MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT, San Diego --
Every step recruits take during recruit training brings them closer to earning the title of United States Marine, but one of the first steps they take is upon the infamous yellow footprints at Receiving Company aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego.
“This is just a stepping stone into recruit training,” said Sgt. Cory Marcus, senior drill instructor, Receiving Co., Recruit Training Regiment. “This is where they’re transformed from civilian to recruit.” The purpose of the receiving process is to collect the recruit’s paper work and make sure they’re ready for training. It also gives them an idea of how the rest of their time aboard the depot will be, said Sgt. Luis Alicea, drill instructor, Receiving Co., RTR.
“We teach them how to stand, walk and talk properly here so their drill instructors can focus on their training,” said Alicea.
This metamorphosis begins when young men who arrive from states west of the Mississippi River are loaded onto buses at San Diego International Airport and are transported to the depot.
As a drill instructor yells at them to put their heads down and to not speak, the darkness and the roar of the bus engine fills a void that was once silence.
Who knows what imaginations are stirring in every recruit as they wonder what is in store for them.
Fear of the unknown is an emotion that many can relate to. The recruits only know of what they’ve heard, either from their recruiter, the media, or other Marines in their lives.
“I didn’t know what to expect when I stepped on those footprints, it finally hit me that this was real,” said Recruit Anthony Brownlee, Receiving Co., RTR. “I’m nervous, but I joined to better myself and my career.”
Drill instructors eagerly wait as the bus pulls up to the curb outside of Receiving Co. This is only the beginning of a night that will seem endless to the new recruits.
“Sit up straight!” screams a drill instructor after he boarded the bus. “From this point forward you will only answer me with a ‘yes sir’, ‘no sir’ and ‘aye-aye sir’, do we understand?”
“Aye-aye sir,” the recruits reply in unison.
The recruits have their first taste of what is to be expected from their drill instructors at the depot. From the bus, they rush out on to the yellow footprints where they are instructed on how to properly stand at the position of attention.
Every component of receiving is significant to the processing of recruits. When the recruits move from one part to the next, the recruits are given short speeches and lessons on how they will act while they’re aboard the depot, explained Alicea.
With their fists clenched and thumbs along their trouser seams, the recruits stand at the position of attention. They are then instructed to move to a next set of yellow footprints that face an illuminated sign.
The sign states articles from the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which are laws that all military members must follow. Certain articles, such as unauthorized absence and others that pertain to recruits while they are in recruit training, are read to them aloud. From there, they are rushed into the contraband room.
“In the contraband room, they are instructed to empty their pockets and go through their belongings to get rid of the items they won’t need while in recruit training,” said Alicea. “They also receive their first issue of gear, a war bag containing basic items they’ll need throughout training.”
The recruits then move to a wall of phones where they are told to make their only phone call home for three months. They read a script that states they’ve made it to recruit training safely.
Others yelling louder than the next, recruits scream, “I love you and goodbye,” in hopes that their loved one will hear them before hanging up the phone and moving on to the next step of the receiving process - haircuts.
The buzz of hair clippers drown out the yelling of drill instructors outside of the barber’s room. The recruits take a seat and close their eyes. As their hair falls to the floor, their civilian identity falls with it.
“Every recruit’s head is shaved bald,” said Alicea. “This is to establish uniformity and also to instill the fact that they are no longer individuals.”
With freshly shaved heads, recruits are rushed to receive their clothing issue. By this time, the recruits seem to have grown accustomed to the fast pace that has been forced on them throughout the night.
“It could be culture shock for most recruits,” said Alicea. “We keep it at a fast pace and give them that sense of urgency that they’ll need throughout training.”
As the night slowly turns into day, the recruits go through the “Moment of Truth”, which is when they can come clean or bring to light about anything that can cause them to not continue with their training.
The rest of the week is spent preparing the recruits for “pick up,” which is when they are sent to their platoons. This is the highly anticipated moment when they finally meet the drill instructors who will spend the next three months training, molding and eventually making them Marines.
The recruits expected to pick up with Company G and are scheduled to begin training May 1.