake The Crucible in Week 11 (Staten, 2017).
“The Crucible remains the culminating event for recruits as they earn the title ‘Marine.’” (Staten, 2017).
For an in-depth overview of The Crucible, read James Woulfe’s 1998 book ‘Into the Crucible: Making Marines for the 21st Century’.
3.7 Phase 4: Transition
In November 2017, the USMC introduced a fourth phase to recruit training, although the overall training period of 13-weeks remained the same (Seck, 2017; Staten, 2017).
The USMC states “In the fourth phase, these drill instructors will transition into a peer leadership role where they mentor the newly made Marines and discuss the realities of life in the fleet.” (Seck, 2017).
However, previous recruit training schedules would suggest this is more of a re-introduction and name change:
- MCRD West – Recruit Training Schedule (Revised 2004).
- MCRD West – Recruit Training Schedule (2007).
- MCRD East – Recruit Training Schedule (2010-10-01).
As such, the last two weeks of training is the period in which the recruits begin to transition from the role of recruit to Marine. From February 2018, this period of transition will occur in weeks 12 and 13 at both MCRD West and East (Staten, 2017).
“As drill instructors transition from trainers of recruits to mentors of Marines, the expected result is a more resilient, mature, disciplined and better-prepared Marine.” (Staten, 2017).
These last two weeks of training are spent aboard MCRD and are filled with final required events such as the practical examination, final physical fitness test, and Battalion Commander’s Inspection and company drill.
3.8 Graduation Criteria
Successful completion of recruit training is dependent on seven graduation requirements:
- Qualify at water survival training: After several weeks of training, recruits face their first graduation requirement – swim qualification. As a part of the test, recruits learn to quickly shed heavy equipment that could pull them underwater, safely leap into deep water, use issued equipment to stay afloat and keep their heads above water while wearing a full utility uniform.
- Pass the MCMAP tan belt examination (Section 3.4.1).
- Qualify with the in-service rifle (Section 3.6.1): The scores from the Table and 2 tests are added together for the recruits’ final rifle qualification scores.
- Achieve mastery of 80% of assigned 1000-Level events (tasks).
- Pass the Combat Fitness Test (CFT), Physical Fitness Test (PFT), and meet established height and weight standards.
- The PFT is a measure of a recruit’s general physical fitness.
- The CFT is designed to simulate a wide range of physical challenges one might face in combat and evaluates strength, stamina, agility and coordination. It consists of an 880-yard sprint, two minutes of 30-pound ammunition can lifts, and a timed 300-yard shuttle run in which recruits perform a series of combat-related tasks.
- Successfully complete The Crucible evolution (Section 3.6.2).
- Pass the battalion commander’s inspection: Part of being a Marine is always being ready for inspection. A few days before graduation, the new Marines prepare their uniforms and weapons and are inspected by their battalion commander. The commanders inspect each Marine for proper wear of their uniform, discipline, bearing and general knowledge.
3.9 Family Day and Graduation
Family Day and Graduation take place on the last two days while on MCRD.
Family Day occurs on Thursday and gives new Marines a chance to see their family and friends for the first time during on-base liberty. The Family Day/Emblem ceremony usually begins at 11:30 am on Thursday and lasts approximately 30 minutes. A major event in a recruit’s final training days is the 5-mile ‘Motivational Run’, the final run for the company of recruits. Family/friends can usually observe their recruit begin their company’s run. There is also usually a welcome orientation for family/friends which includes a short movie, LINKS briefing, and drill instructor introductions.
Graduation is conducted on Friday at the completion of the Transition Phase. It is a formal ceremony and parade, attended by family and friends. It usually starts at 10:00 am and lasts approximately 75 minutes.
3.10 What Happens After Recruit Training
Immediately after graduation, new Marines can go home for ten days of leave. After this period of leave, Marines will then go on to further/follow-on training at the School of Infantry (West or East).
Marines who are designated as infantry Marines are assigned to the Infantry Training Battalion, School of Infantry (West or East) for military occupational specialty (MOS) training. After graduating, these Marines will be assigned to their first permanent duty station.
All non-infantry Marines are assigned to Marine Combat Training (MCT) Battalion, School of Infantry (West or East) for training. MCT reinforces and expands on the basic Marine-combat skills learned in recruit training. Following MCT, Marines attend their MOS schools to learn the trade they are expected to perform for the Marine Corps.
PART FOUR: TRAINING ESTABLISHMENTS & UNITS
This part of the article outlines the training establishments involved in training Marine recruits during their 13 weeks of initial military training.
4.1 Recruit Training Regiment
MCRD East and MCRD West both have a Recruit Training Regiment which acts as the headquarters for all administrative and command functions concerning the Phase 1 Basic Military Training, aka ‘Boot Camp’, to civilian volunteers who wish to become Marines.
