The US Marines – they are the world’s premiere collection of it’s most usefully violent individuals. In books they have been compared to modern day Spartans and proclaimed in song as the guardians of heaven itself. Marines wear a title given to them for savagery in combat, not by their friends, but by the enemies they hunted – Teufel Hunden… Devil Dogs. They didn’t just fall out of the sky like this, though. Though it takes a special kind to become one, like all the greatest things, Marines aren’t discovered… they are made.
Training The US Marines
It takes training – training like what takes place every day at the Marine Corps recruit training depots in San Diego, CA and Parris Island, SC. There, Drill Instructors await a fresh batch of new recruits every week. Next to a crowded formation of yellow footprints, they prepare to begin the three month long ritual that is Marine Corps boot camp.
Unlike any other training regimen in the world, the Marine Corps Recruit Depots (MCRD) are places that don’t only provide training, but remake the people who attend into something far different than what they were when they arrived. In those three months, most of the skills they will learn won’t be those needed to fight the wars of today. That will be provided later on, once they join their units in the fleet. Instead, boot camp is about personal transformation. They remake thousands of people into Marines.
Eagle, Globe and Anchor
This process begins on Black Friday, the adequately named day when recruits meet their Drill Instructors, and as they march through miles of marching on massive parade decks. It continues on the rifle range, where in two weeks thousands of young men and women who never held a gun, gain Olympic level proficiency in the use of the weapon.
It culminates in the Crucible, a seemingly endless death march, punctuated only with times where the recruits are forced to overcome daunting obstacle courses and vicious training exercises, climbing a mountain or trudging through swamps… and one great final meal to celebrate its completion. Finally, months after they first arrived, the recruits receive the coveted title of US Marine, and a tiny trinket, the Eagle Globe and Anchor, to prove it.
If you ask anyone who went through it, you’ll find they all almost universally agree, boot camp is in many ways the most difficult training they will receive in their lives. This isn’t to say it is the most physical. In the fleet, many will face far more physical challenges, but none so mental, and in some ways spiritual, as the training they received at the depots. What few understand is the psychological mastery that is basic Marine training. Ask a recruit what time they get up, they probably won’t be able to tell you.
If you ask them when they eat, or even what day of the week it is, they might not know. That is because all artifacts that might tell you time disappear. Marine recruits don’t wear watches, or any individualizing jewelry. Cell phones are gone. In fact, there is almost no communication home at all, save for a few snail mail letters home every few weeks. You will hear no music played on the base. You will never see a TV. And no computers either, so forget the internet.
Marine Corps Rings
For those few months, though you might be surrounded by the entire city of San Diego, you are as far removed from the rest of humanity as a castaway on a desert island. For those few months, the US Marines are your life and your entire universe. Just like marine swords you are as sharp as you will ever be.
So is it worth it?
Ask many of us and the answer will surprise you. Often, they look back on this time with great revelry and wish they could go back. It doesn’t matter that it was hard. They want to go back because it was hard. It was about the time of transformation. A time when they became more than they were, a feat rarely achieved in the outside world. It was always about more than getting training. Marine Boot camp was when they became warriors. Many US Marines wear marine corps rings to remind them of their service and friends they made along the journey.