What To Expect When Your Loved One Joins the Marines

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Note: This article is for general information and entertainment only. Jo, My Gosh! is not a government or military website; this information is available through research and experience, not through official “channels.” Your recruit’s experience may differ and you should always check with them on the information their recruiter has given them regarding their specific experience.

Oorah! Your loved one just joined the USMC and is shipping off to Marine Corps boot camp or OCS.

Congrats and semper fidelis (that’s the USMC’s motto and means always faithful).

As you embark on this journey from civilian to Marine alongside your loved one, there are a few things that you’ll need to know–beyond that motto, at least.

So much about the Marines have become part of US culture. Most people have ideas about boot camp… whether or not it’s based in fact. You might have heard of the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor– the emblem of the United States Marine Corps that exudes honor, courage, and greatness. There’s also a great deal of romanticism and lore around the Crucible– a 54-hour training session that is the last challenge of recruit training. From the images of screaming drill instructors at recruit receiving, shorn hair from a first haircut, or grueling physical training and obstacle courses, everyone has at least a small idea of what a recruit might encounter.

But is it true?

Keep reading to get the skinny on everything USMC from basic training to first duty stations.

What happens when someone you love joins the few, the proud, the US Marines? This step-by-step explainer will help demystify the process of turning a military recruit into a Marine. #militaryspouse #militarymom #milspouse #militaryfamily #milfam #milfams #military #marines #usmarines #semperfi #semperfidelis

Marine Corps Boot Camp and OCS: What’s the difference?

The Marine Corps has two entry levels: enlisted and officer. Understanding where your loved one is headed is important.

Officer Candidate School

OCS, or Officer Candidate School, is where individuals start the journey to be commissioned as 2nd Lieutenants and join the officer ranks. Entry to OCS requires a college degree–in any subject–and to pass an entry-level physical fitness assessment. During the 10-week course, officer candidates will be tested physically, mentally and in leadership roles.

OCS takes place in Quantico, VA.

Recruit Training

Boot camp, on the other hand, is a 13-week course held in either San Diego, CA or Parris Island, SC. Recruits are assigned to their training location based on their home of record when joining the USMC.

How Long Is Marine Boot Camp?

Marine recruit training lasts 13 total weeks, with 12 weeks of challenging training followed by one week of out-processing.

Officer Candidate School lasts 10 weeks.

Where Is Marine Corps Basic Training?

Marine recruits will report to either MCRD San Diego or MCRD Parris Island. MCRD means Marine Corps Recruit Depot or the location where recruits go through initial training.

How Will They Get To Boot Camp?

Your loved one’s recruiter or officer selection officer will confirm mode of transport prior to their departure.

Officer candidates are authorized to drive their personal vehicles to Quantico, VA.

Recruits, however, are not authorized their own vehicles. They will arrive to a central location via plane, train or bus. From that central location, they will be loaded onto specific USMC-owned buses for transport to their MCRD.

How Hard Is Marine Boot Camp?

Whether your loved one is headed to OCS or Recruit Training, they are sure to be tested in body and mind as they are challenged by the Marine Corps standards! Both training courses focus on the following:

  • Close order drill or marching in formation
  • Martial arts
  • Academic instruction related to the Marine Corps
  • Water survival
  • Physical and combat conditioning
  • Field survival skills
  • Marksmanship

Both courses culminate with a final, extremely intense field survival exercise designed to test candidates and recruits. They will need to successfully navigate through various obstacles while sleep deprived, relying on their training and team to finish.

Basically, Marine Corps Boot Camp is really hard and challenging! It makes sense, though, that it’s that way– your loved one is being shaped into a Marine. They need to be physically and mentally ready to do their job.

Can I Send My Loved One Mail and Packages?

Short answer: Yes.

Longer answer: You can send your loved one items, but hold off on sending those packages!

The “official” word from Recruit Parents, a program organized by Marine parents (but that is not an actual official government or military source), is that letters are delightful but that care packages are frowned upon.

Recruits and candidates need to hyper-focus on their training, without outside distractions or obstacles. So those treats you’d like to send because you care? Those could disrupt the training cycle.

Additionally, OCS and Recruit Training are very controlled environments. Recruits and candidates are only allowed specific, prescribed items in their possession. The list is very light: PT clothes, field uniforms, boots, sneakers, underwear, necessary medications, writing supplies, and hygiene items. Many if not all of these items will be provided to them upon arrival. At boot camp, even prescription glasses are supplied!

