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What is Marine Corps Boot Camp?

Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari

Marine Corps boot camp, also known as recruit training or basic training, is a training course that lasts thirteen weeks and consists of physical training, skills training, and introduction to Marine protocols, language, processes, and so on. Marine Corps boot camp is structured similarly to other military basic training, but it has gained the notoriety as the most difficult boot camp because of its physical rigors and its longer schedule. A recruit who is successful in completing Marine Corps boot camp is then eligible to become a United States Marine.

The first weeks of Marine Corps boot camp introduce the recruit to the terms and exercises they will be expected to use. They learn to march correctly, stand at attention, take care of their personal belongings, take physicals, and do paperwork. They are introduced to the terminology they will be expected to use as Marines, and they are issued a rifle that they must learn to use, care for, and store. The physical activities that will take place throughout boot camp start in the early weeks and get progressively more difficult as boot camp progresses. Recruits are issued specific clothing for physical activities, sleeping, and presentation.

Marching may be learned during boot camp training.
Marching may be learned during boot camp training.

The next few weeks focus on marksmanship and field skills. Drill instructors teach recruits the skills necessary to survive in combat situations. During this phase of training, water survival skills are taught. If a recruit does not perform well in these tasks, they may be sent to another company to begin training again. Marksmanship is stressed during these weeks, and a recruit must qualify at different shooting distances in order to proceed with training. Physical training also intensifies during these weeks.

Recruits learn to stand at attention during boot camp.
Recruits learn to stand at attention during boot camp.

The last phase of training is intended to help recruits fine-tune their new skills and training. During this phase, recruits are also taught how to properly don a gas mask. They are placed in a sealed room, and gas is introduced to the environment. Recruits must quickly and properly don the mask in order to continue training. Recruits who cannot do so may be dismissed.

United States Marines are expected to be in peak physical and mental shape.
United States Marines are expected to be in peak physical and mental shape.

Marine Corps boot camp ends with what is known as the Crucible. Battlefield simulations are held, and recruits must march almost fifty miles (about 80 kilometers), participate in challenging exercises that stress teamwork and physical endurance, and deal with a lack of sleep and very little food. If the recruit passes, he will be eligible to graduate from boot camp and become a United States Marine.

Discussion Comments


It's all tougher than you think it's going to be, but at graduation, if you make it, you know you've accomplished something.

I used to think "Boot Camp" meant marching; boots on the ground; that sort of thing. Now I think perhaps it means the process of finding the few who can do the job, and "booting out" the rest.

My father was a Marine. He enlisted before Pearl Harbor, and after that event, was trained by being marched from San Diego to Sacramento, then turning and marching back. It was just under one thousand miles. Those left standing were sent to Guadalcanal. Today they march 50 miles and complain. Sigh.


@Charred - Whatever the case may be, Marine corps boot camp training is not for the faint of heart. I think it’s exactly as you see it on a lot of TV shows – and harder.

I have tremendous respect for the men and women of our armed forces who have decided to walk down this path for the sake of their country. God bless them all.


@miriam98 - No, I have to disagree. Donning gas masks and developing strategies for regrouping soldiers is not that hard, although I am not a marine.

To me the hardest part of learning how to prepare for marine corps boot camp has to be the survival skills. While I don’t know the exact details of everything they have to do, I do know people who have been in other branches of the military and were in similar situations.

This one guy said he had to go out in the woods and learn to live on stuff that they had there. He even had to learn how to kill a rabbit, cook it and eat it! I am not joking – that was part of his training. When they say survival, they mean survival.

There are no microwave dinners or water bottles out in the wilderness. That’s the part that would get me. I couldn’t harm a fly.


@Mammmood - I think the gas mask part of the training would be the most crucial.

During the Iraq war, soldiers were warned that Saddam might deploy chemical and biological weapons out on the battlefield. They were to be ready at a moment’s notice when this might happen.

Actually I think they lived in fear that he would actually use such weapons; he had never hesitated to use them on his own people. I remember watching clips on TV of how the army was training their soldiers to be ready in the event of a sudden deployment of these weapons.

While it was an important part of training, everyone was talking about the logistical problems this created. The gas masks couldn’t be on forever, so you might have to rotate who wore the masks first while other marines regrouped. I think that would be a difficult situation to be in.


There is a reason that the term “boot camp” has entered into our lexicon as a phrase that means intense, concentrated training. That’s what it is, judging from the article, and in the marine corp boot camp I would expect that there would be few that last through the rigorous, grueling ordeal.

I know I wouldn’t have. I think the crucible would by far be the toughest part of the training camp. Sleep deprivation and hunger do not sit well with me. I can be irritable and cranky, two qualities that I don’t think would bode well out in the battlefield.

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    • Marching may be learned during boot camp training.
      By: Oleksii Nykonchuk
      Marching may be learned during boot camp training.
    • Recruits learn to stand at attention during boot camp.
      By: Jasmin Merdan
      Recruits learn to stand at attention during boot camp.
    • United States Marines are expected to be in peak physical and mental shape.
      By: nik7ch
      United States Marines are expected to be in peak physical and mental shape.