Marine Corps Boot Camp consist of four main phases. Every single enlisted Marine that serves on active duty has to go through this rigorous training, and only those who make it through earn the title United States Marine. Think you have what it takes?
How Long is Marine Corps Boot Camp?
Marine Boot Camp is the longest and toughest basic training, at thirteen weeks long with more than 70 “training days” in a period of twelve weeks. Here is the complete Marine Boot Camp Schedule (updated for 2020).
Recruits are expected to hit the ground running and you will start training the moment you step onto the yellow footprints. Many Marines say that boot camp was the most challenging experience of their entire lives. It’s a culture shock and you will be cut off from the outside world and completely immersed in Marine Corps Terminology, history, and customs and courtesies.
Here is a detailed breakdown of the Marine Boot Camp schedule for 2020. I’ve made links to each training week so you can navigate easily.
- Phase One: Receiving Week, Physical Training, O-Course, MCMAP, and Drill.
- Phase Two: Swim Qualification, Interior Guard, Bayonet Assault Course, Written Test.
- Phase Three: Grass Week, Rifle Qualification, Basic Warrior Training, and The Crucible.
- Phase Four: Marine Week and Graduation.
You’ll be rushed off the bus onto the famous yellow footprints, literally standing in the same place more than a million Marines have gone before.
Including Medal of Honor winners.
Once you step onto the yellow footprints, your education as a USMC recruit will begin. You will learn three articles from the Uniform Code of Military Justice which you must follow.
Article 86 prohibits absence without leave (AWOL). Article 91 prohibits you from disobeying a lawful order, and Article 93 prohibits disrespect of a commanding officer.
The recruit training schedule is broken into four distinct phases. San Diego and Parris Island schedules differ slightly, but the outcome is the same.
Marine Corps Boot Camp Phase One
Phase One is the longest phase of Marine Boot Camp and develops the physical fitness, basic knowledge, and unit cohesion expected of a basically trained Marine.
Phase one is filled with physical conditioning, martial arts, and classes that cover everything from first aid to rank structure and Marine Corps history.
You will learn the basics of drill, run the obstacle course, conduct swim qualifications, and be instructed in the basics of the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program.
You will learn USMC rank structure.
You will be expected to memorize Marine Corps terminology and use it daily.
Windows are now portholes. Beds are racks.
The primary goal of phase one is to distance you from your physical and psychological habits as a civilian. Your life will become military routines, doing basic tasks “by the numbers” and you won’t even be able to refer to yourself by name.
You will call yourself “this recruit,” and other recruits as “those recruits.” When asking a drill instructor a question, you will be expected to use the format “Sir, this recruit would like to speak to Drill Instructor (rank) (last name), Sir!”
Recruits are taught everything from the ground up, from how to brush their teeth, how to stand up straight, and even how to eat.
After taking an oath at the yellow footprints, the next stop is Recruit Receiving, where you will be given the opportunity to call home and inform your loved ones that you have arrived safely.
Then you are searched for contraband and issued basic uniforms and toiletries.
You will surrender all of your civilian possessions (including your underwear), and the Marine Corps will issue everything you need. All you need to take with you to boot camp is your civilian ID.
Want to learn more? Read our article: What can you bring to Marine Boot Camp?
Next, you will get your first haircut, which is essentially bald for male recruits, and close-cropped for females.
The remainder of receiving includes filling out a lot of paperwork, undergoing a medical and dental screening, and receiving a number of vaccines.
You will not be getting any sleep for the first night, and you will probably lie in bed the next wondering what in the world you are doing here. Then you will be given your first physical fitness test.
The Initial Strength Test includes a mile and a half run, max pull-ups, and max crunches in two minutes. This is a scaled down version of the Marine Physical Fitness Test, or PFT, to ensure that recruits are ready to begin training.
Train to more than the minimum standards! Otherwise it will be difficult to score well because of sleep deprivation.
If you want to learn how to do more pull ups, check out the article: How to do Pull Ups: the Ultimate Guide.
On Friday, you meet your drill instructors.
On Black Friday, you meet your Drill Instructors.
Marine Corps Drill Instructors are relentless. There is no turning back once you are “picked-up” into your boot camp platoon. At this point, it is easier to earn the title than to get kicked out of boot camp.
Black Friday is a day you will remember for the rest of your life, that few have ever experienced.
This is when Marine Corps Boot Camp truly begins.
You will learn about Incentive Training, or IT. Drill Instructors are allowed to use incentive training to instill discipline and correct mistakes.
Basically, a Drill Instructor or three takes you to one of the sand pits located around the recruit depot (known as IT pits).There, you’ll do calisthenics non-stop.
