So, you’re thinking about joining the Marines, eh?
Hopefully, my post here will give you some meaningful information or requirements that might help you to make that tough decision. Everybody that joins the Marines does so for their own reasons or have their own stories. Some join because their father or uncle were Marines or their fathers before them were OLD CORPS Devildogs while others might join because they like to fight or simply for the challenge or love of country. Others may wonder if they should go to college or join the service and take classes while on active duty. There is no generic answer that is right for everybody.
The physical challenge:
Together, you work to build up your strength and endurance. You do things physically you never dreamed possible. I remember seeing other platoons on base that were within weeks of graduation and thinking how lucky they were and wondering if I would make it to where they were. After doing physical training most of the day, marching on the parade deck, and rushing here and there, from chow to classrooms, we would be completely exhausted by day’s end. I mean completely exhausted. For those who go through boot camp in San Diego, you will spend a couple of weeks humping in the mountains (we call it “Mount Motherfucker” for a good reason).
The mental challenge:
Nothing can prepare you for the mental challenge of Marine Corps boot camp. The first part of the movie “Full Metal Jacket” is very accurate. There is little deviation in the decades of drill instructor behavior and effectiveness. From the moment you arrive on the yellow footprints until the moment you graduate, everything you do is controlled by a drill instructor. You are yelled at constantly, belittled, embarrassed, confused, and subject to head games of every imaginable possibility, and some that only the Marines could conjure up. When unrelenting prolonged physical and mental thrashings are combined, the result is an incredible transformation of breaking down the individual shit-bird civilian and rebuilding the boy into the Marine.
The aptitude challenge:
Contrary to public perception, recruits spend countless hours learning about their history, their weapons, first aid, chemical warfare, chain-of-command, and other various subjects. Much pride is taken in teaching recruits about the famous Marines who served before them. From the birth of the Continental Marines in a bar in Tun Tavern, PA. in 1775, to the battlefields from the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli, recruits gain a deep sense of debt owed to these Marines from the Old Corps. Aptitude tests are also taken which help determine, for some, their next school or duty station.
There are many many other challenges in Marine boot camp, some measurable, some are not. Qualifying with the M-16 rifle is a two-week process. The first week is spent “snapping in” or learning all about shooting. The next week is qualifying week. Not qualifying with the rifle can end your journey to be a Marine, as can failure to qualify in swimming or other required skills.
Nowadays, there is so much information available on the Internet that many young boys and girls can get some facts to help them prepare for boot camp. Nevertheless, here’s my advice for anyone considering joining the Marines.
1. Get a guaranteed MOS. Whether it’s a basic rifleman (0311) or a huey helicopter crew chief (6174), think about your future. Try to gain skills you can use when your active duty ends. I was fortunate to get into the aviation field because I ended up working in computers. Since I got out I have been working in IT. I never would have received that opportunity had it not been for the Marine Corps. The IT experience from the Marines catapulted me into several excellent career opportunities.
2. RUN, RUN, RUN… Get into shape before you report to boot camp. It will help you like you won’t believe. Work on upper-body and leg strength as much as possible. You CAN get through the physical aspects of boot camp. The better shape you are in, the easier it will be for you. And remember, for you MCRD San Diego recruits, “Mount Motherfucker” awaits you.
3. Prepare yourself as much as possible for the mental head games you will be subject to. Keep a low profile, do your best, speak loudly, don’t take shortcuts, study hard, stay focused. Watch the Full Metal Jacket boot camp scenes over and over. I had NO CLUE about the mental challenges and I still made it. For those who will attend MCRD Parris Island, the “sand fleas” will test your discipline.
4. STUDY! Know your general orders, rank structure, chain-of-command, and general history of the Marine Corps. Know who Marines like Chesty Puller, John LeJuene, Maj. A.A. Cunningham, Dan Daly, “Manila John” Basilone, and Smedley Butler were. Memorize and gain a good understanding of Marine Corps leadership traits (JJDIDTIEBUCKLE).
Knowing your Marine Corps knowledge inside and out will place you far ahead of the others.
If you want more details about boot camp, check these out:
The change is forever! Once a Marine, Always a Marine!