United States Marine Corps Recruit Training
United States Marine Corps Recruit Training (commonly known as "boot camp") is a 12-week program of initial training that each recruit must successfully complete in order to serve in the United States Marine Corps. All enlisted individuals entering the Marine Corps, regardless of eventual active or reserve duty status, will undergo recruit training at one of the two Marine Corps Recruit Depots (MCRD): Parris Island, South Carolina, or San Diego, California. Male recruits from the 8th, 9th and 12th recruiting districts (areas west of the Mississippi River except Louisiana, and including parts of Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan) are sent to MCRD San Diego. All recruits from the 1st, 4th and 6th recruiting districts and all female recruits are sent to Parris Island. Those desiring to become officers attend training at Officer Candidates School at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia.
Marines generally hold that their recruit training is the most physically and mentally difficult amongst the Uniformed Services, citing that it is longer than the other branches, requires a more demanding Physical Fitness Test (PFT) that includes a run of 3 miles in less than 28 minutes, 70 or more crunches in 2 minutes, at least 7 pull-ups for males, and flexed arm hang for more than 30 seconds for females; this is to achieve the minimum score. For a maximum score, male recruits must complete the run in 18 minutes, perform 100 crunches in 2 minutes, and do 20 pull ups. All recruits must fit the strictest height and weight standards.
- 1 Overview
- 2 Training schedule
- 3 Continuing education
- 4 History
- 5 Incidents
- 6 References
- 7 External links
It is a process of surrender. At every turn, at every hour, it seemed, a habit or a preference had to be given up, an adjustment had to be made. Even in the mess hall we learned that nothing mattered so little as a man's own likes or dislikes ... Worst in this process of surrender was the ruthless refusal to permit a man the slightest privacy.
Leckie added that "If you are undone in Parris Island, taken apart in those first few weeks, it is at the rifle range that they start to put you together again."
An average day typically begins at 0500. Reveille is sounded and all recruits present themselves for accountability. After personal hygiene and morning clean-up, recruits will perform physical training (only on Monday through Saturday). After the morning meal, the recruits begin the day's scheduled training, which may include classes, drill, or martial arts. On Sundays, recruits are offered the morning to attend various religious services and personal time (often called "Square-Away Time"). After the noon meal, the day's training continues until the evening meal, typically around 1700 to 1800 (5:00 to 6:00 pm). After this time, recruits will have hygiene time to shower, clean their weapons, and clean their barracks. Recruits also get roughly 1 hour of square away time after this, personal time for recruits to engage in personal activities such as preparing uniforms or equipment, writing letters, working out, or doing laundry. Recruits are not free from their Drill Instructors (DIs) or allowed to leave the squad bay during this time. In preparation to sleep, recruits may hydrate, pray together for five minutes, ensure footlockers and rifles are locked, and often recite the Rifleman's Creed or Marines' Hymn before lights-out. Lights-out can range from 2000 to 2200 (8:00 to 10:00 pm), depending on the next day's activities.
Recruits are organized by regiment, battalion, company, platoon, squad, and often fireteam. A Recruit Training Regiment is composed of three recruit training battalions (at Parris Island, there is an additional battalion to train female recruits). All three of the male battalions are made up of four companies, while the female battalion comprises three. Each company is broken down into two series, designated as Lead and Follow, which may have between one and four platoons, depending on the number of recruits in the company at the time the training cycle begins.
Each company is much like a class at a civilian education institution; each company begins and finishes recruit training together (with the exception of those who are dropped for medical or personal reasons to a different company). Thus, each of the companies will be at a different stage in the thirteen-week training cycle.
