So You Think You Want To Become A Marine

By: Phil Rivera

So you think you want to become a United States Marine.

If just anybody could become a Marine, it wouldn’t be the Marine Corps as we know it now and for the almost 241 years since its beginning on November 10, 1775.

What the Marine Corps will promise you in the beginning are 12 weeks of intense training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, California, or Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, South Carolina.

From the very second that your bus arrives at the Recruit Depot, you will hear the loud voice of a Drill Instructor that is tasked with transforming you into a Marine over the course of 12 weeks. You will have three drill instructors, a senior drill instructor and two junior drill instructors.
The drill instructor has a professional responsibility to develop the recruits in his charge and help transform them into smartly disciplined, physically fit, basically trained Marines, and thoroughly indoctrinated in love of Corps and country. Whatever he demands of them, he will demonstrate by my own example, the highest standard of personal conduct, morality and professional skill.

You will undergo physical training, which in the beginning will make you think you are going to puke. The pain in your muscles during the beginning of your physical training is nothing more than “weakness leaving the body”. Your drill instructors have been carefully trained to ensure each recruit has an orderly progression into the level of fitness that corresponds to the time period in your training cycle. You will be absolutely amazed by the change you see in your physical fitness and endurance as you progress in your training.

Close order drill has been relevant in the military since the 5th century. Spartans not only used it for combat tactics, but also used it to instill discipline within their society. It is a foundation that is used today in recruit training to instill discipline, confidence, and ‘espirit de corps’. The drill instructor instills those key elements early in training to ensure each recruit carries on the legacy of the warrior ethos. You will have many, many hours of close order drill. You will march with your rifle and learn all of the basic rifle movements, I call POPLAR. Present, Order, Port, Left shoulder and Right shoulder Arms. There will be a dizzying array of drill commands that in the beginning of your close order drill training will be confusing. Attention, right face, left face, about face, fall in, fall out, rest, at ease, to the rear, by the right and left oblique, column of files from the right or left, flanking movement left or right, parade rest, slow time, half-time, halt, as you were, and quick-time will become things of your dreams. You will dream of marching on most nights while you are sleeping in your quarter-bouncing, tightly made rack (or bed to the uninitiated).

Military subjects training will normally be taught by subject matter experts in their area of expertise. Recruits receive instruction on military history, customs and courtesies, basic first aid, uniforms, leadership and core values. They begin through hand-to-hand combat skills through the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program, which is made up of various martial arts styles. True to their name, Marines need to know how to survive in the water. Recruits learn to leap into deep water, tread water, use issued equipment to stay afloat and to shed heavy gear that could pull them under water. You will learn to rappel and properly use a gas mask. You will undergo marksmanship training with the M16-A4 5.56mm rifle. During Basic Warrior Training you are taught basic skills of survival in combat, such as combat marksmanship skills, land navigation and how to maneuver under enemy fire.

Finally, you will face the final challenges to overcome and earn the title of United States Marine. The week begins with a physical fitness test and a written exam before the final drill evaluation. The recruits then face the Crucible, a final 54-hour field event that tests the recruits on the knowledge, skills and values they have been taught throughout training. Those who complete the final challenge are awarded their Eagle, Globe and Anchor, symbolizing their transformation from recruits to Marines. At this point I should note that from the time you arrive at recruit training until the Crucible, you have not earned the title United States Marine. Recruits undergoing training in the Army are automatically called “soldiers”; recruits in the Navy are called “sailors”; recruits in the Air Force are called “Airmen”. Marine recruits undergoing basic training are referred to as “Recruit” (along with a long list of other names that I won’t go into).

The United States Marine Corps is the most elite military organization in the world. Our history, reputation, and world-wide recognition are things that all Marines take pride in. All Marines who have completed recruit training, went on to Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) training, and completed a tour in the Marine of three years or thirty years, share a common bond. We have a confidence we could never have imagined prior to joining the Marine Corps. We have the self-discipline to complete any task we put our minds to. For every Marine, it is called “espirit de corps”. It’s defined by an unfailing bond with each other, our country and the Marine Corps.
So, I ask again. Do you want to become a Marine?

Written by:
Phillip L. Rivera
Captain, USMC (retired)
Enlisted 21 Oct 1968
Retired 1 Nov 1988
nvrbeenhapier[at]earthlink[dot]net

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1 comment


  • Robert K.

    OORAH Semper FI 5’4″ 125 lbs. I Made it through Boot Camp. PROUD to be a Marine 67-71.


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