Transformation into Marines

It begins here

Their stomachs twist and turn as the bus rolls to a halt in front of the yellow footprints. They are dead silent. The recruits are just moments away from the inevitable collision of civilian and drill instructor.

The turbulent transformation begins when they step onto the yellow footprints, and a drill instructor begins his speech with a simple greeting, “Congratulations on your decision to become a United States Marine. It is a decision you will never regret.”

They make their way through a one-way door adorned with the infamous eagle, globe and anchor. That is where the recruits take their first steps of the training they signed up for.

Their minds are blank as they turn on autopilot. When told to do something, they seem to do it without thinking.

The hard-learned lessons of the Corps are beginning to soak into their minds.

As their time at receiving begins to slowly creep into the early morning hours, they have already had a haircut, been given nearly all of their gear and are beginning to show signs of sleep deprivation. This is when they will be given the chance to put on their Marine Pattern camouflage utility uniforms for the first time.

Finally, their second day on Parris Island is here. However, the week-long process is not complete, they still have medical in-processing and field gear issue to undergo before their training cycle begins.

Receiving Drill Instructor Staff Sgt. Kendall Jones appears from the darkness as he prepares to welcome the Corps newest recruits to the Depot’s Recruit Processing Center March 13.

Nicholaus Tiger, Big Cypress Reservation, Fla., looks at the phone in front of him as he receives instructions to call home.

A group of new recruits stare blankly at Receiving Barber Tootie Whitehead as they wait for the inevitable – their first Marine haircuts.

After a long night at the Recruit Processing Center, Recruit Lebron Massey, Ringgold, Ga., checks the fit of his new cover.

Recruits stand at attention as they are welcomed aboard the Depot. This is the first of many steps they will go through on the road to becoming a United States Marine.

Receiving Drill Instructor Staff Sgt. Kendall Jones orders a new recruit to open the silver hatches at the Recruit Processing Center. The hatches are a ‘one way trip,’ which symbolize the beginning of the transformation from civilian to United States Marine. Once the receiving process has begun, recruits will spend the rest of their night finalizing paperwork, getting haircuts, turning in all civilian clothing and belongings and are issued their first Marine Corps uniforms.


Eighteen unnaturally quiet individuals sit motionless as their clothes gather pools of nervous sweat, which echoes their unanimous belief that they made a terrible mistake. Questions such as, “What have you done?” and “When can we leave?” occupy their thoughts, while the driver smiles as if he enjoys their trepidation.

The bus slices through the primal darkness and blinding fog like an osprey with a tail wind. The passengers sense that their conveyance thrives on fear and relishes haste.

Thirteen weeks from now they will laugh, recalling their first hours on the island with a smile, but 13 weeks is 91 days and 91 days can seem like an eternity at 2 a.m.
As the bus jerks to a halt, the four tires and 18 hearts stop. The front door folds open and the silence screams “run.”

One of the first items that recruits will receive is a Smart Card, which is similar to an Automatic Teller Machine card. It is one of the only forms of money that recruits are allowed to use during recruit training.

Confident footsteps are heard approaching as the most intimidating person the young men have ever seen enters the bus like a statue on wheels. “Get off my bus,” screams Mr. Strangehat. For a second no one moves, as if salvation lies within their dampened seats.

Recruiting commercials and fire breathing monsters dance through their heads, as their new friend shows no signs of slowing down or shutting up. The confused passengers stumble into the moonlit street to find another statue directing them to stand on sets of yellow footprints that are worn from years of devil pups’ first steps.

Recruits are given time to make one phone call home as soon as they arrive aboard The Depot. The short call must follow strict guidelines. ‘This is recruit Smith. I arrived safely on Parris Island. Do not send any food or bulky items. I will contact you in three to five days via postcard with my address. Bye.’