Marine Corps given 15 Days to Rebuild Boot Camp as Co-ed

I recently wrote a long piece on Women in the Military over some major changes to the way that the US Marine Corps is going to fight its wars. Over the last few months there has been a massive shake-up in the US Marine Corps, in what some, including myself, are calling heavy handed, dictatorial, and perhaps even ill-advised decisions to “modernize” the most lethal warfighting organization in the world. This criticism, however, doesn’t relate to opening of the infantry to women, however, but to other demands for change also placed on the branch this month.
Between December 4th and January 6th, two major Department of the Navy memos were sent out to key commanders of the Marine Corps by way of Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus. The first, was the groundbreaking decision, one made against Marine Corps recommendation and against the recent findings of numerous studies performed by the Marines, to fully integrate women into all combat roles. Many of us are undecided on whether this is a good thing for the military overall, not knowing if the added value of a few good women will significantly increase the number of capable warfighters, or whether their contributions will not outweigh the potential loss of manpower risk posed by events such as their increased rate injuries or eventually starting a family, as well as the logistical burden an integrated force will have on deployed forces.
It’s a future that I personally would like to see, but having read from many differing accounts, I have many concerns. I’ve attempted to voice many of the problems and conflicts such a decision would bring about for the armed services. What I, and many Marines, have a problem with, is the way in which this process of inclusion was done. I find that the manner in which this decision was made was in such a way as to serve as a great disservice to the military as a whole, the Marines who took part in the studies, and even the women in question. Frankly, there has been a great deal of evolution and debate, but most of the key issues I’ve had since the beginning have been completely ignored by recent policy enactments. The question isn’t being asked, “Is this a sound policy for the future of the Marine Corps and American national security?” Instead, we are promoting women in the forces not because it helps the nation’s military, but because it helps the cause of women. While I am supportive to the cause of women, as a veteran of the Marines, and knowing that their struggles are not of equal pay in the workplace, but of the chance of death or living a life of dismemberment and trauma, my loyalty in this regard goes to them. If the cause of women can be helped, that is a wonderful thing, but if such a policy harms the chances of mission success overall in the military, or the survivability of any of the Marines, both male or female, it shouldn’t be supported.Right now, we still hang in the balance of not knowing what women in the infantry will mean. We simply don’t know, but the gavel has fallen anyway, and those who question the ruling, are currently facing the hangman’s noose of social justice. This, I feel, was a detrimental failure in the administration, whereby an attempt to force the matter prematurely was made, not in an attempt to better the forces, but due to political pressures aimed around promoting equal rights, but in a realm where equality rights was never the issue to begin with.
The idea of women serving on the front doesn’t honestly bother. I hope it works, I sincerely do, though as I have said before, I am very disappointed that the Marine Corps was forced into the integration prematurely in the manner in which they were. As I said in the answer before.
What I can say is that I don’t feel that the way in which it happened was correct. Blindly ignoring the studies and experience of the world’s most lethal organization in the area they excel above all others was a failure. More so, I don’t think this had much to do with what is best for the Marines, or the military as a whole, but of political expediency to further the political aims of a few politicians. The manner in which the rug was pulled from beneath the Marines was one that will leave lasting conflict within the service. Instead of welcoming the women into their new roles, they will be forced into it artificially. The manner in which this decision was made, quite honestly, was too soon, for all the wrong reasons, and a disservice most of all, to the women who will be first to enter this role.
That’s all I want to say on the December 4th announcement, though I would encourage everyone to read the full article for in depth analysis of the decision, and the debate over it, as well as the way in which it was handed down.
What actually concerns me far more is the more recent announcement that Marine Corps boot camp, will be forced to fully integrate with coed training. This mandate was one which I consider to be exceptionally ill-advised for reasons I will explain throughout the article. More so than this, it was mandated in what is being called conservatively as an “aggressive timeline” where massive changes to the Marine Corps most important institutions are being given only fifteen days, from January 1 to the 15th, to completely redesign the training method, as well as many of their facilities, and to have the entirely new approach in operation by April. I want to be honest, I was cautiously optimistic about the call to open the infantry to women, but I feel that this newest policy is a complete failure on the part of the person charged with safeguarding not only the men and women of the Marine Corps, but also their future success as a military force.
How is this different from today?
Currently, Marine Corp basic training is segregated by gender. Male Marine recruits are trained in San Diego, CA or Parris Island, SC. All female recruits are trained in Parris Island, as part of the 4th Recruit Training Battalion. 4th Battalion Marine recruits enjoy (term chosen loosely) the same facilities and training as their 1st – 3rd Battalion male counterparts. They eat at the same facilities, hike the same routes, shoot at the same ranges, and live in identical barracks to the men. The only aspect noteworthy to boot camp that is very much different than the rest of Marine Corps training, is that men and women do not mix in boot camp.
To begin, I’ve dedicated a great deal of time and effort to communicating how Marine Corps boot camp works, why it works, how it is different from that of other branches, and namely, why it produces the largest crop of the highest caliber warfighters alive today. You can read much of that here: What is the logic behind making military boot camps so intensive? What I have come to learn is that the way that the United States Marines produce warfighters in unparalleled among all other military organizations of our era. No other training environment creates in its basically trained warriors such a high degree of exceptional fighters. This is due, in no small part, to its mastery of psychological factors and incentive training system, regardless of the world famous rigor highlighted in every evolution of their training. It does this, as I have said either, with identical training, facilities, and expectations of both its male and female Marines, with no policy that discriminates against either, nor hinders their career development. This isn’t to say that there is forever exclusion between the men and women, but only during the formative months of boot camp, where they are still learning to be Marines, rather than just a collection of individuals.
For example, immediately after boot camp in the Marines, there is the School of Infantry (SOI) and Marine Combat Training (MCT). These schools teach basic infantry tactics and abilities to all Marines. The School of Infantry focuses on Marines whose primary job is infantry fighting. I’ll say this, since it is basic job training, by this point, it should be fully integrated to the best of the SOI’s ability, i.e. the same as Army boot camp is now with separate billeting, but the same on everything else. MCT the same way, if it isn’t already done so on the East Coast. Likely, since the December mandate opening the infantry, we will start to see this very soon, anyway. The only reason there are probably no women in SOI now is because those who joined in December, aren’t even through first phase of boot camp. I wouldn’t be surprised, however, if the first batch of women start showing up at SOI in the early spring.
This would mirror how training is already done at all other MOS (Military Occupational Schools) and has been done for many, many years. There women who have completed their MCT training, join men in completely the same training, in the same platoons, same, same, same. We even had a women who was one of our squad leaders. This was back in 2004 and this, is why I argue that the Marine Corps doesn’t have an integration problem. Their job training saw men and women treated equally and with the same responsibilities, and since MOS school is often much longer than boot camp, I fail to see how this training is being overlooked, as if the first time a Marine sees a female of the species is when they show up together in Iraq or Afghanistan.
