Each year, 19,000 young men and women go through basic training at Marine Corps Recruiting Depot Parris Island.
Their reasons for joining varies, but upon the completion of 13 weeks of boot camp each marine has acquired intangible skills of leadership, teamwork and dedication as well as a career within the Corps.
“I was trying to stay out of trouble,” said Private First Class Michael Sandoval of Muskegon. “That’s why I decided to join the Corps. I didn’t want to follow in the same steps as some of my friends.”
But Sandoval did get in trouble and was forced to delay his start date as he acquired waivers from the Marine Corps.
Sandoval finally traveled south for training late last year. For 13 weeks, he and his fellow recruits pushed their minds, bodies and spirit to the edge.
“They had us ride into Parris Island with our heads down,” he said. “So we didn’t know how to leave.”
Recruits are greeted by screaming drill instructors their first day on base and told to “get off the bus” and stand on the yellow footprints outside. After that, recruits pass through a set of silver doors, which is where they are told they are leaving their lives as civilians behind.
“We yell at them for the smallest details,” said Drill Instructor Brent Culver. “Because later in combat there can be extreme consequences for the smallest thing.”
For the next 13 weeks, recruits take part in weapons and combat training, extensive military history classes and drill. Their entire training culminates in a final three day test of navigation, team work and dedication known as the crucible.
“That’s what I love most about the Marine Corps,” said Captain Ryan Gainer. “Everything is earned, never given.”
It is only upon completion of the crucible that recruits are officially marines and are allowed to call their families after weeks of not speaking to them.
“Honestly I did want to quit a couple of times,” Sandoval said. "And that’s when you really have to reach down to yourself and say I really have to complete this mission.
"I’m almost done and everything has an end. You just have to finish.”