Enlisting in the United States Marines Corps is not an afternoon of miniature golf and dinner at Cracker Barrel. Enlisting in the USMC is heavy. When one walks into the recruiting office, you already know that this is going to be drastically life changing, and you are about to enter a completely new world. In this new world, you will require skills and information to assimilate and be useful; things like strangling terrorists with their own detonation cord, or sky diving onto a Somali pirate ship with a knife between your teeth might come to mind.
Sure, these are awesome, but before you ever learn to do any of that, first, you have to deal with ten very surprising and often ridiculous realities that you might not have seen in the recruiting brochure.
10. You Learn To Crash Diet Like A Runway Super Diva
“Marines! Cool,” says the fat kid as he enters the recruiting office. Problem is, he’s FAT, and the US military has regulations and rules regarding this. The Army tells him it will take several months of hard training to bring the weight down to an acceptable level. The Marines just tell him to “drink this stuff” and he does; an entire industrial-sized bottle of high-powered laxative. Explosive and unrepentant diarrhea then ensues for the two days before weighing in at the initial medical check, and the 15 pounds he’s lost puts him just under the weight cut off.
The big surprise, however, is that these aggressive bowel movements continue for two weeks well into the first phase of recruit training, thus making him all kinds of friends every time the platoon heads to the toilet, and a grand total of 32 pounds lighter in just three fun weeks.
9. You Do So Much Paperwork, The I.R.S. Grimaces
When you enlist in the USMC, your body, for all intents and purposes, becomes the property of the United States Government. So, if you thought the act of passing ownership of your summer house to a relative required a fair amount of document signing and pencil pushing, you have no idea what you’re in for.
First there are the initial screening applications and medical surveys. Then there are the enlistment contract, background surveys and additional medical surveys. It’s paperwork, upon contract, upon paperwork, upon contract. If you are, say, a bored 18-year-old who feels he/she has little to lose hence signing up for the infantry just to get a ticket out, it’s very easy to simply sign things without reading them at all. If you had read them, you might be more prepared for what comes next.
8. You Become A Medical Experiment
It’s likely that most of you reading this have been to a doctor in the last few years and had some kind of physical. Great! Being healthy is a good thing. But the Marine Corps is not so concerned with YOU being healthy so much as YOU not infecting EVERYONE else at boot camp. So, initial check-ups and medical evaluations are performed in the same manner they would be done with felons in a prison. There’s a lot of “stand in line and strip.” There’s also a fair amount of “now, squat, naked, and walk like a duck across the room while everyone watches.” And then there’s the all-time favorite: “pull your pants down and bend over.”
Add to this the diverse and extensive line up of pokes, prods and needles that you get over not only your initial enlistment phase, but your entire four years, and it’s amazing Marines aren’t glowing in the dark. Speaking of four years…
7. You Actually Signed Up For More Than Four Years
“I’m just gonna do my four, then get out and move on.” Sure you will. If the United States Government feels like letting you. The reality is that all non-prior service enlistees commit to an initial contract of EIGHT YEARS of obligation to the USMC. So, whatever time you don’t spend as active duty has to be made up in either the active reserves or in the inactive reserves. Did your four, got out and are in University? Quit now and come back because we tell you to. It’s totally within the government’s rights to do this. You signed the document; it’s all right there in paragraph 10a of the enlistment contract.
6. More Time Is Spent Pushing A Mop Bucket Than Pulling A Trigger
As an enlisted man/woman in the Marines, you are going to do a lot of cleaning. A LOT. More than any one human being should ever really have to do. Despite the United States being engaged in multiple wars in the last decade, it is a fair bet to say that the bucket and mop are as ever-present as the rifle. In fact, even your rifle has to be constantly cleaned, oiled and maintained to ensure that when the time comes for you to pull the trigger, it isn’t jammed.
Everything has to be constantly cleaned; your room, your uniforms, your equipment and your weapon. In some respects these regulations are practical consideration as in the case of a Marines rifle, other times it’s to maintain “good order and proper discipline,” and other times it’s simply because there’s nothing else for you to be doing, so the powers-that-be put you to cleaning. This leads us to another fallacy regarding Marine Corps life…
5. Working Out And Being Fit Is NOT A Marine Corps Priority
The USMC, like so many other big organizations, has a boat load of red tape surrounding literally everything it has to do. There are procedures and things that have to happen on a regular basis- meetings, formations, cleaning, counseling, lecturing, training etc. Some of these are critical components, others are not, but due to the nature of red tape and how following the rules and checking the boxes can help careers move forward, corners often get cut, and not the corners that should be lopped off. For example, if the choice has to be made between having a platoon formation and discussing new chow hall regulations or doing physical training/PT, generally the formation wins out.
