Want to be a Marine? Get in line. There's a waiting list for boot camp.
For nearly a century young men have been coming to San Diego to see if they're tough enough to be Marines. And despite shooting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Marine Corps has retained its popularity with the young.
The corps now has a waiting list for boot camp -- most enlistees have to wait six to nine months to go to San Diego or Parris Island, S.C., and begin the grueling 12-week regimen.
Each year the Marine Corps Recruit Depot next to San Diego's Lindbergh Field graduates some 20,000 young men, most from towns and cities west of the Mississippi. Young men east of the big river go to Parris Island; all female enlistees also go to Parris Island, where they train separately from the men.
Pulitzer Prize-winning military reporter Tom Ricks says the challenge of trying to meet the exacting standards of the Marine Corps is an irresistible lure to many.
Ricks said he's reminded of a Marine recruiting poster from the 1970s showing a drill instructor shouting at a recruit with the caption: "We don't promise you a rose garden." Ricks' nephew recently enlisted.
"That's what he wanted," Ricks said of his nephew, "and, I suspect, so do tens of thousands of young Americans."
-- Tony Perry in San Diego
Photo: Drill Instructor Sgt. Juan Garcia "greets" a new recruit in San Diego. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times