View Full Version : ‘Turning the heat up’ on the Crucible

05-15-07, 07:29 AM
‘Turning the heat up’ on the Crucible
Aspiring Marines to face beefed-up version of boot camp’s final test
By John Hoellwarth - jhoellwarth@militarytimes.com
Posted : May 21, 2007

The recruits who began training May 8 with India and Papa companies at Parris Island, S.C., may not realize this yet, but the title “Marine” just got harder to earn, starting with them.

A new values-based recruit training schedule approved by Commandant Gen. James Conway on April 17 nearly doubles the time recruits spend developing their moral character, then puts it to the test in a beefed-up, high-stakes culminating event where success earns the title Marine and failure earns a one-way ticket home — do not pass go, do not collect an eagle, globe and anchor.

Conway’s intent breathes new life into the “Crucible,” a 54-hour mental and physical challenge involving sleep and food deprivation, by intensifying its moral, mental and physical challenges and restoring it to its original intent as boot camp’s final event, several Marine officials said.

The title Marine will be conferred upon recruits at the end of the Crucible for the first time since 2001, when the recruit depots in San Diego and Parris Island each moved the Crucible forward in the 12-week training schedule to streamline costs and provide more medical recovery time before graduation day for those injured during boot camp’s most demanding ordeal.

Until Conway gave the new training schedule his endorsement, Parris Island was sending recruits through the Crucible at Week 10 and San Diego recruits were climbing a hill at Camp Pendleton, Calif., called “the Reaper” on Week 8.

India and Papa Companies were the first to begin the modified training schedule that will bring them to the Crucible at Week 11, and the depot in San Diego is slated to adopt an identical schedule in October, according to briefing slides outlining the plan obtained by Marine Corps Times.

Parris Island’s plan for implementing Conway’s intent involves more than just copying and pasting the event from one location in the training schedule to another. Parris Island is “turning the heat up” on the Crucible, too, said Col. Mark Triplett, the depot’s assistant chief of staff for operations.

Parris Island has enhanced the physical piece of the Crucible by lengthening the forced marches and inserting a night hike never before required, Triplett said.

He said Parris Island also re-engineered the obstacles recruits encounter during the Crucible, making gaps wider and walls higher in an effort to further test the “core strength” recruits develop during combat conditioning training.
‘Better’ preparation

Lt. Col. Brian McGuire, Training and Education Command’s physical readiness program officer, said a recent review led to the implementation of physical training enhancements specifically intended “to better prepare recruits for the challenges of the Crucible and follow-on training at the schools of infantry.”

Parris Island’s physical fitness adviser for recruit training, Tim Bockelman, said these enhancements include replacing single-joint exercises with tasks that require recruits to bend along more than one axis and increasing the intensity of other activities, such as circuit training and the three-mile run.

Triplett said the Crucible is becoming more challenging mentally with the addition of “reaction course drills” that require problem solving and “mental agility.”

To challenge the recruits morally, “we’re giving them dilemmas, forcing them to make ethical decisions and forcing them to show what they’ve learned,” Triplett said.

Recruits will now be evaluated individually by drill instructors throughout the Crucible with an eye toward “whether the recruits understand and have grasped the core values,” Triplett said. “By Week 11, if they haven’t, they’re going home.”

Until now, recruits could still fail the Crucible, but drill instructors didn’t watch them as closely and they weren’t necessarily sent home.

The briefing slides show the Corps’ approach to instilling values. The foundation is laid in the first two weeks, when recruits are introduced to the Corps’ values, ethics, customs and courtesies, as well as personal values such as moral courage.

Weeks 3 through 10 expose recruits to the policies that shape organizational values, such as the Law of Land Warfare and the codes of conduct and military justice, according to the slides. Under the new training schedule, senior drill instructors are given a roughly 20 percent increase in the amount of time they spend openly discussing values with recruits during this period.

To accommodate the increase in senior drill instructor time, recruits will spend less time on basic warrior training in boot camp, according to the briefing slides.

Conway’s April 17 decision calls for the squad automatic weapon and AT-4 rocket training — now part of boot camp’s basic warrior training package — to “migrate back to SOI when SOI is ready,” which is expected to be sometime early next year, according to the briefing.

Then, there’s Week 11, the Crucible, which accounts for the entire evaluation phase of training.

Triplett said the instructors who live with the recruits in the field throughout the Crucible will now be taking notes on how each performs on the event’s mental and physical tests, but especially on its moral challenges.

Turning the Crucible into a test of core values is “something we hammered away at for a long, long time” out of deference to how central values are to being a Marine, said another senior Parris Island official close to the plan.

“When a kid is in any way, shape or form found to be cheating, lying or anything, that kid is gone and he doesn’t get a second chance,” he said. “We’re not talking about the kid who gets hurt. We’re talking about the guys who show a lack of moral commitment.”

If a recruit shows the kind of character deficiency it would take to fail the Crucible, that recruit has just identified himself as the type of person likely to make the wrong decision when faced with a moral or ethical question on or off the battlefield, which is why he’s best sent packing, Triplett said.

Triplett said historical data show recruits infrequently fail the Crucible for character deficiencies, but with simultaneous increases in the event’s difficulty and the level of scrutiny recruits can expect, there’s no telling how attrition rates might change.

In publishing his intent for changes to boot camp training, Conway wrote that he wants the values of honor, courage and commitment “imprinted on [recruits’] souls during recruit training.”

