Known to have one of the most rigorous basic training processes in the Armed Forces, the thought of earning the title of United States Marine can be exciting, challenging,rewarding, and scary. Boot camp is a little bit of each and in my opinion becoming a Marine worth every obstacle that you will face. During some of my duty as a Marine, I was stationed in an RS (Recruiting Station) that manages all of the RSS's (Recruiting Sub-Stations) in the area. The RSS is where your local recruiter works out of. Here I had the chance to work on the processing side of creating future Marines. As a former Marine and combat veteran, I want to provide some insight on how to physically and mentally prepare for one of the biggest changes in your life.
GETTING STARTED: INITIAL PROCESSING
The first step to becoming a Marine is to talk to a recruiter. Recruiters are a very knowledgeable resource that can get you on your way to becoming a Marine. A very important thing that you need to remember starting with your first visit with a recruiter is to be honest. I can't stress it enough because if you try to hide something, I guarantee that it will be found out and will make your journey to become a Marine more time consuming and difficult. You will be asked to disclose drug use, criminal, and medical history. If you did use drugs, had a criminal history, or had some medical issues, it DOES NOT mean that you cannot become a Marine. Further processing may be necessary. After you speak to your recruiter, he will set a date to take you to your local MEPS (processing station) to take a multiple choice test called the ASVAB. This will determine your eligibility for certain occupational specialties. After you've passed, you will set another date with your recruiter to go back to MEPS for a physical screening and another background screen with the Marine at MEPS. I would advise taking off of work this day because the time it takes to process varies with each individual. Once you've passed medical and background screening, you are ready to be sworn into the Armed Forces. After this, you'll go to the RS which is usually in the same building to receive your ID card, brief, and sign a few more papers. You may also be asked to do a partial Initial Strength test (IST) consisting of crunches and pull ups for men and dead hang for women. This process will take around 15 minutes and then you are done for the day. Now comes prep time for boot camp.
GETTING READY FOR BOOT CAMP: STAYING IN TOUCH WITH YOUR RECRUITER AND PREPARING TO SHIP
Depending on your ship date (the day you leave to go to boot camp), you may have weeks or months to mentally and physically prepare yourself for the training ahead. If you have only weeks and you are not in the best shape, make sure you can at least pass the IST and load up on all the Marine Corps knowledge you can. When you reach basic training, you will take another IST there and be placed into your appropriate fitness grouping. You can always improve and move up, that's what your training is for. Your recruiter can help you reach your goals with your IST and knowledge training. Whether you have weeks or months, weekly contact with your recruiter is necessary to make sure you are staying focused on keeping in shape and to discuss any questions or concerns you may have as your ship date nears. If you have months before you ship to boot camp, you will attend monthly functions with all of the other future Marines in your RSS. These usually involve some physical activity like football, taking the IST or can be informative classes such as learning to apply camo paint and doing land navigation. The functions are mandatory. If you start to have feelings of doubt and uncertainty as your ship date nears, that's normal. I'd be surprised if someone didn't get nervous about it. Becoming a Marine is a big accomplishment and is by no means impossible if you are truely focused.
The change begins as soon as your bus rolls to a stop near the infamous yellow footprints. From that point on, everyone except your fellow recruits are to be addressed as "sir" or "ma'am". Addressing yourself as "I" turns into addressing yourself as "this recruit".You will be asked again to disclose any information that you previously did not concerning your background shortly after arriving to training. To prevent incriminating yourself and committing a Federal offense, be honest about everything before you ship. Basic Training is a large adjustment and some may try to look for ways to be sent home. The fastest way out of training is to complete it and if you think you can take the fast route home by acting foolish, feigning illness, or breaking rules, think again. You will be put in a holding platoon and by the time you are done being processed out, your former platoon mates will have graduated and started their careers as Marines before you get your plane ticket home. Everything in training is done for a reason, even the small stuff. The drill instructors are there to train you, not to simply pick on you although that's what it may seem like sometimes. While they may seem like your worst enemy, you couldn't be safer under the protection of a Marine and they are the standard by which you will set your own as begin your career as a Marine. Respect them. Like anywhere else, you will get along with some recruits and you will dislike others. Leaders don't get to pick and choose who they lead, they look after everybody. If someone's falling behind, you're falling behind too so help them instead of picking on them like everyone else will likely do. Drill instructors will take more positive notice over someone demonstrating leadership qualities over someone that shows off how good they are at something.
HELPFUL THINGS TO REMEMBER
* Memorize your General Orders, The Rifleman's Creed, and The Marines Hymn
* It is to your benefit to be in the best physical shape you can prepare yourself for instead of just achieving the minimum
* Bring only what you need to ship: toiletries such as razors, shampoo, etc. will be provided
* Find another future Marine to study/train with before you go to boot camp
* Once you reach basic training, you will not get much sleep if any for the first day so try to get a good night's rest the night before and on the flight there
*You will be drug tested at some point. Don't do anything stupid before you ship
*Memorize Marine and Navy Rank Structure *Forget everything you previously knew about how to shoot a rifle, you will be re-trained
*NO NEW TATTOOS! You can get them after training but it will hold up your ship date if you get them after you've sworn in.
Marine Corps boot camp will change your life. Your fears will be exposed and conquered. You will be pushed to your physical, mental, and emotional limit and be better for it. It may even seem better than you expected. Training is not going to be easy, but you have to earn the title of Marine, it isn't given to you.