Each series is broken down into a number of platoons, usually from two to four in each. These platoons will be the basic unit for recruit training, assigned a four digit number as identification. Drill instructors are assigned to each platoon, and will usually stay from the beginning to the end of training. The Senior Drill Instructor of each platoon will select recruits to billets of responsibility, to mimic command and staff positions of a Marine unit. The selections often change on the whims of the drill instructors, and can include:
- the platoon guide, the senior-most recruit responsible for carrying the platoon's guidon
- four squad leaders, each in charge of one-fourth of the platoon; they may choose to further subdivide their squads into four-man fire teams
- a scribe, responsible for maintaining administrative records such as the interior guard schedule
- a whiskey locker recruit, responsible for maintaining the platoon's supplies
- house mouse, who cleans the normally off-limits drill instructors' offices
Central to the experience, training and development of Marine recruits is the Drill Instructor (DI). Each platoon is assigned three or more Drill Instructors, sometimes informally referred to as "hats" due to their distinctive campaign cover.
The tough treatment of Marine recruits by Drill Instructors is legendary. As one magazine described it:
[T]he Marine boot still steps from the recruit train with 74 other victims in his platoon to face crushing defeat at the hands of a merciless staff-sergeant drill instructor and his two assistants. For eight weeks, the DI attacks his blundering confusion with rigid discipline and a blistering barrage of vocal abuse until the boot is bullied and battered into a Marine. He's a "meathead," "goon," "skinhead," "idiot," "yardbird," or "numb" ... Slightest mistakes are greeted with tirades. To a sheepish boot who blinks at him during a chewing out, the DI roars. "Eyes front! Why do you stare at me? Do I fascinate you, meathead?" ... During vicious upbraidings, [the recruit] is continually reminded that he should have joined the Army instead of the Marine Corps.
The head drill instructor is called the "Senior Drill Instructor" (SDI) and must be addressed as such by recruits and drill instructors alike. Often referred to simply as "Seniors", the SDIs often bond with the recruits and ensure that the DIs do not push recruits beyond unnecessary barriers or violate regulations. Senior Drill Instructors are usually a Staff Sergeant or higher and are distinguished by wearing a black leather duty belt (whereas other drill instructors wear wide green webbed duty belts).
The second in command is officially the "Experienced Drill Instructor" but is unofficially referred to as the "heavy hat", "j-hat", "strong-j" (notionally for "junior"), or "drill hat" (as they normally provide the majority of instruction in close order drill). The remaining drill instructor(s) is called the "Assistant Drill Instructor", but commonly referred to as the "green belt", "kill hat", "knowledge hat", "bulldog", or "3rd hat", normally charged with teaching the recruits much of their academic knowledge and responsible for the overall discipline of recruits. Additional drill instructors may be assigned in the winter season, when there are fewer recruits, or as a temporary assignment for students at the drill instructor school.
The drill instructors of a platoon are responsible to the Series Commander, a level of command added below that of the company commander, as a safety measure put into place following the Ribbon Creek incident. Drill instructors are trained at the drill instructor schools at each MCRD. Those drill instructors who successfully complete three years of duty are eligible to receive the Drill Instructor Ribbon.
the coldest, meanest green [eyes] I ever saw. He glared at us like a wolf whose first and foremost desire was to tear us limb from limb. He gave me the impression that the only reason he didn’t do so was that the Marine Corps wanted to use us for cannon fodder to absorb Japanese bullets and shrapnel so genuine Marines could be spared to capture Japanese positions ... Most Marines recall how loudly their DIs yelled at them, but Doherty didn't yell very loudly. Instead he shouted in an icy, menacing manner that sent cold chills through us.
After Sledge and others went to see a nearby airplane crash, "[w]hen we got back to our area, Corporal Doherty delivered one of his finest orations on the subject of recruits never leaving their assigned area without the permission of their DI. We were all impressed, particularly with the tremendous number of push-ups and other exercises we performed instead of going to noon chow". He wrote that
we didn't realize or appreciate the fact that the discipline we were learning in responding to orders under stress often would mean the difference later in combat—between success or failure, even living or dying ... By the end of eight grueling weeks, it had become apparent that Corporal Doherty and the other DIs had done their jobs well. We were hard physically, had developed endurance, and had learned our lessons. Perhaps more important, we were tough mentally. One of our assistant drill instructors even allowed himself to mumble that we might become Marines after all.
