Marine Corps Terminology and Acronyms for Recruits

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Marine Corps Drill Instructors Boot Camp Preparation
Sergeant Preston T. Brown, India Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, instructs a recruit to respond louder during pick up at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego.

The United States Marine Corps has a rich history. Born on November 10, 1775, the Continental Marines were founded to serve aboard naval ships as marksmen and security forces. They were infantry who could fight just as well on land as they did at sea. A lot of Marine Corps terminology is derived from naval terminology, as you’ll see below.

There are thousands of acronyms and phrases to learn as a new Marine. We will focus on the most relevant to recruit training.

Acknowledging and Giving Orders

Aye, aye: A term used to acknowledge an order. It is often shortened to “aye, sir.” Although every Drill instructor is called “sir” once you get to the fleet you will use the Marine’s rank. I.e. “Aye, sergeant.”

As You Were: To disregard the last thing said, or make a correction. For instance, making a mistake on the order of firewatch. “Smith, you have firewatch at 0300 tonight. As you were, it’s recruit Johnson.”

Carry On: to continue doing what you were doing before interrupted or stopped.

Marine Corps Recruit Terminology

These are terms you will know and understand as a Marine Recruit. Some of them will transfer to the Fleet Marine Force, but many will not (because you don’t get IT’d at a unit).

Recruits from Alpha Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, receive instructions from a drill instructor during pick up at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego.
Recruits from Alpha Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, receive instructions from a drill instructor during pick up at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego. The recruits will spend their first day with their drill instructors learning the rules and regulations of recruit training, regarding everything from how to act in the squad bay to how to speak to drill instructors. Photo By: Lance Cpl. Kailey J. Maraglia

Black Friday: This is the day you meet the Drill Instructors who will forge you into a US Marine. You will always remember Black Friday.

CFT: The Combat Fitness Test. It measures functional fitness through a strength and endurance course. Read more about the Combat Fitness Test here.

Chow: Whatever food a Marine is eating, as well as meal time itself.

Doc: A Navy Corpsman assigned to the Fleet Marine Force. All corpsmen are called “Doc” regardless of rank, and are basically Marines anyway.

DI: Shorthand for Drill Instructor. You will never refer to a Drill Instructor as a DI, however, or you will face Incentive Training.

Drill: Close order marching with rifle.

Duty Hut: Where Drill Instructors stay in the squad bay. The DI on duty has a desk, computer, and a cot to sleep on. At least one Drill Instructor is with the recruits 24/7.

Ears: A Drill Instructor ordering you to listen up. When a Drill Instructor says “ears,” recruits respond with “open, sir.”

Eyeballs: A Drill Instructor ordering you to look at them. When a Drill Instructor says “eyeballs,” recruits respond with “click, sir.”

Fatbody: An overweight recruit.

Field Day: Typically every Thursday. To Field Day means to move everything, clean everything. Drill Instructors will inspect the cleaning job, and it will never be clean enough.

Fresh blood: New recruits.

Guide: the guide is the leader of the recruit platoon, and carries the guidon, or unit flag. The guide is selected through meritocracy and can be the platoon honor graduate.

Guidon: a red flag with the unit on it. Every unit in the Marine Corps has a guidon and a designated carrier.

Go Fasters: Running shoes. 

House Mouse: a recruit assigned to clean the duty hut during field day. the house mouse also manages the platoon whiskey locker.

Hydrate: Drink water. This is often given as a command, “hydrate, recruit.” You may also hear the term “hydrate or die.”

IT: Incentive Training is extra PT, often for one individual, used to motivate recruits to perform to a higher standard. IT training is only used during recruit training and is limited to a few minutes at a time.

Jody: The guy who is hooking up with your girlfriend back home. Drill Instructors will often tell recruits their girlfriend has left them for Jody.

Knowledge: this is the name of your recruit knowledge handbook, which you will store in a cargo pocket and study religiously.

Mini Grinder: when you move all the racks and foot lockers to one side of the room to perform drill in the squad bay. You will experience an inspection by every Drill Instructor in your company in the mini-grinder, which has been named for a reason!

MRP: Medical Rehabilitation Platoon, where injured recruits are placed for recovery. This usually drops them back a training cycle.

Parade Deck: This is where recruits practice drill. Drill competitions and unit inspections also take place on the parade deck.

PCP: Physical Conditioning Platoon, where recruits who need to lose weight or get stronger are placed. This happens when a recruit is too fat or not strong enough to pass the Initial Strength Test. Also referred to as the “Pork Chop Platoon.”

PFT: Physical Fitness Test. This consists of a max set of pull-ups or flexed-arm hang for women, crunches in 2 minutes, and a 3 mile run. We’ve written a full breakdown of the Physical Fitness Test here.

PT: Physical Training, like a run, workout, or obstacle course run.

RTB: Recruit Training Battalion. In the Fleet Marine Force, RTB means “return to base,” which is the last movement of a patrol or mission.

