Once you have graduated boot camp you are free to go and you no longer are the responsibility of the MCRD Depot. You are officially a Marine and you will be held accountable for your actions from this point forward. You will officially be on your ten days of leave which are deducted from your annual 30 days of leave.
Your clothing/gear will already be staged and you simply go and pick it up and move on your way. You don't have to sign out or request permission to leave or anything like that. You are not rushed off the base. You can stay and walk around the depot and you can go shopping or go eat if you please. If your family is not present, there will be shuttle services available to take you to the airport.
During these ten days of leave, some of you may request recruiter's assistance which if granted will have you working with your recruiter after your ten days of leave or some of you will be assigned recruiter's assistance. Being assigned RA seems to be the norm these days meaning you are forced to take it after your boot camp leave. Some of you will get it while others wont. Recruiter's assistance can be a few days or a couple of weeks. It varies from recruiter to recruiter. Recruiter's assistance time does not count towards your annual leave and should not be confused with regular leave. During RA you are there to work for your recruiter and not to spend extra time at home. RA comes after your 10 days of leave and not before or during.
After your ten days of leave or after your recruiter's assistance, all Marines will report to the School of Infantry (SOI). You will go to SOI on the same coast where you went to boot camp unless a rare circumstance has you going to the opposite coast. To avoid any confusion, I will explain what SOI is: SOI or the School of Infantry is the name of the entire school located on both the west and east coasts. Within SOI are other schools two of which are MCT and ITB. All new enlisted Marines will attend SOI. Marines with the 03xx/infantry MOS will attend ITB and all other Marines will attend MCT. Remember, SOI is not just for infantry Marines.
MCT will last about one month while ITB will last about two months. Keep in mind this is only the length of the actual course and this time does not include any time you may spend waiting to pick up a class and or holidays. So you may be in SOI for longer then the one or two month course time.
AFTER MCT AND ITB:
-If your job is active duty infantry, after graduating ITB you will be sent to your first duty station. (Note) If your MOS is Security Forces, you will head off to SF school after graduating ITB)
-If your job is infantry in the reserves, after graduating ITB you return to your home to live the life of a weekend warrior.
-If your job is not infantry, after graduating from MCT you will be shipped to your MOS school and there is no leave/break granted between this time. Once you have graduated your job's schooling, if you are active duty you are sent to your first duty station. If you are a reservist you will return back home to do the weekend warrior thing. The lengths of MOS schools vary and can be as long as one year.
LEAVE AND LIBERTY DURING SOI (free time)
There are many variations as to what exactly takes place during SOI, so rather then to mislead you, I will explain it like this: SOI is a lot of field time and there is very little free time given. Do not expect a lot of liberty and this goes for both ITB and MCT. No matter what you heard or have read, you will not know how the process will go for you until you are going through the process. All I can say for certain is that you will not get a lot of time off. If you will be in SOI during a major holiday break, this can give you more free time and you may even be allowed to go home. Once again, you will not know the exact details until you are going through the process.
LEAVE AFTER ITB OR MOS SCHOOL
Because this issue has so many varying answers, I am not going to try to explain it. All I can say is this: Some of you may or may not be granted leave after your job's school before heading out to your first unit. This varies from school to school. You will not know if you will be granted leave until you are going though the process. As always, you need to assume that you will not be given any leave at this point.
WHAT TO TAKE TO SOI
This is also a question that will get a wide range of answers. What I can say for certain is that you need to take everything that was issued to you in boot camp. You should also take some civilian clothing and any smaller personal items you need such as electronic devices. Remember, after SOI you may be heading straight to your MOS school or to your first unit and you may not be given leave during this time. So you want to have this stuff with you or you can buy it on base if you prefer. At this point you can take your own preferred underwear, running shoes, clothing, glasses, books and stuff like that. Basically anything that you can stuff into your baggage that is not illegal, you can take it with you.
CHECKING INTO SOI: If you are going to check into SOI in uniform, you want to avoid traveling in uniform for security reasons and because it is uncomfortable and your uniform can get all jacked up. You can change into your dress uniform once you get off the plane or bus in the restroom or wherever it is decent to change over. You may hear from many Marines that you do not need to check in wearing your uniform, but you are supposed to according to USMC regulations, so do the right thing.
-SOI is a lot of field time, so do not expect a lot of time off.
-Avoid getting tattoos during this time. You do not want your new tattoo getting infected while out in the field. The "field" in case you do not know is you living outdoors in the woods and or dirt. Sort of like camping, but Marine Corps style. It is a very dirty environment.
-If you have any issues that are going to cause you to check-in late, you need to let someone know in advance. Read your orders and find a point of contact and let them know what is going on.
-You are free to check in to SOI early if you wish. You just show up early and that is that.
-Try not to make plans such as going on vacation, being home with family, getting married and stuff like that until you are going through the process. Things always change and different schools have different rules. Trust me on this one. Just wait until you are going through the process and you will know what is possible and what is not. And once again, always assume the worst when it comes to the USMC.
-Remember that theft is a real issue in the USMC, especially during SOI and MOS schooling.
-Prior to you arriving in your first unit, you are considered a "student,", so do not expect things to go smoothly for you. Despite you graduating boot camp and now thinking you are special, you are going to notice that no one really gives a fuck about that. You still are going to be treated like shit at times and your free time is often going to be messed with, so prepare for that now. As always, remember that experiences will vary from Marine to Marine.
-Try not to do anything major during this time such as getting married, buying a car/motorcycle and stuff like that.You can do all of this crap once you arrive in your first unit or once you go back home.
-In a perfect world you want to complete all of your initial training as soon as possible. If you start looking for clever ways to go home and if your interest is more in being at home then being where you volunteered to be at, then this is a very bad sign of what your future holds.
-For many of you this will be the first time you have unsupervised freedom with cash in your pockets, so think about your actions before you get yourself into a world of trouble or before you are broke. Yes it feels good during this time and life can be fun, but don't try to do everything during this time. You have a very long way to go, so never forget to look at the bigger picture.
-I cannot stress this point enough, especially for non infantry Marines: Do not assume that how it went for one Marine that this will be how it goes for you. You have to physically be going through the process to understand what is going to fly and what is not. This is because rules often change, holidays cause change, Marines get into trouble which will cause change, etc etc. Just because you speak to a Marine and he tells you it is going to be a certain way, this doesn't mean your experience will be the same. Trust me on that one.
-Last but not least. Yes, you will now officially be a BOOT, so embrace this title and don't worry too much about being a boot. All Marines were once a boot and no matter how long you serve, every Marine is a boot to someone. If someone calls you a boot, then you thank them and take it with pride and carry on with the rest of your day.