It is called, simply, "The Basic School.” For each junior Marine Corps officer, whether commissioned via university, service academy, officer candidate school, or platoon leader course, it is the introduction to the duties and responsibilities accompanying his new commission. Located at the Marine Corps Base, Quantico, Virginia, the school provides more than 1,100 hours of scheduled classroom and field instruction during a rigorous 21-week cycle. In addition to formal instruction, provided by staff members expert in fields ranging from military law to communications or company personnel administration, there is the constant education provided by the Staff Platoon Commanders—the experienced officers responsible for the day-to-day tasks of each 50-man student platoon.
Physical conditioning is a hallmark of the Marines and, accordingly, is not neglected at the Basic School. Excess pounds slip off quickly during the 120 hours allotted to physical training. The activities take many forms, ranging from combat swimming with utilities and an M-14 rifle, to strenuous running and calisthenics and demanding obstacle and confidence courses.
All officers in the Basic School, regardless of the Military Occupational Specialty they may eventually receive, are trained to become infantry commanders qualified to lead Marines into battle. Each learns to fire every weapon organic to the infantry battalion, from the 45-caliber pistol to the 81-mm. mortar. There are also demonstrations and instruction in the employment of artillery, naval gunfire, and close air support. In all, nearly 200 hours are spent in weapons training.
Much of the instruction at the Basic School reflects the Corps’ current focus upon Vietnam. For example, more training is now given in small unit tactics, including night operations, than was provided a few years ago. About 400 hours of training are devoted to tactical instruction, map reading, combat intelligence, and to practical exercises in the wooded hills and swamps that surround the school.
For indoctrination in amphibious warfare operations—the specialty of the Marines—each student company makes a three-day excursion to Little Creek, Virginia. There, with units of the Atlantic Fleet Amphibious Force, the new lieutenants eat and live as their men would. From crowded quarters on troopships, to the rolling LCVPs that make the final run to the beach, they see first-hand how the Navy-Marine team functions.
Of the more than 1,200 lieutenants in the Basic School at any one time, about 200 will graduate each month. Many will go on to specialized training; others will proceed directly to the Fleet Marine Force, and perhaps to Vietnam. Whatever the assignment, there is the confident awareness that the Basic School has given them the best training they can get—it has made them in every sense of the term, officers of Marines.