So, you’re in high school and you want to join the United States Marine Corps?

A young man in high school posted a comment the other day with some questions about joining the Marine Corps.

I had a few ideas on answering him, but I quickly decided that there’s no way I should answer him when we have every thing from Marines who served brutal time in Vietnam, to First Sgts and Sergeant Majors,  to Majors and full Colonels subscribed to this blog.

So, I’m hoping some of you would take a few minutes to answer a few of the questions below, and please drop your rank and years of service for additional credibility. (No need to use your name, unless you don’t mind.)

Here are his questions, and a couple of others that I’m adding:

  • What is boot camp like?
  • What should you watch out for when talking with a recruiter?
  • What was the best thing about joining the Marine Corps?
  • What was the worst?
  • Finally, what was the one thing that happened that you never expected?

And if there’s anything else you want to add, please go ahead. Thanks!

Keep the faith,

Stan R. Mitchell

Oak Ridge, Tenn.

About me: I’m an action fiction author with books similar to Vince Flynn, Stephen Hunter, and Tom Clancy. I’m also a prior infantry Marine with Combat Action Ribbon, and a guy who spent 10+ years in the newspaper business. Please consider subscribing to my blog — I mostly post about things that either motivate you, inspire you, or make you laugh.

16 thoughts on “So, you’re in high school and you want to join the United States Marine Corps?

    1. 1. Boot camp’s fun, in retrospect. When you get together with other Marines, drunk or otherwise, you’ll somehow always revert back to bootcamp, ie. Did you jerk off at bootcamp? You think they put something in the chow?

      2. Firstly don’t trust your recruiter and get promises in writing. Buyer beware, so do your homework, do your own research into job fields that interest you, and have an eye in the future vis-a-vis your Military Occupational Specialty (MOS).

      3. The best thing for me was/is the camaraderie, esprit de corps, you’ll not appreciate this until you do your time and get out/OR if you’re in and get the chance to get to work with other branches. Once you’re out, it’ll pay dividends for you, because anywhere outside of the Corps, Marines tend to cluster together–shared culture. Culture is what we have.

      4. There’s the ideal and sadly, there’s reality, like drunken fights that result in Marines getting thrown off the 3rd story of the barracks. Marines screwing other Marines’ wives when deployed, many times it’s the wives that initiate contact. Stay as close to the ideal, read “One Bullet Away”, it’s an easy read.

      5. I never expected the Marine Corps to be so part of me– ie, I still wake up 5am to run, PT; when the boss calls me, I still run to him, and say, “Yes, sir.”; every presentation I’ve given since, I used SMEAC; at work, it’s BAMCIS; I still have my worn copy of “Warfighting”. Basically, you’re given the privilege to share in this culture, and then when you’re own, you are duty bound to spread it–a very inclusive [not exclusive] concept of elite.

      Hope that helps.


      1. Re-reading Stan’s original article linked above, I do tend to agree with below:

        “Army Rangers and Green Berets, Air Force Pararescue Jumpers, and the Navy Seals all offer extreme physical and mental challenges outside of the Marine Corps. So if you are considering joining the Marine Corps, think long and hard about what that means before going to a recruiter and signing up.”

        If you’re intentions are to go into the Special Ops-type route, some components do it better and get fielded better missions,

        although MARSOC is fast eyeing SF, SEALs & Rangers roles. Also USMC’s depleted resources for Recon: Force, Bn & Radio, since they took heavily from them to stand-up MARSOC, are now back on track, so you needn’t pass-over the Marines when considering the above.

        But the point here, are the concepts of inclusive and exclusive ELITE. The Marine Corps holds tightly to the first notion of elite, that the Marine is already elite, and rightly so. Because again, it is culture.

        There’s only one ideal of a Marine, some come very close to it, many not at all, but all attempt to become him. The difference here is in the culture.

        Rangers are Rangers; Green Berets are Green Berets; SEALs are SEALs, PJs, PJs, etc. etc. but you’ll be hard pressed to tease out a separate title aside from Recon Marine.

        Never forget that whole concept of inclusive elite, it’s central to Marine culture, and arguably the thing the separates us, and makes the Marine Corps unique, our idea of elite is meant to infect others, to be shared.


