CBS21 Special Assignment | Making a Marine

CBS21 Special Assignment | Making a Marine


Becoming a United States Marine takes mental grit, physical strength, and a devotion to an entity bigger than oneself.

CBS 21’s Sara Small got an exclusive look into the transformation from civilian to Marine at the United States Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina. She attended the Educator’s Workshop that the Corps provides to teachers, guidance counselors, and the media.

The Educators’ Workshop is an annual awareness program geared toward informing high school and community college educators and media representatives about the making of a U.S. Marine.

The three pillars of the Marine Corps are honor, courage and discipline. Each of these career development traits are taught to the recruits over a 13-week process. While these are tangible traits, the recruits are also taught basic combats skills, general military subjects like drill, policies, and military law.

It all often begins on a dark, quiet night. The recruits arrive at the depot with the clothes on their backs and cell phones, which will be turned in upon arrival. The process starts on the famed Yellow Footprints, a pivotal memory for many who’ve stood there.

“The moment I stepped off the bus and onto those yellow footprints is probably going to be one of my most memorable moments here,” says Christopher Singer, of Yardley, Pa. He graduated boot camp days after our interview.

Singer, 24, was working mall security when he decided he wanted to join the Marine Corps. He says he wanted more for himself, and wanted to give back to the country that’s given so much to him as far as an education. Singer has two Associate’s degrees.

Upon arrival at Parris Island, Singer says he was anxious, nervous, stressed, and scared to start his journey to becoming a Marine. But now, he feels confident in what he’s learned.

Over 13 weeks, the recruits are stripped of their individuality and are taught to work as a team. They must pass water survival courses, physical fitness tests, rifle qualifications, martial arts, academic mastery, and a Battalion Commander’s inspection, before calling themselves Marines.

“We demand perfection. We don’t accept anything else,” says Staff Sergeant Thomas Lagno of New Jersey. He’s a drill instructor on the base. “It’s the obedience and the attention to detail. That’s the stuff that makes the force what it’s so renowned for. It’s really discipline; someone telling you to do something and you do it that exact way.”

Lagno previously did finance through the Marine Corps, before transitioning to a drill instructor. He has two more years of training recruits like Singer.

A defining moment of training is during The Crucible, another graduation requirement. It’s 54 hours of running, hiking, obstacles, and tests. Upon completion, the recruits are handed their Eagle, Globe and Anchor to complete the transformation to Marine.

“The kind of people that we take, we make them better than they ever thought they could be. People don’t realize it, but you’re a better person in the Marine Corps than you probably were without it,” says Lagno.

“It sucks. But it’s supposed to suck. I say that with a smile on my face,” says Staff Sergeant David Galentine, talking about The Crucible. He is a recruiter in Stroudsburg, Pa. Prior to that, he served in the infantry for several years, deploying to the Middle East.

“The emotion I felt once we marched under the We Make Marines sign, it really hit me that I made it,” says Singer, who recently completed The Crucible. “Once I received my Eagle, Globe and Anchor, I stand as I stand now and I clutched it tight in my right hand.”

Upon completion of basic training, Marines head to the School of Infantry, where they are taught the basic skills of a rifleman. Non-infantry specialties, otherwise known as MOS for Military Occupational School, receive 29 training days at the Infantry School. Those who specialize in Infantry receive 59 days of training.

Once Infantry skills are completed, those with an MOS in Infantry are now part of Operating Forces, where they’re ready for deployment.

Recruiters stress that getting into basic training isn’t an easy process. Candidates must meet physical, academic, mental, and medical requirements to become recruits, in hopes of earning the title of Marine.

71 percent of the Corps primary market, individuals 17 to 21 years old, don’t meet USMC standards.

The challenges recruiters face are vast as well. Right now there’s a declining number of veterans as more people opt for a type of secondary education. The Marine Corps seeks the top ten percent in the job market, as well as colleges and universities.

Each recruiter is responsible for one to two enlistments per month. They are required to contact 200 to 400 people per month as well. The Marine Corps says less than ten percent of enlistments are “walk-ins,” where they come to the local recruitment office and enlist on their own.

“This isn’t a back-up plan,” says Galentine. “This has to be a way to set yourself up for success and it has to be your main focus.”

Galentine says the Marine Corps is looking “for the future of America.” While the Marine Corps can help prospects change their lifestyle, Galentine says they want people who have a clear mind, follow the rules, and have a desire to become a better version of themselves.

“Even though it’s long and it’s stressful, it’s worth it,” says Singer. “It makes you the best person you can be for the rest of your life. This has been one of the best experiences of my life.”

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