A Recruit Training Regiment comprises four or five battalions as well as the Drill Instructor School (DIS) [LINK], as outlined in Table 2, and is made up of drill instructors and other Marines who are responsible for training recruits.
|Table 2: Composition of Recruit Training Regiment|
|MCRD West||MCRD East|
|1st Recruit Training Battalion||1st Recruit Training Battalion|
|2nd Recruit Training Battalion||2nd Recruit Training Battalion|
|3rd Recruit Training Battalion||3rd Recruit Training Battalion|
|N/A||4th Recruit Training Battalion|
|Support Battalion||Support Battalion|
|DIS West||DIS East|
- The 4th Recruit Training Battalion only trains female recruits, and companies are staffed exclusively by female drill instructors and officers.
Each Recruit Training Regiment is led by a Colonel (OF-5) who is assisted by a Regiment Sergeant Major, a Sergeant Major (OR-9). Each of the training battalions and support battalions is led by a Lieutenant Colonel (OF-4) who is assisted by a Battalion Sergeant Major, a Sergeant Major (OR-9).
Each recruit training battalion (RTBn) has four training companies, except MCRD East’s fourth RTBn:
- 1RTBn: Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, and Delta.
- 2RTBn: Echo, Foxtrot, Golf, and Hotel.
- 3RTBn: India, Kilo, Lima, and Mike.
- 4RTBn: November, Oscar, and Papa.
Each Support Battalion has the unique mission of supporting nearly every aspect of recruit training from the moment new recruits set foot on MCRD West/East until they graduate as Marines.
Support Battalion personnel process all new recruits during their initial four/five days and, once in training, recruits come into regular contact with Support Battalion personnel who also teach a majority of the academic classes and qualify recruits in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Programme and water survival.
Each Support Battalion consists of three companies that directly support recruit training:
- Instructional Training Company:
- Is responsible for all the instructors who teach the academic classes, Marine Corps Martial Arts Programme classes and water survival, and administer the testing or qualification in those areas.
- Recruit Processing/Receiving Company:
- Is responsible for entry-level processing of all recruits once they arrive at MCRD West/East, as well as those recruits recommended for separation prior to completing training.
- Special Training Company:
- Is responsible for recruits who have been injured in some capacity in training and need medical rehabilitation, physical conditioning, and evaluation before continuing to train at MCRD West/East or follow-on training at the School of Infantry (West/East).
- Recruits will be assigned to a medical rehabilitation platoon for rehabilitation and, depending on the length of stay there, graduation from recruit training may be delayed.
4.2 Weapons and Field Training Battalion
MCRD East and MCRD West both have a Weapons and Field Training Battalion (WFTB) which deliver marksmanship training and field skills training to recruits during their Phase 1 Basic Military Training. In conjunction with the Recruit Training Regiment, the Weapons and Field Training Battalion is made up of drill instructors and other Marines who are responsible for training recruits.
Each WFTB is led by a Colonel (OF-5) who is assisted by a Battalion Sergeant Major, a Sergeant Major (OR-9).
The role of the WFTB is two-fold:
- Provide recruits with the training and skills necessary to maintain and accurately fire the in-service rifle; and
- To teach recruits the fundamentals of living in the field and surviving on the modern battlefield, to include chemical defence.
A WFTB is divided into:
- Range Company which is responsible for conducting entry level and sustainment marksmanship training and to produce qualified marksmanship coaches and primary marksmanship instructors (PMI).
- Field Company which is responsible for: providing instruction to recruits in accordance with the programme of instruction (POI); recruit training in rifle marksmanship and other individual weapons; and combat field training. The Field Company is divided into:
- Field Training Platoon; and
- Combat Marksmanship Platoon.
Within MCRD West, the Weapons and Field Training Battalion is located at Camp Pendleton, California, approximately 40 miles from MCRD West (Section 4.4).
4.3 HQ and Service Battalion
Each HQ and Service Battalion is led by the commanding officer, a Lieutenant Colonel/Colonel (OF-4/5) who is assisted by the Battalion Sergeant Major, a Sergeant Major (OR-9).
The role of the battalion is two-fold:
- Provide technical direction, staff cognisance, and supervision of support functions for recruit training, and operational control and guidance for the Western Recruiting Region; and
- Provide administrative support for personnel assigned to the battalion, Marine Corps detachments, and transients within the San Diego area.
4.4 Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton
Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, usually known as Camp Pendleton, is located just north of Oceanside, California. It is approximately 40 miles north of MCRD West.
Within Camp Pendleton is Edson Range (31 Area), which is a firing range complex and also an annex of MCRD West. The range became operational on 21 August 1964 and is named after USMC Major General ‘Red Mike’ Edson, a distinguished small arms marksman proponent and Medal of Honour recipient. On the same day, Camp Calvin B. Matthews located in La Jolla, which had previously been utilised for rifle training, was closed and handed over to the University of California.
Edson Range complex is where recruit Marines receive field and rifle training and conduct their rifle qualification. It is also home to four of the largest firing ranges on Camp Pendleton.
Recruit Marines receive two weeks of marksmanship training followed by one week of infantry field skills at Edson Range, which is known as ‘up north’ by both recruits and drill instructors (the MCRD West being known as ‘down south’). The Crucible (Section 3.6.2), a three- to four-day combat simulation with little food or sleep, also takes place at Edson Range.
Marine recruits trained at MCRD West and destined for the Infantry will return to Camp Pendleton for their MOS Infantry training delivered by the School of Infantry (West) at 52 Area (Camp San Onofre).
