Should I Join the Marines?

Drill Instructor Staff Sgt. Maurice S. Jones on March 5, 2015 on Parris Island. (Photo by Sgt. Jennifer Schubert)

Should I (You) Join the United States Marine Corps? There are many consideration that need to be made before one decides to join the United States Marine Corps. One should compare the Marines with other military services. The Marines may not be right for you. Things to consider are qualifications, years of commitment, boot camp training, the type of jobs in the Marines, the number and location of military bases, and the speed of promotion in the Marines compared to other branches of the military.

Marines at Camp Pendleton, California climb a rope during the obstacle course portion of the 1st MARDIV Super Squad Competition on August 30, 2018. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Robert G. Gavaldon)

Basic Qualifications to join the United States Marine Corps
The initial requirements for enlisting in the Marines are:
Age: (1) must be between the age of 17- 29. If you are 17 years old, then you need the consent of your parents to join the Marines. If you are over 29 years old, age waivers are sometimes possible. If you have prior service in another branch of the US Military, then you can join the Marines up to the age of 35.
Citizen: (2) Must be a U.S. Citizen or Legal Resident of the United States. If you are a foreigner, then you must first be a Legal Resident of the US and be able to speak, understand and write English.
Education: (3) It is better to have a high school diploma before enlisting in the Marines. However, the Marines can accept 5 percent of enlistments without a high school diploma. Enlistments are placed in 3 different tiers when it comes to education. Tier 1 are those with a high school diploma, Tier 2 enlistees have earned a GED, and Tier 3 have neither a high school diploma or GED.
Physical Fitness: (4) Must pass a Initial Strength Test. If your job in the Marines is in a load bearing Military Occupational Specialty (MOS), such as the infantry, then you must complete 3 pull ups, a 1.5-mile run within 13 minutes and 30 seconds, 44 crunches within two minutes and 45 ammo-can lifts within two minutes.
If your job is not in a load bearing MOS, such as aircraft maintenance, men must do two pull ups and women to hold a flexed-arm hang for at least 12 seconds. Men have to complete a 1.5-mile run in 13 minutes and 30 seconds, women have 15 minutes. Both men and women must do 44 crunches in two minutes. However, your recruiter may require you to exceed these standards to ensure that you are ready for Marine Corps Recruit Basic Training.
Aptitude Test: You must take an Aptitude Test known as the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) Test. The ASVAB test your knowledge in General Science, Arithmetic Reasoning, Word Knowledge, Paragraph Comprehension, Mathematics Knowledge, Electronics Information, Auto and Shop Information, Mechanical Comprehension, and Assembling Objects. The ASVAB will determine your eligibility in which job (MOS) you qualify in the Marine Corps and all the other military branches. So you should study for this exam by getting a study guide from Amazon here. If you know what MOS you want, ask your recruiter which areas of the ASVAB that you should focus your study.

Recruits wait in line to receive their initial haircuts during receiving at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego on August 20, 2018. Photo by Lance Cpl. Christian Garcia.

How long of an initial commitment in the Marine Corps: An enlistment commitment in the Marines is broken down into an Active Status Part, and an Inactive Part. Your Active Status part begins on your first day at recruit training. Your Inactive part begins after your Active Status commitment has ended. Inactive part is like being on standby in case of a major war. If the Marine Corps needs you, they can call you back to Active Status and send you to military unit. The enlistment commitments in the Marines are: (1) 4 years active status, 4 years inactive. (2) 5 years active status, 3 years inactive. (3) 6 years active status, 2 years inactive. Most people choose the 4 years active status, 4 years inactive.

Recruits crawl during a combat conditioning exercise at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego on Sept. 5, 2018. Photo by Lance Cpl. Christian Garcia.

