Summary: We can trust that God’s training program is one rooted in love as we endure the hardships of life.
The Marine Corps "Crucible" is the final test of an 11-week season of endurance and training for Marine recruits. The fires of the Crucible burn away the dross and provide the final passage for young men and women to receive the coveted title of "Marine."
The entire test and training is painful, exacting, and presses everyone beyond what they thought they had to offer, but it is a regimen, a system of purpose. Colonel Bob Hayes says, "We have two missions in the Marine Corps -- to win battles and make Marines. The Crucible is one piece of that effort."
The Crucible emphasizes trainee teamwork under stress. Recruits get eight hours of sleep during the entire 54-hour exercise. They get very little food and are responsible for rationing out the food to themselves. If that were not enough, the recruits also have to go through tough physical activities like road marches and night infiltration courses. During the 54 hours of the Crucible the recruits march about 40 miles. Sergeant Roger Summers, who works closely with the grueling Crucible challenge said,
It isn’t long before the recruits are tired and hungry, but as they keep going they realize they can call on reserves they never knew they had. Some of these recruits do things they never thought they could do. Some of them come from middle-class homes where everything has been handed to them. Others come from poorer homes where nothing was ever expected of them. If they finish the Crucible, they have accomplished something.
One recruit put it best. "I am going to finish this," he said. "And when I do, it will be the most positive thing I have done in my life." The recruit was part of a group that recently experienced the Crucible. They began the Crucible at 3 a.m. with a six-mile road march from their barracks to Page Airfield, the Crucible site. Once there the recruits placed their gear in huts and prepared for the first of four four-hour events.
Each of the four events of the Crucible has a number of "warrior stations" that the team of recruits must work together to overcome or solve. Each station is named for a Marine hero and the drill instructor has a recruit read a brief explanation of how the hero’s actions exemplify the Corps and its values before they undertake the challenge. Sergeant Summers says,
I choose a different leader for each station. That way, all the recruits understand what it’s like to be the leader and what they have to do to be a follower. You see the team learn as they go along. At the beginning, they just charge ahead without a plan and without asking if anyone has an idea. By the end of the Crucible you see them working together better, getting advice from all team members and solving more of the problems.
The first day of the Crucible recruits face two different challenges or "warrior stations." The recruits grab food and water when they can. After the first two events comes a five-mile night march. "The night march was the toughest thing we’ve done here," said 18-year-old Pfc. Josh Lunceford of Charleston, W.Va. When they finally get through all of the paces of the first day, the recruits hit the rack for four hours of sleep before they begin their second day.
On the second day the recruits will finish with the final two events. "On the second day they are tired and hungry and it really starts to show," said Capt. John H. Rochford, Delta Company commander. "They start getting short with one another, but they realize after the first day they have to work together to finish. No one gets through the Crucible alone."
At the end of the second day, the recruits go through a night infiltration course and then hit the rack for another four hours. When they get up, they face a nine-mile march and the end of the Crucible.
The final march of the Crucible begins at 4 a.m. None of the recruits want to drop out at this point, but all of them are tired, weary, and ready to quit. As the sun rises, the recruits cross the DI Bridge. Once across, the drill instructors start marching calls and the recruits join in. As they get closer to the main base, the marching calls get louder and the recruits grow stronger, until they reach the Parade Deck. The recruits form up around a half-size replica of the Marine Corps Memorial -- also known as the Iwo Jima Memorial. There, a significant transformation takes place.
"We’re not just giving them basic training, we’re turning them into Marines," Captain Rochford said. "There’s more to being a Marine than knowing how to fire a weapon. There’s a whole tradition behind it, and we want these recruits to measure up to the men and women who went before them."