At all times where men and women have been employed together, they trained together. The soul exception being that of boot camp, which I have said before, is a good thing. “Boots” are immature. Many lack a firm understand of how to be an adult, let alone be a Marine. Few understand responsibility and are realistically, still kids. Of course there are many who are not this way, but many who need the military to grow them up. They need the three month intensive period to learn to operate as a Marine before they learn to operate in the Marines.
What is being proposed, is that this needs to change. No… “proposed” would imply that there was a discussion, where the legitimacy of such a system would be talked about, the experts on both sides would have made valid and respected arguments, and that it might be possible to consider that the world’s premier force perhaps has more understanding of how to produce world class warriors than those who do not take part in the warfighting profession. Instead, the Marine Corps has been “directed” to “correct itself” by the same Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus.
That said, I have to ask, what possible benefit does full inclusion in basic training possibly offer that in any way improves the quality of service, or even better the prospects of women of the service? I have no idea how creating a training platoon that does not live, eat, breathe, shower, sleep and piss together, as part of a single unit, will lend itself towards the creation of unit cohesiveness for the Corps, nor do I possibly understand how it will improve upon its standards.
The mastery of boot camp is focus. You don’t communicate back home for months. You don’t have access to social media, or media of any kind. You are basically cut off from the rest of the world. There are as few sources to prevent focus as can possibly exist. It is literally just you and your fellow recruits, that insular platoon for three months. As a young newlywed, only having been married not a week when I joined, I understood this hardship greatly, but having gone through that, I understood the need for it, too. You wouldn’t have had the quality of training with more distractions. When you deal with one of the only professions where life and death matters are not a thing of hyperbole, eliminating those distractions matters.
For the types of recruits that willingly go to the Marines, you deal with many of the types that do well in segregated environments. These are the young ones looking for challenge, needing the adrenaline high, and dripping with testosterone. I’ll say it another way that these are the types of young men you don’t trust with your daughters, for good enough reasons. By my estimation and experience, females of the Marine Corps have the same prerogative. They are alphas in their own right, and many come in with just as little natural discipline as their male counterparts. That said, I don’t honestly feel the need these two types of people should be given the opportunity to damage promising careers through integration. That is to say nothing of the thousands of others who would just find it too difficult not to sneak a peak, when otherwise, they would have been fine just paying attention to the instructor give a class that may one day have saved their life or the life of another Marine.
Frankly, adding sexual temptation to the mix doesn’t improve the Marine Corps’s system of creating Marines, as there is a cost/benefit that must be measured. I do not see how “helping Marines integrate” isn’t already served after boot camp through occupational specialty training and through all the training they will undertake together in the fleet, so sacrificing the focus and immersion recruits get from the training doesn’t actually seem like a gain. As I have said before, I do not know how the Army is able to do it.
I’m not alone in asking these questions. U.S. Marine veteran, Captain and Counterintelligence officer Eric Kirsch spoke on the subject. He first made comments in regard to Secretary Mabus:
“The Navy Secretary served for 24 months (1971-1972) in a non combat role within the United States Navy prior to attending Harvard Law School.He issued his memo request on 1 JAN and expects a detailed plan to be delivered no later than 15 JAN, erasing 241 years in 14 days, the United States Marine Corps, compliant to lawful order, obedient and faithful, always, is scrambling to dismantle title, as if it were an gangrenous arbitrary item and they have 5 further business days in which to do it.”
Then Kirsch continues:
“I served with Males and Females and Homosexuals and I’m cool with Transgendered because nothing would make me happier then hearing the frantic stuttering hand held radio transmissions of ISIS fighters announcing the assault of fabulous Marines who also enjoy alternative lifestyles raining steel upon their intolerant bullshit.That said, I believe, firmly, in gender segregation, in basic training….why WOULD YOU NOT SEGREGATE GENDERS? Of what benefit to either gender is mixing the two in initial training? If you got something I do not know about, regarding how it will IMPROVE the Marine Corps, sound the fuck off, I beg you.
Some are calling the act of recruit segregation in basic training just a “tradition”, and Marines like Kirsch simply overly conservative, or worse, dogmatic or even subconsciously bigoted. While some argue the effectiveness of the training, others are arguing that the sentiment is merely steeped in sexist ideology, echoing throughout individual Marines’ careers. Right now, the most logical argument I’ve seen is based on unit cohesion, “Officer and enlisted basic training is the first opportunity to develop the cohesion needed for full integration of women in the Armed Forces,” said a senior defense official with knowledge of the situation.
That word though, “tradition”. I don’t like it. It paints an image of the Marine Corps as having no logical reason for the decisions they make, but just a backward collective of old men who don’t read the news and no understanding of science. The word suggests that there is no empirical data and research with which they base their beliefs upon. Take for example the Marine’s own study on the subject, going on now for a few years, but attacked because, as Mabus said, negative attitudes towards women on the part of those overseeing the research had served to “almost [presuppose] the outcome.” How he justified the validity of that statement, particularly considering that the second senior officer of the command was, herself, a woman, I don’t understand, but he made it clear that he would take no countenance to the Marines’ objections to women serving in combat and publicly dismissed the Corps’ multi-year, multi-million dollar study.
The Marines, however, aren’t the first to study the effects of coed training. Notably, the issue of coed training has been studied before by the Pentagon. In 1997, the Defense Department assembled a bipartisan panel to examine the implications of gender-integrated enlisted training. At the time, the panel concluded that the coed approach used in Army, Navy, and Air Force recruit training resulted in “less discipline, less unit cohesion, and more distraction from the training programs.”
The Marines practice excruciatingly high standards to maintain the quality of troops they have fielded, both male and female, for two and a half centuries. Reports like the 1997 Defense Department study and the recent studies by the Marines are making many in the Marine Corps speculative that these high standards will be maintained in the future, a ramification that could endanger future Marines. One such Marine brave enough to comment on this is Marine General John Kelly.
Asreported by CNS News, “Marine Gen. John Kelly, commander of the U.S. Southern Command, said at a Pentagon press briefing on Friday that he believes that future generals will face “great pressure” to lower the standards for women in combat in order to get more women into combat roles.“My greatest fear—and we see this happen a lot over the 45 years I’ve been in the Armed Forces–is right now they’re saying we are not going to change any standards,” said Kelly. “There will be great pressure, whether it’s 12 months from now, four years from now, because the question will be asked whether we’ve let women into these other roles, why aren’t they staying in those other roles?“Why aren’t they advancing as infantry people—persons–I guess? Why aren’t they becoming, you know, more senior?” he said. “And the answer is–I think will be–if we don’t change standards, it will be very, very difficult to have any numbers, any real numbers, come into the infantry, or the Rangers or the Seals, but that’s their business.”So,” said Kelly, “I think it will be the pressure for not probably the generals that are here now, but for the generals to come, and admirals, to lower standards because that’s the only way it’ll work in the way that I hear some people, particularly, the agenda-driven people here in Washington–or in the land–the way they want it to work.”