Boot Camp in the Marine Corps: Recruit Training or “Boot Camp” is 12 weeks long in the Marines. Other military services, such as the Air Force is only 7 week long. Recruit training in the Marines is conducted at either the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island in South Carolina or Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, California. If you live on the east coast you will go to Parris Island. If you live on the west coast you will go to San Diego. If you are a woman recruit, you will go to Parris Island. All women recruits go to Parris Island for recruit training. The training and standards are identical between the two bases, though the order of some training events differ from east coast to west coast. About 19,000 recruits each year go to Parris Island and about 19,700 recruits each year go to San Diego.
Receiving Week: Recruits arrive on Parris Island late at night and are immediately thrust into the stressful whirlwind of in-processing, haircuts, uniform and gear issue and medical evaluations. Recruits undergo an initial strength test to ensure they are prepared for training. At the end of the week, they meet the team of drill instructors who will be responsible for them for the rest of training.
Weeks 1-3: Recruits receive instruction on military history, customs and courtesies, basic first aid, uniforms, leadership and core values. They begin to learn discipline through close-order drill and hand-to-hand combat skills through the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program, which is made up of various martial arts styles.
Week 4: Swim Week. True to their name, Marines need to know how to survive in the water. Recruits learn to leap into deep water, tread water, use issued equipment to stay afloat and to shed heavy gear that could pull them under water. If you are not a swimmer, you may not want to join the Marines. If you can not pass swim week, you will be held back and repeat swim week again.
Week 5: Team Week. The recruits take a short break from nonstop training to help out around the island. Recruits do laundry, help in supply warehouses and clean buildings around the depot before beginning the final phase of training.
Week 6: Grass Week. Every Marine is a Rifleman. Recruits hike to the rifle range and begin to learn the fundamentals of Marine Corps marksmanship. Recruits learn the proper firing positions and spend hours sitting in grass fields sighting in on practice targets.
Week 7: Firing Week. Recruits finally fire live rounds with their M16-A4 rifles. Recruits practice firing from different distances in the sitting, standing, kneeling and prone positions.
Week 8: Basic Warrior Training. Recruits are taught basic skills of survival in combat, such as combat marksmanship skills, land navigation and how to maneuver under enemy fire.
Weeks 9-10: Testing Week. The recruits undergo various academic and physical exams. At the end of week ten recruits will face the Crucible, a final 54-hour field event that tests the recruits on the knowledge, skills and values they have been taught throughout training. Those who complete the final challenge are awarded their Eagle, Globe and Anchors, symbolizing their transformation from recruits to Marines.
Weeks 11-12: The new Marines are inspected by their battalion commanding officers. They complete final administrative tasks on the base before their graduation ceremony. The new Marines get 10 days of leave before reporting to their new duty station, for additional combat training, and then to various military occupational specialty schools across the country.

A drill instructor motivates recruits during a 5K Hike on Aug. 25, 2018 at Parris Island, S.C. The recruits, who are in their second week of recruit training, will conduct five hikes of increasing difficulty before the culminating 15K hike after the Crucible. Photo by Sgt. Dana Beesley

Structure of the United States Marine Corps: The United States Marine Corps is organized within the Department of the Navy, which is led by the Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV). An ongoing joke when someone tells a Marine that the Marines are part of the Department of the Navy, is for that Marine to reply: Yes, the Men’s Department. The most senior Marine commissioned officer is the Commandant of the Marine Corps, responsible for organizing, recruiting, training, and equipping the Marine Corps so that it is ready for operation under the command of the unified combatant commanders. The Marine Corps is organized into four principal subdivisions: Headquarters Marine Corps, the Operating Forces, the Supporting Establishment, and the Marine Forces Reserve.

