Is boot camp at Parris Island tougher than boot camp at San Diego? That question has no correct answer and as expected, those Marines who graduate boot camp will obviously claim that their boot camp was the tougher one. No Marine wants to think that his boot camp experience was not as tough as someone else's, so this argument will simply never end.
I can tell you that over time I often speak to new boot Marines during their ten days of leave and in many cases these Marines will exaggerate about their boot camp experience to make it seem much tougher then it actually was. This of course is understandable and is often fueled by the fact that boot camp was simply not as tough as they expected it to be. So let’s take a look at both boot camps.
First off let me point out that both Parris Island and San Diego do the exact same training and they spend the same amount of time doing it. As an example, you do not run more at Parris Island and you do not spend more time in a class room at San Diego. The Marine Corps issues a training program which both depots must follow and they both require the exact same thing in order to graduate. As an example, if you spend 50 hours in the classroom at PI, then you will spend 50 hours in the classroom at San Diego. So do not think that either location will train you differently. It's the same shit.
- The first major difference between the two depots is the weather. Despite what many say, both locations get very hot in the summer and in San Diego the summer season usually begins much sooner than on PI, plus it often lasts longer. The difference here will be the lack of humidity in San Diego. It rarely gets humid in San Diego and if it does, it does not compare to the humidity levels you’ll find at PI during the summer. The good thing about this PI issue is that hot humid summers are seasonal, so not everyone who attends PI can claim the humidity and heat was an issue for them. No matter what time of the year you attend boot camp in San Diego, you are guaranteed to be effected by the intense sun and this usually has the greatest impact on those recruits who come from Northern locations where the sun don’t shine as bright and as often. As for the winter months, well I think the same concept applies here. It does get cold out in San Diego during the winter, especially out in the hills on Camp Pendleton and it does freeze from time to time. You will get much more rain and much colder weather on PI then you will in San Diego and this is not debatable. I think it is important to point out that just because a location doesn’t get “as cold” as a different location, this doesn’t mean that it isn’t cold there. Regardless, the worse "weather" award definitely goes to Parris Island. Weather also plays a bigger role in Parris Island and some training may be cancelled or moved indoors along with your graduation.
- The next obvious difference will be the terrain. San Diego recruits conduct their field training, rifle qual and Crucible aboard Camp Pendleton. This terrain is mountainous and hilly and does add to the rigors of boot camp. Parris Island recruits do not experience these same rigors as they have very flat terrain. As far as the depots go, they basically are both identical as in being flat, so you aren’t running up hills or any crazy crap like that. The "terrain" award definitely goes to San Diego.
- Last but not least you have the little things that make each boot camp unique. Parris Island has sand fleas which I am sure are one huge pain in the ass while San Diego has the international airport directly behind it which is a huge distraction no matter where you are on the depot. Many graduates of PI will tell you that the sand flea issue is mainly an issue during the hot and humid times of the year. Some will talk about the swamps on PI, but last time I checked you do not train in these swamps. Some will say PI is more isolated because it is an island, so this makes boot camp tougher. No matter where you go to boot camp, isolation is guaranteed. Some will say San Diego recruits have it easier because they see more civilians around base and see more life around them since it is located in a large city. If this were true, wouldn’t it make San Diego much tougher on a recruit since he is constantly seeing what he is missing? Anyways, last time I checked recruits don’t spend their time site seeing or counting the civilian population. And correct me if I am wrong, but there are many civilians aboard PI, are there not? Moving on; If a hurricane is heading towards PI, they often evacuate the island, so this means missed training. Hopefully you wont miss out on anything too important. Some San Diego recruits will have to attend a professional baseball game during military week. I don’t think it will be recruits who are in 1st or 2nd phase who attend this event and I doubt they are there to have a grand ole time.
- Hollywood or Paradise Island here is one fact no one can debate. MCRD San Diego does not train females. All females are trained aboard MCRD Parris Island right long the side of the males.
Many drill instructors who have trained recruits at both depots often say neither location is tougher. Like many who are unbiased, they all seem to agree that both places are tough and both places offer its own unique challenges. At the end of the day if it makes you feel special by swearing up and down that your boot camp experience was tougher than others, then good for you.
- Parris Island is the preferred place to go to boot camp since it was made famous by movies and because of it’s cool sounding name. Just understand that at the end of the day both depots do the exact same thing and that is they create Marines by giving them the exact same training.
- All enlisted recruits will attend boot camp at one of the two depots. Those who take the officer route do not go through boot camp. They have their own training program.
- The general rule is that those males who enlist and live West of the Mississippi River will attend boot camp at MCRD San Diego while those East of the river will attend boot camp at MCRD Parris Island. All females regardless of where you live will attend MCRD Parris Island. There are some exceptions to this rule. Parts of Indiana, and Michigan are divided, so check with your recruiter to see where you'd go to boot camp. There are other locations that are also an exception to this rule and these locations are usually areas near the Mississippi River. Once again, check with your recruiter.
- If you have a family history of having graduated from either depot, you can request to attend that boot camp if you don't live in the correct area. I don't know how exactly they go about granting this special permission, but it does happen, so just ask. As far as I know, they will not grant you your request of depots just for the sake that you prefer one depot over the other. If you live near the Mississippi River, it wouldn't hurt to ask if you could attend one depot or the other if you so desired.
- Hopefully most of you who do graduate boot camp will grasp the bigger picture over time. A 90 day boot camp does not define you as a Marine. It is your entire enlistment that will define you, so try not to make too much of a big deal about where you will attend boot camp.
- FYI, it is about 125 miles from MCRD San Diego to Hollywood which is located in Los Angeles and not San Diego.