RT Cunningham


Marine Corps Basic Training at MCRD San Diego and Camp Pendleton

basic training Some training methods are different and some uniforms are different, but it’s still “boot camp”. In some ways, it’s harder now than it was in 1978, when I went through Marine Corps basic training. Some other Marines from back then will probably disagree.

Back then, training took place at MCRD San Diego and Camp Pendleton, California. We went through infantry training and qualified with our rifles at Camp Pendleton and everything else was at MCRD.

Training in Combat Boots

In 1978, they issued two pairs of black leather combat boots to each recruit. One pair was for training and one pair was for inspections and drill evaluations.

We practiced close order drill seven days a week. We ran in boots, not athletic shoes, and we ran almost as often as we practiced drill. Someone got smart later on and fixed that. I suffered from Achilles tendinitis for several days because of those boots.

The inspection boots had to be polished until they were shiny. Thankfully, the combat boots of today don’t have to be shined at all. The days of “spit shining” leather boots and shoes are long gone.

Confidence Course, Obstacle Course, Infiltration Course and Crucible

The only “courses” that existed when I went through boot camp in 1978 were the obstacle and combat infiltration courses. They built the confidence course later. I went through it with my unit in 1979 or 1980 while I was stationed there. For me and the people in my unit, it was a lot of fun. We only had one Marine fall off the “slide for life” and into the water below. It was hilarious.

The crucible is something the Marine Corps invented many years later. When I was at my last duty station, a couple of younger Marines explained it to me. I’m sure I could have completed it when I was young, but not after 18 years.

West and East Training Locations

There’s one boot camp in San Diego, California, and another at Parris Island, South Carolina. The Marines who went through Parris Island sometimes call the Marines who go through San Diego “Hollywood Marines”. No one ever takes them seriously.

By graduation, Marines are certainly trained in the basics. More than anything, they’re survivors. Along with all the physical and classroom training, they have to deal with the mind games. I won’t bother to describe the mind games from 1978 because I’m sure they’ve evolved into something else since then.

If you want to get an idea of some of what goes on, I recommend watching the movie, “Full Metal Jacket”, unless you already have. While the time period is during the Vietnam War, the barracks and some uniforms are from later years. Be warned, however. Some parts of the story are known to make some people squeamish.

While I can’t recommend the Marine Corps for everyone, I sincerely believe all Americans should spend at least three years in one military branch or another after high school or college. What you learn in basic training, especially about yourself, is worth more than gold.

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By RT Cunningham
January 22, 2017