Outside, they are limited to five minutes of IT at a time. Inside, on the “quarter-deck,” there are no limits. Expect to do more jumping jacks, pushups, mountain climbers, and other exercises than you ever thought possible.
Everything your drill instructors do to stress you out is designed to simulate the stress of combat and elicit immediate responses to orders. From someone who has been there, trust me, it works.
You will be given your final “out” to come clean about drug use and other disqualifying conditions to your enlistment. From then on, you have no choice but to become a Marine!
Training Week One
On Monday, expect a rude awakening. Drill Instructors are fierce and will address every mistake a recruit makes at this point.
You will be instructed on Marine Corps Core Values: Honor, Courage, and Commitment.
You’ll meet your new best friend—your M16A4 rifle. And you’ll learn the Rifleman’s Creed.
You will disassemble, clean, assemble, and drill with your rifle until handling it becomes second nature.
You will run everywhere you go.
Sound off until your voice is hoarse.
When you’re not running, you’ll be practicing drill in formation with the platoon.
The rest of the week you can expect physical training everyday. Usually running in platoon formation with a cadence call. Lots of pull ups, pushups, mountain climbers, and calisthenics.
You’ll also spend a lot of time in the classroom learning combat first aid and Marine Corps History.
On Friday, you’ll be introduced to the obstacle course and walk through each obstacle before running through it with your platoon.
You will also get your first MCMAP class: the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program. It’s a combination of karate strikes, jiu jitsu, and of course, bayonet fighting.
Saturday, recruits are introduced to the Combat Fitness Test, which is more specifically geared to test a Marine on basic physical combat skills like sprinting, fireman’s carry, and handling heavy ammo cans.
After a rest day on Sunday, you’ll be back at it Monday morning with more MCMAP. After morning PT, of course!
Expect physical training to get more intense as boot camp is in full swing. You’ll do 4×400 meter intervals. Finish first? You get rewarded with calisthenics! Finish last? Even more calisthenics!
You’ll be put to the test against other recruits in pugil stick fighting, where you’ll utilize the techniques you learned in MCMAP. Our advice? Be aggressive.
It will feel like you spend countless hours drilling with your platoon. Drill is one of the biggest parts of Marine Boot Camp. It builds unit cohesiveness and discipline. And it makes you feel like your rifle is an extension of your body.
It won’t feel like it at first, of course, but you’ll grow stronger.
Classroom instruction this week includes Combat Care and Marine Corps History.
Monday morning, you’ll be introduced to the confidence course, the obstacle course that you’ve seen on TV and in photographs. It includes the A-frame, ladder to heaven, and more fun stuff.
Physical Training this week will be the circuit course, running 2×400 sprints and doing more strength exercises and calisthenics like military press, dips, and pull ups, of course.
You’ll get your ID cards this week, and also do a lot of administrative paperwork.
You’ll also probably see the dentist at least twice during boot camp. If you haven’t had your wisdom teeth out, they’re going to do it here.
We strongly advise future Marines to have their wisdom teeth out before boot camp, because the recovery will be much easier. With only 70 training days, every day must be scrutinized and pushed to the limit. Missing three of them is going to set you back.
Senior Drill Instructors will inspect their platoon during drill this week.
This is a lead up to the Initial Drill competition on Saturday. Platoons that do well will be rewarded with calisthenics. Platoons that do poorly will get rewarded with…you guessed it, even more calisthenics!
There’s a trend here…
On Friday, you’ll do a big strength and endurance run as a unit. This is 800 meter runs (1/2 mile) with strength stations in between. They will be squats, mountain climbers, pull ups, ammo can lifts, and push ups.
This is why we suggest running often before boot camp!
On Saturday, it’s the Initial Drill Competition. Your platoon’s performance is directly related to your Drill Instructors, and they are graded on their own performance by more senior Drill Instructors.
Expect to spend a lot of time in the IT pit and quarterdeck this day. Even if you do well!
Marine Corps Boot Camp Phase Two
Phase two includes Initial Drill, swim qualifications, and log drills! Building on the skills you learned in phase one, you’ll start to see some recruits getting sent back in training for not performing.
Do your best, and you’ll make it through.
It’s the first week that recruits who are under-performing can be “dropped” to another platoon. Typically, this is a two-week setback. So if you were on training day 21, recruits who are dropped will go back to training day 7.
Swim qualification is one of the big events that recruits face this week.
After morning PT, recruits face Swim Week. Everything you go through will be demonstrated by Drill Instructors, including drown-proofing, which you won’t have to do.