PART FIVE: MISCELLANEOUS
This article provides a fairly comprehensive outline of the United States Marine Corps’ recruit training programme, which is open to both male and female volunteers. The US Marine Corps seeks to attract determined, highly-motivated, intelligent, reliable and physically fit individuals to serve with the US Marine Corps’ wider community. This article provides the basic information to allow individuals to make an informed judgement before applying for US Marine Corps recruit training.
5.1 Useful Publications
- Champie, E.A. (1962) A Brief History of the Marine Corps Base and Recruit Depot San Diego, California 1914 – 1962. Marine Corps Historical Reference Series Number 9. Washington, D.C.: Historical Branch, G-3 Division, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.marines.mil/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=bJWX66z7M6k%3D&portalid=59. [Accessed: 29 November, 2017].
- Fahey, J.E. (1974) History of the Marine Corps Recruit Depot at San Diego 1911-1974. Master’s Thesis. History Department, University of San Diego. Web Archive. Available from World Wide Web: https://web.archive.org/web/20060803103453/http://history.sandiego.edu/gen/corps/years.html. [Accessed: 29 November, 2017].
- Vickers Jr, R.R. & Conway, T.L. (1983) The Marine Corps Basic Training Experience: Psychological Predictors of Performance, Health, and Attrition. Naval Health Research Centre. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a133859.pdf. [Accessed: 29 November, 2017].
- Reis, J.D., Trone, D.W., Macera, C.A. & Rauh, M.J. (2007) Factors Associated with Discharge during Marine Corps Basic Training. Military Medicine. 172(9), pp.936-941.
- Denger, M.J. (2011) A Brief History of the U.S. Marine Corps in San Diego. California Centre for Military History. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.militarymuseum.org/SDMarines.html. [Accessed: 29 November, 2017].
- Wood, A.M., Hales, R., Keenan, A., Moss, A., Chapman, M., Davey, T. & Nelstrop, A. (2013) Incidence and Time to Return to Training for Stress Fractures during Military Basic Training. Journal of Sports Medicine. http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2014/282980.
- Woulfe, J.B. (1996) The Crucible Event. Marine Corps Gazette: The Professional Journal of the U.S. Marines. October 1996. 80(10).
- Bates, R.S. (1997) The Crucible Begins. Marine Corps Gazette: The Professional Journal of the U.S. Marines. February 1997. 81(2).
5.2 Useful Links
- Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island (MCRD East): http://www.mcrdpi.marines.mil/.
- Marine Corps Recruit depot, San Diego (MCRD West): http://www.mcrdsd.marines.mil/.
- Marine Corps Community Services (MCCS), San Diego: http://www.mccsmcrd.com/basemap/.
- US Marine Corps Training and Education Command (TECOM): http://www.tecom.marines.mil/.
CBS News (2011) Marines’ Parris Island Gets 1st Female General. Available from World Wide Web: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/marines-parris-island-gets-1st-female-general/. [Accessed: 29 November, 2017].
Clark, J. (2016) The Crucible Is Where Marines Are Made, And Here’s How. Available from World Wide Web: http://taskandpurpose.com/crucible-marines-made-heres/. [Accessed: 04 December, 2017].
DVIDS (Defense Video Imagery Distribution System) (2017) Meriden, Conn., Native a Marine Corps Drill Instructor on Parris Island, S.C. Available from World Wide Web: https://www.dvidshub.net/image/3926197/meriden-conn-native-marine-corps-drill-instructor-parris-island-sc. [Accessed: 22 November, 2017].
Garamone, J. (2017) The Marine Corps Crucible. Available from World Wide Web: https://www.military.com/join-armed-forces/marine-corps-crucible.html. [Accessed: 04 December, 2017].
Recruit Parents (2015) The Crucible During Marine Corps Recruit Training. Available from World Wide Web: http://recruitparents.com/bootcamp/crucible.asp. [Accessed: 04 December, 2017].
Seck, H.H. (2017) New Boot Camp Phase Aims to Produce Better Marines, General Says. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.military.com/daily-news/2017/10/12/new-boot-camp-phase-aims-to-produce-better-marines-general-says.html. [Accessed: 29 November, 2017].
Staten, D. (2017) Marines Add Fourth Phase to Recruit Training. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.marines.mil/News/News-Display/Article/1340309/marines-add-fourth-phase-to-recruit-training/. [Accessed: 29 November, 2017].
TECOM (United States Marine Corps Training & Education Command) (2017) TECOM Training & Education Command. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.tecom.marines.mil/. [Accessed: 30 November, 2017].
USMC Life (2016) First Female Contract Marines set to Graduate from Boot Camp. Available from World Wide Web: http://usmclife.com/2016/12/first-female-infantry-contract-marines-set-graduate-boot-camp/. [Accessed: 21 November, 2017].
Woulfe, J.B. (1996) The Crucible Event. Marine Corps Gazette: The Professional Journal of the U.S. Marines. October 1996. 80(10).
Woulfe, J.B. (1998) Into the Crucible: Making Marines for the 21st Century. New York: Presidio Press.US