Jobs in the Marine Corps: The ASVAB test will determine your eligibility in which job (MOS) you qualify in the Marine Corps. The basic job areas in the Marines are:
(1) Administration and Personnel – where you will be an Admin Clerk, Personnel Clerk or Postal Clerk.
(2) Intelligence – very few new Marines are assign to this field. Only after you spent several years in the Marines may you be able to work in the intelligence field. However, you can work in an Intelligence Unit as an Admin Clerk or other support position.
(3) Infantry – infantry is the bulk of the jobs in the Marine Corps. They should change the name of the Marine Corps to the United States Infantry Corps. Most Marines will be in the Infantry field. The infantry in the Marines is a field that is very demanding. Many Marines who were in the infantry leave the Marines Corps after their first enlistment is finished. Once you are assigned to an infantry unit, training is non-stop. Many weekends in the field, late nights, early mornings, inspections all the time. Many stressful situations in the Marine Corps infantry.
(4) Logistics – Your job will be helping with preparing supplies and military equipment for embarkation.
(5) Communications – You will normally be a Field Radio Operator assigned to one of the many combat units.
(6) Field Artillery – You will normally start as a Field Artillery Cannoneer in an Artillery unit.
(7) Utilities – In this field you can be an Electrician or Refrigeration Technician. This field is very difficult to get into because the number of jobs in this field is very small.
(8) Engineer – You will normally start as an Equipment Operator or Equipment Mechanic for an Engineering Unit or Construction Unit.
(9) Tanks – You will start as a Tank Crewman.
(10) Assault Amphibious Vehicle – You will start as an Amphibious Vehicle Crewman.
(11) Ground Ordnance Maintenance – There are many different jobs in this field. Every ground weapon in the Marines, (rifles, tanks, amphibious vehicles, artillery, Light Armored Vehicles, etc) needs a Repairer/Technician.
(12) Ammunition and Explosive Ordnance Disposal – you can be an Ammunition Technician or be in Explosive Ordnance Disposal.
(13) Signals Intelligence/Ground Electronic Warfare – Very difficult to get into this field.
(14) 27 Linguist- Very difficult to get into this field. Helps if you are fluent in a foreign language that is in demand.
(15) Ground Electronics Maintenance- You will be a Technician/Repairer for specific types of electronics equipment in ground combat units and ground support units.
(16) Supply Administration and Operations- You will start as a supply clerk or warehouse clerk in ground units or air units.
(17) Traffic Management Specialists – perform technical traffic management duties pertaining to movement of civilian and military personnel and their dependents, both individually and in groups, using any or all modes of transportation.
(18) Food Service- involved in every aspect of food preparation from procurement to storage and distribution, in both garrison and field environments.
(19) Financial Management – You will review payments processing of master pay accounts, and the fiscal accounting supporting the transactions. You will also adjudicate, review, and oversee payment of vouchers of reimbursement for official travel. There are very few positions open in this field.
(20) Motor Transport – There are many positions in this field. You will either be a mechanic of vehicles or a driver of vehicles.
(21) Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense – few positions in this field. You will be a specialists charged with training others to survive in an environment where there may be chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear (CBRN) threats.
(22) Military Police and Corrections – a reasonable amount of positions in this field.
(23) Aviation Electronics Maintenance, Aircraft Maintenance, Avionics, Aviation Ordnance, Aviation Logistics, Airfield Services, Air Control/Air Support/Anti-air Warfare/Air Traffic Control, Navigation Officer/Enlisted Flight Crews, – these positions are in the Air Wing side of the Marine Corps. Many positions available. I would recommend anyone looking to join the Marines to try and get a MOS in the Air Wing. These are technical positions. In the Air Wing, you will spend less time in the mud and more time working with equipment.

Recruits record their destination points during a land navigation course at Elliot’s Beach on Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, S.C., Nov. 6, 2017. Photo by Lance Cpl. Yamil Casarreal

Promotion in the Marine Corps – promotion in the Marines is slow compared to other branches of the military service. Promotions in the Marines can greatly depend upon the current manning-level of your specific job. If there are already too many Sergeants in your field, it may take longer to get promoted to Sergeant. The Air Force is the only branch of the military service that does not do this. Thus, promotions are better in the Air Force.