Mark Oakley describes how the Army handles coed integration in his answer to How does the US Army conduct coed basic training?
Females are only segregated in their billeting. So they are not in the platoon bays or rooms with the males (unless there is a class going in there…then there are also Drill Sergeants around).Other than this, they are integrated into the squads and platoons and function just as the males do. There are no differences in treatment of expectations. This is exactly the same way it will be once they are out in the Army (and the same way that the other services operate outside of training).
While he is optimistic that the Marines will do fine, I fail to see how this improves the quality of troops that come from basic training or mitigates the perceived problems, where they exist, of female integration. The Marine Corps’ recruit training is also lauded for it’s near perfection in training basically training warriors, as noted in his book On Combat, (Army) Lt. Col Dave Grossman compared its training to the equivalent of many nation’s Special Forces and ranks the basic Marines above that of the average American servicemen. Speaking from the point of view of a retired Army Ranger, I took that statement with a point of pride. What I don’t see being communicated is the understanding that Marine Corps boot camp isn’t designed to make anything other than basically trained Marines. That means that in the three months they are there, they don’t even time to learn basic skills like tactics and most of the weapons systems they will use. It is about taking immature people and through a process mastered by the Marines over a period of more than a century, making them that. Mixing men and women add nothing to this process, and I will argue, take away from it greatly.
Mark Oakley’s explanation that females are only segregated in their billeting, so they don’t share living spaces. He mentions that they do join the men for classes there and that there are Drill Sergeants always around. For the Marines, I simply can’t see how this wouldn’t fundamentally change the way training takes place. For example, so very much training happens in the squad bays, as far as uniforms, inspections, and even drill. Hell, even cleaning the place becomes a semi-religious ritual of team building. Given that, I don’t see how each and every time a task has to be performed, the women have to run all the way down to get the necessary training or team building. There is also the matter of discipline in the squad bays. While few people who haven’t read What is the logic behind making military boot camps so intensive? will understand what is meant by the term “quarterdecking” as miserable as the practice is to endure, it serves the necessary purpose of instilling discipline, perhaps far better than any other single incentive device I have ever seen. It happens mostly in the barracks, in front of the others. You suffer together. It’s part of it. The fact that they have separate barracks, to me, loses something very insular to the boot camp experience and, in the process of driving cohesion… destroys it.
This isn’t to say they should ever live together by any means. One drill instructor reporting on the basis of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak on the subject said, “The thing is how much more integrated can we get? We already train with females. What do they want? Them to live in the same squad bay? Cause that ain’t going to happen.”
There is also the question of supervision. While perhaps the Army does have training that lends itself to recruits being watched all the time, I can say quite easily that on the nights in hikes, I’d be surprised if more than one incident didn’t occur between recruits in the bushes. The deserts at Camp Pendleton are wide enough for privacy and the those swamps at Parris Island aren’t any different. 100% isolation isn’t realistic in those situations, nor 100% of the time is oversight by the few Drill Instructors available. Slip past the firewatch and you can get a lot of things done. Up to this point, I’ve never seen what incentive there was to this sort of sneaking around. To paraphrase Freud, sex is a motivator.
To make it clear, these men and women, the Drill Instructors are tasked with supervision of upwards of eighty people and there are normally no more than three of them. If this were an elementary school classroom, that would be a teacher/student ratio over the legal limit in many parts of the United States, but in the Marines, this ration of leaders to recruits is responsible for the troops safety and instruction, all the while participating in grueling exercises, and often under arms. This isn’t to mention being over them literally 24 hours a day. At some point, among some individuals, a Drill Instructor’s oversight can’t be directed at all times. That is to say, it is 0% acceptable for a recruit to get pregnant with six weeks left of training, at the beginning of a year of training. That simply doesn’t happen in today’s Marine Corps, but the experiences I’ve had in the fleet, I’m sure it will happen soon under Secretary Mabus’ Marine Corps.
That said, Mabus’ directive on integrating boot camp wasn’t sent until after the deadline for infantry integration, a plan which was part of the works for some time. There was no planning done, or consideration made toward changing its entry-level training. Yet the memo dated January 1 indicated that plans to revamp the training system for the all of Marine Corps boot camp needed to be made by no later than January the 15th. A Marine official said called Mabus’ 15-day deadline to come up with a plan to integrate Marine boot camp “an aggressive timeframe.”
It’s called aggressive because, besides the logical impediments to training, numerous others considerations must be made.
“It requires a look at … how much personnel to bring, how many drill instructors to bring, the leadership and support cadre that comes along with that,” the Marine said. “The barracks in San Diego are H-shaped, for example, so you can see everything that’s going on. If women are living in them, do you black out the windows or make an entire building that’s theirs? Do you do a floor for men and a floor for women?”
To say the least, giving only a 15 day time frame to redesign the most crucial training element of any Marine’s career, of all Marine’s careers, seems reckless. To be frank, I’m very concerned that Mabus is risking the efficacy of the world’s premier fighting force for a personal experiment on subjective morality. More so than this, I feel there is no evidence to suggest that this is good for the Marine Corps, in fact it stands against a great deal of evidence to the contrary. I don’t even see how this  definitively improves the prospects for women and their advancement in the military.  Quite honestly, I see no one truly benefiting from this decision to integrate the boot camps besides Ray Mabus himself, and his own political aspirations. Of course, my disappointment in the standing SECNAV is nothing compared to others, such as California Representative Duncan Hunter, a former Marine veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, who has already called for Mabus’ resignation in September and said very clearly that “a greater threat to the Marine Corps than ISIS.”
As I said, I was cautiously optimistic when he decided to make the changes for the infantry, but relatively speaking with this new decision to reform boot camp, an institution in no need of reformation, I’m elated at the decision to bring in women to the infantry. Frankly, I can’t believe that an idea this bad would be considered good by anyone who puts the needs of people who will one day see combat first. That goes for the women, too.
I’ll repeat the closing of What do members of the United States Marine Corps think about the decision to allow women into front line infantry roles? as it rings even more true here than when the infantry was opened to them.
What I can say is that I don’t feel that the way in which it happened was correct. Blindly ignoring the studies and experience of the world’s most lethal organization in the area they excel above all others was a failure. More so, I don’t think this had much to do with what is best for the Marines, or the military as a whole, but of political expediency to further the political aims of a few politicians. The manner in which the rug was pulled from beneath the Marines was one that will leave lasting conflict within the service. Instead of welcoming the women into their new roles, they will forced into it artificially. The manner in which this decision was made, quite honestly, was too soon, for all the wrong reasons, and a disservice most of all, to the women who will be first to enter this role.
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If the US Marines are the Navy’s assault force, why are they used for long-term missions like Iraq/Afghanistan?

