The US Marine Corps (USMC) is one of the most selective organizations of the US Armed Forces. Basic training is also more intensive than other military branches, involving rigorous mental and physical exercise. As a result, the Marines are considered some of the toughest and most highly trained service members.
Marine recruits can undergo training in one of two locations: the recruit training depot at Parris Island or San Diego.
Knowing what to expect is the key to surviving Marine Corps recruit training. If you want to become a fully-fledged Marine, here’s everything you need to know:
What is the United States Marine Corps (USMC)?
The Marine Corps is a separate military service within the Department of the Navy, operating closely with naval forces. Composed of the most elite fighters, the Marines are the first on the ground in most conflicts as the nation’s primary crisis response force.
The Marines serve on Navy ships, protect US embassies, guard naval bases, and respond to international crises. They mobilize quicker than the US Army and utilize weapons and strategies involving air, land, and naval procedures, serving as the US’ 911.
Marine Basic Training Requirements
To qualify for Marine boot camp training, you must meet the following requirements:
- High School Diploma
- Legal US resident aged 17 to 28
- Able to pass a criminal background check
- No felony convictions
- Able to pass the Initial Strength Test
- The Armed Service Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test with a score of at least 31 for high school graduates or 50+ for recruits with a GED
What is the Armed Service Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) Test?
The ASVAB is an aptitude test developed by the Department of Defense (DOD) to measure a young adult’s developed abilities and predict potential success in various careers, including the military. Scores are broken down into individual subtests, including the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT).
The AFQT covers four ASVAB sections: Word Knowledge, Paragraph Comprehension, Arithmetic Reasoning, and Mathematics Knowledge. Word Knowledge and Paragraph Comprehension Scores make up the Verbal Expression (VE) score, which is added twice to Arithmetic Reasoning and Mathematics Knowledge.
What is The Initial Strength Test (IST)?
The IST will test recruits whether they are in shape to begin training.
Pull Up or Push-Ups
- Male: Three pull-ups or 34 push-ups in two minutes or less
- Female: One pull-up or 15 push-ups in two minutes or less
- Male: 1.5 miles in 13:30
- Female: 1.5 miles 15:00
Plank or Crunches
- 40-second plank
- 44 crunches in two minutes or less
Where is Marine Corps Basic Training?
The Marine Corps conducts basic training at two locations:
- Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina
- Recruit Depot San Diego, California
Where you go for boot camp depends on which side of the Mississippi you live; you will be assigned to whichever Marine Corps depot is nearest. However, all female recruits train at Parris Island, South Carolina, regardless of where they live.
How Long is Marine Corps Recruit Training?
The Marine Corps has the most extended basic training out of all branches of the Armed Forces. Recruits undergo a 12-week training program, excluding four days of in-processing time.
Marine Corps Basic Training Phases
It helps to know what to expect to fully prepare for Marine Corps boot camp.
Marine Corps recruits undergo four phases during basic training:
Phase One (Weeks 1 to 3)
The first phase revolves around developing physical fitness, basic knowledge, and unit cohesion the Marine Corps expects from every recruit. It is filled with physical conditioning, combat training, and classroom sessions that will teach you everything you need to know about being a Marine, including rank structure to the Marine Corps history. The goal is to complete your transition from civilian to military life.
Phase One events are as follows:
- Receiving Week: The first stop at your Marine Corps boot camp is Recruit Receiving. You will have the opportunity to inform your loved ones that you have arrived safely. Then, you will surrender all your civilian belongings and undergo a contraband search. The Marine Corps will issue your gear, including toiletries, uniforms, and letter-writing supplies, and give you your first haircut. Then, you will take your IST.
- Black Friday: By the end of your first week of boot camp, you will meet your drill instructor (DI). They will use incentive training to instill discipline. A drill instructor (or several) will take you to one of the sand pits and order non-stop calisthenics. On the “quarter-deck,” however, there are no limits. Expect to do numerous exercises, such as jumping jacks, push-ups, and mountain climbers, if you get “quarter-decked.”
- Week One: Training Week One will consist of basic learning, weapon safety rules, physical conditioning, and obstacle courses. On Monday, you will receive instruction on Marine Corps Core Values (Honor, Courage, and Commitment) and others attached to them, including integrity, teamwork, and esprit de corps. You will also start the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP) and the Combat Fitness Test and receive your M16A4 rifle.