Sledge concluded "I disliked [Doherty], but I respected him. He had made us Marines".
Diet, fitness, and medical care
Before arriving at recruit training, all prospective recruits undergo a physical examination by a doctor at a Military Entrance Processing Station. Recruits receive their initial weigh-in during the forming phase. If the recruit is under or over the height and weight standards, the recruit is placed on double rations if underweight or in a "diet" status if overweight. Recruits on double rations, or "double rat recruits", are given twice the usual amount of food. Conversely, diet recruits are put on a strict diet composed of fewer calories and lower-fat foods such as baked fish and rice.
All recruits receive three meals a day (also known as "chow time"), except during the Crucible. These are either served at the mess facility while in garrison, a boxed A-ration when traveling to a mess facility is not practical, or a Meal, Ready-to-Eat during field training. Meal time can last 30 minutes or less, depending on how quickly the platoon gets in line at the chow hall. Recruits are mandated a minimum of 20 minutes to consume each meal though more often than not they do not take anywhere close to that amount of time, often they only need 10 to 15 minutes.
In some cases, recruits may fail to meet certain physical fitness standards or may inadvertently suffer an injury which prevents them from continuing training. These two types of recruits are moved from their initial training platoon and company to the Special Training Company (STC), which retains a disciplined, "boot camp" style environment while being oriented to the improvement of the individual recruit's physical and mental ability to train. The Special Training Company is divided into three platoons. While platoons in normal U.S. military parlance denote a group of around 40–70 personnel, each STC platoon is as large as necessity dictates and may often contain 500 or more recruits along with their assigned drill instructors and other personnel.
Recruits who fail the initial fitness test, as well as those who fail to perform adequately later in training, are dropped to the Physical Conditioning Platoon (PCP) at STC, informally known as the "Pork Chop Platoon" or "Donut Brigade". Recruits in PCP are engaged in a vigorous regimen of physical exercise to prepare them for reentry into training. Recruits who are injured, on the other hand, become part of the Medical Rehabilitation Platoon (MRP), in which they are closely monitored and treated by naval medical personnel while receiving implicit instruction about the Marine Corps and performing whatever small tasks, such as cleaning, they may be capable of. In some cases, it may be necessary for a recruit who has recovered from illness or injury in MRP may need to be moved to PCP to regain an appropriate level of physical fitness and avoid further injury or illness before they eventually rejoin a training platoon.
Finally, there is the Evaluative Holding Platoon (EHP). This is a generalized platoon that encompasses all recruits who, for any reason, are unable to continue with their training platoon and are being evaluated for possible discharge. This platoon may include recruits who have failed to adapt to the conditions of the Marine Corps' boot camp or have refused to continue training. Any recruit in Special Training Company is carefully assessed for physical, mental, and moral fitness, and when he or she is considered to be prepared to resume training, will generally be placed with a platoon at the last training level the recruit had completed.
The intense nature of recruit training lends itself to competition and rivalry between recruits at every level, from squads and platoons up to the rivalry between the two recruit depots. Each platoon in a given company competes to win trophies for having the highest collective scores in marksmanship, close order drill, academic testing, and the final physical fitness test. Platoons that do poorly are sometimes nicknamed the "booger" platoon. While each company will be at a different point in the training cycle at a given time and thus not able to compete directly, graduates and drill instructors foster an atmosphere of friendly rivalry.
However, the rivalry between MCRDs Parris Island and San Diego is much more pronounced. Marines trained at San Diego are often referred to as "Hollywood Marines", because of the base's location in Southern California. Marines trained at Parris Island are sometimes referred to as "Swamp Dogs" because of the large amount of marshland surrounding the base, and more derisively known as "PIGs", an acronym for Parris Island Graduates, and "Hump Waivers" because the terrain there is significantly less hilly than that of the West Coast. Marches with a pack are often called "hump"s.
