Be Prepared Before Enlisting in the Marines


Getting Started

Many people pursue joining marines out of job necessity, a means for college, upholding a family legacy, or glory in serving their country. Every marine I have met is proud of their place and the ability to serve. However, some regret certain steps they did not take or information they wished they had before joining. Here is a list of the top ten facts a citizen should know before signing on. 

1. The Recruiter is Paid to Get Signatures  

The recruiter makes a paycheck to get signatures. His entire work performance based on the number of new recruits he gets to join. That does not mean new recruits should go into a recruiters office thinking he/she cannot trust him. Take the time to think through every word and detail exchanged and not get caught up in the hype. Consider a car salesman, they have to sell cars and put on the big smile and talk about what a great deal the customer's getting. On the other hand certain details that he ignores may have big impact on the customer's willingness to buy and will avoid those details to get the sale. He is not trying to scam the customer but he has a family to feed and will use tactics that get customer focused on buying without taking every detail into account.  The recruiter is in the same place, trying to get that sale. Nonetheless potential recruits need to understand this is not a car sale but four to six years of their life. Ask the hard questions and stay focused, if a recruiter does not feel on the up and up ask a marine who has already joined or another recruiter known for their honesty. In life and in the marines the selfish and untrustworthy exist do the homework to tell the difference. Avoid playing the fool by taking every precaution and weigh every option. The decision to join and sign that piece of paper will decide life for the next half decade. 

2. In the Marines Everyone has Backup

Keep an eye open for other marines recommending joining up. A common tactic for promotion is getting other people to join the marines. Recruiters can offer recommendations to other marines who help them convince students and teenagers to join. To get honest advice without the bravado ask hard questions and study the responses. When marines  avoid hard questions with sudden subject changes or they are focusing on the cool factor stay persistent. Take the same tactics recommended for recruiters, talk to marines with unbiased opinions with no connection to a recruiters office. Get their take and do the homework to know everything about the process.

3. Get Every Promise and Detail in Writing 

None of the promises made by a recruiter mean anything if not on paper. He and other marines can promise whatever they want and never have to deliver because it was not in the signed contract. Take nothing to chance in this situation, read over the contract and then have lawyer read over it in detail. Anything promised add in a legal writing format so that there are no loopholes. Promises of a bonus pay, vacation time, anything and everything so long as the signature is on paper. There is a tactic where the day before initiates leave recruiters "loose" the contract and apply pressure to sign a new contract. The changes range drastically, a four-year contract going to a five or six-year contract. They do this tactic in front of other marines to make sure the recruit signs, without taking the time to read or understand the details. At any point if there is pressure to sign a contract especially under said circumstances go home. No shame in waiting to get a fair opportunity, it may take a while to get the paperwork organized again but the difference leads to four years of proud and productive service or a six-year nightmare.

4. If Someone Does Not Read the Contract they Sign they Still Have to Honor the Terms


Understand that signing that contract makes a citizen United States Marine Corp's property. Essentially signing a blank check that includes everything up to sacrificing their life for whatever cause deemed necessary. Signing that contract swears in a marine's duty to uphold the United States Constitution and expected to support a higher standard than anyone else. That kind of agreement takes guts and devotion few can deliver. Marines are human and can lose track to what they agree to on that paper. Knowing exactly what that contract means and represents is paramount to knowing the role of a marine. Answering that higher calling is real and expected through an entire enlisting. Understand that where to go, what to do, how to do it, is now answered by uncle Sam. Marines do not go where they want to they go wherever they do the most good and if they do not like it, tough. "Orders are orders" is a common phrase associated with all military branches because of their meaning. Orders are absolute, followed and accomplished regardless of what the marine wants. In order to survive these types of situations a marine has to get over his pride and what he wants. It is not about any single person but the unit. When a recruit signs the contract it is not just about that the individual anymore.  

5. Everything Looks Great From A Distance until it Comes Under the Microscope 

The Marine Corps has a glamorous reputation embodying American pride. Warriors traveling the world and shooting everyday. The first to arrive to battle and the last to leave. Upon closer inspection things get a little less exciting and lot more hard and tedious. Recruiters will brag about how women love marines and will clamor over who gets the autograph first. True, women do like marines, in hometowns but most marines get posted to locations with thousands of other marines to compete with. Hardly the easiest situation to get the girls to swoon with that much competition around.


The shooting guns and firing explosives is a small part of the Marine Corps training and daily routines. Most time spent on dry runs with fake weapons to set up muscle memory to know exactly what to do in any situation. Hundreds of hours practicing the same drills over and over to make sure that actions happen without thought.  Marines know how to work their guns and drills in their sleep to the level of repetition but it is the same drills over and over and over, such training grow tedious. Furthermore the amount of time it takes to hear orders from command can take hours. Infantry have to wait for the next days orders and depending on command that could go from 30 minutes to hours of just standing in place. Not the most exciting end to each day. Worst of all the routines is Thursday bringing field day. A base spanning inspection of all living quarters and work station cleanliness standing. The worst part is if the Marine Corps performs a white glove inspection. A commanding officer goes in to inspect an area for standard. The entire unit has to clean the area if it does not meet standard, even if they do not live in the quarters. 

6. Those Who Love their Job Never Work a Day in their Life 

The type of job will decide the tasks assigned for the next four years.  The turnover rate for marine infantry is 75% leave after the first enlistment. The physical labor where their bodies break down, time away from families, constant travel grows old over the years. The friend providing this information signed into to infantry. His pride is clear but wants to stress the difficulty of the post. Looking past the glamor and at the grit there are weeks, even months spent hiking and field training without any contact with the outside world. Some may hear these details and feel a sense of power and pride at the sacrifice and strength required to train so hard. No doubt these maneuvers are absolute in their necessity to keep marines alive and the constant drilling to perfect them reflects their importance. Nonetheless most have never experienced such training and there is no way to covey the difficulty of keeping it up week after week. Infantry does not have a set work structure, marines work until relieved and is not for everyone. 