  1. Well some years ago I wrote this piece about my first in the Marine Corps.

    Titled, My longest Day,

    So its once again that time of the year when two anniversary’s are at hand. Nov.27,1959 the day I entered the Marine Corps, Nov. 26, 1963 the day I left the Marine Corps. I have vivid memory’s of both days but Nov.27 seems to be one of the longest days in my life, and still implanted deep in my memory. Just how I got to this day is a long story, and to be told on another day. But today I would raise my right hand and take the Oath with a bunch of guys I didn’t no. It started early that morning saying good by to my parents, a friend would drive me from N.J. to N.Y.C at White Hall St.

    where I would head off to Paris Island. Thing went along pretty well at White Hall until we took the oath, then I at least notice a change in the Marines that were there, Before we took the oath they were friendly, after, not so much, we were now boots and they treated us as such, a glimpse of what was about happen? We then loaded on a bus in front and headed back to N.J. to Newark Airport for the flight to S.C. When we got to S.C. another bus for the last leg to P.I. It was all ready dark as the bus drove into the S.C. night, and getting later. On board all the guys were having a good old time, laughing and joking around. If any of them had any apprehensions they were not showing it, I on the other hand had this dreadful feeling in the pit of my stomach called fear of the unknown. As I sat their in my window seat looking out into the dark night of the S.C. country side, very few lights of houses or stores or street lights as we drove down what seemed to be long dark back roads. As I stared out the window I saw my own reflection staring back at me, and it seemed more apprehensive then I was.

    And then we were at the main gate, and everything got quiet. In 59 you did not know much about boot camp, there was no Internet to ask other Marines what it would be like or videos like YouTube to give you a glimpse of what to expect. The only ones that had a small idea where those that had close friends or relatives that told them about it, but I and others did not. And to say it was shock and awe, was just about right. So here we are at the front gate and a M.P. gets on, asked the driver if he knew where receiving was the driver told him no, so the M.P. stays on to direct him.

    I was sitting right side window seat toward the front and heard the driver tell the M.P. how happy these guys were, and I remember the M.P. saying well that’s about to change, another clue? Now in my mind of that day I see the M.P. still at the gate calling up receiving and telling them the bus is on its way in and the receiving DIs telling each other ITS SHOW TIME…

    In 59 receiving was in a different place but looks a lot like it does today, and there were no yellow foot prints. As we were pulling up to receiving and even before the bus came to a stop and right on cue five DIs emerge, from receiving and four of them are carrying cut off pool cues and you can almost hear everyone on the bus saying under there breath oh shit what did I get myself into. So two DIs go two one side of the side walk and two on the other and the one without the pool cue gets on the bus.


    We no sooner hit the pavement when the other four DIs were all over us, screaming in your face, and saying all those great DI saying we all now know so well, Up and down the line, like they’re dogs and we are the red meat. There is about 45 of us and no one is getting spared, sometimes they’re double and tripling on one guy. And your praying they don’t come back to you. and in my mind I thought we might all get beaten to death with those pool cues, then I thought to myself, they really can’t do that, can they?

    So now in to receiving for hair cuts and showers and more screaming, I don’t remember what else. Next thing I remember is we are in a room sitting at school desks with papers turnover on each desk, one of the DIs that has a cut off cue is saying when I tell you to turn over the papers you will fill out this and this, and all of a sudden a loud crash and everybody jumps. A kid in the front row had turned his papers over before he was told, The DI hit the desk so hard with that pool cue he was carrying I thought he must have broke it in half screaming at the kid, “Did I tell you to turn the papers over.”

    Next thing I remember is that were in the receiving barracks up stairs and getting ready for bed, then its everybody get in rack, get out of rack, get in rack, get out of rack, about 10 times before lights out. We are all dead tired, about 2 1/2 hours later lights are on trash cans and lids are rolling down the barracks, we’re out of the racks and getting ready for chow, after chow we will meet our DIs. And I’m thinking to myself this is not going to be another fun day.

    So started my three months on the Island. Just how I managed to stay is beyond me. It was the first thing I was able to complete in my life up to then, and why I think I owe the Marine Corps all, and the Corps owes me nothing, except my loyalty.

    L/CPL Bruce Knipp 1959 to 1963


    1. “… then its everybody get in rack, get out of rack, get in rack, get out of rack, about 10 times before lights out. ”

      LOL! Thanks for the memories. Good times, indeed.


  2. Read Leon Uris’ “Battle Cry” while I was a junior in high school. Immediately knew that I had found my calling. Signed up on delayed enlistment the summer of 1978, had to graduate or the deal was off. Left for Parris Island the end of July 1979. Wasn’t sure what to expect, found out quickly that USMC Boot Camp wasn’t going to be an episode of Gomer Pyle.

    Physically challenging? Yes, but I was 18 years old. Mentally challenging? YES! I was 18 years old! Made squad leader early on, the first of many leadership positions that I was thrust into. Boy, did they ever prepare me for life.

    Graduated October 23, 1979 and was ready to leave that place. But one of the things that I will always remember was one of the Drill Instructors, SSgt Randall, telling us, “You think this has been bad, wait until you get to the Fleet.”

