The USMC recruit training schedule is broken into three phases.
In the first phase, the drill instructors instill the strict discipline in order to break the recruits down. In the second phase, the recruits undergo field training operations including how to properly fire their weapons. Perhaps the most dramatic and defining moment comes near the end of phase three. That's where The Crucible, the platoon's final test, puts recruits through 54 hours of hell.
Through all the sweat and hard work, it's easy for the recruits to lose sight of the end. However, as we found out, there's plenty of inspiration along the way.
January 10, 2013
MCRD - Parris Island, SC.
In the Marine Corps, the suffering is shared.
Before sunrise, a chorus of chanting sounds like an alarm clock. The recruits that dot the physical training fields of Parris Island are in their first grueling phase of training. Like the dark before dawn, hope fades fast.
But coming in the distance is the running thunder of Pvt. Justin Peter and Pvt. Matthew Duckworth and the rest of Lima Company. These new marines roar by to show these new recruits what could be.
"Having your name tape say US Marine and the Eagle Globe & Anchor in your hand, it just makes you stand taller," said Private Justin Peter of Tell City.
It also makes you scream louder. The recruits Lima Company races by are just two weeks into their 13 weeks of basic training. The fresh platoon's intake day was Christmas Day. They share the feeling with Justin Peter and Matthew Duckworth even if they can't share the title of Marine.
Peter, a Tell City native, and Duckworth, a Henderson native, started in October. That left no time for Thanksgiving turkey, presents under the tree or countdowns to 2013.
"You miss your family back home but you're doing it for them and you're doing it for yourself," said Pvt. Peter. "Everyone else is doing the same thing here. Everyone misses their family. We're all here together."
"In a way, we kind of hung onto each other," said Pvt. Duckworth. "We quietly sang Christmas songs behind the drill instructor's backs to keep our morale up."
Morale is fickle and can be an obstacle in itself. It comes and goes. It pushes, it pulls.
The Marine Corps strips recruits of their individuality in order to build unity.
"Seeing [other recruits] keep going gave me the drive and motivation to keep going myself," said Duckworth.
"You're being mixed with a whole bunch of people from different areas of the world and different beliefs," said Duckworth. "Eventually, you learn how to adapt to them and actually you become really good friends with them."
Parris Island would be a nice place to visit on vacation. You know, if it weren't preparing Marines for combat.
The USMC tailors it's training based on the wars of today, often referred to as 'The Three Block Wars.' The Marine Corps focuses on combat conditioning including running with full gear and overcoming the obstacles the battlefield presents.
That training and conditioning culminates in The Crucible.
The Crucible, which is held at the derelict Page Airfield on the Marine base, is the final test for recruits after nearly three months of instruction. It's a 54-hour gauntlet comprising of little sleep, little food and 48-miles of marching.
"You're crawling through the dirt, you're crawling through mud, it's cold outside, you just gotta push," said Peter.
The Crucible brings dozens of tests of the body and mind, all of which are impossible without teamwork. Many of the gauntlet's challenges are named after Medal of Honor recipients. It's almost as if to remind the recruits in it of what could be.
In the Corps, everything is earned through grit and dirt. Passing the biggest test comes with the biggest reward.
"The drill instructor who has been yelling and screaming at me, him looking at me in the eye and saying congratulations, it was the greatest feeling ever," said Duckworth.
It's not just a pat on the back. It's much more than that for peter and Duckworth. Upon conquering The Crucible, for the first time, they can call themselves marines.
"Being at the monument getting my Eagle Globe & Anchor, I can honestly tell you that was the best moment of my life," said Duckworth.
"I've changed, conquered and done everything I've could to stand here right now," said Peter.
In the Marine Corps, the suffering is shared. That way, the satisfaction will be too.
"You're always going to be a Marine."
Wednesday night on Eyewitness News, we'll bring you the story and the moment many have been waiting for. Peter and Duckworth receive their final orders at Graduation.
To see any of the previous stories, click here.
Part 1 - Footprints