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The Journey of Becoming a United States Marine

Do you want to join the Marines? Or is a loved one of yours wanting to pursue this path? 

For me specifically, I currently have a recruit at boot camp. He has been gone for a little over a month now, and each day is a new emotional adventure. Some days, I am filled with the eager desire to hear his voice again or have him near. While other days, I am content with my emotions and am hopeful for when I get a letter next. No matter what day it is though, I am constantly proud and prideful to know he is doing what is best for him. I love my boyfriend very much, and with that, I just want him to be happy, above all. I can’t wait to see the look on his face when he finally graduates and is truly pleased with the amazing accomplishments he has made, along with being able to triumphantly say he is a United States Marine. After going through this process with him and doing much research on my own, I thought it would be helpful to share my knowledge with others going through similar situations. Below is the majority of the information you will need to know and other frequent questions I pondered on. 

Here is some information about the Marines:

What are the steps of becoming a marine?

Before Boot Camp:

  • You will first need to sign up with a Recruit Station.

  • While in Recruit training, you will complete the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) test. You will take the ASVAB, fill out many forms, and take physical exams at MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station).

  • After completing all the steps necessary at MEPS, you will get to choose the job you want for the rest of your enlisted as a Marine.

  • After you select your career and go to recruit PT’s (Physical Trainings), you are ready to ship to your Marine Boot Camp destination. 

  • The time for getting a Boot Camp slot varies between a few months to a year, depending on the MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) you enlist for. 

  • Before attending Boot Camp, you will be assigned to a company (ex. Fox, Alpha, Echo).

During Boot Camp:

  • Boot Camp is a total of 13 weeks. Due to COVID-19, as of now, it is a total of 15 weeks because the first two weeks are for quarantine. 

  • For Boot Camp, you either attend Parris Island or Camp Pendleton (MCRD). 

  • During Boot Camp, you are assigned to a platoon. There are usually six platoons for each company. Each platoon makes up roughly 60 recruits (men or women). 

  • Over the course of these 13 weeks of Boot Camp, not including quarantine, you will be pushed to your limits. You are not seen as an individual, but instead as a recruit, a part of a team, and DI’s (Drill Instructors) main targets. 

  • After these 13, or currently 15, weeks of Boot Camp are up, you can proudly call yourself a United States Marine. It is a true honor to hold this title! 

  • After Boot Camp you normally get a 10 day leave, but again due to the pandemic, this privilege has been taken away. 

After Boot Camp: 

  • After graduation, you immediately will be sent to SOI (School of Infantry). Based on your MOS (Marine Occupational Speciality) you will either be placed in MCT (Marine Combat Training) or ITB (Infantry Training Battalion).

  • SOI is a total of 29 days (MCT) or 59 days (ITB), depending on which SOI you are assigned to.

  • If you graduate from SOI with MCT, you will attend MOS. 

  • If you graduate from SOI with ITB, you will go straight to PDS (Permanent Duty Station).  

  • Marines with MCT will go to PDS after graduating from MOS. 

What does this mean for the loved ones you left behind?

  • It is difficult, but heartwarming, at the same time, for you and them. There are conflicted feelings all around.

  • There are no phones allowed at Boot Camp. Not being able to talk or see your loved ones for 13 weeks, definitely takes a toll on you. At the same time though your family, friends, and significant other are there by your side, symbolically, rooting you on every day. 

  • The saying in the Marines is, “No news is good news”. It is sometimes hard to believe in, but you start to understand it more and more as the training progresses. You do not normally want to receive a call from them, unless they are arriving at a base, leaving a base, or got a privilege to call home. If it is not any of those three things, then cross your fingers. You do not want to receive a call that they are Honorably Discharged, Dishonorably Discharged, they quit, they are ill, or are hurt. Those are all discouraging calls and hopefully, you will never have to receive them.  

  • As an important person to your recruit, you end up sending many letters to them. For me, it is once every other day, but you will not always get a reply back from them; sometimes it takes a week or two. Your recruit is busy running themself to the ground every day with their training, to become the best Marine they can be in the future; not only for themselves but for our country. 

Overall, being a part of any branch of the military is a very admirable thing to do. As a family member, friend, or significant other, there are challenges for sure in this process, but once they are overcome, you will be overjoyed with every decision your future Marine has made. Give yourself some praise too, for overcoming the fear of not seeing or hearing from the one you love every day. If you have any more questions or want to learn more; here are some links to look at:

Marines.com, Request Information, MarineParents.com, Camp Pendleton, MCRD  

Lilly Higgins is a sophomore majoring in Psychology at Loyola Marymount University. She lives in Gilroy, CA. In her free time, she enjoys journaling, hanging out with her friends & family, and loves listening to music.
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