You’ll be expected to swim 50 yards with a ruck. And tread water in your cammies for 15 minutes.
Some recruits can’t swim when they come to boot camp. They’ll be in the shallow end learning. Don’t worry, the swim instructors are there to help you, not drown you.
It’s best to learn how to swim before boot camp if you don’t already know how.
At the end of the week, you’ll pose for boot camp photos.
On Friday, it’s off to MCMAP and pugil stick fighting again. These are some of the more enjoyable events during boot camp.
Saturday, you’ll take your first Physical Fitness Test. It’s a 3-mile run, max set of pull ups, and max crunches in 2 minutes.
You’ll have to push hard. You may not be getting your best scores now from being so tired from firewatch, swim quals, drill, and constantly running everywhere you go.
Recruits who don’t pass will get dropped. Follow our tips in the USMC Boot Camp Preparation Guide to train before you get there.
On Saturday you’ll attack the obstacle course once more.
It’s Team Week and Interior Guard.
Physical training this week consists of intense log drills where recruits must work as a team to carry the load.
It’s an event you will remember forever.
Strength and Endurance runs get longer and tougher. You’ll also be fitted for the uniforms that you will be issued near the end of Marine Boot Camp for graduation.
Team Week means that recruits will be breaking from standard training to various jobs around the depot, including maintaining a 24-hour guard at sensitive installations and operating the barracks like a patrol base.
This used to mean doing odd jobs like laundry and helping at the chow hall, but nowadays it is often a more tactical focus to get recruits thinking like fleet Marines.
At the end of the week, it’s time for the first Combat Fitness Test, a test of the recruit’s endurance and strength. While in camouflage utilities, a recruit must sprint 880 yards, lift a 30lb ammo can from shoulder height to over head as many times as possible in two minutes, and perform a timed shuttle run called the “maneuver under fire” where recruits are paired up and conduct a series of combat-related tasks like the fireman’s carry.
Marine Boot Camp training week six consists of another PFT, the bayonet assault course, pugil stick fighting, martial arts training, and a written test on Marine Corps Customs, Courtesies, and Traditions.
There is also ongoing instruction and testing on Marine Corps history. A large part of recruit training, besides the physical fitness, is understanding the history of the Marine Corps, which the recruit will soon be joining.
If recruits are training at San Diego, they will take buses to Camp Pendleton for Weapons and Field Training Battalion. Up next? Firing the M16 rifle.
Marine Corps Boot Camp Phase Three
Phase three of Marine Boot Camp slows down a bit during grass week, but there are longer marches, heavier packs, and at the end of phase three, the Crucible—a 54 hour event designed to test a recruit’s physical and mental stamina.
It’s grass week. Morning PT continues to grow in intensity, but recruits will now find their Drill Instructors backing off so they can focus on learning the foundations of marksmanship.
Grass week is an entire week spent learning about the basic rifle positions, how bullets work, and spending a lot of time “snapping-in.” This is basically holding the shooting positions and practicing trigger pulls without any ammunition.
Most of this time is spent in the grass looking at firing barrels.
Hence the name “grass week.”
The hikes, or “humps” as Marines know them, will be tougher here. At the end of the week is an 8km hike, and the packs get even heavier.
With body armor, rifle, kevlar helmet, and pack, recruits are wearing close to 45lbs of gear. Drill Instructors will keep your feet moving and have you reach out and touch the recruit in front of you.
Morning physical training continues, and recruits take to the rifle range for live fire of the M16 rifle. There are three days of live fire, and two days of qualification.
There are big changes coming to the rifle range in 2020. Recruit training will probably still continue standard rifle training in 2020, but the rest of the Marine Corps is moving to a more tactical rifle qualification that will emulate battle conditions.
The new rifle qualification will begin from the 500 yard line and move closer (like you would encounter the enemy). Instead of pulling targets down and scoring each shot, recruits will take all their 500 yard shots (10 of them) at once, then be scored.
From there, you’ll move to the 300 yard line, then the 200. The seated shooting position is now removed in favor of a barricaded position, and you’ll be wearing flak and kevlar the entire time.
At the barricade, you’ll be able to use whatever firing position you feel is the most stable.
Marines qualify at the longest distance of any U.S. service members and truly live up to the term “every Marine a rifleman.”
On Saturday, recruits will see their longest hike at 13 km.
Recruits who fail to complete the hike or don’t stay with the unit may be rolled back to another training platoon, where they will have to take the last two weeks of training over again! The hikes are a defining feature of Weapons and Field Training Battalion and a regular event in the Fleet Marine Force.