This really doesn’t make sense until you start asking yourself how Navy Frogmen became the SEALs.
The underwater demolitions unit (called the frogmen) possessed a certain number of unique skills. They were awesome divers who were used to clear the way for Marine transport landings of enemy underwater mines. So they were good at diving, explosives, and early stealth. That made them the first to look at for other teams that needed to be made, such as sneaking into enemy territory via the water for secret squirrel recon missions. From there, they picked up some marksmanship abilities and traditional fighting tactics while maintaining their same old core skills like diving. A few decades later and we have a unit that looks nothing like the divers of WWII, but something much more akin to any other ground based infantry.
In fact their role has changed so much that Chris Kyle (American Sniper), perhaps the most famous SEAL today, often joked that wasn’t really a SEAL. He was just an “L”. To understand that, you need to know that SEAL stands for SEa Air and Land. Kyle’s joke referenced how much he loathed water operations and jumping out of planes. What was odd, was that two core skill sets to the Navy Seals a few decades ago, were so completely unnecessary in the wars of today, that Kyle was able to utilize his “L” skills alone to become the killingest sniper in US military history.
Now the SEALs haven’t lost their old abilities. The killing of the Somali pirates who took over the civilian shipping liner, made famous by the movie Captain Phillips, shows clearly how modern SEALs are still able to execute naval engagements with the same lethal precision as their heritage dictates.
Still, their maneuvering into more and more based land operations asks a few questions. The first to followers of military organization is, “What about DELTA?”
Delta is the United States Army’s primary direct action special operations unit. Traditionally, all the things we think about the SEALs doing, Delta would have done. All of it. So why all the redundancy? Well, the simple reason is… redundancy.
Having two forces with the skill sets needed today hurts no one… well there is an argument about the taxpayer, but that’s another question for another day. In either case, having both units available allows for specialization and evolution of the tradecraft of warfare. For example, Delta is better at black ops, often donning masks and blending in enemy locales vastly different from their own. The SEALs do it too, but not quite as well. The SEALs have more experience with water bound insertions, which isn’t really that useful today, but will be again at some point. The point is, they can handle problems differently, which gives the military as a whole, a better chance of success and new avenues to evolve in the future. For example, the Marine Corps has even finally gotten into the game with their own special forces direct action units built off the old recon units. They are called the Raiders, and if we think about a Marine Corps version of the SEALs and Delta… well, I just hope people don’t dither too much on getting their hands up because those guys are going to kill everything so hard.
Which brings me back to why the Marines are a land force. It might interest readers to know I was a Marine who spent my entire time operating in deserts, from Southern and Southwestern California, Yuma, to my favorite one, the deserts of Al Anbar Province Iraq. Lovely place. It’s like a beach with no water and the bikinis suck.
Anyway, the reason I was in Iraq is because the Marines have a few redundant skillsets. Like the Army, we are great warfighters, and on average, many would argue better, but limited by our smaller size and budget. This is because primarily because, many moons ago, we were tasked with the role of invasion. We would go into a country, deprive the bad guys of a few key assets, bloody them up really good with a few quick assaults and basically leave them completely fragmented by the time the much stronger, and larger, but slower Army came around to secure the field and mop up. This is well demonstrated in the wayGeneral Mattis directed Marines during the invasion of Iraq in 2003 to magnificent effect.Sometimes, the Marines are set up to do this completely without the aid of the Army, relying on nothing but naval support. Hence the question.
However, it doesn’t make sense to just abandon a mission three weeks after the invasion, hop back on our boats and wave a one fingered salute to the Army, saying to our soldier buddies, “Good luck, suckers.” No. We have the skills and we have the assets to do the job, so we are going to do it too. In fact, we were often sent to the extremely difficult regions, such as Al Anbar, currently in the news for being the central zone of occupation for Islamic State forces and housing their capital in Iraq.
So having said all that, the answer to “Why are the Marines used for long-term missions like Iraq/Afghanistan?”, the answer is simply, “because they can,” and more importantly, “because someone needs to,” because there simply aren’t enough who are both willing and able to do it.
Thanks for reading. Everything I write is completely independent research. I am supported completely by fan and follower assistance. If you enjoyed this post and would like to see more like it, follow Jon’s Deep Thoughts. You can also show your support by visiting my support page here:Support Jon Davis creating A Military Sci-Fi Novel, Articles, and Essays.

