PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. --
As the air brakes hiss, hearts beat faster, palms sweat, breaths become shorter and a bus of hopeful recruits are unified by the fear of the unknown.
These are the experiences of so many recruits who have passed through Parris Island’s main gate.
Upon arriving, recruits are greeted by a drill instructor and ordered to get off the bus and onto Parris Island’s legendary yellow footprints.
“It’s a privilege to be the first drill instructor they see and to give them the yellow footprints speech,” said Sgt. Peter Ramos, a receiving senior drill instructor with Recruit Processing Company, Support Battalion.
These are the words all recruits hear once they are on the yellow footprints: “You are now aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island South Carolina, and you have just taken the first step toward becoming a member of the world’s finest fighting force, the United States Marine Corps.”
While standing on the yellow footprints, the recruits also receive a brief on how to stand at the position of attention, the difference between civilian laws and the Uniform Code of Military Justice, what it means to be a Marine andfinally how thousands of Marines have stood on those very same yellow footprints before they have.
“It was when I stepped on the yellow footprints that I realized I was actually on Parris Island,” explained Ramos, from Patterson N.J.
The new recruits then walk very quickly to two large, silver doors. They will pass through these doors one time and never again. As the silver hatches close behind them, a chapter of their lives closes too and a new chapter begins.
“As a Marine I don’t walk through there,” said Ramos. The drill instructors use smaller doors located to the left and right of the big silver doors. Recruits learn as they pass through them that no one else walks through the silver hatches.
“Even when visitors come and get the brief, they don’t walk there,” Ramos added.
Recruits have been stepping on the yellow footprints and walking through the silver hatches for countless cycles. It is their official threshold into a new reality.
“I think that the tradition of the yellow footprints and the silver doors is important,” said Staff Sgt. Latravis Wilcox, a receiving senior drill instructor with Recruit Processing Company, Support Battalion. “It’s what Parris Island is known for. It’s important for them to know that once they enter through those hatches they begin the transformation from civilian to Marine.”
Herded from one room to the next, they will soon have the opportunity to make a phone call home to inform their families they have arrived safely on Parris Island.
The new recruits have a script they must recite verbatim to their families.
The script is a necessary part of the process, said Staff Sgt. Stephanie J. Little, a receiving senior drill instructor with Recruit Processing Company, Support Battalion.
This script is provided to ensure recruits accomplish one of their first missions; to let their family know they are safe.
With this gesture, the recruits get their first taste of the new reality for the next three months. The first night, however, does not stop there.
With the exception of hand written letters, this phone call will be their last contact with the wworld outside of Parris Island’s gate. The next time their parents talk to them, they will be U.S. Marines.