Monday, September 21, 2009

Promotion Follows Testing

Tonight, or really tomorrow morning at 2 am, Jeff and his fellow recruits from Echo Company will begin their final test in becoming Marines. This is called The Crucible.The daunting test these men face is described below. This is not a gimmee, nor a formality. For a fat old guy like me it seems like an impossible task, but Echo Company is ready for this. They have been prepared over the past 12 weeks just for this test. Their mission is not an easy one, so their training and testing aren't either. And as we know, promotion follows testing.

(Jeff is in the back row, 7th from the left)

The Crucible

The Crucible is the final test in recruit training, and represents the culmination of all of the skills and knowledge a Marine should possess. Designed to emphasize the importance of teamwork in overcoming adversity, the Crucible is a rigorous 54-hour field training exercise demanding the application of everything a recruit has learned until that point in recruit training, and includes a total of 48 miles of marching. It simulates typical combat situations with strenuous testing, hardship, and the deprivation of food and sleep. A recruit is given three MREs and four hours of sleep through the entire 54-hour event. For this event, recruits are broken into squad-sized teams and placed under the charge of one drill instructor.

Throughout the Crucible, recruits are faced with physical and mental challenges that must be accomplished before advancing further. Teamwork is stressed, as the majority of tasks are completely impossible without it; each group must succeed or fail as a whole. The others will result in failure unless every recruit passes through together, requiring the team to aid their fellow recruit(s) who struggle in the accomplishment of the given mission. Also stressed are the Corps' core values of Honor, Courage, and Commitment. Many challenge events are named after Marine Medal of Honor recipient or otherwise notable Marines, and drill instructors will often take the time to read the citation of the award and hold a guided discussion with the recruits to evaluate their moral development. Drill instructors are also vigilant for those recruits who succeed and fail in leadership positions.

Some of the challenges encountered during the Crucible are various team and individual obstacle courses, day and night assault courses, land navigation courses, individual rushes up steep hills, large-scale martial arts challenges, and countless patrols to and from each of these. Often, these challenges are made even more difficult by the additions of limitations or handicaps, such as the requirement to carry several ammunition drums, not touching portions of an obstacle painted red to indicate simulated booby traps, and evacuating team members with simulated wounds.

On the final day of the Crucible, recruits are awoken and begin their final march, known as the "Reaper". Immediately following this, recruits are offered the "Warrior's Breakfast", where they are permitted to eat as much as they like, even of previously forbidden foods, such as ice cream. Following this is the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor ceremony, where the recruits receive the eponymous emblem, and thereby cease to be recruits, finally becoming Marines.

A couple of my favorite Marine quotes:

"There are only two kinds of people that understand Marines: Marines and the enemy. Everyone else has a second-hand opinion." Gen. William Thornson, U.S. Army

"Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they've made a difference. The Marines don't have that problem." President Ronald Reagan