Summary – The EGA and What it Takes to Make a Warrior

Earning the Title

As a regular person, you might not know why the Marine pictured above is crying. You’d probably guess he is going to a funeral or about to leave home for the first time to go off to war. You’d be wrong. The young recruits pictured above are about to take part in a culminating event of recruit training, the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor Ceremony.

The EGA, the Eagle Globe and Anchor, is a small trinket of metal coated in a thin strip of black paint. It fits in the palm of the hand and can be bought for around $2 from any military apparel provider. Realistically speaking, that is all it is… it is a trinket. To the Marines, however, it is a symbol. The EGA is the emblem of the United States Marine Corps and only Marines are entitled to wear it. For the last three months, this recruit has endured all the trials of Marine Corps Boot Camp, but he was not a Marine. He, like all the other recruits with him, weren’t considered Marines until after they completed training. They were called “recruit” and suffered the hardships, tests, suffering, and indignities which come with the moniker. Once they finished Boot Camp, more properly, once they receive their EGA, only then will they have “earned the title” of United States Marine.

It’s a somewhat religious moment for our odd little cult of warriors. For many, receiving the EGA, and by extension the honor of being Marine, is the proudest moment of their lives. It is the moment, for so many of them, which truly gave their lives meaning. As melodramatic as that may sound, many of my friends who joined the Marines had no direction, no purpose, and no dreams for the future. They didn’t have a sense of agency, the belief that their decisions mattered. They were just riding the waves of life, drifting wherever the currents delivered them. They were far more likely to end up in prison as they were to be looked upon with honor and respect by their community. The Marine Corps, for many of my friends, gave them that sense of being part of something that mattered. If I were to attempt a guess, I’d say that the young man pictured above is crying because, for the first time, he is part of a community of people who matter, one which is honorable, and respected because of what they mean to the world and the citizens which they are drawn from.

Thank you for following this series of articles on the logic behind the need for a truly intense and transformative boot camp experience in today’s military. The logic is there. It is terrifyingly present in every subtle action of the Drill Instructors. As I said before, everything they do is for a reason. Boot camp, and particularly that of the Marines, is made to psychologically change a child into someone capable of performing under combat conditions. In most cases, it is intended to take from them the aspects of their civilian lives that will make life harder for them in the military, those that sometimes would have killed them and others, and makes those weakness no longer part of the calculation. The yelling, the sleep deprivation and being cut off from friends and family are part of the process of becoming a warrior. It is also part of becoming a cult.

And that is what they are. The Marines have formed a culture with the singular obsession of destroying those who endanger the United States’, her allies, and her interests. While they’re humanitarian efforts across the world, though rarely remembered, can never be denied, it is their ferocity in combat that makes them respected around the world. It is their ability to overcome and overwhelm enemies that reminds the world there are no better friends, and no worse enemies. This process of personal transformation takes place throughout a lifetime, but the seeds of it are sewn in boot camp. The foundation of a culture are laid in the welcoming of every generation’s newest members. This is why boot camp does things which aren’t normal through the eyes or our broader culture in which the Marines serve. To normal people, this is crazy.

This is why normal people can’t do the things warriors are asked to do. They can’t imagine combat or the terror of an enemy upon them and they shouldn’t be forced to. The goal of a good government and a strong military, is to create a world where their normal people never have to imagine pain, suffering, hate, or danger. But for these people to exist and prosper, there are those who do, and those who are willing to endure, and those who can fight. They don’t exist to serve and die for their country, but to fight smartly, leverage their risks with their skills, and make the other guy die for his. When others among them fall, they must see that their nation appreciates how special these people are for what they have elected to do. They have given up their innocence as civilians, free to pursue pleasure and prosperity for a time for something more, something each of them defines for themselves, but something which nonetheless, benefits all of us who prosper in the shadow of their actions. For these people, there must be a transition from “civilian” to “warrior”. Boot camp is the means of that evolution and every part of it is necessary. For those who complete the training, their lives will never be the same, they will never be the same; they will be Marines. That title can’t be passed down to you, you can’t buy it, and it is not given – it is earned when you become one of “The Few and The Proud” for life.


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They are Called “Drill” Instructors for a Reason.

Act and Think as a Unit

Drill, or the endless marching about that is synonymous with military life, is part of the ancient traditions of martial culture that, in all honesty, have very little with getting people from place to place. Recruits drill endlessly. It seems like one of the greatest wastes of time ever conceived in an era of satellite guided munitions and 747 delivering us to Kuwait the same day we left California. For that reason, drill is one of the most overlooked elements of the Boot Camp process to nonveterans. Drill was a tool first recorded being utilized by the Greeks to maneuver large armies in necessarily tight formations to fight in close quarters. It was necessary as far back as our Civil War when formation fighting in pitched battles allowed the greatest use of the technology of the era. With the implementation of rifling and field artillery, the marching of formations of troops no longer made sense. With the advent of automated weapons, it’s practice was ended completely on battlefields. Drill, however, still lives on more so as a valuable learning aide for military practitioners, more so even than for being a time honored tradition.

Getting people where they are going isn’t really why we drill. It’s about conditioning a mind to think as a part of a team; to align to it. Drill is refined groupthink where an entire unit of eighty men or women are eventually trained to act in perfect unison. The movements are always performed the same way and at the same speed. The vocal commands of the Drill Instructor initiate, by that point, instinctive reactions in recruits. That is what “Drill” is about. It is the reason for the terms “Drill Sergeant” and “Drill Instructor”.

Secondly, drill still has relevance today by training Marines to focus on the instructions of their leader and to gain unison in their actions. This practice is instant obedience to orders, following instructions immediately without thought, persuasion, or other action. It also teaches the importance of individual action in teamwork. Individual recruits have to master their movements individually, and once coalesced, they achieve something much more powerful as a group. Drill is a sort of metaphor for many things the military hold important: unity of the group, following strong and experienced leaders, precision and excellence, and experiencing the feeling of shared success not achievable by individuals. It’s such an important metaphor that hundreds of hours are literally dedicated to little else, but learning how to walk – as a team.

That still doesn’t make it clear why all these things are rationally necessary today, so I’ll be clearer. When the overarching goal of boot camp is to train recruits to one day be able to function in extreme stress environments, overriding the fear response is the most important things you can do. There are two ways, realistically, to do this; you can train to the point of muscle memory, or you can train obedience. Muscle memory and learning to rely on your skills are good; that’s what gives efficacy in your abilities when you will need them, but even faith in yourself sometimes isn’t enough when you are truly afraid. Fighting gets to be much easier when you see leaders taking action. It’s also much easier to do your job when you’re given direction to do so. It’s basic psychology that the young crave direction when they aren’t sure of themselves. It’s much less known that there are proven experiments showing how simply giving a person an instruction from someone they perceive as being a leader, can be enough to help someone overcome fear and do what, alone, would be impossible for them.