Boot camp is a twelve-week cycle of training, beginning with a receiving phase of in-processing or "forming", followed by three numbered phases. Each phase includes intensive education and training on various topics essential for military life. Each phase consists of a predetermined number of training days, these are counted in the training matrix as "T1", "T2", up to "T70" which is Graduation Day.
The initial period of Marine Corps Boot Camp is called the Receiving Phase, which begins as the new recruits are on the bus en route to their recruit Depot. They are greeted by a drill instructor, who acquaints them with the Uniform Code of Military Justice, to which they are now subject. Disembarking from the bus, they line up on rows of yellow footprints painted on the concrete, which is their first formation, and learn how to stand at attention.
The recruits are given the opportunity to phone their next of kin and inform them of the recruit's safe arrival, then are searched for contraband. They are issued utility and physical training uniforms and toiletries. From here, the males receive their first military haircut, where they are left essentially bald. Females are instructed in the authorized hairstyling, which allows hair to be short enough to not touch the collar or in a bun.
The remainder of receiving involves completing paperwork, issuing an M16A4 service rifle, receiving vaccines and medical tests, and storing civilian belongings under the eye of drill instructors set aside specifically for receiving. This takes approximately three days, usually without the opportunity to sleep, and ends with the Initial Strength Test (IST). The IST is a shortened form of the PFT to assess if a recruit is physically fit enough to begin training. To pass, a male recruit must complete at least two pull-ups, 35 crunches in two minutes, and run 1.5 miles (2.4 km) in 13:30 minutes or less. The female recruits must hold a “flexed arm hang” (hanging on a bar with their arms bent) for at least 12 seconds, complete 45 crunches in two minutes, and run 1.5 miles in 14 minutes and 30 seconds or less.
From this point, recruits experience "Black Friday", where they meet their permanent Drill Instructors. They also meet their Company Commander, usually a captain, who orders their Drill Instructors to train them to become Marines and has them recite the Drill Instructor's Creed. At this point recruit training truly begins. Recruits are familiarized with incentive training as one of the consequences of disobedience or failure to perform to a Drill Instructor's expectations. The Drill Instructors physically, psychologically, and mentally harass the recruits, including yelling at maximum volume and intimidation, to simulate stress of the battlefield and elicit immediate compliance to instructions. The remainder of receiving is made as confusing and disorienting for the recruits as possible, to help distance the recruits from civilian habits and to prepare them for Marine Corps discipline.
It is at this point that a recruit must come to terms with the decision he or she has made and develop the true determination needed to make it through the process of becoming a United States Marine. The final "moment of truth" is offered to those who have been dishonest about their eligibility, such as drug use, judicial convictions, or other disqualifying conditions.
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Phase One lasts approximately four weeks. Here, discipline will begin to be instilled in recruits by disorienting them and effectively cutting them off from civilian habits and mindsets, as well as reinforcing the mental and physical standards needed to perform under stressful situations that will be simulated in subsequent phases, and experienced in combat situations. Recruits are required to learn and strictly use language and terminology typical to the Marine Corps, often derived from naval terminology.
The purpose of the first phase is to psychologically break down the recruit. At this point, civilian thoughts and habits are considered detrimental to training, so they are squashed during this period by intense physical training, unchanging routines, strict discipline, and heavy instruction. The process is designed to enable recruits to learn to survive in combat situations and generally to adapt and overcome any unexpected situation. One of the principal ideals learned during this period is that recruits are not to think of themselves as individuals; they are not permitted to use first person or second person pronouns. Instead, recruits are required to use third-person referrals, such as referring to themselves as "This recruit" and accomplish all tasks with teamwork. Any actions that put the benefit of an individual over the benefit of the other recruits are not permitted, and recruits are expected to conform to a standard that does not tolerate personal deviance or eccentricities. Speed, intensity and volume when speaking are valued as well.
