4. The Army introduces combat skills earlier than the Marines do. The Army trains more combat tasks in its basic training that the Marines. Now while this may seem like a good idea, it’s really not. Teaching combat tasks before a person is fully indoctrinated in the love of corps and country is a very bad idea. It’s like letting a kid who just learned how to drive enter a NASCAR race. The kid may have great skills, coordination, and reflexes, but the reality is that they have only been driving less than a year.
The Marines realize that indoctrination in the love of God, Country, and Corps has priority over learning “nuts and bolts” training. In fact, if a person is properly indoctrinated, they can be taught the other skills too, ultimately mastering them with more zeal than a person who had not been indoctrinated.
Keeping this in mind, the Marines focus on just a few things in boot camp but they drive those few things home. Drill, core values, marksmanship, fighting spirit, physical fitness, and teamwork are really all you learn in Marine Boot Camp. If a recruit masters these, the rest is strictly academic. They learn the more advanced combat skills in a course called Marine Corps Combat Training (MCT).
The Army on the other hand doesn’t get as in-depth with marksmanship, although they do get proficient at shooting, but then focus on assaulting objectives, fire and maneuver, and other combat tasks Marines don’t see until much later. The Army has removed bayonet fighting from basic training based on the rationale that you are not issued a bayonet downrange (slang term for deployed combat area) and no one uses bayonets in combat anymore.
The Marines approach this concept differently. The Marines believe that bayonet drills and bayonet sparring (pugil stick fighting) instill a killer instinct that can be obtained no other way. The Marines then integrate their bayonet fighting into their own indigenous martial art called MCMAP (Marine Corps Martial Arts Program). This fighting system employs the concept of “one mind, any weapon.” A motivated Marine can pick up a shovel and kill the bad guys like Sampson swinging a donkey’s jawbone. Why? Because he is indoctrinated in the art and mentality of a warrior. The Army trains warfare – make no mistake – but it takes the front seat over indoctrination.
5. Everything in Marine Boot Camp is done with speed, intensity, and volume. In Army basic you are required to move very fast, but the tone is different. The Marines “count down” every task in boot camp. That means they say “go” or “ready move” and then you have an allotted amount of time to accomplish the task. If you don’t finish in time, you do it again, and again, and again. I saw more count downs in Airborne School than Army basic training.
I think the reason we don’t do this in the Army as much as the Marines do is because of time constraints. We have much bigger platoons and companies in Army basic training and fewer drill sergeants (or DI if you prefer) than the Marines do. You have somewhere to be and you have more skills to learn and there isn’t enough time to keep putting pants on in less than 30 seconds. But look at it this way: the Marines take a longer period of time (13 weeks in the Marines versus the Army’s 9-10 weeks) to train fewer skills and indoctrinate the mind, body, and soul of the recruit.
This might also explain why we do not spend as much time on drill in Army Basic Training. There are lots of skills to be taught and very little time to do so. Every Army unit I have ever served with has been weak in drill. Sure, we can march from point A to point B, but anything beyond that and we need to rehearse. Why? Because in the Army we do not emphasize drill like we ought to. Drill needs to be on the training schedule like PT or any other task. But we do it in basic training and then we let it go.
6. The Marines use a “rebirth system,” so to speak. Marines are not called Marines verbally or in any other way until they have “earned the title.” The Army calls their recruits “soldiers” from day one.
The Marines understand that you are not a full-fledged Marine until you have earned the insignia of the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor (the EGA as Marines call it). This is not done until the very last week in which recruits participate in an event called The Crucible. This is a 56 hour “gut check.” Recruits undergo a hell week, a series of combat team tasks over that 56 hour period on very little food and sleep.
These tasks are not complex. We are not talking about a huge military strategy here. We are talking about moving ammo cans over an obstacle course, evacuating a casualty under fire through the sucking mud, and getting a squad over a distance with obstacles and difficult terrain.
The crucible awards a “badge” or “award”… the EGA. There is a “becoming” associated with graduating Marine Boot Camp. It’s like a caterpillar emerging from a cocoon as a butterfly or in this case, emerging as an elite warrior. This attitude follows the Marine for the rest of his or her life. It is a significant and emotional event that is never ever forgotten. In order to get that similar effect in the Army, you would have to go to Airborne or even Ranger school.
We must find a way to raise the bar in the Army. We must find a way to make the Army an elite concept. It must become more than a catchy slogan “Army Strong” and a way to make money for college. We must return to the Spartan roots that made us great. Because right now, we are not great.