Smarting from criticism of a brutal hazing ritual for elite officers, the Marine Corps is eager to show off the “Crucible,” a new training program that tests young Marines on values and morality.
Eventually, every Marine, from raw recruit to senior officer, will go through it, earning a “values card” they must carry along with their military identification.
As part of the first class of officer candidates to receive the training at the Marine base at Quantico, Scott Buttz, 22, awoke at midnight after two hours sleep and marched 10 miles before dawn Monday.
By mid-afternoon, he had scrambled up hillsides and built a plank bridge. But the hardest part of the program is not the physical endurance, Buttz said. The three-day test emphasizes values, morality and above all teamwork.
Used to being tested on individual merit, these Marines must continuously work as a team for 54 hours and stand or fall as a group.
“You’re only as fast as your slowest man,” said Buttz, from Bedford, Ind.
The red, wallet-size cards list what Marines call the corps values of honor, courage and commitment, plus an eight-point checklist of Marine conduct. Among the things included on the checklist are “obey the law” and “lead by example.”
“The big thing is the values (tested) during a defining moment, an experience that’s a challenge for them to go through together,” said Col. Al Davis, commanding officer at the Officer Candidate School at Quantico.
The Crucible, named after the vessel used to forge metal, will cap nine weeks of grueling training for Buttz and his fellow trainees. Buttz and the several dozen others in his group were broken into teams of four for the Crucible.
They will graduate as lieutenants next week.
“This is like everything that we did in our whole nine weeks of officer candidate training jammed into 54 hours,” said James Chiacchia, 29, of Hopkinton, Mass.
Will little cards really make a difference?
“Obviously we don’t expect if an individual has a card they’re never going to do anything wrong. I think it’s just a good reminder,” Davis said.
Enlisted Marines began the Crucible program last fall. The first class graduated in December.
Active-duty Marines are designing their own “crucible experiences,” Marine spokesman Lt. Scott Gordon said. In keeping with the teamwork theme, Marines decide within their offices or units how to test themselves, Gordon said.
The tests are not always physical - one office at Quantico opted to tour the Holocaust Museum in Washington and then discuss what the experience means to warriors and citizens, Gordon said.