The bulk of first-phase education consists of classes about the Marine Corps and its history and culture, first aid, rank structure and insignia, protocol, customs and courtesies, the 11 General Orders, aspects of the five paragraph order, prepare equipment for use (such as how to properly make a rack), regulations regarding uniforms, and other topics. Recruits learn through the use of rote memorization and mnemonics; recruits are expected to be able to recite a passage or quote in unison, without error, and on demand.
Close order drill is an important factor in recruit training, and begins from their first formation on the yellow footprints. In the first phase, they learn all of the basic commands and movements, memorizing the timing through the use of "ditties", or mnemonics, that help synchronize a recruit's movements with the rest of his or her platoon. Constant repetition and practice are used to facilitate muscle memory, so that any given movement can be rendered immediately and accurately upon order without hesitation. To aid in this development, drill movements are worked into other parts of daily life, to help increase the platoon's synchronization and muscle memory; this same technique is used with other non-drill activities as well. For example, a recruit is instructed to hold his/her food tray in a similar fashion to holding the butt of a rifle during "shoulder arms."
During this phase, recruits are familiarized with their rifle. This weapon, never referred to as a "gun", stays with the recruit through the entirety of recruit training, being locked to his or her rack at night, while platoons will stack weapons together under guard for activities where retaining it is impractical, such as swimming. Recruits must memorize the rifle's serial number, the four weapons safety rules, the four weapons conditions, and go through preparatory lessons in marksmanship. In addition, recruits use the rifles in close order drill, and will spend considerable time cleaning their weapons.
Recruits begin work toward earning their tan belt in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP). Physical training gradually becomes more and more intense as recruits begin to get stronger and their bodies accustomed to the strain. Recruits undergo the first of their conditioning marches, which will grow in length (from 1.5 miles with a light pack to a 10-mile hike with full loadout at the end of the Crucible). Periodic fitness tests assess which recruits need more attention, and those who consistently fail to meet the minimum are in danger of being sent to the PCP. Recruits will conduct two pugil stick bouts and are introduced to the obstacle course.
In the third week of the first phase, recruits are taught swimming and water survival. This is the first event where failure to pass will result in a recruit being dropped to a different company to restart training and attempt to qualify again. If a recruit fails twice, he or she will be evaluated to see if a third chance is warranted, or if the recruit will be deemed unable to qualify and administratively separated from service.
The final week of first phase includes rappelling, the final MCMAP test, and the gas chamber, where recruits must enter an enclosed building filled with CS gas and perform various movements with their gas mask, including calisthenics and removing the gas mask. Recruits who attempt to flee the gas chamber are ordered back in; a failure to comply results in the recruit being dropped.
By the end of the first phase, recruits can march, respond to orders, pass the first written test, and keep up in physical fitness.
Phase Two of recruit training is an introduction to field skills, and includes two weeks of marksmanship training, a field week, and "Team Week".
In the first week of the second phase the first inter-platoon contest is held. Termed "initial drill", the platoon and junior-most drill instructor are graded as a whole on their performance in close order drill.
The second week is known as "Grass Week". This week is partly spent in a class setting to learn about marksmanship principles of the M16 and how to shoot efficiently. When not in class, recruits are snapping in, or practicing their firing positions. Recruits are taught how to shoot by a Primary Marksmanship Instructor, a Marine of the MOS 0931. While range personnel wear campaign covers similar to drill instructors, PMIs are not drill instructors and generally not as strict in enforcing discipline upon recruits, focusing on marksmanship and expecting recruits to uphold their own discipline.
