Near the center of Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, there’s a sign over Boulevard de France that plainly says what happens here: “We Make Marines.”
For a century, Parris Island, in South Carolina’s Lowcountry, has fulfilled that mission, churning out men and woman hoping to proudly wear the Corps’ Eagle, Globe and Anchor emblem.
Today, new recruits call Parris Island home for 13 weeks, undergoing arduous training and field tests that push recruits to their mental and physical limits.
Here’s a look at how their time is spent.
Never miss a local story.
Phase I: BREAKING THEM DOWN
It starts with yelling.
In the middle of the night, recruits are bused in and “greeted” by receiving drill instructors, who find fault with nearly everything they do. With knocking knees, recruits spend about a week in what is called in-processing, where they are formed into platoons, issued uniforms, given haircuts and undergo initial fitness tests.
From there, they jump into physical training, engage in hand-to-hand combat through the Marines’ martial arts programs and are put through drills on which they later will be timed and tested. There are also classes during which they learn about Marine history, culture and courtesies.
It ends with Swim Week. Some recruits learn to swim, and others hone their aquatic skills. By the end, they’re leaping into deep water and treading in full gear.
Phase II: BUILDING THEM UP
Most recruits have never fired a weapon.
That changes in a long grass field near the estuaries of Ribbon Creek.
Recruits spend a full week – called Grass Week – learning proper shooting form and targeting before they ever fire a round from their M16A4s. They spend another week shooting, building up to the Table 1 Marksmanship test, where they take aim at long-distance targets from several positions.
Of those who have shot before, only a small number approach the shooting form the Marine Corps teaches, according to drill instructor Sgt. Elton Langlais.
“It’s a different way of shooting,” Langlais said. “For those who have shot weapons before, this is about removing bad habits and teaching them how to properly employ the weapon.”
This phase also includes more physical training, how to rappel properly and use a gas mask.
Phase III: Becoming Marines
In the final phase of recruit training, Marine recruits are tested physically and mentally on all they’ve learned.
“There’s way more of a mental aspect than I thought,” said recruit Brandt Edler of Beaver, Ohio.
Th work includes more complex marksmanship, survival skills in combat, land navigation and maneuvering under enemy fire.
The final test is The Crucible, a grueling three-day exercise that earns the recruits the right to be called Marines. No Parris Island recruit can become a Marine without surviving this test.
From there, it’s graduation day and reuniting with families, who are amazed at the U.S. Marine who stands before them.
The new Marines get 10 days of leave before reporting to Camp Lejeune, N.C., for more training and then to their respective military occupational specialty schools across the country.