Battle is an extreme example of this. Young combatants look to experienced leaders. More so than this, but battle doesn’t afford the normal democratic processes of debate and rigorous analysis to test out and vet if an idea is good or not. Quite honestly, there is no time, so often when dealing with situations on the ground, the only practical means of resolving a situation is to bank on the person who has the most experience and to do whatever he says immediately.

This is why the military invests so much into ensuring that your brain is hardwired to do just that, listen to the sound of experience and instruction as a default in moments of stress. It is an instinct that saves lives. As time goes on this instinct fades, but as it does, the individual’s experience grows. In time, they are the one with experience and able to lead the new recruits. It’s one of the cycles that works, but one which the civilian world has no comparison for. Why should they? It makes more sense to rationalize things out with charts and review panels when time is a luxury . In almost all military endeavors, this too is true. The military in many ways functions like a huge bureaucratic company.  Sometimes though the necessity to have a culture of people who can simply do what they are told immediately, is the difference between your people surviving or mission failure. For this reason alone, the entire culture of the Marines still devotes countless hours to the art of drill, when most reasoned arguments would argue against it.

Below are three videos I wanted to showcase various phases of recruit training evidenced by their precision in drill movement as a unit. This is a platoon of female recruits a few weeks from the end of their training. They are learning, but still have some time before they are perfected.

Below is a platoon preparing for what is called Final Drill. This is a performance review of their abilities to carry out drill as a platoon. It is one of the most important training events as a platoon and culminates the highest point to test unit cooperation and teamwork. Once again, these are 18 year old men fresh out of high school. There are 80 of them and they have learned to carry out actions involving several steps and intricate footwork… in perfect unison.

Finally, Final Drill.

Continue on to The Crucible – On Endurance Training

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How Being Yelled At By Mad Men Makes You a Better Warrior



When most people think of Marine Corps boot camp and the terrors within it, the image of a terrifying man screaming like a hellbound banshee is the vision they conjure. I am pretty sure this is what brought on the question of why does boot camp need to be so intense in the first place. It’s easy to understand why they might need to learn to shoot and even more rational to see them doing work outs. It’s harder to explain stress induced humiliation. It’s also far from a myth or exaggeration. Drill Instructors really do yell as much you’ve ever imagined, even more than you would believe. In fact, you never really hear their real voices. In the Marines, boot camp instructors are actually trained on how to manipulate their voices so that they can yell for extremely long periods of time without damaging their vocal cords. This is known as the “Frog Voice”, and while funny to talk about, it is a real thing. I only really became aware of this once I got out and just so happened to run into two of my old Drill Instructors in the fleet. It is a weird experience to see these guys as real people after all that they subjected you to for three straight months. Actually, that’s a pretty awesome story.

The following video actually shows a great deal of things that are important. Listen at the very beginning and you can hear a Marine using a strange voice to speak to the victim/participant. This is Frog Voice. While watching, I ‘d like readers to look through the yelling to hear what the real offense was. A recruit complained about feeling dehydrated during a training evolution. That’s it. Also, as a warning, many of the following videos have a bit of language because, well… Marines.

On a side note, I’m not really sure why this is labeled as a “leaked” video. It’s from a series of videos on boot camp sold by one of the Drill Instructors. I met him once at a conference. He’s a pretty cool guy who runs a chain of grocery stores now. Moving on, when you really boil it down, why yell at that kid so much for being thirsty and feeling weakened by training? Does that sound rational? I’ll get to that, but first, let’s take it up a notch.  The following video shows what is most likely the most terrifying event recruits will ever experience. This is what is universally known throughout the Marines as the “Omnidirectional Ass Chewing” where multiple Drill Instructors will be screaming at you in unison as you attempt to make sense of the chaotic universe around you.

“Why do all these things you ask?” The answer is disturbingly simple and sadly, rational. Yelling at someone, preferably in the most personally offensive manner possible, is the easiest way to get a human being who is unaccustomed to performance under stress to take action while being placed under an extreme and sudden stress environment (combat). It trains them to block out the noise and the fear and the stress and just do what they need to do. Remember that kid who was yelled at for being dehydrated? Was he really being yelled at for being thirsty, or was he being yelled at for trying to skip a training evolution? Was he really being yelled at for trying to feign sickness rather than complete an exercise? Was he really being yelled for being weak, or for allowing himself to use weakness as an excuse? The depot needs competent Marines, and allowing any of these things to pass would not fulfill that mission. That recruit will think twice before complaining about water again and therefore, he will tougher. The truth is, if you are less afraid of the physical stress than you are the psychological stress, you learn to get tough without complaining about it. We can’t actually shoot at the kids, you know, but the Omnidirectional Ass Chewing is one of the most important parts of onboarding that most militaries go through, and the yelling really never stops after that.

After the OAC, there is Incentive Training, or IT. Drill Instructors are allowed to use incentive training to instill discipline and correct mistakes. That’s vague. IT is creating an extreme stress environment mixed with physical strain and exhaustion where recruits are yelled out, normally by one Drill Instructor on the either the Quarter-deck or the sand pits outside and are forced into a series of calisthenics that are extremely exhausting and physically challenging in the manner in which they are done. They do this needing to listen to the random instructions of the Drill Instructor and respond in the appropriate manner, or the exercise continues. Outside, they are limited to five minutes of IT in one of the sand pits located around the recruit depot. Inside, on the “quarter-deck,” there are no limits. While engaged in IT, while doing everything else, you learn to instinctively listen for the DI’s instructions and think really long and hard about never getting caught doing whatever it was that got you put in that situation in the first place.

