Making the Corps [NOOK Book]


The bestselling, compelling insider’s account of the Marine Corps from the lives of the men of Platoon 3086—their training at Parris Island, their fierce camaraderie, and the unique code of honor that defines them.

The United States Marine Corps, with its proud tradition of excellence in combat, its hallowed rituals, and its unbending code of honor, is part of the fabric of American myth. Making the Corps visits the front lines of boot camp in...
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Making the Corps

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The bestselling, compelling insider’s account of the Marine Corps from the lives of the men of Platoon 3086—their training at Parris Island, their fierce camaraderie, and the unique code of honor that defines them.

The United States Marine Corps, with its proud tradition of excellence in combat, its hallowed rituals, and its unbending code of honor, is part of the fabric of American myth. Making the Corps visits the front lines of boot camp in Parris Island, South Carolina. Here, old values are stripped away and new Marine Corps values are forged. Bestselling author Thomas E. Ricks follows these men from their hometowns, through boot camp, and into their first year as Marines. As three fierce drill instructors fight a battle for the hearts and minds of this unforgettable group of young men, a larger picture emerges, brilliantly painted, of the growing gulf that divides the military from the rest of America.

Included in this edition is an all-new afterword from the author that examines the war in Iraq through the lens of the Marines from Platoon 3086, giving readers an on-the-ground view of the conflict from those who know it best.
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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Wall Street Journal Pentagon correspondent Ricks effectively combines a vivid account of the rigorous basic training received by US Marine recruits with commentary on what separates the demanding, disciplined culture of America's military elite from the more permissive culture of its civilian society.

The author tracks the 60-odd volunteers who comprised Platoon 3086 at Parris Island i 1995 through the challenging 11-week course known as boot camp. Unlike their counterparts in other branches of the US military, aspiring marines do not train alongside women; nor do they have access to alcohol, automobiles, candy, cigarettes, drugs, or various other diversions dear to the hearts of young American males. Ricks offers anecdotal evidence on what USMC recruits must endure in the way of indoctrination from fearsome (but no longer gratuitously brutal) drill instructors in the deep piney woods where apprentice warriors get their first taste of what combat is like, and in other invariably sweaty venues. He goes on to review the washout rate of 14 percent or so (which thins 3086's ranks to 55 by graduation day), the ongoing debate on ever-tougher entrance requirements (which probably cost the corps some superior fighting men), and the army's purposefully "user-friendly" training regimen (which reportedly neither instills esprit nor prepares soldiers to do battle). Covered as well is the risk that alienation could induce cream-of-the-crop troops like marines to take a more forceful role in the governance of the nation they are pledged to protect, if not engage in an outright coup. The author argues that it behooves America's largely oblivious middle and upper classes to take a more direct interest in their military.

A revelatory briefing on what sets the USMC apart and the consequences of its superiority during a postCold War era when, for all the talk of peace dividends, the wider world remains an armed and dangerous place.

From the Publisher
"A thousand years from now, a historian looking at the U.S. military will do well to cite Ricks's book." — USA Today

"An important book...essential reading for anyone who cares about the role of the military in America." — The Washington Post Book World

"Anyone reading this book cannot help but think that America has many lessons to learn from the Marines." — Chicago Tribune

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416559740
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • Publication date: 7/31/2007
  • Sold by: SIMON & SCHUSTER
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 184,000
  • File size: 495 KB

Meet the Author

Thomas E. Ricks is The Washington Post's senior Pentagon correspondent. A member of two Pulitzer Prize-winning teams for national reporting, he has reported on U.S. military activities in Somalia, Haiti, Korea, Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Kuwait, Turkey, Afghanistan, and Iraq. He is the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq and A Soldier's Duty.
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Read an Excerpt

From Chapter 3, Training

The end of Week Three brings the actual tests.

