SAN DIEGO – – Last week, a total of 518 young men started their first of 13 weeks of transformation, the initial phase of becoming a Marine. These young men arrived at San Diego Marine Corps Recruit Depot for a life-changing experience. The new recruits arrived on a traditional bus with their heads down, as senior drill instructor SSgt Brody V. Goldthwaite, 27, spoke loudly, almost shouting instructions at them. The recruits exited the bus quickly without speaking, heads now erect, eyes focused and hands to the side. Within minutes they were running in formation as their drill instructor barked more grueling instructions. Each recruit was required to line up on a yellow footprint which was their first lesson in learning to follow instructions. According to Goldthwaite, “the yellow footprint teaches new recruits how to stand properly.”
The drill instructor’s position is to remain the key to leading young men in their quest to earn the title “Marine” through demanding training, such as close order drills, physical training, academics, combat water survival, close combat skills, marksmanship instruction, and The Crucible. All recruits are given a chance to call home to leave a generic message. This is not a social call, but an opportunity to inform their families they have arrived safely to boot camp. One recruit was asked, “How did you feel calling home?” He mentioned, “It was the hardest thing for me to do. I heard my mom cry and she told me she loved me”. He concluded saying, “I’m glad I joined the Marines because I see that I have a future now.” The majority of the new recruits are young men who are 17 years of age and probably leaving home for the first time. You can hear their voice cracking as leave a bland message while the drill instructor is yelling at them to “Hurry up!”
For many years, young men from various walks of life, from different cultures and from different nationalities have joined the Marine Corps brotherhood. For example, Cpl Jenkins attended Worthing High School in Houston, Texas; he was an All-Star high school football player. According to Coach Williams, “The NFL wanted him, but now I understand why he made his choice and I’m very proud of him.” Cpl. Jenkins stated, “I joined the Marines because I saw my mother die and she told me to get out of this area. I promised her I would do better. I have no regrets in joining the Marines. My friends back home are always telling me how different ones have died from a shooting, gang related issues. They want something different and I tell them to join the Marines.” These young men are looking for growth, development, a since of being, education, mentorship, financial stability, a future and much more. The many stages they have to encounter in becoming a Marine are called TRANSFORMATION. The transformation process begins with recruiting, continues through recruit training at the Marine Corps Recruit Depots in San Diego and Parris Island, and is sustained and reinforced throughout each Marine’s service. The Marine Corps is not changing the tried and true methods of recruit training, but enhancing those methods in pursuit of strengthening character and values. When Marines complete their service, they will return to society as better citizens than when America and their families entrusted them to the Corps.
The Marines continuously reiterates to recruits and fellow officers the core values of HONOR, COURAGE, and COMMITMENT. Honor guides Marines to exemplify the ultimate in ethical and moral behavior; to never lie, cheat or steal; to abide by an uncompromising code of integrity; and to respect human dignity. It is the quality of maturity, dedication, trust and dependability that compels Marines to act responsible; to hold themselves and each other accountable for their actions and to fulfill their obligations. Courage is the mental, moral and physical strength ingrained in Marines. It carries them through the challenges of combat and helps them overcome fear. Likewise, it is the inner strength that enables a Marine to do what is right; to adhere to a higher standard of personal conduct and to make tough decisions under stress and pressure. Commitment is the spirit of selfless determination and dedication found in Marines. It leads to the highest order of discipline for individuals and units. It is the ingredient that enables 24-hour a day dedication to Corps and country. It inspires the unrelenting determination to achieve a high standard of excellence in every endeavor.
The Marine Corps have enhanced recruit training by amplifying Core Values’ instruction and introducing The Crucible. A key element to the recent changes in recruit training is more time for the drill instructors to focus on character development with an emphasis on selflessness and teamwork. There are 37 hours of programmed instructions on core values. However, the most powerful values exchange may very well come from the increased one-on-one time with the drill instructors who teach and demonstrate values such as selflessness, determination, loyalty, and integrity. Once the senior drill instructor takes off his hat, he becomes more of a father figure to the young recruits to discuss sensitive issues such as sex, drugs, alcohol, stealing, and much more. After the round table discussion, the senior drill instructor transforms to his position; in his deep hard voice, he’s giving recruits instruction of what to do and where to go. The yelling and instructions did not bother them. One recruit said, “He graduated high school at 16 years old and at 17 his mom had to sign for him”. He also mentioned, “This experience has matured me and taught me how to be a man and handle my responsibility.” He has one year of college and plans to get married.
“The Crucible” is the manifestation of intangible values, training that has taken place earlier in recruit training. The Crucible is a grueling 54-hour evaluation of a recruit’s physical, mental, and moral fitness, both as an individual and a member of a team. This event takes place during the eleventh week of training. It is a series of eight events revolving around obstacles, warrior stations, movement courses, and reaction problems tackled over a grueling 40-mile course. To add to a rigorous course, they are sleep- and food-deprived, which is primarily designed to develop teamwork and camaraderie through shared hardship. At the end of The Crucible, each recruit is given the United States Marine Corps official emblem: The Eagle, Globe, and Anchor. The emblem is composed of an eagle with its wings spread representing the United States of America. It is shaped like a globe showing the western hemisphere, and it represents world-wide service. The anchor on the emblem represents the Corps’ naval tradition. Each recruit is presented with the official emblem by their senior drill instructor. With this symbolic exchange, a young man or woman is now called a Marine for the first time. These are emotional times for each young man and woman because they are not just becoming soldiers; they are being transformed into Marines.