The question of whether the Marines or the Army offers better training has bedeviled many a volunteer trying to choose a service and been the cause of more than a few bar brawls. The answer is the Marine Corps, due in large part to a longstanding commitment to making every marine a combat infantryman, regardless of what he actually goes on to do in his military career.
Marine boot camp lasts for 13 weeks. Army Basic Combat Training (BCT, the Army's equivalent of boot camp) lasts for 10 to 11 weeks.
Marine Boot Camp
After induction and basic processing, trainees at Marine boot camp go through a number of training phases. Part 1 lasts for four weeks, and is mostly about turning civilians into soldiers, breaking them of civilian habits, acquainting them with discipline and toughening them up through intense physical training. By the end of Part 1, a recruit should be able to march, respond to orders and be in reasonable physical condition. In Part 2, also for four weeks, the recruits receive field training, including the basic use of firearms. Part 3 involves finishing the recruit, including the field exercise called "Basic Warrior Training." The training is concluded with an intensive three days of testing called "The Crucible."
Following induction and processing, Army recruits go to a Reception Battalion, where their physical fitness is assessed. This lasts for 4 to 10 days. Those unable to exit the Reception Battalion are sent to a Fitness Training Company. Those who reach BCT itself go through three phases of training, each three weeks long. Phase 1 includes learning discipline, Army values, hand-to-hand combat, land navigation, first aid and physical training. Phase 2 includes weapons training and more physical conditioning. The last phase includes a field exercise, physical-training exam and preparing for graduation.
Both services have an exit physical-training exam. Not meeting the bare minimum standards means not passing. Army BCT requires the following to graduate: 35 push-ups in two minutes, 47 sit-ups in two minutes and a two-mile run in 16 minutes, 36 seconds. The Marines require five pull-ups in two minutes, 50 sit-ups in two minutes and a three-mile run in 24 minutes, 30 seconds.
In 2006, 13.6 percent of Army recruits washed out of BCT, while the corresponding figure for the Marine Corps was 11.7 percent. This does not necessarily mean the Army is more demanding, however. It may mean that the Army attracts more unfit or unsuitable recruits.
"Every Marine's a Rifleman"
The Marine Corps has an ethos that every Marine--whether in the infantry, flying an F-18 or a truck mechanic--is also a rifleman. All Marine Corps soldiers go on to the School of Infantry to receive additional combat training, even if they are not destined to become infantry. Only after receiving additional combat training do Marines go on to receive Military Operations Specialty (MOS) training for positions such as as radio operators, cooks, medics and corpsmen.
In the Army, the second half of basic training is to go directly to Advanced Individual Training (AIT) to learn an MOS. The result is that Army troopers who are not assigned to combat roles are generally less able to fight than their Marine Corps counterparts. Indeed, the Army's experience in Iraq reminded the leadership that just because a soldier is not supposed to be on the front line does not mean a solider won't find himself there, and so the Army recently added additional combat training for new troopers.
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