The United States Marine Corps is well known by its slogan "The Few. The Proud. The Marines." To that you can add "The Young" -- two-thirds of active duty Marines are 25 years old and younger; 26 percent under 21 -- not even old enough to drink alcohol. Most of those Marines will only stay in for one four-year term of active duty, so it's a force that is constantly turning over personnel -- 30,000 come into the corps every year as 30,000 get out.
(AP / CBS)
And that's just fine by the commanding generals -- because they're in the business of fielding infantry units. They want a young, agile force. And infantry, they believe, is a young man's game. To attract recruits, they play to exactly what might turn some people off : the fact that the Marine Corps is the toughest military service to get into; that t has the toughest boot camp; that you're going to be constantly on the go. If you're joining to go fight, you're going to do that too.
David Martin's story tonight shows trainees (you can't call them Marines yet because they haven't made it through boot camp) going through a rite of passage called "The Crucible." It's a 72-hour stress test -- constant military drills, road marches, enemy infiltration exercises, a couple hours of sleep and not nearly enough food. The Marines consider this a culminating event, one that brings together all the elements of their basic training in one final test.
And when you make it through, you get to celebrate at graduation with your family -- and then head off for more training and, in all likelihood, deployment to a war zone.