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The Ultimate Marine Corps Recruit Training Survival Guide for 2022

U.S. Marine Corps Missiles
Lance Cpl. Mark Uriarte, a rifleman with 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, fires various drills on a live-fire range during a squad competition on Camp Pendleton, Calif., July 13, 2016. The 1st Marine Division hosted their annual Infantry Squad or “Super Squad” competition which pits the 1st, 5th, and 7th Marine Regiments and a Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion against each other in tests designed to evaluate their leadership and small unit, infantry skills.

No military basic training is easy, that is for sure. But what is the basic training like needed to join the elite US Marine Corps? Here is what you can expect and how you can prosper throughout the long process: The United State Marines Corps is America’s expeditionary force that specializes in amphibious operations, but Marines can be found in the fight in every “climb and place” U.S. troops operate. In order to join the Marines, recruits will have to attend 13 weeks of basic training (known as recruit training) in one of two installations: Marine Corps Recruit Depots Parris Island in South Carolina, or San Diego in California.

The basic training pipeline to join the Marines is the longest of any of America’s armed forces, with the strictest fitness requirements, and the toughest marksmanship requirements; attention to discipline and regulation is also held in high regard. As a result, the Marine Corps is the smallest of America’s military branches (save the recently established Space Force), and the title of Marine is something these servicemembers carry with pride well beyond their time in service. Once a Marine, always a Marine.

Marine Corps Recruit Training will provide each new recruit with everything they need to succeed in service, but there are certainly some things you can do to prepare yourself to succeed throughout basic training and into your first year of military service.

This article will provide you with a basic overview of the Marine Recruit Training timeline, a list of the fitness requirements you’ll be expected to meet in order to attend and complete recruit training, and some useful information that you’ll be expected to commit to memory during your time in recruit training.

The initial strength test

In order to qualify to attend Marine Corps Recruit Training, every recruit must pass the Initial Strenght Test, or IST. While you can ship to recruit training by simply meeting the minimum scores, the Marine Corps suggests that you strive to score well above the minimums in order to excel at basic training.

The Initial Strength Test includes:


  • Male: 3 pull-ups or 34 push-ups (2:00 time limit)
  • Female: 1 pull-up or 15 push-ups (2:00 time limit)


  • Male: 1.5 mile run in 13:30
  • Female: 1.5 mile run in 15:00


  • 40-second plank (1:03 minimum)
  • 44 crunches (2:00 time limit)

The Physical Fitness Test at Recruit Training

During recruit training, recruits will be required to complete a physical fitness test, or PFT, which is meant to evaluate their stamina and physical conditioning. This test includes three events tailored to measure upper body strength, cardiovascular endurance, and core strength. The score you receive will determine promotion eligibility and more.

The PFT is the Physical Fitness Test that all recruits must pass; it sets the standards all Marines must maintain once a year to assess battle-ready physical conditioning. The test consists of:

  • Pull-ups or Push-ups
  • Timed Crunches or Plank
  • Timed Three-mile Run

The Combat Fitness Test at Recruit Training

While the PFT measures your stamina, the CFT, or Combat Fitness Test, is meant to more accurately represent the rigors of combat to assess your functional fitness in a full combat uniform.

The Combat Fitness Test ensures Marines are at all times ready for the physical rigors of combat operations. Individual readiness is measured by performing a series of combat-related tasks, including:

  • Movement to Contact
  • Ammunition Can Lifts
  • Maneuver Under Fire

The Movement to Contact drill is an 880-yard sprint that mimics the stresses of running under pressure in battle. In the Ammunition Lift, Marines must lift a 30-pound ammunition can overhead until their elbows lockout. The goal is to lift the can as many times as possible in a set amount of time. The Maneuver Under Fire is a 300-yard course that combines a variety of battle-related challenges, including crawls, ammunition resupply, grenade throwing, agility running, and dragging and carrying of another Marine.

