Coronavirus | COVID-19 Updates

This is what Marine boot camp looks like during a pandemic

COVID-19 continues to spread around the globe but recruits about the recruit depots in San Diego, California, and Parris Island, South Carolina, are still getting yelled at by their drill instructors on the daily.

Changes, however, have been made, safety precautions implemented and Parris Island has even temporarily halted incoming recruits following an increase in COVID-19 cases among drill instructors and recruits.

Capt. Bryan McDonnell did not confirm the current number of COVID-19 cases aboard Parris Island citing recent Defense Department operational security guidance, but he acknowledged cases were higher than the four Marines previously reported.

Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Michael Means Jr. gives instructions to new recruits of Echo Company, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, Jan. 8, 2018, on Parris Island, S.C. This begins their 13-week challenge to become a Marine. (Cpl. Vanessa Austin/Marine Corps)
Parris Island halts arrival of new recruits over COVID-19 concerns

Parris Island said in a news release that in the future incoming recruits will enter a 14-day “staging period” where they will undergo a medical screening and be provided classes before stepping on the yellow footprints — the beginning step to becoming a Marine.

Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego recently published a series of photographs of newly arriving recruits with Bravo Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, depicting what training and reception looks like during a viral pandemic.

From the first moments being hurried off the bus by a screaming drill instructor to standing on the iconic yellow footprints that begins the journey to becoming a Marine, recruits are practicing social distancing to help slow the spread of the virus.

Staff Sgt. Fernando NunezMartinez, a drill instructor with Receiving Company, Support Battalion, welcomes new recruits with Bravo Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, during receiving at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, March 30, 2020. (Cpl. Brooke C. Woods/ Marine Corps)
Staff Sgt. Fernando NunezMartinez, a drill instructor with Receiving Company, Support Battalion, welcomes new recruits with Bravo Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, during receiving at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, March 30, 2020. (Cpl. Brooke C. Woods/ Marine Corps)

Even the bus ride appears to depict Marines seated every other seat to give some distance between recruits. Though the San Diego depot does have smaller training companies this time of year, according to Capt. Martin Harris, a spokesman for Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego.

New recruits with Bravo Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, make their phone call home during receiving at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, March 30, 2020. Recruits were told to sanitize the phones and their hands after use for everyone's overall health and to prevent the spread of COVID-19. (Cpl. Brooke C. Woods/ Marine Corps)
New recruits with Bravo Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, make their phone call home during receiving at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, March 30, 2020. Recruits were told to sanitize the phones and their hands after use for everyone's overall health and to prevent the spread of COVID-19. (Cpl. Brooke C. Woods/ Marine Corps)

Every recruit gets a lightning fast phone call home to let family and loved ones know they’re safe. The rooms is usually jam packed with recruits shoulder to shoulder. Now recruits are spaced out and asked to sanitize the phones after each use.

New recruits with Bravo Company, 1st Recruit training Battalion, stand in line to receive their initial haircuts at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, March 30, 2020.(Cpl. Brooke C. Woods/Marine Corps)
New recruits with Bravo Company, 1st Recruit training Battalion, stand in line to receive their initial haircuts at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, March 30, 2020.(Cpl. Brooke C. Woods/Marine Corps)

The barbershops are still open aboard the depots despite barbershops shutting down in states across the U.S. including California where the governor has ordered residents to stay at home.

But recruits are still getting their heads completely shaved. Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David Berger, recently told reporters during a Pentagon press briefing that things could get so bad at the depots that barbers stop coming to work and Marines might have to cut each other’s hair.

A new recruit with Bravo Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, receives his initial haircut during receiving at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, March 30, 2020. Recruits received haircuts immediately after arriving to create uniformity. (Cpl. Brooke C. Woods/ Marine Corps)
A new recruit with Bravo Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, receives his initial haircut during receiving at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, March 30, 2020. Recruits received haircuts immediately after arriving to create uniformity. (Cpl. Brooke C. Woods/ Marine Corps)

Barbershops across major Marine bases remain open. Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, has even expanded hours and added additional staff at some of the barber shops aboard the installation. A barbershop on a Marine logistics base in Albany, Georgia, shuttered on March 25 to help slow the spread of the virus.

But don’t worry, despite the pandemic, some traditions never change. The Corps’ recruit depots are still hell on earth for the handful of recruits who accept the challenge to earn the title.

A recruit in the photo below has attracted the wrath of three drill instructors.

Drill instructors with Receiving Company, Support Battalion, correct a new recruit of Bravo Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, during receiving at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, March 30, 2020. (Cpl. Brooke C. Woods/ Marine Corps)
Drill instructors with Receiving Company, Support Battalion, correct a new recruit of Bravo Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, during receiving at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, March 30, 2020. (Cpl. Brooke C. Woods/ Marine Corps)

The series of photos depict in-processing of newly arriving recruits before they pick up with their training companies and platoons.

The depots have made other changes to include six feet of spacing between squad bay bunks at Parris Island and Marines sleeping on every other rack aboard San Diego.

There’s also preliminary screening efforts occurring at the depots and prior to shipping to boot camp during in-processing at Military Entrance Processing Stations.

“Recruits are being screened for high-risk of exposure and fever or common flu-like symptoms prior to shipping to recruit training and MEPS and again once they arrive,” Harris told Marine Corps Times in an emailed statement.

“The medical staff here is working very hard to ensure that each recruit is screened and understands the symptoms and preventative measures,” Harris said.

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