The third week is called "Firing Week", which ends with Qualification Day. This week recruits are awakened early in the morning to prepare the rifle range for firing. They spend all day running through the Known Distance Course of fire (also known as table 1), in order to practice their marksmanship skills with live rounds. Half of the platoons will fire at the 200, 300, and 500 yards (180, 270, and 460 m), in the standing, sitting, kneeling and prone positions; the other half will mark targets in the pits. Friday of that week is qualification day, where recruits must qualify with a minimum score in order to earn a marksmanship badge and continue training. Those who fail to qualify are given a second opportunity during Team Week; if they fail again, they are dropped and will repeat Grass Week. The Marines are the only branch of the United States Armed Forces that require the 500 yard line qualification. A trophy is awarded to the platoon with the highest cumulative scores.
After the rifle range, recruits begin Team Week. During this week, recruits are placed in various service jobs around the depot, such as yard work, cleaning, maintenance, etc. During this week, recruits will be able to revisit previous instruction and retake tests. Recruits that need to have medical or dental needs addressed, such as the extraction of wisdom teeth, have those procedures done here so that recovery time impacts training as little as possible. Recruits are also fitted for their service and dress uniforms.
Many companies choose to end team week with a weekend "field meet", where platoons will compete in several military-related sports events, such as a rifle assembly race, sprints, a short marathon, an obstacle course race, and a tug of war.
Because MCRD San Diego is located in the center of a dense urban area and directly behind San Diego International Airport, it is impractical to conduct rifle qualification and field training there. Instead, recruits are sent to the Edson Range at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton for three weeks during the second phase. At the conclusion, they are returned to MCRD San Diego to continue training.
Phase Three is essentially the 'polishing' of the recruits, when their skills and knowledge are honed and tested.
Third phase begins with A-line, where recruits learn to fire their rifle under more realistic combat conditions, including firing at moving targets and from a "combat stance," rather than the competition-type positions used during Firing Week. The next week sees recruits at Basic Warrior Training (BWT), where they learn the fundamentals of combat and will sleep in the field and eat MREs. Skills taught include camouflage, low crawling, land navigation, basic squad tactics, and other foundations of military skills.
After this week, recruits return to garrison for the final drill competition, take the final PFT, and take the final written test (which covers all the information covered in classes in all three phases); each event has a trophy for the highest-scoring platoon. Recruits then prepare for the Crucible.
The Crucible is the final test in recruit training, and represents the culmination of all of the skills and knowledge a Marine should possess. Designed in 1996 to emphasize the importance of teamwork in overcoming adversity, the Crucible is a rigorous 54-hour field training exercise demanding the application of everything a recruit has learned until that point in recruit training, and includes a total of 48 miles of marching. It simulates typical combat situations with strenuous testing, hardship, and the deprivation of food and sleep. Two recruits are given three MREs (a self-contained, individual field ration), each usually taking one, then splitting the third up how ever is agreeable between the two. The recruits are only allowed six hours of sleep through the entire 54-hour event. Recruits are broken into squad-sized teams (possibly smaller) and placed under the charge of one drill instructor. West Coast recruits are returned to Edson Range for the Crucible. Parris Island recruits will conduct the Crucible in the derelict Page Airfield on the south end of the depot.
Throughout the Crucible, recruits are faced with physical and mental challenges that must be accomplished before advancing further. Teamwork is stressed, as the majority of tasks are impossible without it; each group must succeed or fail as a whole. The others will fail unless every recruit passes through together, requiring the team to aid their fellow recruit(s) who struggle in the accomplishment of the given mission. Also stressed are the Corps' core values of Honor, Courage, and Commitment; events sometimes present a moral challenge. Many challenge events are named after Marine Medal of Honor recipients or otherwise notable Marines, and drill instructors will often take the time to read the citation of the award and hold a guided discussion with the recruits to evaluate their moral development. Drill instructors are also vigilant for those recruits who succeed and fail in leadership positions.
