The first day of boot camp is a blur. It is the first day of the Receiving phase of training, and there are a ton of moving parts. For a lot of new Marines, they consider the whole Receiving process to be one of the most difficult portions of training due to the lack of the sleep and building anticipation to begin training. This article will help demystify this experience and give a small peak behind the curtain to tell you why Recruits do what they do when they show up to MCRD Parris Island and San Diego.
It all starts when you meet Marine liaisons at the airport or bus station. You are then loaded onto a white bus with government plates. You're hungry. You're tired. You're nervous. You’ll soon pass through the gates to the depot, and there is no turning back. Next, an an angry man in a funny hat will board the bus and start yelling. He’s going to tell you where you are, what to do next, and how to do it. Last, he will tell you to get off his bus. And you will do it. Fast.
So what happens next?
Yellow Footprints and Silver Hatches
Every Recruit who attends Boot Camp will stand on the yellow footprints as their first act on Parris Island. There, a Drill Instructor (DI) will provide Recruits instructions on how to stand at attention, how to speak to training personnel, and important military regulations to get their training started on the right foot. Next, Recruits will walk through the infamous Silver Hatches. These large, polished doors are the symbolic gateway of civilians beginning their transformation into United States Marines. They are identical in Parris Island and San Diego, and each Marine goes through them only once. Even DIs go through a separate doorway to enter this building.
Tons of Paperwork
If Recruits think they signed a ton of papers at MEPS, they will be surprised to find they aren’t done just yet. Paperwork will be thrown in Recruits’ faces many times during Receiving, and the first day is no different. After passing through the Silver Hatches, Recruits will be seated to begin this deluge of signatures and arbitrary documents. We highly recommend you read each one, but with the flurry of the day, you probably won’t.
Marines will ensure no unauthorized materials pass through the reception process into the training pipeline. Knives, tobacco, cell phones, jewlery, and money will all be collected from Recruits. Valuables and money will be stored or sent back home to family members on the Recruit’s dime. All other items will be discarded in the trash.
Phone Call Home
In an intermission from the yelling and filling out more paperwork, Recruits are instructed to call home to inform their loved ones they have safely arrived to commence training. This call will sound scripted and somewhat forced to recipients back home, and it very well is. There are many other Recruits waiting their turn to call and DIs breathing down Recruits’ neck as they speak. Recruits will say they have arrived safely and tell their families they will write soon with their mailing address. Family members should expect no further contact for 7-10 days after this call.
All male Recruits will receive a buzz cut, meaning all their hair will be cut off by the Depot’s top barbers. They will be directed to the barber shop, placed in a chair, and lose all the luscious locks they may have tried so hard to grow. Some may not get their new do in the first day, but don’t worry, no one is safe from the barber’s clippers. For female Recruits, they will receive instruction on how to set their hair within Marine Corps regulations.
Lines, Lines, and More Lines
The remainder of the day, and the preponderance of the Receiving process, is chock full of standing in lines waiting for the next thing. You have no choice but to get used to it, because there is always some line to be in while Marines are serving. Whether it’s the chow hall or the armory, there is always a line a Marine should be in.
A New Home
One of the last things that will happen is Recruits will be introduced to their new homes: the Squadbay. Affectionately called “the House” by most of their DIs, the squadbay will be the home plate for everything during the training cycle. Almost 24 hours after arriving on the depot, Recruits will be assigned a rack, spread linen, and permitted a few hours sleep before starting anew the next day.