Everything your drill instructors do to stress you out is designed to simulate the stress of combat and illicit immediate responses to orders in a manner that, despite all unpleasantness, is actually harmless. Yelling won’t get you killed. From someone who has been there, trust me, it works. The fact is that once you enter the military, people are literally screaming at you all the time and, like so many other things, you adapt. Eventually you will be a leader and screaming will be part of your job too, though acting like DIs in the fleet is pretty much looked down upon by most real Marines. What is extremely important to know is that just as quickly as these men started yelling they can turn it off just as easily. More than psychopaths, these men are actors with the role of taking advantage of specific psychological triggers to instill aggression and help military people cope with combat stress without actually experiencing combat. These men aren’t bullies. What you just saw was extremely important training, mental training. No one in the comments section will ever dissuade me from this position that the yelling is one of the most important things a Marine Corps Drill Instructor can do for a young recruit. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should try it out the next time Tammy comes in five minutes late to work. You probably won’t make a Marine out of her and you may just get yourself fired.

Continue on to Learn to Act and Think as a Unit

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The Arts of War

There is a science of warfare, but there are also the arts of the war. The science of warfare centers on matters of logistics. They focus on issues of the economic scarcity of warriors, the psychology of denizens occupied territories, and the grand movements of the strongest forces to the weakest pressure points of an enemy’s regime. These are the concentration of Generals and world leaders. The arts of warfare, however, are the acts of combat which must be learned, practiced, and mastered by the individual warriors themselves. They are the subtle placement and gentle flexing of the Brachio-radial muscles over the carotid artery, severing blood flow to the brain and knocking out an enemy in seconds. It is the resistance to jerk the trigger and break the sight alignment, gently squeezing it slowly until the rifle fires, seemingly on its own. It is the practice of coordinating attacks between individuals and small units, leveraging fewer warriors to exponentially greater effect through the use of fire and maneuver. It is knowledge to save a wounded friends life when there is literally no one else there to do it better.

Recruits in boot camp are introduced to the basic military arts. Marine recruits go through several different training cycles and will learn skills in Martial Arts, Small Unit Tactics, Hand-to-Hand Combat, Emergency First-Aid, and classes varying from rank structure, to Marine Corps history. They will also receive nutritional training, maintenance of gear, and physical education. After their first month, they will progress to learn rifle marksmanship, survival, and the beauty of the forced march.

Hand-to-Hand Combat

Among the first lessons recruits receive will be in hand-to-hand combat. Many branches don’t emphasize personal combat, feeling that long after the age automatic machineguns, autonomous drones and atomic weapons, exchanges of the fist and feet are outdated. Some nations and militaries don’t even practice them at all. The Marines, however, see it as a necessity because of the way they fight. They took this belief so far, that they created their own martial-arts fighting style. This is MCMAP, the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program. This specialized form of combat martial arts is built on philosophies other than self-defense, but actual offense and the ability to deliver lethal strikes with not just the fist, but knives, and an empty rifle, or even, as the moto One Mind Any Weapon states, any common object which happens to be lying around. It should also be mentioned that the style has incorporated many non-lethal restraints for crowd control and policing scenarios, useful over the past decade and a half of insurgency warfare. Recruits will spend several days training in pits of pulverized rubber tires, perfect for hard landings, practicing the basics of this fighting style. By the end of boot camp they will receive the first belt in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP).

Rifle Marksmanship

If the Army is a camping trip, and the Air Force is a club, than the Marines are a cult, one whose most important rituals and religious rites center around their rifles. This tradition began as far back as Marine sharpshooters fighting in the Revolutionary War dangling high in ships’ riggings and nets, picking off enemy officers and troops engaged in naval battles. It continued on when during the World War I Battle at Belleau Wood, Marine sharpshooters sniped enemy German forces from well beyond the German’s ability to reach them, recording numerous kills from well beyond 700 yards. Today, during the second phase of their training, recruits spend more than two full weeks dedicated to the art of delivering deadly fire down range. It is so important that the drill instructors actually lighten-up to allow the recruits to focus.

PT – Physical Training

Physical training takes many forms, but the physical exercises aren’t usually the most difficult part of recruit training. They generally center on building instant obedience to orders over the actual physical stress involved in the exercises. Few obstacles are so difficult that most recruits can’t complete them. Often, they just need to be pushed. Usually, listening and doing what you are told will get recruits through the exercise and get out of the situation before you are yelled at. Some of the obstacles are more mental than physical: a high rope, a pool, a mountain. It’s rare that you will see a training exercise that breaks a recruit. That’s mostly because, for most, physically finishing the exercises isn’t the most difficult part.

As important as these, but without the room to elaborate on them each are the many other skills warriors must master to win and come home safely. I remember visceral reactions to the first aid lessons; graphic, gory and unsettling, but responsible for thousands of lives saved throughout the years. Military law, customs and courtesies, and military history are also necessary. They are crucial to the continuation of a culture literally built to ensure vital mission accomplishment in a competition between nations at war. Sadly, though, I can’t speak to all these skills here. It pulls too far from the point of the series, answering why boot camp needs to be so intense. Why these skills work to answer that question can summed in a single word – “efficacy”. When a person gains knowledge, they gain confidence. To make an eighteen year old run to the sound of terrible things, they must have faith in their skills to survive and win, as well as faith in the skills of those around them. The United States invests more into the training of their military than any other force in the world. This makes them confident and capable when put into harm’s way and helps to ensure that military warfighters suffer less loss of life than any other military so actively engaged across the world in history.

In spite of this, it’s important to note that boot camp is not really about the skills. Mostly, recruits are fed the very basics of the warrior arts there. The real skills come later on dozens of ranges, dojos, and training courses over a period of years. Boot camp is about the process of helping recruits adjust mentally to a life of challenge and one where uncommon stress is a common element to daily life. To state the obvious though, it is the skills they begin to learn in boot camp, and which will be mastered in follow-on training during their military careers, that will help them survive and win battles. Therefore, beyond the psychological aspects of recruit training, the skills of combat are an obvious necessity in the training evolution and survival of any would be warrior.

Continue on to The Yelling – How Being Yelled at by Mad Men Makes You a Better Warrior

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Black Friday


As I am sure you have guessed, for Marines, the term Black Friday has nothing to do with holiday bargain shopping. Black Friday, for us, is a day you remember for the rest of your life. This is when Marine Corps basic training begins. Black Friday is the day you meet your real Drill Instructors. Up to this point, the instructors who have been over you were Receiving Drill Instructors. Their job ends on Training Day 1. On T-Day 1, Black Friday, recruits will meet the men who will be over them and with them for every step of the next three months.

