MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO --
As the sun peaked over the horizon, the recruits of Company M checked over their equipment once more in preparation to shoulder their 30-pound packs, fall in line and complete a new seven-mile conditioning hike around the depot on Jan. 12.
When Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James T. Conway assumed command as commandant, his planning guidance included modifications to the recruit training schedule. The modifications included moving the Crucible from the eighth week of training to the 11th week to better reflect the transformation of a recruit into a Marine.
The seven-mile hike on the depot was introduced so that the recruits could maintain their physical conditions in preparation for the Crucible.
Before the hike recruits spend three weeks at Weapons Field Training Battalion,Edson Range, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif. There they hiked, fired weapons, pitched tents, dug trenches for protection and ate field rations.
The depot hike takes place two weeks after the recruits return to the depot from their field training. Carrying packs, rifles and other gear requires endurance that must be built up and maintained throughout training.
"We need to keep up their conditioning for the Crucible with this sustainment hike so they are capable of carrying the necessary items in combat or training," said Staff Sgt. Jason K. Kawaihalau, drill instructor, Company M, from Anahola, Hawaii.
The hike route took the recruits by depot buildings on the National Historical Buildings registrar such as Quarters One, the commanding general’s home. They also pass by a stucco walkway of buildings spanning the length of Shepherd Memorial Drill Field referred to as the arcade, and the depot theater, McDougal Hall.
"I got to see parts of the (depot) that I haven’t before," said Recruit Michael J. Chesny, Platoon 3271, Company M.
The depot’s flat terrain made the hike easier for the recruits who in about a week cover 45 miles of mountainous terrain in about a week at Camp Pendleton during the 54-hour Crucible.
The drill instructors also taught the recruits about Marine Corps history, rank structure and the Uniform Code of Military Justice by appointing a recruit to lead the platoon in reciting those facts as they hiked.
Many of the recruits of Company M said they enjoyed the hike and added that it was less intense than previous ones.
"The hike was definitely easier than the ones up at (Camp Pendleton)," said Chesny, from Claremore, Okla.
Recruits pack a slightly lighter load than they carried at Edson Range to prevent injury, but the recruits are still required to wear their flak jackets, Kevlar helmets, and carry their canteens and other miscellaneous items issued during their first weeks on the depot.
"We had lighter packs than when we were up north, which made the hike easier," said Recruit Klint W. Jackson, Platoon 3271, Company M, from Austin, Texas. "I definitely enjoyed the scenery and the hills a lot more at (Camp Pendleton)."
Once they graduate from boot camp, these new Marines will continue to carry packs, rifles and other items on various hikes during Marine Combat Training at Camp Pendleton. During this follow-on training, they will build more endurance, hone the techniques they learned in boot camp and learn the common skills needed in combat.