- Week Two: MCMAP, physical training, close order drills, and rifle training will continue. Recruits spend much time in the physical conditioning platoon, where a drill instructor leads recruits through intense exercises. This week also consists of pugil stick fighting and classes on Combat Care and Marine Corps history.
- Week Three: Expect more physical fitness tests, drills, obstacle courses, and incentive training from your DI. This week, you will get to run the confidence course.
Phase Two (Weeks 4 to 6)
The second phase of the Marine boot camp consists of swimming, combat water survival, and more drills. Phase Two activities are as follows:
- Week Four: You will start Swim Week during the second phase. Recruits learn how to dive into deep water, tread water, stay afloat using gear, and other basics of combat water survival. Afterward, you will return to MCMAP and start learning to spar. On Saturday, you will take your first Physical Fitness Test (PFT) and rerun the obstacle course.
- Week Five: Training will consist of team activities and log drills where recruits must work together to carry the load. By the end of the week, you will take your first Combat Fitness Test to test combat skills, such as sprinting, fireman’s carry, and carrying heavy ammo cans.
- Week Six: The sixth week of Marine boot camp consists of the bayonet assault course, pugil stick fighting, another PFT, and a written test on Marine Corps Customs, Courtesies, and Traditions.
Phase Three (Weeks 7 to 10)
The third phase of Marine Corps basic training will involve even more physical and mental training with the addition of marksmanship and field training. By week ten, recruits will undergo the Crucible–a 54-hour training exercise designed to validate a recruit’s physical, mental, and moral training.
Phase Three activities include:
- Week Seven: Your third phase will begin with grass week, where you will learn about basic rifle firing positions and bullet mechanisms. Majority of the time during marksmanship training is spent on the grass, looking through barrels, hence the name.
- Week Eight: Marksmanship training will continue (with live bullets this time). You will also have to go through more challenging hikes in full uniform and 45 pounds of gear.
- Week Nine: Field training begins by the ninth week of boot camp. You will learn how to work with other recruits as a team on the battlefield and camp outside at night together to simulate battle conditions. You will also start shooting in more combat-oriented scenarios while wearing flak and Kevlar.
- Week Ten: On the first day of week ten, you will face the Confidence Chamber, otherwise known as the Gas Chamber. It is one of the most stressful parts of Marines’ recruit training experience. Here, you will learn how your gas mask works and how to use it in a room full of tear gas.
- The Crucible: At the end of the tenth week, you will begin the Crucible–a two-and-a-half day event with over 45 miles of marching and little food and rest. This exercise aims to test recruits’ physical and mental strength and endurance amidst hunger, fatigue, and sleep deprivation. It is a defining moment of recruit training, and by the end, you officially become a US Marine.
Phase Four (Weeks 11 to 12)
After the first ten weeks of rigorous exercise, training, and physical discipline, you have now earned the title of US Marine. You will receive your Eagle, Globe, and Anchor, as well as your final uniform.
Your last two weeks of boot camp will finalize your transition into military life:
- Week Eleven: You will learn to be a Marine in the Fleet Marine Force. MCMAP and physical conditioning will continue, and you will gain confidence in exiting a helicopter safely. You will also go through the Company Commanders’ inspection, consisting of four hours of standing at attention.
- Week Twelve: It’s graduation week. There will be a seminar on preserving the Marine Corps’ traditions and accepting the risks of being a modern warrior. Expect another long day of standing at attention during the Battalion Commander’s inspection. Then, on Friday, you will finally graduate as a US Marine and reunite with your loved ones.
In summary, recruits need to pass the following requirements to graduate:
- Swim Qualification
- Rifle Qualification
- Marine Corps Martial Arts
- Physical Fitness
- Combat Fitness
- Battalion Commander’s Inspection
Other Things to Expect During Marine Corps Basic Training
Many Marines say that basic training is one of the hardest things they’ve experienced. You probably already expect immense hardship to come your way, but you might want to know what’s waiting for you at the recruit training depot:
- A Sleepless First Night: You will not be getting any sleep the entire first night and all of the following day at boot camp.
- Punishments: Discipline is a significant element of basic warrior training. Your drill instructors will start yelling at you as soon as you get off the bus. They can also order physical punishments to correct behavior, such as pull-ups, push-ups, and crunches, to correct behavior.
- Recycling: If a recruit fails to meet expectations, they might get “recycled” to another unit in an earlier phase of the recruit training regiment. Drill instructors might lead you to believe that they can recycle you for just any reason, but a commanding officer can only approve recycling for specific reasons.