Like all other major milestones of boot camp, there is ceremony involved in this. The meeting of the Drill Instructors begins with introductions by your Series Commander late in the morning. This involves a speech where he will outline some of the expectations that will be placed on recruits, as well as formally introduce the platoon to their Drill Instructors. It’s actually a very well rehearsed ceremony that has been, like so many others, exactly the same since time immemorial. During this speech, the Series Commander will lead the Drill Instructors in the Drill Instructor’s Creed. It’s a powerful event from the perspective of new recruits sitting there watching it from the floor. Following the creed, the Series Commander will exit, leaving the Senior Drill Instructor in charge of the platoon. His speech is one that few recruits will forget. It’s important to really understand how much aggression goes into being a Drill Instructor. They are masters of intimidation and you will feel that in every word of the Senior Drill Instructor’s Black Friday speech. Words alone don’t do justice to understanding the moment, so I’ll share this instead:

Up to this point, the recruits have basically been told what is expected of them and what is expected of their Drill Instructors. Note that in no way was it alluded to that anyone would be nice to recruits. You really don’t understand that during the Drill Instructor’s Creed or the Senior’s “welcome aboard” speech. You feel nervous and intimidated, but you really have no clue what you are in for.

Then there is a moment after the first introductions that the Senior Drill Instructor will finish off his speech with a fateful series of words.

“Drill Instructors, take charge and carry out the plan of the day.”

Which they will respond, “Aye, Aye Senior Drill Instructor.” and he will walk back into his office, slamming the door behind him. In your mind you’re thinking, “Maybe there is going to be another speech. Maybe this is all we are going to be doing today. That would be nice.” This would be wrong. The speeches are over. The sitting is over. From this point on, those remaining Drill Instructors will introduce you into the full fury of the decision you have just made.

What follows the Senior Drill Instructor’s welcome is nothing less than a torrent of hate and terror recruits could probably never imagine. Recruits are ordered across the squad bay as the Drill Instructors scream and shout with the pent up fires of a thousand angry suns. There is noise and movement everywhere. It’s true chaos. Recruits will carry their sea bags loaded with gear around with them all over the squad bay, running back and forth, for painful hours on end. Drill Instructors will flip recruit’s footlockers, spewing all the belongings they owned out into massive mounds on the floor of the squad bay. They’ll toss the recruits bunks across the room. Bottles of soap, toothpaste and shaving gel will break and shatter, leaving the piles of personal belongings and issued gear trashed all over the floor. Then the recruits will be marched around and around, back and forth, following every command of the Drill Instructors, though never fast enough, never loud enough, and never with enough of the ever loving intensity demanded of them. All the while the parade of pandemonium continues, recruits will be kicking each other’s gear around in haphazard piles across the squad bay.

During this time, recruits are introduced to the concept of Incentive Training, or IT at this point. Drill Instructors are allowed to use incentive training to instill discipline and correct mistakes. I’ll get to that later. It’s rough and every one of them will go through it. They’ll do more jumping jacks, pushups, mountain climbers, and other exercises than anyone ever imagined. After this, sometimes Drill Instructors will insist on “tours of the base.”  Recruits will be filed as fast as their collective feet will carry them to a pit of sand outside the barracks. The entire platoon will be ordered to push up, flutter-kick, side-straddle-hop, and run in place until they will be completely exhausted and given-out, basking in the precious moments when their sweat covered faces rested against the sand. Then the will visit another sand pit somewhere else. Then they will visit another somewhere else, far, far away, somewhere on the other side of the base.

Finally, covered in sand and sweat, the recruits will file back to the barracks and pull out their canteens. They will drink, and drink, and drink, drinking until they had proved they had finished every last drop, then they would refill their canteens, and drink some more. This, as you might expect, is to keep them from dying of dehydration and exhaustion. This cycle of what seemed to be mindless torment won’t end until many hours later. They still have to return their home back to some semblance of normalcy after it had been reduced to what, metaphorically, could be described as a war zone. The following two videos are much more clear about what Day 1 will be like than the, “kind and gentle” speech the Series Commander might leave one believing.

The truth was, as the recruits parade around the room, being screamed at by terrifying men, they will each be wondering what they got themselves into. Regardless of what they may be thinking, they are still a long way from the end of T-Day 1. At least by that point they’ll understood why T-Day 1 is known throughout the Corps as Black Friday. Motivated Devil, a youtuber who creates FPS video footage while telling stories about life in the Marines spells it out well. In his words:

It’s pretty much the hardest day, it really is. It’s going to test you. You’re going to be thinking, did I make the right move? Am I supposed to be here? Even myself, I’m not going to to lie, I was like what the Hell did I get myself into? Am I going to make it out of this? Am I going to become a Marine? It’s the hardest day just because it’s the  mentally hardest day, because it’s your first day of meeting your Drill Instructors and they want nothing to do, but to f*** you up. They just want to f*** you up all day…

But the whole day, their main goal is to just break you down and make you think, did I do this for the right reason? Am I supposed to be here?

And therein lies the reasoning for Black Friday’s existence. On Black Friday, meeting your Drill Instructors is an experience no one forgets. Recruits see how relentless they can get. They are also sort of made aware what DIs won’t do. Recruits see that no human being has ever terrified them that much, but they never actually touch them. DIs might adjust your stance in a manner you don’t consider delicate, but you’re not going to get a Full Metal Jacket punch to gut any time soon. You realize you won’t be beaten up, punched or kicked, or thrown into anything. The only real things they do to you is tell you to do mundane stuff in the most horrible way imaginable. You will survive that. It’s important to realize that, no matter what happens from here, you’re going to survive. This is mostly because, from the point a recruit is “picked-up” into their boot camp platoon, there really is no going back. From Black Friday on, it is easier to finish boot camp than to get yourself kicked out or separated from recruit training.

Surviving Day-1 of training is important because it sets the pace for everything else to come afterward. You clearly gain an appreciation of the Drill Instructor’s and accept that the easiest thing for you to do to get through boot camp is just to do whatever they say and to do it fast. It simply isn’t worth the inconvenience you know they are capable of, to do anything less. It’s odd how that sort of mentality builds stamina and motivation. Recruits will need these to carry them through to the end of training. They aren’t going to have time to not listen or to move slowly at any point over the next three months of Recruit Training. There is just too much to learn.


Go on to Isolation from the Outside or Read the full story

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