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By Pat Lisi

Training to become a Marine is tough.  No doubt about it.  Boot Camp is 12 weeks long and it isn’t all that much fun.  At least, not in the beginning.  New recruits have to get used to a team of very hard-assed individuals known as Drill Instructors.  There is no other way than to conform, because the alternative is to go home.

Marine Boot Camp is divided into phases, and as any one platoon/company/series advances to the next level of training they also advance the phases.  So, phase 1 is different than phase 2 in a lot of ways.  The final phase encompasses the period of time right after the marksmanship training that all Marines receive and the Crucible.

The Crucible is a test of the recruits’ abilities to react under stressful situations but to maintain a sense of team and leadership.  The almost-Marines are taken up to Camp Pendleton and deposited in the outback of the hills on base, and then given exercises to complete.  There is almost no sleep during these last days of field training and food is kept at a minimum to help add to the stress.

The Crucible culminates with an 8-mile march down from the mountains to the parade deck at the Edson Range.  This may sound like an easy hike among the brush and cactus but it isn’t.  Each man is carrying pretty much all his belongings that’s stuffed in a seabag and slung across his back.  Add to that his rifle, water and web belt & gear, and you have the makings of a tremendous burden.  The march begins at 0300 and the ceremony at the parade deck starts promptly at 0700.  If you are a recruit and you don’t make the formation in time, you are in what’s known in the Corps as “A world of hurt.”

What’s so special about making it to the parade deck at Edson?  It’s in that formation and ceremony that the recruits are handed the Eagle, Globe & Anchor emblem by a superior.  This emblem is what they have all been dreaming of and fighting for, for the last 11 weeks (there is 1 week to go to the formal graduation ceremony after the Crucible).  The emblem has been the symbol of the United States Marine Corps for generations, and there isn’t hardly one dry eye when the recruits have been handed this emblem in that formation.  Emotionally, it has been extremely draining these past weeks, and now they can call themselves a Marine!

The Crucible is awesome and so are the men who make it through to the end.  They go on to more training and then their duty stations after graduation and leave.  Marines end up all over the world.  But, no person, man or woman, advances from Boot Camp without surviving The Crucible.

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