    And he was right, the grunts LOVE to play games. But 35 years later, I still look upon my time in the Corps as the most important time of my life. It shaped me in ways that I would have never imagined and prepared me for the rest of life. SF.


    1. Boy, Mike, you’re right. I thought Boot Camp was tough, but then SOI (School of Infantry) kicked the crap out of me, and I thought that was tough until I hit the FMF (Fleet Marine Force).

      Someone once told me it’s like learning to play football in High School (Boot Camp), then getting really good at it in College (SOI), then turning pro and playing in the NFL and getting pushed beyond your limits and competing at the highest of levels (FMF).

      I always thought that analogy was dead on.


  3. Okay, I’d like to weigh in but first let me state I was never a Marine. My own service was spent in the 2nd Ranger Battalion.

    First off, I’m not sure about Marine boot camp but Army boot camp is tough if you aren’t prepared, I don’t just mean physically. For lots of young people it’s the first significant amount of time they’ve spent away from home. That fact alone can break people.

    Second, you will break at some point. People will tell you they had it easy and that’s just splendid for them but if you go into any of the i-might-get-shot-at MOS you will not. It might not happen during boot camp but when it does how you respond will change you for the rest of you life.

    Third, you get out what you put in. Excuse my language but if you fuck around and not give your all you won’t go far. No matter which path you choose in the Marines you will be tested. I saw men better than me fail horribly and men who weren’t prepared succeed just on will power and intelligence.

    Fourth, get your grades up. I don’t care how many movies you’ve seen. The Marines don’t want idiots and criminals.

    Fifth and finally, make your own luck kid. Show up prepared and tenacious and you’ll be fine.


    1. Tminus,

      Really glad you did weigh in. That’s some excellent advice, and you’re right about first significant time from home; I had forgotten that fact.

      Feel free to weigh in any time, and please consider signing up for email alerts. We’ve got a great group of vets and an intelligent community that discusses about every thing.




  4. This comment was on the other thread, and I wanted to transfer it to this one.


    From Sanjeev Phuyal

    I don’t know much about boot camp because I’m still waiting on it, but what I do know is about ASVAB and full physical test.

    I was notified by my recruiter about the date for both ASVAB and full physical which was in the same day. I was taken to a hotel by my recruiter with other recruits around the area. We spent the first night at that hotel and the next day was all tests from 06:00 am till 4:00 pm. You do not need to worry about food situation through out that day because they will manage everything for you.

    ASVAB test was like any other regular school test but full physical test was kind of ” unexpected” to say the least. ASVAB test will mostly consists of questions answered using common sense; where as, your full physical test is regular doctor checkup to see if there is anything wrong with your body. All and all you will be fine as long as you haven’t lied to your recruiter or signed a false statement in your information form.

    Hope this helped and sorry couldn’t provide you information on boot camp.

    P.S good luck if you do plan on going on with your mind set to Marines Corps.


  5. “Show up prepared and tenacious and you’ll be fine.”
    That is a great line and sums up all the advice I could give. As I went through Recruit Training, I don’t think I ever thought about “after”. Every day and every moment of every day was simply survival.
    I think the worst thing anyone can do is show up in less than the best condition possible. In addition to pushups, pullups, and crunches, can you run 3 miles in 20 minutes or less (running shoes and shorts)? If not, it will be tougher than it need be. Look up “Forced March” and be able to go hard for an hour – in boots and carrying 20-25 pounds on your back.
    I was in great shape from cross-country, wrestling, and track – but the forced marches (and Close Order Drill) got to me. The mental crap (harassment, etc.) WILL kick your butt. Don’t make things worse by being physically unprepared.
    The Drill Instructors are NOT crazy, but you won’t believe that until long after you pass through those gates on the way to your next duty station.
    Once you’ve earned the title of U.S. Marine, it will be with you forever. It has been almost 50 years since I graduated from Parris Island (15 Oct 64) and I am as proud as ever to be a Marine.
    My only regret is the first two years when I spent every free minute drinking anything I could find of an alcoholic nature, fighting anyone who looked at me cross-eyed, and chasing everything in a skirt. That last one wasn’t so bad, but the first two about left me brain dead.
    It’s a good thing for you to be asking these kinds of questions as part of your preparation. A little bit of web searching will find a lot of similar posts and I encourage you to read through them – with a skeptical eye for the potential of – um – exaggeration.
    My years of service were 30 July 1964 – 01 Dec 1972 and 03 Oct 1991 – 01 Dec 2006. Enlisted, Commissioned, Warrant. Variety of 03 MOS’s, last 10 years on the computer/IT side of things. Retired W-4.


    1. Old Gyrene,

      Great advice, all the way around. And it’s definitely worth warning about the dangers of drinking too heavily in one’s early years. Especially these days where a mis-step could prevent your re-enlistment or even promotion.



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