There is a major misunderstanding when it comes to exactly what Marine Corps boot camp is all about. Most people believe it is where you go to learn how to fight in combat. Granted, there are exercises and obstacle courses which encourage fighting but this isn’t the main objective of boot camp. The main objective of boot camp and its drill instructors is to turn civilians into Marines.
This goes beyond teaching fighting skills. In fact, it involves a wide variety of things that one may not have considered. Many recruits when they get into boot camp are surprised that it isn’t more physically demanding. Don’t get me wrong, it is demanding enough. When I was in, I was shocked that we only had PT three times a week. I pictured in my head running every single day. By the time I graduated, I still lost 20 pounds. It wasn’t just from the PT, it was from the constant activity of walking and drinking water all day, every day.
Before you can teach a Marine to fight, you must first teach a civilian to be a Marine. That is essentially what drill instructors do. They teach all of the core values and customs and courtesies, as well as how to drill, build discipline and character and ultimately how to live life the Marine Corps way. They do such a fine job that for the rest of your life it will be nearly impossible to forget the habits that make up a Marine.
From then on you will look at other military branches and their standards as different from your own. You scrutinize civilians and how they carry themselves. It is nearly impossible to forget your Marine Corps training.
Establishing a common ground baseline appears to be the way drill instructors bring recruits from all different backgrounds together. Many recruits come to boot camp without ever having been taught values or morals. Others have those values. A drill instructor’s job is to get them all on the same page and evaluate how to bring them together so that they function as a whole, each representing the Marine Corps values.
This is part of why a drill instructor’s job can be frustrating. Working with recruits who have no idea why it would be wrong to steal because they have been stealing their whole lives can be maddening. From that recruit’s perspective, it could be a way of life that isn’t personal but more about survival. It is a drill instructor’s job to replace that belief system with the Marine Corps belief system that states there is a better way.
It is no longer about the individual, it is about the team. It is all about the brother or sister fighting next to you. The one whose life is in your hands while your life is in theirs.
One noteworthy mention here. If you go into boot camp a jerk, you will more than likely come out a jerk. The Marine Corps doesn’t change anyone who isn’t open to changing. It is ultimately up to the individual as to who they want to be and what they want to stand for. The Marine Corps core values can enhance an individual’s sense of self and identity but it will not change that person unless they allow themselves to be changed.
Source: Personal experience