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Making Marines

Every day new people are training to become the newest members of the world’s finest fighting force, the United States military. People join for many reasons ranging from adventure to feeling a call to serve. Shannon O’neil a newly trained officer candidate says she joined the US Marines because she “wanted a guaranteed job after graduation and the lifelong benefits of being a United States Marine Corps officer.” In the US, the military is a topic discussed regularly. You most likely know a service member or are related to an active member or veteran. But military members are harder to come by than you may think. According to fivethirtyeight.com there are currently 1.4 million active duty military members serving. That means only 0.4% of Americans are serving in the military. Within that percentage, only 12% of Military are US Marines. The Marines pride themselves on being “The few, the proud” they are the most exclusive, most physically demanding and most combat ready branch of the US military. Of the 12% of Marines only 10% are officers, and 7.5% of the officers are females… 0.09% of all enlisted personnel across the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and Marines. These numbers give the Marine Corps the lowest number of female enlisted and officers. That means of the 183,501 Marines there are a total of 15,551 female Marines, and 1,605 total female Marine Corps officers. 

Chart showing the military demographics by gender and by military branch. Click photo for link.

The difference between enlisted and officer in the Marine Corps is, other than initial requirements, every Marine is a Rifleman and every Marine Corps officer is a Provisional Rifle Platoon Commander. This ensures every marine is combat ready and every officer is ready to be a leader of Marines in a time of conflict. The requirements to become an enlisted Marine is to have a high school diploma, pass the medical screening, and be physically prepared. After passing all of the background and physical screenings you run a PFT, or “physical fitness test.” This is a 3 mile run, pullups, and situps. Once you pass that, you ship to bootcamp and earn the title of United States Marine, one of the most coveted titles in the world. Becoming an officer is a bit more complicated. Initially the process is the same, you do a background check and a medical screening. Here is where it differs significantly. You have to have a college degree or be currently enrolled in a 4 year program and have a certain GPA. The process is similar to a competitive job interview, essentially you’re competing to get the job. Unlike their enlisted counterparts there is no guarantee to get the job. To become an officer you have to be “selected.” According to Marine.mil a board of Marines are convened, and based on all of your relevant skills, major, GPA, PFT score, extracurriculars, leadership ability, and commitment they choose the candidates most prepared and suited to be Marine Corps officers. Sometimes candidates go to 2 or 3 boards (which take place twice a year) before they’re selected, and some never are. 

Interview with two fully trained candidates. Shannon Oneill and Travis Barker.

Once selected, a candidate then goes to OCS or “Officer Candidate School.” OCS for the Marine Corps is the hardest department of defense training (other than special operations i.e. Army Ranger, Air Force Paratrooper, or Navy Seal) that the government has to offer. It is 10 weeks of the most physically demanding, mentally draining, and academically rigorous training that any candidate has ever experienced. At any point a candidate can be “dropped” or sent home for any reason. Some examples include lack of physical courage, failing a graded event, or even a voluntary drop. At OCS candidates are graded on three things, physical fitness, academics, and leadership. If any candidate drops below an 80% average in any of these categories they’re dropped. If a candidate makes it through the 10 weeks, they earn the title of US Marine and are given theie Eagle Globe and Anchor. The Marine Corps insignia that is earned not given. For some, this is the proudest moment of their lives. Becoming a Marine Corps officer is a feat not many can, or are willing, to accomplish. Given the extremely low number of female officers in the Marine Corps, it is even more of a feat to accomplish. In the past 5 years there have been steps taken by the US Military to recruit more female enlisted and officers. This year more female officer candidates graduated and earned the title than any year previous. The numbers have been steadily increasing and hopefully continue to do so.

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