Although a certain level of fitness is required, largely the act of getting in shape and maintaining it falls squarely on each individual Marine’s shoulders, and the time needed for this has to be found when and where one can get it. This means that for anyone less than the highly motivated, fitness that could potentially make the difference between someone catching a bullet or not can easily fall by the way side. This goes hand-in-hand with our next point.
4. Marines Play A Huge Amount Of Video Games
Walk into any barracks room in any infantry unit in the USMC and you will likely find the corner stones of Leatherneck living: some kind of pornography, some kind of tobacco product, and some kind of TV/PC gaming system. This addiction to gaming is not exclusive to the Infantry, but really has a cast iron, crack-cocaine-like strong, stranglehold on all members of the Marines; this has been going on since at least 1999 with no indication of letting up.
Marines run the gamut too, from old-school obsessions like EverQuest and Goldeneye, all the way up to Modern Warfare 3 and everything in-between. From the lowest enlistees up to company commanders, Marines just love playing video games, and spend a large amount of time and money doing it.
3. The Marines Have Their Own Completely Unintelligible Language
Latin has been called a “dead language” but, in the Marine Corps, nobody cares what the French think and they can tell you this in ways only other Marines can possibly understand. With daily greetings between two Marines that might sound something like:
“Body bags, oorah?”,
it’s no wonder non-Marines might walk away from a conversation perplexed. Aside from the unique “industry jargon” used in the USMC, there is an entire dictionary worth of slang terms and adaptable verse that must be learned in order to function within a unit. Example: “Scuttlebutt’s that we’re good to go for basket leave from 2000. Gunny confirmation on 2000 hours?” “Leave is cleared hot devil dog. Cleared hot!” “Yaaaattt! F%^&ing Rolex! Pack is being dropped off a damn cliff.” Got that?
2. Nothing Ever Works Properly. Ever.
The Marine Corps is the smallest branch in the US military arsenal and, subsequently, is constantly fighting for funds and equipment. Simply put: Nothing ever performs up to specifications. The preferred weapon system used by the USMC, the M-16 assault rifle group, is notorious for jamming. Misfires are so common-place, acronyms exist to help one deal with these inevitable occurrences. Packs break. Radios have a hundred different ways they can make a Marines life both short and/or hellish. Humvees are constantly smoking, growling and dying. Armored vehicles lose their tracks or simply shut off and stop moving. Helicopters crash. Thirty-four Marines have died in V-22 Osprey crashes alone, and looking through night-vision goggles is like trying to see bad guys 20 feet under the surface of the Ocean.
All your equipment and the entire chain of command is in a constant state of FUBAR and you spend vast amounts of time standing in formation; just standing there and then screaming at the top of your lungs. Stand by to stand by.
1. Marines Age In Dog Years
It’s a phenomenon that should be studied by science, because Marines physically age at a ridiculously high rate of speed. The pace at which you age is directly proportionate to your level of responsibility with in your unit as well. You might be impressed to talk to a wise, salty old Staff Sergeant about his views on Marine Corps life. That is, until you find out that he’s only 29 years old and only LOOKS like he’s 45.
This rapid aging curse can be seen most clearly in fresh new Lieutenants. They arrive from OCS bright-eyed, bushy tailed and ready to guide their new platoon full of young warriors to new heights of Devil Dog excellence, only to have found that they’ve aged 10 years in six months. The constant stress of being responsible for Marines, and the problems that are inherent to grunt units, are insanely taxing. That stress, combined with constant exposure to the elements, be it in Afghanistan, Iraq, or Twenty Nine Palms, California, strips away youth faster than a Boy Scout Leader with a box of puppies in the back of his windowless van.
Eric Yosomono is a former Marine Scout Sniper who served more than his four years in the service. He now writes about the beauty and seductions of Japanese women on his website, GaijinAss.com