Physical testing, held on a dewy field near the Third Battalion on the morning of March 22nd, is predictable. Gary Moore Jr. looks unhappy. At the other end of the platoon, Andrew Lee, in his usual Terminator mode, burns through ninety-nine sit-ups in two minutes and then does thirty pull-ups. "Every time we did PT, I wanted to be Lee," Jumal Flow will later say. "He went through the obstacle course with a smile. He was just hard."

Sergeant Carey runs three miles in eighteen minutes, forty seconds, ahead of all but three members of the platoon. Standing at the finish line to exhort those who follow, Sergeant Carey congratulates a recruit who stumbles across the line, staggers to the grass, drops to his knees and vomits. "That's the effort we're looking for," he says. "But don't eat so much breakfast." He stands in the middle of the ring of recruits walking to cool off and instructs with his personal mantra. "You got to test yourself everyday. If you don't test yourself, that day is wasted." By the time they graduate, they will be able to recite those sentences word for word, no matter if they are so bushed they can't remember how to count off. They also will grow accustomed to another of his admonitions, one they hear as he gives them extra PT on the quarterdeck, as if bestowing a present rather than punishment: "Pain is just weakness leaving the body."

The minimum performance in today's physical test is three pull-ups, forty sit-ups, and three miles in twenty-eight minutes. The platoon averages ten pull-ups, sixty-six sit-ups, and a run time of 23.30. That totals to an average PT score of 188, out of a possible 300. "That's pretty good," says Staff Sergeant Rowland, nodding at Sergeant Carey as if to remind him that not everyone is Force Recon. But there are two failures. One is a recent pickup named Stephen Torchia, who did only two pull-ups and also failed the run by half a minute. The drill instructors distrust his attitude and have been waiting for an opportunity to move him on. And Shawn Bone, a cautious black college student from Birmingham, Alabama, came in dead last in the run, at 28.39. A "WNOD" -- that is, "Written Notice of Deficiency" -- is placed in his file, but he isn't dropped.

Sergeant Carey marches the platoon back to the barracks for a shower. "Nice and easy," he yells in cadence with the march. The platoon shouts back: "Nice and slow!"

But after he takes them to the mess hall for noon chow, the heavy hat paces uneasily. The inspection of uniforms, rifles, and appearance looms, and he is more troubled by the prospect than are his unwary recruits. He knows something they don't: they will be inspected by Sergeant Humphrey, a DI from 3085 who became Sergeant Carey's friend at drill instructors school. The two men are intensely competitive with each other. "It's a good thing they didn't put the two of us with the same platoon, 'cause we'd burn it out," says Sergeant Carey. "Me and Humphrey, we're action guys." That is a euphemism for being a hard-charging in-your-face, Type Triple-A Marine NCO. This is not good news for Platoon 3086.

Conscious of their impending doom, Sergeant Carey works after chow to clean up his recruits. "I want you to get those stinkin' gas masks out of the footlocker NOW. Ten, nine, eight, seven,..." After a weak "Aye, sir," he cracks the verbal whip: "I don't like that little monotone belligerent attitude," he says. "I'll take you to the freaking pits." Those are the giant sand boxes just outside the barracks windows in which recruits suspected of recalcitrance are made to run -- a taxing effort in the deep, squishy sand -- and then do push-ups, offering their faces and forearms to the eager jaws of the thousands of sand fleas that thrive in the boxes.

Charging up and down the line through the barracks, Sergeant Carey pulls a hanging thread -- what the Marines call an "Irish pennant" -- from the starched camouflage uniform of Tony Wells, a twenty-five-year-old recruit who came here from a Du Pont chemical factory near Rocky Mount, North Carolina. "You accept substandard performance," shouts the agitated DI. "That's why America will fall one day, just like the Roman Empire. But not me, understand? BUT NOT ME!"

