Smarting from criticism of a brutal hazing ritual for elite officers, the Marine Corps is eager to show off the Crucible, a 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 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.
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.