Some of the challenges encountered during the Crucible are team and individual obstacle courses, day and night assault courses, land navigation courses, individual rushes up steep hills, large-scale martial arts challenges, and countless patrols to and from each of these. Often, these challenges are made even more difficult by the additions of limitations or handicaps, such as the requirement to carry several ammunition drums, not touching portions of an obstacle painted red to indicate simulated booby traps, and evacuating team members with simulated wounds.
On the final day of the Crucible, recruits are awoken and begin their final march (including "The Reaper" a forced march up a steeply inclined hill to the top of Edson's Ridge on the west coast) when they arrive the drill instructors will offer the recruits the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor emblem which give them the title Marine. Immediately after this, Marines hike back down The Reaper and are then offered the "Warrior's Breakfast", where they are permitted to eat as much as they like, even of previously forbidden foods, such as ice cream.
The final week of Recruit Training is referred to as "Marine Week" and includes the Battalion Commander's Inspection, Family Day, and Graduation. During this week, Marines are instructed in some of the recruit behaviors that are no longer appropriate as Marines, such as referring to self in the third person. Final photos are taken, a representative from the School of Infantry will conduct a brief, and travel arrangements are made for a ten-day leave.
The last full day before graduation is called Family Day. The public day begins early with a "Motivational Run", when the new Marines run (by company, then by platoon) yelling Marine Corps Cadences, past their families; circling the base and ending at the parade deck. After a brief ceremony explaining to the families what type of training they have gone through, the newest Marines are dismissed to on-base liberty with their families from late morning until early evening. During this time, they are free to roam about the base and show their families around, although they are not permitted in certain areas, nor are they permitted to leave the base. During the last night, some platoons allow the new Marines to host a gong show, where they perform skits regarding humorous moments during training, especially of their drill instructors.
The next morning, the new Marines form for their graduation ceremony, march across the parade deck, have their guidons retired, and are dismissed from recruit training by their senior drill instructors.
After this rigorous recruit training, these new Marines will receive ten days of leave, and possibly more if they are assisting their local Marine recruiter with recruiting. The leave is a time to rest up and reflect on what they have accomplished, as well as incorporate their newly found discipline into their civilian life. They are expected to conduct themselves during leave as a disciplined Marine would, and maintain their physical and mental fitness. After the leave has expired, Marines will attend the School of Infantry (SOI); east coast graduates will attend SOI East at Camp Geiger, while west coast graduates will return to Camp Pendleton for SOI West. Non-infantry Marines will attend a course called Marine Combat Training for 29 days, then proceed to the appropriate school for their Military Occupational Specialty (which vary in length). Infantry Marines attend the Infantry Training Battalion for 59 days. Then these newly trained Marines are assigned to their first unit in the operating forces.
In the earliest years of the Corps, training was performed by the individual Marine barracks where the individual was recruited before being assigned to a permanent post. Marine non-commissioned officers were responsible for instructing privates in discipline, drill, weapons handling, and other skills. Commandant Franklin Wharton established a formal school for recruits at Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C. in approximately 1808, but no records indicate that this served as a centralized recruit depot, and the training regimen remained inconsistent and primitive due to manpower shortages and lack of funding. For example, recruits at Washington were hastily formed into a battalion in July 1861, and drilled as they marched on their way to the First Battle of Bull Run.
In 1911, Commandant William P. Biddle standardized a mandatory two-month recruit training schedule (including drill, physical exercise, personal combat, and intensive marksmanship qualification with the recently adopted M1903 Springfield rifle) and set up four depots at Philadelphia, Norfolk, Puget Sound, and Mare Island. In 1915, the Norfolk depot was shifted to its current location at Parris Island, while the Philadelphia and Puget Sound depots were closed and merged with the two remaining depots. As the United States entered World War I, the number of recruits being trained surged from 835 at any given time to a peak of 13,286, while follow-on training was provided at Quantico and in France. During the summer of 1923, the west coast recruit depot was moved from Mare Island to its current location in San Diego, and the training program was modified to include three weeks of basic indoctrination and three weeks on the rifle range, and the final two weeks were occupied in bayonet drill, guard duty, drill, and ceremonies.