At 2:19, Doom himself appears at the end of the barracks: Sergeant Humphrey, a black fireplug of a man from Columbia, South Carolina, with arms so muscled they appear difficult to bend. He conducts the inspection with the heated language of an evangelist running a revival. But he dismisses the failures with the cold heart of a soldier machine-gunning a charging enemy. He begins with Recruit Shelton, who appears almost cocky. "You're lazy," he hisses in a voice that sounds like it carries a poisonous sting. "Did you clean that rifle? Oh, I'm sure you did. Did you shine those boots with a brick?"

Recruit Shelton doesn't know what hit him. Short Sergeant Humphrey cocks his head and gazes up the tall recruit's nostrils. "Your hygiene is unsatisfactory. Did you shave? No discipline. NO DISCIPLINE!" For all that, Recruit Shelton passes a tacit part of this test: He doesn't lose his bearing.

Sergeant Humphrey has the next recruit in line recite the Marine equivalent of The Lord's Prayer: "This is my rifle. There are many like it but this one is mine. My rifle is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I master my life. My rifle without me is useless. Without my rifle I am useless. I must fire my rifle true. I must shoot him before he shoots me." Sergeant Humphrey nods and moves on.

Anthony Randolph, a nineteen-year-old former construction worker from Cookeville, Tennessee, doesn't know the name of the battalion sergeant major. Sergeant Humphrey rasps: "The most important people in your life is your chain of command." He cuts the guts out of Recruit Randolph: "Rifle manual -- below average. Rifle -- below average. You don't know anything about this weapon, which you sleep with every night. Poise -- average. Hygiene -- unsatisfactory. Knowledge -- average. Overall -- below average."

So it goes with the rest of the platoon. Recruit Moore, who believes his white DIs are racists, finds he fares no better with this black DI. "Below average," he is labeled by Sergeant Humphrey.

Landon Meyer, a thin, pimply former short order cook from Long Beach, California, also loses his way on the chain of command question. "Sir, this recruit was confused," he says.

"How old are you?" asks Sergeant Humphrey.

"Nineteen, sir."

"You've been confused for nineteen years," says the sergeant, utterly dismissing the recruit's life before Parris Island. Part of the message is that whatever you were or did before your life in the Marines is absolutely, entirely, irrevocably irrelevant. What matters is what you do here, in a ruthless meritocracy. Invariably, you aren't doing enough.

Copyright © 1997 by Thomas E. Ricks

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Table of Contents

Prologue: Mogadishu, December 1992

Chapter 1. Disorientation

Chapter 2. The Forming

Chapter 3. Training

Chapter 4. Warrior Week

Chapter 5. Ready

Chapter 6. Graduation

Chapter 7. Back In The World

Chapter 8. In The Marines

Chapter 9. On American Soil

Epilogue: Parris Island, October 1996



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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 36 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 36 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 19, 2010

    A very factual book.

    I landed aboard PI in September of 1961 and just like these recruits was a confused eighteen year old volunteer as the Marine Corps didn't draft people at the time. After almost fifty years a lot has evidently changed and a lot has not. Like a lot of old Marines I find it hard to believe they can mold recruits without the thumping but times change. My son San Diego 1992 and I both agree that this is the first time we have ever read anything that actually describes the let down you feel when you go from the very regimented and squared away life at boot camp to the troop handlers at ITR or the fact that one of the DI's is the heavy hat.
    While my thirteen weeks on the island was more like Full Metal Jacket I believe this book would give a young person much better insight into todays boot camp and the things to do to get through it successfully.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 12, 2010

    Great book

    I am just not sure that I should have read it WHILE my son was at Parris Island. It was real and scurate but I could only read it in short times before getting myself upset and worrying about my son. That being said I am glad that I did read it. IT let me into a very bubble like time of my sons life that he was hesitant to let me in. Because I knew things and had specific questions he was opened up more I think. I would recomend that every parent that has a child at Parris Island read Making the Corps. Just leave enough time to read it

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 30, 2011

    A great novel that shows life inside boot camp

    Tells how hard boot camp is and how bad it is to be in the army as a "soldier in training"