Water Survival Basic Qualification

Recruits at Marine Corps Recruit Training will be expected to pass Water Survival Basic Qualification, or swim qual, as it’s often called. Recruits will be taught basic water survival skills and then expected to execute the techniques they’ve been shown. It is highly recommended that you practice swim qualification requirements prior to departing for basic training if you aren’t a very strong swimmer. Failing swim qual can result in you being sent to another platoon to repeat the swim portion of your training.

Water Survival Basic Qualification Requirements:

  • Execute a 25m swim assessment
  • Conduct self–rescue (platform entry and 25m swim)
  • Conduct submerged gear shed
  • Employ flotation gear for 25m
  • Tread water for 4:00 minutes

Marine Corps Core Values

The official Marine Corps Values are Honor, Courage, and Commitment. You’ll be expected to memorize these words and their meaning, and to leverage them in your everyday duties while at recruit training and throughout your Marine Corps career.

According to the Marine Corps:

“Marines live by a set of enduring core values that form the bedrock of our character. These values guide our actions and bolster our resolve. Honor, courage and commitment lead us to victory over the physical, mental and moral battles faced during combat, or while serving in our communities on behalf of our Nation. These are the values that ensure every fight in current and future battles supports our common moral cause.”


Honor guides Marines to exemplify the ultimate in ethical and moral behavior. Never lie, never cheat or steal; abide by an uncompromising code of integrity; respect human dignity and respect others. Honor compels Marines to act responsibly, fulfill our obligations, and hold ourselves and others accountable for every action.


Courage is the mental, moral and physical strength ingrained in Marines. It carries us through the challenges of combat and aids in overcoming fear. It is the inner strength that enables us to do what is right, adhere to a higher standard of personal conduct, and make tough decisions under stress and pressure.


Commitment is the spirit of determination and dedication found in Marines. It leads to the highest order of discipline for individuals and units. It is the ingredient that enables constant dedication to Corps and country. It inspires the unrelenting determination to achieve victory in every endeavor.

Marine Corps Recruit Training Schedule

Arriving at Recruit Training is an aspiring Marine’s first step toward earning the coveted Eagle, Globe, and Anchor – an emblem bestowed upon those who earn the right to call themselves a Marine. But the challenges ahead aren’t insignificant. Each recruit must endure a 13-week program aimed at challenging their mental and physical toughness, as well as problem solving and interpersonal skills. These skills are not only necessary to be successful as a United States Marine, they’re essential to accomplishing the missions America entrusts to the Corps.

Whether you’re a poolee preparing to ship off to MCRD San Diego or Parris Island, or you’re just thinking about enlisting into Uncle Sam’s favorite gun club, here’s a breakdown of what you can expect if and when you arrive at Recruit Training.

Marine Corps Recruit Training Phase 1

Receiving Week

While not technically a part of the 12-week training regimen, Receiving Week is when recruits are introduced to the rigid structure and seemingly alien culture of Recruit Training. During this week, Recruits undergo administrative in-processing, receive hair cuts and medical examinations, and are issued their clothing and gear. Recruits will also have to complete an Initial Strength Test during Receiving Week, to assess their ability to meet the Corps’ rigorous physical standards. At the end of Receiving Week, recruits are introduced to their Drill Instructors.

Weeks 1-3: The Fundamentals

During the first three weeks of training, recruits receive a crash course in Marine Corps fundamentals. A large emphasis is placed on learning Marine Corps history, customs and courtesies, their uniforms, and core values – and you can expect to learn these through screaming repetition. Other skills are also addressed to establish a foundation for further training, like basic first aid and the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program.

One of the larger facets of Weeks 1-3, and Recruit Training as a whole, is close-order drill. Recruits will begin learning basic commands and will become adept at marching in formation around the Recruit Depot.

Week 4: Swim Week

After learning the fundamentals in Weeks 1-3, Recruits face their first big challenge in Week 4: Swim Week. During swim week, recruits will spend a great deal of time in the pool, first working on the basics like treading water, and eventually learning survival techniques to stay afloat in deep water with all their gear on. At the end of Swim Week, recruits must pass Swim Qualifications (commonly referred to as swim qual in order to proceed in their training. While there are instructors there to assist weak swimmers early on, failing to meet the basic requirements for Swim Qual can halt a recruit’s progression through Recruit Training until they are more capable in the pool.