- Cleaning: Basic training programs in the Armed Forces involve a lot of cleaning. Expect to clean bathrooms, buildings, and sidewalks as part of your training.
- Free Time: Aside from eight hours of sleep, you will have free time daily to write letters to loved ones, watch instructional television, and address other personal needs. During this time, there are no drill instructors to conduct training or instruction.
What Happens After Basic Training?
After completing basic training, all Marines from Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island and San Diego have ten days of leave before they must report to the School of Infantry (SOI).
Infantry Marines have two months of training at the SOI. To undergo specialized training, other Marines need only two weeks of training before going to their Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) school.
There are two locations of SOI:
- SOI East: Camp Geiger, North Carolina
- SOI West: Camp San Onofre, California
Marines can be assigned throughout the US and abroad. Currently, the Marine Corps has 17 locations in Arizona, California, D.C., Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia. Marines may also be stationed on Navy ships and bases outside the US.
Should You Prepare for Physical Training?
The Marine Corps uses a progressive physical training program, which means you will build up your strength and endurance over time. However, starting to condition yourself before training would make a significant difference.
- Running several miles daily
- Learning how to swim and tread water
- Lifting weights
- Practicing Marine Corps recruit training exercises
- Practicing incentive training exercises, such as push-ups and pull-ups
Furthermore, go to your doctor and dentist to check if there are underlying conditions that would prevent you from passing the medical and dental examinations during Marine Corps basic training.
It is also a good idea to spend a few weeks studying basic drill and ceremony, memorizing Marine Corps ranks, and undergoing marksmanship training before enlistment.
What to Bring to Marine Corps Basic Training
Basic training recruits will receive essentials from the Marine Corps before the first phase. You cannot bring anything other than:
- Driver’s license
- Social Security card
- Banking information (for direct deposit)
- Copy of high school diploma
- Running shoes
- Family photos
- Address book
Do not bring personal hygiene items or over-the-counter medication. Females will receive sanitary pads and tampons whenever needed, and doctors will issue drugs (including prescription medication) upon evaluation.
Drill instructors will confiscate “contraband” and order punishments accordingly for non-permitted items.
Do You Get Paid for Basic Training?
Marine recruits earn pay as E1s from the first day of boot camp with an average annual salary of $19,803.60. You will receive your payment bi-monthly via direct deposit in a new bank account. After basic training, you can start receiving funds through your personal bank account.
Can You Contact Your Loved Ones During Boot Camp?
You will have the chance to contact your loved ones after you arrive at your Marine Corps Recruit Depot. After that, you can only communicate through letters or postcards. Your drill instructors will distribute letters from loved ones during the beginning of your free time.
Families can contact the local Red Cross during emergencies, and the recruits receive the messages through their training battalion.
What Job Opportunities Do Marines Have After Boot Camp?
United States Marines have over 300 MOS options after completing basic training. MOS fields include but are not limited to:
- Personnel and Administration
- Field Artillery
- Ground Electronics Maintenance
- Food Service
- Distribution Management
- Financial Management
- Legal Services
- Communication Strategy
- Military Police & Corrections
- Aircraft Maintenance
- Airfield Services
- Morale Welfare & Recreation
- Ammunition and Explosive Ordnance Disposal
- Amphibious Assault Vehicle
- Marine Air-Ground Task Force Plans
- Meteorology & Oceanography
For the complete list of MOS and qualifications, visit the Marine Corps’ official website.
How to Enlist in the United States Marine Corps
Before you can enlist in recruit training, you must meet the qualifications of the Marine Corps. Contact a local Marine recruiter or an Officer Selection Officer (OSO) to see if you qualify for basic training. Alternatively, you can contact Marine Corps Recruiting by texting MARINE (627463) from 9 AM to 8:30 PM EST any day of the week.
You can also submit an information request on the Marine Corps website.
Becoming a United States Marine is not for everyone. Marine Corps basic training is longer and more intensive- physically and mentally- than other military services. You will have to undergo a rigorous progressive physical training program to test your strength and endurance. Apart from that, you must pass strenuous marksmanship and field training, all while trying to get eight hours of sleep every night.
As you step foot into your recruit training depot, you will soon realize why the Marines have the most brutal boot camps in the Armed Forces. And once you graduate from basic training, you will understand why the Marines are some of the country’s most diverse, skilled, and reliable fighters.