Parris Island Black Shirts
In Marine Corps Recruit training, drill instructors are challenged with turning civilians into recruits and then into Marines. But, it’s the men and women of Field Training Company, who are tasked with making these recruits into field Marines.
FTC exists to assist in the recruit training process. Drill Instructors carry a heavy burden throughout the 13 weeks of their program of instruction, so the Marines of FTC are in a position to assist in training their recruits alongside the drill instructors in order to help develop the recruits to give a better product for evaluation at the Crucible.
The Marines of FTC are distinguishable by the black shirts they wear as part of their uniform, hence the nickname, “The Black Shirts.”
The Black Shirts, who are attached to Weapons and Field Training Battalion are in charge of teaching the recruits the basics of warfighting in a simulated environment. They are in charge of all field training to include the Rappel Tower, Gas Chamber, Basic Warrior Training (BWT), and the Crucible.
FTC Marines come from across the Marine Corps with a variety of experience levels, ranging from infantrymen, to aircraft mechanics to administrative clerks.
“Marines with any [military occupational specialty] can become a Field Training Marine, the whole premise is that it is a basic introduction to entry level skills,” said Gunnery Sgt. Gregory Hopkins, who serves as the unit’s company gunnery sergeant. “It doesn't have to be an infantryman, it can be anyone who has the ability to be a good leader.”
Black shirt personnel are with the recruits throughout all of their field training, before the sun comes up and long after the sun sets, regardless of weather conditions. Throughout the course of the day, they will teach classes to the recruits to prepare them for combat and increase their survival chances. They are there to brief the drill instructors on the purpose and plan of attack at each training event. Their training essentially serves as the starting line for the recruits to become combat-ready Marines.
After recruit training, new Marines are sent to the School of Infantry where infantry Marines train in an Infantry Training Battalion and non-infantry Marines are sent to Marine Combat Training before finally attending their occupational school. SOI trains the new Marines based on the skill foundation they developed in recruit training.
“The introductory skills we teach here need to align with the program of instruction at Marine Combat Training and the School of Infantry” said Hopkins. “The whole training level pipeline and foundation of everything begins here at recruit training. Everything we teach here applies to the follow on courses they will receive at MCT or SOI.”
For the Marines serving in these positions, the responsibility to train the next generation of Marines is what makes the job fulfilling.
“The most rewarding part about being here is I get the chance to train future Marines that I will be leading into battle someday,” says Sgt. Pierce M. Meyers, a combat instructor with Field Training Company.
Hopkins said training recruits is a team effort across the depot, where everyone has a role to play in making recruits into Marines.
“The [martial arts instructors] teach the recruits their basic tan belt skills and techniques, the academic instructors deliver all the classroom instruction, rifle range [primary marksmanship instructors] teach marksmanship and we teach basic field skills along with confidence training exercises as well as facilitating the conduct of the Crucible.”