At the end of each week of firing on the rifle range, you will conduct forced marches of 3, 5 and 8 miles respectively.
Don’t be fooled by the short distances. With the added weight of your pack, flak jacket, helmet, and weapon, this will be tough.
Field week is where the transformation into a Marine truly begins. Recruits are hardened from the physical training, and they have developed unit cohesion which will now be tested on combat simulations and field operations.
Drill Instructors will be back in the swing of things and really challenge recruits on the field courses, which include a combat assault, low crawl, barbed wire, and everything you see in the boot camp commercials and on TV.
Table II rifle qualification adds to the skills recruits learned in week eight, where they don flak and Kevlar and shoot their rifles in more combat-oriented scenarios and closer to their targets. Their scores will be finalized into their rifle qualification, and those who earn the Expert Rifle Badge will be truly proud.
Week Ten: The Crucible
This week is when the recruit finally becomes a United States Marine.
On Monday, recruits take the final written test on history, customs and courtesies, and rank structure. On Tuesday, they face the Confidence Chamber, otherwise known as the Gas Chamber.
In the Gas Chamber, recruits will learn how their gas masks work and gain confidence in using them.
They will also probably inhale some CS gas, or tear gas.
This is so the recruit knows that the gas is only irritating and they can actually fight through the experience. But it is tough! It’s probably one of the scariest experiences as a Marine recruit.
The Crucible is the culminating event of Marine Boot Camp.
The 54 hour event will deprive recruits of sleep while they live in the field, operating on a 24-hour operations cycle and completing team-building tasks in their squads. Food is also limited.
Recruits will be given two and a half MREs (Meals Ready to Ear, for the entire two and a half day event. Recruits will endure over 45 miles of marching, to include a hike up The Reaper, if training at Camp Pendleton.
When done with the Crucible, you will officially earn the title United States Marine, and will be issued your Eagle, Globe, and Anchor.
This is one of the proudest moments in a Marine’s life, so cherish it!
The new Marines will then have a Warrior Breakfast, where you can eat as much of anything in the chow hall that you like.
Take it easy on the ice cream. You’ll see why!
Phase Four: Being a Marine
Now, recruits have officially earned the title United States Marine, and finalize their transition into a military way of life.
The penultimate week of Marine Boot Camp. Marines will spend their time learning how to be a Marine in the Fleet Marine Force.
It’s called Marine Week. You’ll continue MCMAP, Physical Training, and learn more about the Marine Corps with a trip to the museum. You will earn your tan belt in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program.
You’ll also undergo the Company Commanders inspection, in order to get ready for graduation. This is a hot four hours out on the parade deck standing at attention!
But by this time, you’re hardened Marines ready for anything.
Graduation is finally here. This is often an emotional moment for new Marines and their families.
Graduation practice commences on Monday, and on Tuesday there is a liberty brief as well as “Warrior Preservation”. This is a seminar on preserving the history and traditions of the Marine Corps.
It talks about accepting the risk inherent in being a modern warrior, and acting in a manner consistent with Marine values.
Wednesday is the Battalion Commander’s inspection, which will be a long day standing at attention. Weapons will then be cleaned one last time and turned in.
On Thursday, it’s the morning moto-run and family day! The last run of Marine Boot Camp with your platoon.
The first time Marines have seen their families since they left for boot camp. Many family members will be surprised at the muscular, lean Marines now being presented to them.
And be awed at the loud, in-step Marine platoons presented before them.
The final night before graduation you may host a “gong-show” where you will be allowed to joke around with your drill instructors.
Even at their expense.
Personally, I had been doing a very good impression of one of our Drill Instructors. It made the recruits laugh, although I was caught by a different Drill Instructor once. He laughed, but then I paid for it. Dearly!
At the gong show I was allowed to do my impersonation and the Drill Instructors were light-hearted about it. I felt finally accepted as a Marine and will never forget that moment.
Friday is graduation day.You’ll be released on liberty with their families. This is one of the proudest moments of a young Marine’s life, and your family should be proud that you have entered an elite warrior culture and are serving your country.
Congratulations! You’ve made it into the most elite fighting force on the face of the planet.
Are you headed to boot camp or thinking about it? Check out our Boot Camp Preparation Guide by clicking the link below. It’s less than $10 and contains all the information you need in order to run faster, do more pull-ups, and brush up on Marine Corps knowledge and rank structure before heading to Marine Boot Camp.
After Marine Corps Boot Camp
After completing Marine Corps basic training, you will be given 10 days of leave before you must report to the School of Infantry. Infantry Marines will undergo two months of training at SOI, and other Marines will undergo just two weeks before transferring to their MOS school.