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 9, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Making the reader better

    I read this book prior to starting a fire academy and I found it not only inspirational, but perhaps a little preperatory for what I was to experience. I am amazed at how similar I felt to the Boots as they progressed and especially their disappointment with "the real world" after they graduated. Thsi is a very well written book that provides the reader with a great insight into USMC boot camp as well as the culture and thinking of such a great, yet threatened branch of the military.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 3, 2007

    I am a Future Marine

    This is the best book i have ever read about the Marine Corps. I am going to sign up after my first year in college and this book got me more pumped for what im going to experience than any book i have read. A must read for anyone who is interested in military topics.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 11, 2013

    Good Read

    Brought me back 30+ years to 1980 when I went to Parris Island and joined the Marines.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 23, 2006

    Boot Camp Through eyes of young men

    This is a story of platoon 3086. Men who came to Parris Island and wanted to become Marines. Some wash out and some survived. It gives you some details of what goes on in the minds of the young recruits and the DI's. 1995 Recruit training Parris Island, the boot camp that the army don't teach you. You want to join the elite than take this book and make it knowledge to prepare your self. Need to make a Boot Camp book of Camp Pendleton in the 21st century.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2005

    Insightful Read

    Making the Corps is an isightful book that is a must read for anyone considering the Marine Corps.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 23, 2003

    Good look at first three months

    Ricks lets the reader see what for the most part goes on in bootcamp. There of course is the realization that 'behind closed doors' activities would never be allowed to make the presses. This book is good for the DEP Marine wanting to know what he should expect, yet to know the backround of the next four years, I suggest this book then 'Stand By to Fall Out' from Chadz to see what the Corps is really about.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 4, 2003

    One Book out of the Three 'Must Reads'

    Ricks nailed the bullseye with his recap of a training cycle at Marine recruit training. But as Dan Da Cruz said in his book (BOOT), there are a little less than 4 years that follow that makes the boy a Marine. Boot camp and it's structured discipline gives the guidelines, yet Marines will learn to adapt and make their careers either a benifit to the Marine Corps or a thorn in the Corps' side. P. Chadz writes of his first four years after he graduated HONOR MAN out of boot camp, (Stand By to Fall Out) and reading Ricks, Da Cruz and Chadz in that order will give a new Marine the full monty as to what will be expected and witnessed by him on a first tour. Marines are the first to go and last to know, but reading these 'must reads' will give all new Marines the wear-with-all to not get hamstringed in either boot camp or the duties on bases and beacheads in the years that follow.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 25, 2003

    one book in the collection

    Great read for the modern boot camp recruits and the parents of them. Coupling this book with Into the Crucible(woulfe) and Stand By to Fall Out (chadz) every Marine wanna be will find the road he must travel is fairly laid out already in text for him. Woulfe and Ricks show the modern Corps training yet the reader must understand there is more that goes on then what has been allowed to be printed. Boot (cruz) examines this during the eighties, but again, some circumstances were left out as none of the three above mentioned authors wanted to bite the hand that allowed them to describe the details of the usually cloaked and shrouded Marine Corps training. Ricks does do the Corps justice, and to include this into a 'learners collection' with books by woulfe(crucible - about recruit training) and chadz (stand by to fall out...first tour Marine Grunt memoirs) a young Marine or Marine family will learn much more about the Corps than any letters or stories will express.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 7, 2003

    only three months

    this book is ok...but for the Marine who wants to relive the four following years...when a Marine is really made, when the brotherhood shows through, I agree with another reviewer and say the best thing to do is pick up the book from Chadz (stand by to fall out) july 2003. All Marines know this get scared in bootcamp and follow orders through the unknown and a regimented list that DIs follow daily. Basically, like this book, it gives you a skeleton look of what it is gonna take to be CONSIDERED a Marine, but the time you prove your worthyness and are actually raised to the hights of the world's finest is when you do your time in a grunt unit for the next fours years after the first 13 weeks this book speaks to. Ok for parents, but all Marines would rather read about what they truely remember...the next four years. Again..not bad, but I would recommend the other book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 23, 2003