Men working in fieldCredit: WikimediaWorking in factoryCredit: Wikimedia SurgeonCredit: wikimedia

Consider all jobs especially the jobs that offer more secure work weeks, pay the best, give skill sets outside of the marines and provide career options, feel fulfilling, room to move up in the ranks, specialized or simple skill set requirements. All these questions need addressed to understand what MOS to pursue.Many civilians looking from the outside see that 20 year retirement mark as the obvious choice without realizing the difficulties of that kind of sacrifice. Only 25% of marines stay on after their first enlistment so statistically speaking most will not retire from the marines. The military as a whole allows retirement at 20 cumulative years but switching branches often leads to lower ranks and reduced pay. Look over all the options when considering an MOS both short and long-term. Make the marines an opportunity instead of a headache.

7. Every Job has Requirements Before Hiring commitmentsCredit:

Before joining citizens need to know the full list of requirements to join:

  • Meet physical, mental, and moral standards. The smallest physical requirements for marines to maintain during in enlistment are 10 pull ups, run 3 miles, and 100 sit ups in one minute. Take heed this is the minimum, depending on the Military Occupational Specialty or MOS (marine term for job assigned to recruits) that gets assigned, a recruit may work out every week to meet standard.
  • US citizenship or designation as resident alien.
  • Have a high school diploma.
  • Age of 17-29 (with parental consent at 17).
  • Pass the Armed Service Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) Test.
  • Pass a Military Entrance Processing Station medical exam.

8. Work Smarter not Harder StudyCredit:

Do not underestimate the value of smarts. A high score on the after mentioned ASVAB will open a lot of opportunity within the Marines. With a long-term career in mind study for the exam. Know the necessary scores for whatever MOS seems particularly appealing. Take advantage of the score and the value it provides. The more valuable an asset the more the Marines will work to make it worth a recruits time to join. The more doors available provides options to opportunities in the future. A classmate of mine went into the Marines and got a nuclear engineering degree for free and now has a job at a nuclear plant. The more knowledge makes a marine more useful and thus more valuable. There is no shame in recognizing that worth and capitalizing on it.

9. Know Every Detail About College Credit

A major draw to the Marines is the promise of a free education through tuition assistance. The programs in place do pay for classes while on active duty the problem is the amount of free time each MOS allows for classes. Infantry have a hard time because of the little free time available to them during weekly to month-long training sessions. That is infantry though, some MOS allow for more time to take classes or have the added benefit of providing college credit while on duty. More specialized positions like engineering and medicine allow field time to count as credit or even need a degree before those recruits can start their MOS. It all depends on the amount of homework done to ensure classes can fit in with a schedule.

College credit comes with completing basic training and MOS classes. My contact's has 19 hours total but they are primarily electives that count as physical fitness. However college is not what he planned for in joining the marines. Options are available to take classes just plan and make sure everything is in place before signing on. That way a recruit has a good paying job, acquiring necessary skills, college credit, and a Marine enlistment to add to a résumé. Take the initiative and know every step and detail necessary to get college credit. 

10. The 90/10 Split! Proud to Serve but at What Cost?

The contact that I spoke with is infantry and much of his experience comes from the struggles of that MOS, but learn from his experience. There is a 90/10 split of what he considers worth it. Ninety percent of the time marines will have to go through long hours of manual labor. Mundane, hard, and endless tasks like cleaning weapons, vehicle maintenance, work and living area inspections, uniform standard tests, long hours with no set time, constant formation and drill training, and inefficient work tactics that do not make sense. The weeks months and even years away from family and the potential to have to move all the time. The marines who want to serve to see war may not to get to go on tour at all with things dying down in the middle east. This generation's war is over with no sign of when the next will follow. The idea of clear battle parameters and distinction of the enemy no longer exsists in today's type of war. Terrorists hide among the civilians waiting in ambush with suicide bombings, IED (Improvised Explosive Device) around roads, or sniper fire to pick off unsuspecting targets. By the time the assault happens the enemy is masked by the crowd. A marine is lucky to get a clear understanding of what just happened much less fire a shot. There is no sugar-coating here, marine life is hard, it is not for everyone.

Raising the American FlagCredit:

Nonetheless there is another ten percent so good it is worth enduring the rest. My friends went through the other 90 percent everyday but still feel proud to earn their designation as a marine. Through his time as an LAV driver he has participated, seen, and done things that no one in the world outside military life can relate to. Going on his first tour and saying goodbye to family and friends for potentially the last time provided new appreciation for what a marine has had his whole life. The realization that the mission may force a marine to sacrifice themselves provides a clarity to the value of life and importance to the job. When shaking the hand of other marine veterans from World War II, Korea, and Vietnam there is a respect and understanding that only another marine can understand. Overcoming boot camp, graduating training, and surviving the first tour brings new perspective on what a man is capable of. Shattering limits and performing the impossible no matter how hard or dangerous is the definition of what a marine overcomes. Knowing that the training makes someone capable of saving lives and trusting their brothers in arms to save theirs brings out a sense of pride. Knowing they are part of the Marine Corp raises a higher standard to live up to and those who manage it become part of The Few, The Proud, The Marines. Consider all these details and if someone still wishes to join let this be  guide to know how to prepare for such a calling and gain the respect and support of those that served, serve, and will serve next to them.