hollywood marines vs parris island
Marines

Hollywood Marines: San Diego Vs. Parris Island Marines

So, you are thinking about joining the United States Marine Corps.

Good for you from the author of this article, who just so happens to be a Marine himself.

The truth of the matter is that some of you will pull the trigger on this monumental decision and some of you will not.

For those that do, the rest of your life will be adorned with the title United States Marine.

If that just sent chills down your spine, then the Corps is clearly calling you.

However, depending on where you live in the country your humble beginnings on the path to the title “Marine” will vary.

Will you be an east coast Marine or a west coast (otherwise known as “Hollywood”) Marine?

Stumble around enough in various military forums and you’ll see this debate brought up frequently.

It refers to whether one became a Marine at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego or Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island.

There are discernible differences, but both will produce some of the finest fighting humans to ever walk the earth.

So the debate is real, but in every case it always starts with the same subject matter.

Namely, the suck.

Embrace the Suck

Every branch of the United States Military has its attributes, bonuses, and flaws.

However, one simply does not choose the United States Marine Corps because it is the path of least resistance.

Related Article:  7 Insane Benefits Of Joining The Marines

The Marines often call out to young men and women for whom adversity is a welcomed challenge.

We don’t ask you about your career aspirations, but rather, do you want to be one of the few and the proud.

So it is that this starts the debate between east coast and west coast Marines.

You can pretty much sum it up as to who had to embrace the most suck.

Embrace the suck is a term you find commonly thrown around in military circles as the military will often, and usually with a smile on its face, throw you into situations that for a lack of a better term simply suck.

Often, there is no other life than the one before you and the suck makes you a better Marine as a result.

Marines embrace, welcome it, and often like to brag about it. 

The east coast vs. west coast debate is about nothing more than who had it worse.

So let’s jump in and attempt to discern the differences.

Hollywood Marines (MCRD San Diego)

marine corps training in san diego
Image: Marines.mil

As for this Marine, I am what you would call a “Hollywood” Marine.

That is, I trained on the west coast at MCRD San Diego.

If you haven’t picked it up by now, luxury is often viewed as a derogatory term in the Marine Corps and calling a Marine “Hollywood” is no exception.

It is meant to impute a sense of privilege and celebrity on a Marine who is taught to shun anything fancy.

So when an east coast Marines call a west coast Marine “Hollywood”, it is a sort of subtle jab among brothers.

West coast Marines are made at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego in sunny Southern California.

With an annual average temperature in the 60’s or 70’s, the weather is indeed a God given luxury to these recruits.

san diego average weather

From Palm Trees to the occasional pretty woman should she walk across base, Southern California is objectively viewed as a more desirable location than the swampy coast of Beaufort, South Carolina.

If optics and imagery where everything, west coast Marines have discernibly less suck to embrace than east coast Marines.

So let’s talk east coast.

The Iconic Parris Island (MCRD Parris Island)

MCRD Parris Island. Image: Marines.mil

Given that a small percentage of Americans will ever serve in the military, much of what they believe about the military is forged through movies.

Which, as an aside, makes your serious deliberation to join the military all the more honorable.

When it comes to Marine recruit training, there is no movie more iconic than Full Metal Jacket.

Granted, I might be typing to kids not old enough to actually watch it, but with your parent’s permission give it a whirl.

The first half of the movie depicts one Gunnery Sergeant Hartman giving recruits in the Vietnam era all the suck they can handle.

It is, without a doubt, the most realistic piece on Marine recruit training known to man as the man playing the Drill Instructor was an actual Drill Instructor.

No worries, they can’t actually hit you anymore so you can ignore that part.

However, the imagery associated with that movie is so profound that modern Drill Instructors, who were not even born when the 1987 movie came out, do their best to pay homage to it.

Parris Island is the iconic setting for that movie and as such, MCRD Parris Island will forever be the sentinel location for Marine recruit training.

There is so much “suck” associated with that place that Marines forged at Parris Island will forever feel they have the bragging rights over Hollywood Marines.

For example, it can be either really cold in the winter, or really hot in the summer.

parris island average weather

Lament it all you want, but no recruit who walked across the parade deck at Parris Island ever felt blessed to be there and they will let you know it.

Now, it’s time to get in to the actual differences.

Fleas versus Hills

I hate to say it is that simple, but lest we lead you young kids astray this is pretty much the sum of it.

The weather is objectively better in South California than it is in South Carolina. Parris Island has the more iconic feel that America recognizes.

However, the biggest physical difference boils down to hills and fleas.

At Parris Island, little creatures known as sand fleas are prevalent and will often enjoy a little snack on your flesh at the least opportune moments.

Sand Flea eating breakfast on your skin. Image: Wikimedia.org

Much of boot camp is about maintaining your military bearing and sand fleas feasting on your flesh will test that.

Drill Instructors will often instruct you not to interfere and let their beloved pets eat.

Meanwhile, Hollywood Marines conduct their initial field training in mountainous Camp Pendleton California.

Before one can earn the title, United States Marine, one must march up the Grim Reaper.

marching up horno ridge
Marching up ‘horno ridge’. Image: Wikipedia.org

It starts with a 10-mile hump with a pack on your back that has a good chance of weighing more than you and then takes you up elevations sure to cause pain.

Parris Island recruits train on flat terrain and will never know the pain of burning thighs and depleted oxygen.

It is a suck to be embraced either way, but to have earned the title United States Marine it will have all been worth it.

A United States Marine

Finally, I think it is important to let the average recruit know that you will indeed have no choice as to which suck you embrace.

For the most part, new recruits east of the Mississippi River will head to Parris Island and those west of the Mississippi River will head out to become Hollywood Marines.

east coast vs west coast marine training

That’s not a hard and fast rule as I was a Tennessee kid east of the Mississippi who was shipped to San Diego for reasons unknown.

Moreover, if you are a legacy Marine and your father was trained at one location or another there is a process to make a specific request.

Meanwhile, ladies you are bound for 4th battalion at Parris Island regardless of where you live.

It seems like a frivolous debate, but I assure you that once you hit the field with your fellow Marines you will find this is the norm.

The truth of the matter is that both coasts have produced excellent Marines and even Medal of Honor recipients.

Not to mention, the true “suck” hits long after recruit training.

As far as this Hollywood Marine is concerned, if I had my choice knowing what I know now I’d choose Hollywood all day long.

Not only does it allow you to subsequently conduct your follow up training in Southern California as opposed to Jacksonville, North Carolina, the weather wins the day for this old Marine.

In Conclusion

Many will consider it, but even fewer will pull the trigger.

Should you decide to enter recruit training you will have about a 95% chance of making it through as they don’t easily allow you to quit.

They will forge you into a Marine and you will forever hold the title.

Whether you are a west coast or east coast Marine is fun banter, but a Marine you will always be.

Now, whether you are a Grunt or a POG is a debate for another day.

Hollywood Marines will always be treated like you had it easier and despite being one myself, I have to personally agree.

The hills of Camp Pendleton made me more physically fit and ready for the true “suck” the fleet and combat brings with it.

East coast vs west coast, the debate truly doesn’t matter and that settles it once and for all.

Still though, get ready for the debate my future Marines because it is coming whether you want it or not. Semper Fi.

Hollywood Marines: San Diego Vs. Parris Island Marines
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Jeff E.
Jeff E.
Jeff served with the Marine Corps Reserves as an Infantryman with Kilo Co. 3rd Battalion 23rd Marines from 1997 to 2003. 3/23 was deployed to Iraq in 2003 and served primarily in the Wasit Province of Iraq. Since exiting, Jeff has served as a non-profit manager in the area of foster care and adoption.

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