After Congress authorized an increase in manpower in preparation for World War II in September 1939, the syllabus was halved to four weeks to accommodate the influx of recruits. After standards and marksmanship plummeted as a result, the seven-week schedule was returned, and additional training was given at Camps Lejeune or Pendleton for Marines, based on specialties, before being assigned to a unit. An additional segregated depot was established at Montford Point for roughly 20,000 African American recruits, who wouldn't be integrated until 1949. Overall, half a million recruits were trained by the end of the war at the three depots.
During the Korean War, training was shortened from ten weeks to eight, but returned afterward to ten. The Ribbon Creek incident in 1956 led to considerable scrutiny and reform in recruit training, such as an additional layer of command oversight and the distinctive campaign cover. During the early 1960s the training period was increased to 13 weeks, including three weeks of marksmanship training at the Rifle Range. The Vietnam War-era syllabus was shortened to nine weeks, and again saw infantry recruits attend follow-on training at Lejeune and Pendleton.
The intensity and occasional mercilessness of the Marine Corps boot camp have led to a number of incidents of death and/or abuse.
Ribbon Creek incident
On the night of April 8, 1956, Staff Sergeant Matthew McKeon, a junior drill instructor at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, marched his assigned platoon into Ribbon Creek, a swampy tidal creek. The incident resulted in the deaths of six United States Marine Corps recruits. In the end, McKeon was acquitted of manslaughter and oppression of troops. He was found guilty of negligent homicide and drinking on duty. The sentence was nine months of confinement at hard labor, rank reduced to private, a $270 fine, and a bad conduct discharge. After a review of the evidence and numerous high profile Marines providing strong and positive testimony to McKeon's character, The Secretary of the Navy later reduced the sentence to three months in the brig, reduction to private with no discharge and no fine. McKeon went back on active duty. He was never able to regain his former rank and was medically retired from the Marine Corps in 1959 as a corporal by claiming a back injury.
Henry W. Hiscock incident
On January 3, 1976, Private Harry W. Hiscock was shot through the hand by an M-16 rifle fired by Sergeant Robert F. Henson from fifty yards away. Henson, attempting to frighten Hiscock, had loaded a blank round into his rifle, stating that he was going to kill Hiscock, and then firing the weapon at Hiscock as he ran away. Once firing the blank shot, Henson chambered another round, believing it also to be blank, but in fact the round was live and struck Hiscock once fired. Later reports indicated that, prior to firing the second round, Hiscock had been told by other drill instructors that Henson was seriously intending to kill him and that he had best "say goodbye" to his platoon. After the incident, Henson and other drill instructors attempted to cover up what had happened, submitting false reports that Hiscock had cut his hand in the rifle range latrine, and also had coerced other recruits who had been on the range that day to stay silent out of fear of reprisal. The coverup led to a scandal and several criminal convictions.
Lynn E. McClure incident
Jerrod M. Glass incident
On 15 November 2007, Sgt. Jerrod M. Glass was sentenced to six months in the brig and was given a bad-conduct discharge for abusing 23 recruits. He also received a reduction in rank to private and pay forfeiture. He had faced a maximum sentence of 10 years of confinement, dishonorable discharge, reduction in rank, and forfeiture of pay and benefits.
Earlier, the prosecutors recommended he spend two years in the brig and receive a bad-conduct discharge. Captain Christian Pappas, the lead prosecutor in the case, argued that Glass slapped, beat and ridiculed nearly all 40 recruits in his platoon for two months, showing a "complete disregard and contempt" for rules that ban such maltreatment. Pappas told the jury that Glass had struck recruits with flashlights and tent poles, choked a recruit, made recruits drink water until they vomited and repeatedly referred to a Latino recruit with a homophobic slur in Spanish.
- Specific citations
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