Letters, however, provide support from home and can help a recruit or candidate through a tough time.

What To Say In A Marine Boot Camp Letter?

In short, keep it light, uplifting and positive. Your loved one volunteered to become a Marine and they need your support.

Stay away from lamenting their departure or spending multiple pages going on about how much you miss them. Instead, commend your loved one for their bravery and congratulate them on their success so far.

How Will I Know Where To Contact My Recruit?

They’ll get in touch with you! Upon arrival, or shortly thereafter, your Recruit will be able to make a very brief phone call to one parent/guardian/family member.

This will be a call just to check-in, confirm that they arrived safely and are beginning their journey at USMC boot camp. Following this, you will receive communication with your recruit’s physical mailing address. Additional phone calls will likely not be happening.

You will receive your Marine recruit’s mail address from their recruiter, via a form letter sent from their Recruit Training Depot location or via Sandboxx, a third-party messaging app. Stay alert for this information!

If you have not received physical mailing information for your recruit 10-14 days after their arrival, contact their recruiter.

Can Someone Quit Boot Camp?

No, a recruit has signed a binding contract with the Marine Corps and the US government. They are required to complete that term of service. They are not allowed to “quit.” Recruits may be “re-cycled” through basic training due to illness, injury or other reasons as their commanders’ discretion.

Basically, failure is not an option.

At OCS, candidates may opt to drop-out of their course for any reason. They are attending this training at-will. Many OCS classes start with many candidates and end up very small due to people dropping out.

Candidates may also be re-cycled into future OCS classes by request and at their commanders’ discretion. They may also attempt OCS again if illness or injury was a factor.

What Happens After Basic Training?

Once your recruit becomes a full-fledged Marine, they will have a 10-day leave period before reporting to their next training location. Their leave block allows new Marines to pause and rest before starting their next training cycle at School of Infantry or SOI.

Marines are required to report before 1:00 pm (1300 in military time) on the date indicated on their orders. They need to pay attention to their instructors at the MCRD prior to departing.

SOI is the second phase of training for enlisted Marines. Here, your Marine will learn more about combat arms, including marksmanship and more field survival training.

SOI has two locations: Camp Geiger, NC or Camp Pendleton, CA.

Marines may attend either Infantry Training Battalion (ITB) or Marine Combat Training (MCT). ITB is for Marines who have been selected to an Infantry job and lasts 59 days. MCT is for Marines who are not assigned to Infantry-specific roles and last 29 days.

Following completion of SOI, non-Infantry Marine will be assigned their military occupational specialty (MOS) and report to further training. Infantry Marines will report to their first duty station.

Will My Marine Get A Say In Their Duty Station?

Typically, Marines are able to “rank” their preferred duty stations. However, in practice, this ranking is arbitrary and doesn’t often play an active role in where they are assigned.

Your Marine could be stationed at any duty station in the US or overseas.

Will They Get Stationed In Our Hometown?

Unless you live near one of the Marine Corps’ bases, the answer is probably not.

What If They Get Deployed?

Prior to leaving on deployment, which could mean anything from a humanitarian mission to combat to a joint mission with the US Navy, your Marine will receive additional training that is mission-specific. This training will happen over the course of weeks or months to ensure that they are properly prepared.

Generally, Marines will be allowed a leave period prior to leaving on deployment. The exact timing and duration of the leave block is at their commander’s discretion. It may be scheduled for them by the unit or they may be able to arrange the details themselves. This varies by unit.

Are They Done After Deployment? Will They Come Home?

Unless your Marine’s contract also ends after deployment, and they opt not to re-enlist, they will return to their current duty station.

In that sense, they will go “home” to where they lived prior to the deployment However, they will likely not be returning home, to their hometown, unless it’s for a vacation on post-deployment leave.

How Will I Remember All This Information?

Never fear! There are many resources to help you and your loved one as you navigate the journey through Marine Corps basic training and beyond.

Your loved one’s recruiter will be a primary source of information at first. As your new Marine learns more about this process, they’ll be able to share things with you as well.

Always rely on official word from your loved one, their command and official USMC channels. There’s a lot of scuttlebutt (rumors) out there–most of them false!

Keep reading…

Meg Flanagan is a teacher, blogger and military spouse. She owns Meg Flanagan Education Solutions, an education advocacy service dedicated to serving families on the K-12 journey. You can find Meg on Facebook. Meg is also available as a freelance writer and personal education advocate!

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