Marine Corps Recruit Training Phase 2

Week 5: Team Week

To a certain extent, Team Week can be seen as a break from the intense training recruits have been undergoing. During Team Week, recruits are split into teams (hence the name) and sent around the installation to assist in day-to-day operations. Recruits can expect to do laundry, organize boxes, clean buildings, and even do landscaping. During Team Week, recruits often operate with less supervision than they do in other weeks of training, which gives them their first opportunity to live up to the Corps’s core values of Honor, Courage, and Commitment by doing the right thing, even when no one is looking.

Week 6: Grass Week

Grass week is when recruits start learning the fundamentals of rifle marksmanship. It begins with a long march out to the Rifle Range, but don’t get too excited, there won’t be any shooting in Week 6. Instead, recruits are taught proper firing positions, how to achieve proper sight picture with their weapons, and the basics of firearm maintenance. Most importantly, recruits will spend an extended amount of time sitting, standing, and laying in grass fields as they “snap in” on targets to practice the proper techniques.

Week 7: Firing Week

This is where the real fun starts. During Firing Week, recruits will learn to leverage the skills they developed in Grass Week to make them effective marksmen with live rounds. Recruits will fire from different distances and in different positions throughout the week as they prepare for Rifle Qualification. At the end of the week, recruits will qualify with their M-16A4 service rifles and earn one of three marksmanship badges: Marksman, Sharpshooter, or Expert. Failing to pass Rifle Qualification, however, can freeze a recruit’s progress through Recruit Training.

Phase 3

Week 8: Basic Warrior Training

Now that recruits have become proficient marksmen, they can begin training in more complex combat tactics. During Basic Warrior Training, recruits can expect to learn the basic skills required to not only survive in combat but to also dominate the battlespace. Basic Warrior Training includes combat marksmanship training, land navigation, and lessons in maneuvering under enemy fire. Basic Warrior Training is grueling both mentally and physically, but the biggest challenge is yet to come.

Weeks 9-10: Testing Week and The Crucible

Recruits will begin testing week by completing a number of academic and physical exams, meant to assess their fitness, knowledge of Marine Corps fundamentals, and basic skills. At the end of Week 10, recruits face their most significant challenge: The Crucible.

The Crucible is a 54-hour-long field event designed to push recruits to their limit. Throughout The Crucible, recruits will be expected to leverage every lesson and skill they’ve developed throughout their time at Marine Corps Recruit Training. Those who complete The Crucible are awarded their Eagle, Globe, and Anchor, and the title of U.S. Marine.

Phase 4

Weeks 11-12: New Marines

Earning the title of Marine doesn’t mean the training is over.

Weeks 11-12 are all about preparing the Marines for life in the Fleet Marine Force. New Marines will complete administrative tasks aimed at preparing them for their follow-on training, which will either be Marine Combat Training or the School of Infantry, depending on each Marine’s occupational specialty. The new Marines will also undergo an inspection from the battalion commander.

At the end of Week 12, a graduation ceremony marks the completion of Recruit Training, and Marines are given ten days of leave before they’re expected to report to their next place of duty.

Alex Hollings is a writer, dad, and Marine veteran who specializes in foreign policy and defense technology analysis. He holds a master’s degree in Communications from Southern New Hampshire University, as well as a bachelor’s degree in Corporate and Organizational Communications from Framingham State University. This first appeared in SandBoxx News. 

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Sandboxx News is a digital and print military media outlet focused on the lives, experiences, and challenges facing today’s service members and America’s defense apparatus. Built on the simple premise that service members and their supporters need a reliable news outlet free of partisan politics and sensationalism, Sandboxx News delivers stories from around the world and insights into the U.S. Military’s past, present, and future– delivered through the lens of real veterans, service members, military spouses, and professional journalists.