MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT, San Diego --
They came from different cities and towns. They came as individuals with their own reasons, but over the past 13 weeks the recruits of Company C have learned to work as a team to accomplish any mission set in front of them. Since they stepped onto the yellow footprints aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, their drill instructors have been molding these young men with non-stop guidance and have filled them with 235 years of the Corps’ history, honor, courage, commitment and the warrior ethos the United States Marines live by. And now, as they set out on the crucible it is time for the recruits to show their drill instructors everything that was taught, was not in vain.
Held at Weapons and Field Training Battalion, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., the Crucible, a 54-hour cumulative training exercise, puts all the training the recruits have received to the test. Where recruits receive rationed food and only 12 hours of sleep, the recruits start their days early and end them late with multiple challenges in between. Many of these missions require them to fight past hunger and sleep deprivation while relying solely on the strength of each other.
Many recruits may remember one challenge over any other as the most grueling due to the heavy ammunition cans they must run up to the top of a hill that seems to be almost a vertical climb. This mission is known as Basilone’s Challenge, named after one of the Corps’ most famous war heroes, Gunnery Sgt. John Basilone, who received the Medal of Honor and the Navy Cross for his actions at the Battle of Guadal Canal. Recruits come across this challenge near the end of their second day on the Crucible, increasingly hungry and tired and facing more daunting tasks with less energy.
“Basilone’s Challenge takes heart,” said Gunnery Sgt. Ceasar Mazzeo, senior drill instructor, Platoon 1041, Co. C. “It’s all on them. It’s whatever they have in their hearts. They all know that mission accomplishment comes first.”
Although some recruits think they can not take another step, they seem to find new strength in one another.
“They find new limits and are pushing themselves and each other further with each challenge,” said Mazzeo. “I think this is a great challenge to have at the end of day two.”
As the recruits dig down deep to find their inner strength and push on, they must ignore the physical obstacles and obvious frustrations with themselves and one another in order to complete the task ahead of them.
“The hardest part is getting organized,” explained Pvt. Dallas Astler, Platoon 1041, Co. C. “Trying to get down the hill with all the ammo cans and then (sprinting) back up, altogether, was rough. We’ve had the ‘too many chiefs not enough indians’ problem, but we’ve really come together, learning to delegate so that the load is not all on one or a handful of guys.”
Though some recruits felt fine-tuning their leadership skills was a hard lesson to learn, most know they wouldn’t be who they are today without their drill instructors.
“I’ve heard they’re (Company C) the toughest drill instructors, and they are,” said Astler. “It’s been an honor to (be a recruit of Co. C) and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
As the recruits work together during the days on the Crucible, the drill instructors watch their three months of continuous work gain momentum as each squad attains a sense of accomplishment.
“I always tell them that nothing in life worth having comes easy,” Mazzeo said. “It’s not about them (as individuals), it’s about the one to the right and left of them.”
The Crucible is already over for the new Marines of Co. C, but as they march out and across the parade deck to graduate today, they will do so with extreme precision and pride taking their last steps as a company and beginning their journey as United States Marines.