Military Life Resources Basic Training

Can you survive Marine basic training?

Jessica Evans Avatar
marine corps boot camp

U.S. Marine Corps recruits with Papa Company, 4th Recruit Training Battalion.

It’s no secret that USMC recruits go through the most challenging basic training of any branch of the U.S. military. So what does it take to become a Marine and survive basic training? Well, for starters, you’ve got to be tough as nails. As a recruit, you’ll learn the Marine Corps’ values. You’ll discover courage you didn’t know you had, and you’ll find out you’re stronger than you think.

Here’s what to expect if you’re shipping off to Marine Corps basic training soon.

What You Need to Know

Once you enlist, you’ll ship off to one of two Marine Corps Recruit Depots — MCRDs for short. If you live west of the Mississippi River, you’ll head to San Diego’s Recruit Training Depot. If you live in the east, you’ll go to Parris Island in South Carolina.

Qualifications Required

Citizens and resident aliens looking to serve their country must be between the ages of 18-28. You’ll need parental consent if you’re under 17. You’ll also need a high school diploma and a solid score on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test as well as pass an enlistment physical exam.

All aspiring Marine recruits need to meet exacting standards regarding physical fitness, mental acuity, and possess unquestionable moral fiber.

Female candidates are eligible for almost every occupation field outside combat roles, such as infantry, artillery, or tank/amphibian tractor crew positions – though exceptions may apply.

marine basic training recruits
Recruits with Delta Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, and Oscar Company, 4th Recruit Training Battalion, wait to pass through the silver hatches at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., June 24, 2019. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Samuel C. Fletcher)

Phase One of Basic Training

Your initial training will happen in three phases and take 13 weeks. From the start of phase one, you’ll leave all parts of civilian life behind. This is where you’ll get your first haircut, uniform, and some pens and paper to write home. Forget about being called by your first name, too. From here on out, you’re “Recruit So-and-So.”

So stop pining for home and throw yourself into becoming the best Marine possible. Expect tons of physical activity. You’ll learn martial arts and train in first aid. A doctor will also put you through a physical exam. Be prepared to run at least a mile and a half and do lots of pull-ups and sit-ups.

Strength and endurance are a must for a Marine recruits and basic training is designed to test your mettle. Once you’ve proven you can run with the best of them, be prepared to run some more. Then you’ll head off to a confidence training designed to develop self-assurance. Your drill sergeants will make life extremely stressful throughout this entire process, but don’t take it personally. One purpose of basic training is to re-condition your mind.

Phase Two of Marine Boot Camp

You’ll progress to phase two if you prove strong enough to get through phase one. This is where you’ll sharpen your marksmanship at the range. Every Marine recruit needs to be excellent with their rifle since the saying goes, “Every Marine is a rifleman.”

Recruits learn to shoot in four key positions: standing, kneeling, sitting, and lying flat on their chest (a.k.a. prone position). Aside from weapons mastery, you’ll undergo gas chamber training and endure exposure to tear gas. Don’t worry—you’ll have a gas mask on, but try not to be that guy who pukes after the pact. The exercise is designed to get you comfortable navigating spaces while wearing protective gear. It’s also intended to put you in a super uncomfortable position and see how you react. You’ll also spend time at the field firing range, learning to fire at stationary and moving targets. Finally, you’ll go through the Crucible.

A U.S. Marine Corps recruit with Papa Company, 4th Recruit Training Battalion, run the Day Movement Course during Basic Warrior Training, at Paige Field on Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., Sept. 7, 2019.

The Crucible

The Crucible is a grueling 54-hour test of endurance, both mental and physical. Recruits are pushed to the limit by sleep deprivation and over 45 miles of marching while being tested on their ability to work as a team when solving problems. The ultimate goals are to adopt Marine Corps values, take ownership so that no recruit will be left behind during battle or service and learn how to make decisions while under pressure.  

At the end of the event, a color guard will raise a flag, and a Marine chaplain will read a prayer. The Company’s first sergeant will address recruits. Then, drill instructors present the recruits with their Marine Corps insignia – the eagle, globe, and anchor. At this time, recruits will be called “Marine” for the very first time. 

Phase Three of Basic Training

For phase three, you get to go back to your original training depot, where combat water survival training takes place. You’ll also learn defensive driving and take a Marine history test. In the last two days of your basic training, you’ll get to invite your family to the recruit depot where you’ll participate in your graduation ceremony. You can expect it to be much more formal than your high school and/or college graduation. You will likely march in formation and don your official U.S. Marine Corps attire.  

After Graduation

After graduation, you’ll head off to your next training phase to become proficient in your job. Contrary to popular belief, being an infantryman isn’t the only job in the Marine Corps. In fact, there are tons of others!

As a Marine, you are part of an elite force with missions that protect America. You have the opportunity to step up and take on one of 35 diverse specializations ranging from Aircraft Defense and Maintenance to Supply, each boasting more than 300 distinct jobs in total. Focus your energies into mastering Electronics or Intelligence, becoming an expert Combat Engineer or Broadcaster – no matter what field you choose as a Marine there will be plenty opportunities waiting for you.