In Marine recruit training, each day is numbered according to the different phases of recruit training. We have three training battalions, each with four training companies, for a total of twelve companies. Each company consists of two series, which themselves consist of three or four platoons. A different company picks up every week. Recruits begin arriving on Monday (P-1, P is for ‘Pick-Up’) each week. They continue arriving through Thursday (P-4) and are “picked up” by their training company on Friday (F-1, F is for ‘Forming’). They have four days of Forming, where they are taught the basic rules of how to speak, how to make their racks (beds), customs and courtesies, have their records reviewed, conduct medical and dental screening, and basically everything they need to know about living in their squad bays (large rooms with bunk beds which house platoons of 30 to 90 recruits).
Recruit training is a total of 63 training days, which begin the day after Forming is completed on Tuesday (T-1, T is for ‘Training’). After T-1, Sundays (S-1 through S-11) don’t count because no formal training occurs on those days; recruits are given an opportunity to attend religious services or have four hours of “free time” to sit in their squad bays and write letters, square-away uniforms and gear, etc.–anything but leave the squad bay, talk above a whisper, or sleep. Each of the training days (or “T-days”) is pre-planned with specific events that don’t change from cycle to cycle, regardless of the training company. These events include instruction in Marine Corps history, organization, core values/ethics, combat water survival, marksmanship, first aid, close-order drill, martial arts, physical training, and field training.
Following the completion of the culminating event called The Crucible (T-61 to T-63), the recruits are considered Marines, so the day following that Thursday (T-63) begins Marine Week on M-1. The Marines will have spent every waking moment with Drill Instructors from P-1 through M-6, nearly 13 weeks total. On the afternoon of M-6, the Marines are authorized on-base liberty, which they can spend with their families or just wandering around the base. M-7 is Graduation Day and the recruits are done at noon after the ceremony. From there, they get to leave the base for the first time and go on a well-deserved 10 days of leave before reporting to combat training.
The training schedules are closely mirrored by Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD) San Diego, CA and MCRD Parris Island, SC, the only two recruit training facilities for Marines.
Today is the last Sunday (S-11), so we have only five days until graduation, and as I sit here on duty, I have a chance to reflect a bit on the cycle as a whole. It’s been a real learning experience for me as a Series Commander, and unique because I went through recruit training at MCRD Parris Island in 2002. It’s been very interesting to see things from the side of the trainers as opposed to the trainees. Most remarkable is the systematic approach to the whole thing, which, after 235 years is understandably refined. There are rules and procedures for everything, but the process is conducted so fluidly and flawlessly that it seems almost biological rather than mechanical.