Marine drill instructors are tasked with turning recruits into tough-as-nails Marines, and their reputation for being tough (and sometimes mean) is well-known.
Movies usually portray them as screaming at their subordinates in order to toughen them up (think "Full Metal Jacket"), but this is an incredibly important job that requires physical and mental toughness. There's a reason Marine drill instructors aren't warm and fuzzy.
In addition to helping recruits develop the stamina and fortitude they need as Marines, drill instructors educate their platoons on the history and traditions of the Marines, military etiquette and certain Navy regulations.
Qualifying as a Marine Drill Instructor
Drill instructor (or DI) isn't a primary military occupational specialty (PMOS) like other Marine jobs but is what's known as a special duty assignment, or B-billet. It's not entry-level; only Marines who have already reenlisted at least once and have training in another PMOS are eligible.
Drill instructor is not a career path per se, so any Marine with the proper temperament and endurance is potentially eligible to serve in this job.
This MOS is open to Marines between the ranks of sergeant and master gunnery sergeant/sergeant major. They'll cycle through a new platoon of Marines every three months, and recite this pledge before beginning each one:
These recruits are entrusted to my care.
I will train them to the best of my ability.
I will develop them into smartly disciplined, physically fit, basically trained Marines, thoroughly indoctrinated in love of Corps and country.
I will demand of them, and demonstrate by my own example, the highest standards of personal conduct, morality, and professional skill.
Training as a Marine Drill Instructor
There are two locations for drill instructor training: at Parris Island in South Carolina, or Marine Corps Recruiting Depot in San Diego. The three-month course is intense; after all, it's designed to make sure those who become drill instructors have the physical and mental capacity to turn recruits into Marines.
The physical training involves learning to conduct close order marching drills, combat conditioning, and leadership. And drill instructors are expected to thoroughly learn the rules and regs. In addition, they'll take extensive first aid, CPR, swim qualifications and physical fitness training.
Like their future recruits, drill instructors in training are evaluated via uniform inspections and have their leadership abilities scrutinized. In a nutshell, drill instructors go through every bit of training they'll later impart to new Marines.
Different Types of Marine Drill Instructors
Within the DI job, there are three tiers of authority. First is the junior drill instructor, whose duties usually revolve around making sure the platoon get their close order drill up to par. He or she is the least experienced of the DI team.
The experienced, or "heavy" DI is usually the one who does the most yelling at new Marines and is in charge of discipline. The senior drill instructor is also gruff and not to be messed with, but is most likely going to be the one who rewards good performance or behavior, and sometimes acts as a check on an overzealous heavy.