Squad Leader: each boot camp platoon is broken into three or four squads, each with a squad leader who takes responsibility for them as a group. The squad leaders are promoted through meritocracy and may also be a platoon honor graduate, if earned.

Suzie: Your girlfriend back home. Drill Instructors will often tease recruits during runs that they aren’t focused and are thinking of “Suzie” back home.

Training Cycle: Every two weeks, a new battalion begins training recruits. This is called the training cycle. If you’re dropped from your platoon for medical reasons or because you failed to execute, you’ll be picked up by the next training cycle. Oftentimes a graduating platoon is made up of less than 50% of the original members.

Marine Boot Camp Preparation Guide
The complete guide to preparing for Marine Boot Camp.

Zero: Freeze. Drill Instructors will often count down while waiting for their orders to be completed. Once they reach zero, you will “freeze or die.”

Looking for more information? We’ve written an eBook on how to prepare for boot camp. It has in-depth knowledge on what to expect from your drill instructors, how to prepare mentally and physically, as well as workout plans, running workouts, and nutrition to help you succeed. It’s available for $9.99 on Amazon.

Marine Corps Motivational Terminology

The Marine Corps has many of its own terms as well, like its motivational saying Semper Fidelis.

Kill: An affirmative response to a command or greeting. For instance, as a Lieutentant gives orders to an infantry platoon, saying the word “kill” is considered an acknowledgement of the orders. You will be saying the word “kill” a few hundred times per day in boot camp, typically while performing drill and practicing martial arts.

Moto: Motivational, usually referring to a fellow Marine’s actions or demeanor.

Semper Fidelis: Always Faithful. Often shortened to “Semper Fi”

Semper Gumby: A take on Semper Fi meaning “always flexible.” You won’t experience this until you’re in the Fleet Marine Force.

Oo-Rah: Motivational grunt used for affirmative responses. In the Fleet Marine Force, this will often be shortened to Err-ah, Urr, or Rah.

YUT: You won’t experience this until you get to a unit. It means “yeah, you too,” and is used in response to “good morning, 1st Sergeant” or “Oo-Rah.”

Marine Corps Naval Terminology

Marines still serve aboard Navy ships, and have always had a close relationship—technically the Marine Corps is in the Department of the Navy, however it remains its own military branch.

Here are some basic naval terms you’ll have to know as a Marine Recruit.

Aft: The rear of a ship or room.

Blouse: Your camouflage shirt. Blousing your boots refers to the method of ensuring your trouser legs are ‘bloused’ shut so ants and sand fleas can’t crawl up your legs.

Bulkhead: A wall.

Cover: Any uniform headgear, or hat.

Deck: The floor. Marines also refer to the ground as the deck, so generally whatever you are standing on is the deck.

Firewatch: Guard duty, typically at night. While sentires used to watch out for fires onboard a ship, recruits pulling firewatch are in charge of security, ensuring the platoon’s weapons are looked after, and maintaining alertness. Firewatch must make sure no recruits are sneaking out and that no unauthorized persons enter the squad bay. The recruit on firewatch is often referred to as “firewatch”.

Foot Locker: A small lockbox where recruits store their gear and extra uniforms.

Fore: The front of a ship or room.

Foredeck: The front part of the room, or squad bay.

Hatch: A door.

Head: The bathroom. When recruits have to go, they’ll ask a Drill Instructor “to make a head call.”

Marine Recruits practice martial arts during the confidence course at Marine Recruit Depot San Diego.
Recruits of Company M, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, practice their Marine Corps Martial Arts Program techniques while waiting to move on to the next obstacle during the Confidence Course. Photo by Cpl. Benjamin E. Woodle.

Hygiene: A term used to cover showering, shaving, brushing your teeth.

Ladderwell: Stairs. As ships tended to have ladders between decks, Marines have come to call all stairs ladderwells.

Moon Beam: The military issue olive drab, L-shaped, D-battery powered flashlight.

Overhead: A ceiling.

Port: The left side, as facing the bow of a ship. When referring to the squad bay recruits sleep in, the port side will always be the left side as you are facing the front of the room.

Porthole: A window.

Portholes: Glasses, the windows for your eyes. They are also called BCGs, or “Boot Camp Glasses”. They are also referred to as “Birth Control Goggles,” because they are not stylish in any way, and are an effective means of contraception.

Quarterdeck: This term comes from the raised part of old sailing ships where the captain commanded the ship. However, as a US Marine Recruit this will be the forward area of the squad bay where recruits are taken for IT, or Incentive Training.

Rack: A bed. Marines are weapons, so they are stored in “racks” instead of sleeping in “beds.”

Scuttlebutt: A water fountain (to be honest this is not used very often).

Skivvies: Underwear. Recruits wear tighty whities, by the way. 

Squad Bay: The barracks room where recruit platoons sleep.

Starboard: The right side, as facing the bow of a ship.

Swab: A mop. Often used as a command, i.e. “swab the deck”.

Trousers: Pants.

Water Bowl: A canteen.

Whiskey Locker: The closet where cleaning supplies are kept.

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