At the very heart of Conway’s intent and Parris Island’s plan is the legacy of retired Gen. Charles Krulak, who as commandant in 1995 invented the Crucible and placed it at the end of recruit training to cement the same values Conway now wants to tattoo on Marines’ souls.

Shortly after Krulak became commandant in 1995, there was an incident on Okinawa, Japan, in which two Marines and a sailor attacked a local girl.

“At that point in time, it became clear to me that something was terribly wrong when two Marines would do something like that instead of one Marine attempting and the other Marine stopping him,” Krulak said during a May 10 telephone interview.

In addressing the issue, Krulak pioneered the use of values-based training and a crucible to cement it among recruits.

Krulak said his original intent for the Crucible as a culminating event was threefold. First, it would be the drill instructor’s last opportunity to give a “go or no go” to the individual recruit.

Second, it would “emphasize and reinforce all the core values training that was ongoing throughout recruit training,” he said. “These young men and women came in, some of them with a good sense of right and wrong, others with a not-so-good sense.”

Last, it would “bring the recruit from an emphasis on self discipline to where we want them to be in combat, which is selflessness,” he said.
‘Defining moment’

When Parris Island moved the Crucible to Week 10 and San Diego moved it to Week 8 in 2001, it ceased to match Krulak’s original intent, he said.

“At that point in recruit training, the individual recruit was not prepared, mentally, physically or morally, to undertake a gut check like the Crucible. They did it, but it didn’t have the impact it was supposed to have,” Krulak said. “They did more than marginalize it; they destroyed it. That’s not to say the Crucible didn’t remain the Crucible. The trouble is, they did not understand the intent. The intent was to be the defining moment that is used to instill in the Marine the core values manifested by selflessness.”

In an April 23 interview two days before turning over his post as the sergeant major of the Marine Corps, Sgt. Maj. John Estrada said the Corps is again facing the same trends Krulak invented the Crucible to address.

“I am troubled by some of the recent incidents we’ve had, conduct on and off the battlefield. I’m talking about the Hadithah, the Hamdaniya, MarSOC,” Estrada said in reference to allegations that Marines in each case killed unarmed non-combatants. “We’ve got a great reputation as Marines, and when those things happen, it chips away at what I consider our credibility.”

In a May 2 meeting with reporters in the Pentagon, TECom commanding general, Maj. Gen. George Flynn, said those incidents Estrada mentioned “don’t play in directly” to the changes, though the incidents that occurred before the Corps began reviewing recruit training in November “were all data points that were considered in this.”

“But keep in mind that the Marine Corps standard for values and ethics is 100 percent. Ninety-nine percent is not good enough,” he said. “We want 100 percent on values and ethics, and that’s what this is about.”

Krulak said Conway met with him shortly after becoming commandant in November and “asked some very, very good questions” about the Crucible, among other things.

“General Conway recognized that what makes us a breed apart, not only in the eyes of the American people, but in the eyes of the enemy, is that we’re not only warriors, but we’re warriors with a very deep values system,” Krulak said. “Some of the things that have happened in the recent past, those started sending the signal that we need to re-emphasize this.”

Krulak said his impression was that Conway clearly foresaw a “long and hard conflict, not just in Iraq, but around the world” and understood that winning it would require not only “great warriors, but also men and women of character.”

“He obviously sensed that this was an area the Corps could improve upon,” Krulak said. “I think it is the right decision, and I think it will make a major difference for our Corps.”


05-15-07, 07:42 AM
well, that just motivates me even more to go, and it'll make my anchor, globe, and eagle mean a hell of a lot more to me!

05-15-07, 11:44 AM
well, that just motivates me even more to go, and it'll make my anchor, globe, and eagle mean a hell of a lot more to me!

Well said, I would never want to earn it easily. The harder...The more pride when/if you recieve the eagle, globe and anchor!

06-06-07, 02:38 AM
and what happens if you are to short to climb the walls im only 5'4 and just turned 18 today so will that effect me in any way i see me as being one of the kids in boot camp

06-20-07, 05:59 PM
Im sure it wont, I remember my recruiter showing me a Marine that was 4'9 and just finished bootcamp, if I recall. You should have no problem stay motivated and kick as*. I read it but didn't catch when all this would go in effect... at least for Sandiego. It was more into detail about Corps Values than anything else, Its a good thing but I didn't pick up any dates of change.

06-20-07, 06:18 PM
Even though it will be hard, we all can make it. no matter who you are. just believe in yourself and you can do anything. no matter how hard. and just remember that if we want something bad enough, when the time comes for the crucible we can do all of it. it will be tough, but we all can make it through. small, tall, weak, strong, anybody. just dont give up hope and keep fighting.

06-20-07, 06:31 PM
4' 9'' ?? Are you sure?

06-25-07, 03:36 AM
It'd be nice to know some of the examples of changes made. However since the first group at Parris Island started May 8th, and I ship out July 23rd, so much for me finding out any of that before I ship out. D'oh on the timing factor. However I'll be sure to post some examples when I come out though. Hopefully with that EGA.

07-10-07, 01:59 AM
Oh this is awesome. This will also be in effect in SD later, right? No matter how hard it is, I want it and I am going to get it! I can't wait til I go! I've got lots of time so I will start now with truly learning those core values and putting them in my daily life. Turn that heat up, Marines will only come out stronger!

07-10-07, 02:41 PM
boy this sounds tough,but it will make that eagle,globe,anchor all the sweeter :)