The 8 Most “Embrace the Suck Moments” of USMC’s The Basic School / by Benjamin Steele

The following blog includes a list of what I believe to be the 10 most “Embrace the Suck Moments” of the USMC’s The Basic School (TBS). Although it may not be an all inclusive list, it definitely includes some memories worth preserving.

Life at The Basic School TBS

Blog #49

In order to best prepare Marines for actual war, the USMC makes training as challenging and realistic as possible. During my time at TBS, I experienced some pretty sucky times with my fellow officers. Here’s a list of 8 of those times in no particular order:

  1. WAR FEX - What was supposed to be a enjoyable and somewhat laid back final field exercise turned into a 7+ mile weighted movement in dense vegetation, without water and in 90+ degree weather. This movement coupled with the night attack, night movement and defense to follow spelled heat exhaustion and a very difficult 36 hours for most of the company.

  2. PEX Night Patrol - The night patrol field exercise that turned into us carrying casualties for miles in the tree line under no illumination certainly gains a reputable spot on this list. This experience was a brutal introduction into the challenges of operating during the night.

  3. Night Land Nav (or land nav in general) - Unfortunately I will never forget the long nights of looking down at my barely visible glow in the dark compass while stumbling my way through the tree line to find the box I was to be looking for. Land nav was especially brutal because failing meant coming in on a Saturday to remediate and try again, a misfortune that I had to do twice.

  4. R-15 (105 heat index) - Each live fire range had their own challenges, but R-15 was especially memorable due to the insane heat that day. We trained all day in an open field and into the night on this life fire range, leaving myself and most around me pretty spent.

  5. MOUT FEX - Although MOUT (Urban) FEX was an incredible experience overall, there was one mission that left me experiencing some serious signs of heat exhaustion and projectile throwing up all the fluids in my body. Luckily I was able to avoid the silver bullet (rectum thermometer), but it still was not a fun experience.

  6. Quad Stress Test - Only the US military would have you hike 12 miles with 90 pounds on your back and then take a two hour long written exam right when returning. Literally we got back, dropped our gear, then were told to get an exam and begin.

  7. Range Weeks - Two of the first weeks of the program deserve to be on this list because of the absolute grind that they posed. For nearly two weeks straight we woke up between 0300-0500 in the morning, hiked 3 miles up a hill to the range, shot weapons all day, then returned back to the barracks late in the evening around 1900-2000. Doing this everyday for two weeks got old to say the least.

  8. FEX 2 Defense - My first experience with digging fighting holes and the constant patrolling / hard work that encompasses a USMC Defense was FEX 2. Overall the field exercise was a valuable experience, but it was one of the times that I felt really challenged in the field. We didn’t sleep much or hardly at all this week.

TBS was a difficult experience overall and I can’t said I’m disappointed to see it wrap up in a few weeks. Long days, challenging academics, leadership situations, physical demands, leading peers, a lack of sleep, an unpredictable schedule and other things all contributed to making TBS the challenge that it was. I would never volunteer to take this course again, I can say that I’ve learned a lot and that it has been a valuable contribution for my life.

If you are going to be attending the United States Marine Corps The Basic School anytime soon or if you are interested in becoming a officer in the military, here are a few things (other than the list above) that you can expect about the experience.

TBS is a entry level course for officers in the USMC. Students go there after completing Officer Candidate School usually as newly commissioned 2nd Lieutenants. Students are taught a variety of military related subjects and the time is basically split between classroom education and in field training. Physical training is typically conducted by the students on their own time, other than the occasional group workouts and unless you’re married most students live in the officers barracks on Camp Johnson. Days are long and unfortunately as students are still in a training status they usually don’t have much control over their Mondays to Fridays. Weekends are usually kept sacred other than the 2-3 times a cycle where students have duty, which means they basically sit at the front desk in uniform in case something terrible and out of the ordinary happens. Students do get to have some very unique experiences, which would not likely happen outside of the military such as riding in Osprey Helicopters, shooting a variety of weaponry such as MK19s and 50 Cals, learn martial arts, run a difficult obstacle and endurance course, and most importantly be around a group of fairly motivated people.

The Basic School has been called The Big Such for reason…it often sucks pretty bad. That being said, like anything in the military, there are definitely some positive notes that balance the negative.

If you want to learn more about The Basic School or the path to becoming an officer in the USMC, please email me at contactme@benjaminsteele.us. I would love nothing more but to help you on your journey.

God bless,

Ben