    Must-Read for any Marine

    Anyone who knows, is related to, is, or wants to be a Marine MUST read this book. Basic training has never been so honestly portrayed. I serves as warning to all considering service in the United States Marine Corps that the ads aren't B.S. They are the few and the proud for a reason.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 27, 2003

    Making The Corps: A Must Read For Everyone

    This is a great book for anyone who wants to know what it takes to make it through boot camp and be taught the values of 'life'. An outstanding, indepth representation of what it takes to be a Marine. To be able to follow new recruits through training, this book clearly defines the statement: 'The Few The Proud'. A must read for everyone who shares the patriotism of America as much as I do, and wants to know what Marine recruits go through to be the best-Semper Fi!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 30, 2002

    A Must for Anyone Considering Serving in the Military, Not Just the Marines

    This book gives you an inside look at what goes on at Boot Camp and not only what to expect should you decide to become a Marine yourself but also insight into all military. This is the only book I've found that can help mentally prepare you for your journey in Boot Camp or Basic Training. (Though I've not read "Boot" yet.) This is a very good, easy read for all. It helps you to appreciate what our Marines go through to become a Marine.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 13, 2001

    Excellent reading for military personel and Marines(former, current, and future)

    I went through recruit training in San Diego MCRD. Even though Making the Corps was about Parris Island recruits I felt that it accurately portayed Boot Camp to the fullest extent. I read this book about 6 months ago and it made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I took me back to a place I didn't really want to be in anymore. But all said and done I really enjoyed Making the corps. I highly recommend it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 20, 2000

    Why can't I put this book down?

    Military Book Enthusiasts around the world will agree, this book has got to be one of the greatest accounts of Marine Corps Boot Camp ever. One of the very Marines named in the book has worked with Marines I now serve with. The true life accounts and actions of each person in the book are clearly detailed. You get the feeling that you are at the Oak Course with Lee, Hearing the Drill Instructor tell him how he couldn't have done better. You can picture Sgt. Carey's scars as described by one recruit..'You wonder what the hell happened to him'. I picked this book up at work, one of my Marines had left it after his duty. I read the entire book that night. I am not a very HUGE reader, but this book has inspired me to read more military associated books. My next conquest is 'Into the Crucible, Making Marines of the 21st Century'. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading military books. If you are preparing for Boot this book. Semper Fidelis, Cpl. Carl Vannest United States Marine Corps

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2000


    I am 54 year old telecommunications consultant. (USMCR '67-72) I was fascinated by the changes in MC basic and the present high quality of Marine training. One thing that came back to me because of reading this book was the violence of Marine Corps training. Being a Marine ultimately means that when push comes to shove, you become an attack dog. That thought enthralled me then, scares me now. Semper Fi, Mac.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 22, 2000

    True reflection of current Marine Corps BootCamp

    I went to Paris Island from June 8, 1998 to Sept of 1998. This book was exactly how I remembered my experience of boot camp. Great book for current Marines, aspiring Marines, or Marine Enthusiests. Great Book

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2000

    A Good Read

    I have to start out by saying i really enjoyed this book . I finished the book in about five sittings. I am a police officer in New York. I graduated from high school when i was 17 and i almost enlisted in the marines but fait had other plans for me .I am a firm believer in having patience and discipline . The two i believe are so integral to all around success in life and satisfaction.The author puts you in the drill instructors head and gives you a sense of their mission. The pace of the book flows and you look forward to each chapter as it unfolds. After reading this book i really got a sense of what it means to say you are a marine semper fideles.I have worked with many officers who were former marines and i was always awed at their personal discipline now i know why .I could write forever .but i think you get the idea. If you choose to read this book you will forever remember platoon 3086. The narrator the author guides you thru the tour with much candor and TRUTH

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