Prior to the conception of the recruit depots and Drill Instructor Schools, Noncommissioned Officers at the various posts and stations trained newly joined Marine recruits in the "principles of military movements" and the use of the rifle.  The quality of training was as varied as the number of bases and Noncommissioned Officers.  In 1911, Major General William Biddle, 11th Commandant of the Marine such training was inadequate and established the first centralized recruit depots at Norfolk, Va.; Philadelphia; Mare Island, Calif. and Puget Sound, Wash.  By 1915, East Coast recruit training was centralized at MCRD Parris Island, S.C.  In 1923, MCRD San Diego assumed the duties as sole recruit depot for the West Coast.

During World War II, the Drill Instructor Schools were first established at both depots, but shortages of Drill Instructors needed to train the influx of new recruits forced the schedule to cover only a couple of weeks.  In 1947, academic instructors were added to supplement the staff at the schools and the training syllabus was expanded to ten weeks.

During the Korean War, recruit training was once again in high gear and Drill Instructor School was reduced to 3 1/2 weeks.  Exceptionally qualified Privates First Class were admitted to the school until 1954 when enrollment was restricted to Noncommissioned Officers.

Today, Drill Instructor School strives to be the premier leadership school in the Marine Corps.  It encompasses over 500 hours of academics, physical training and practical applications over an 11-week course.  Not only are students given a thorough review of all military skills, but they are acquainted with an intensive indoctrination in the conduct, regulations, and procedures governing recruit training.  The students also undergo a comprehensive leadership package that includes time management, communication skills, and counseling.  Squad instructors continuously evaluate and counsel their respective students to ensure maximum performance.

The introduction of the pre-World War II campaign or field hat worn by Drill Instructors today originated during an advisory council meeting in 1956. Senior Noncommissioned Officers strongly recommended the adoption of better "headgear" for DIs.

At that time, the khaki barracks cap had a bill, but didn't shade the eyes. The soft khaki garrison cap didn't have a bill, and the green herringbone cape worn with the field uniform was also inadequate in the summer sun. The pith helmet was a practical alternative for wear in the hot Carolina summer. It was cool and its wide brim provided good shade for the eyes and neck. It later became the hat used by marksmanship instructors at the rifle range.

Further study indicated that the field hat was the item most preferred by DIs. It shaded the neck and eyes well, but did not keep the head as cool as the pith helmet. The field hat was a bit of tradition going back to the "Old Corps" or pre-World War II days. It also was more suitable for year-round wear than the pith helmet. By early June 1956, the Depot had requisitioned 1,000 field hats for delivery on Sept. 1, 1956, but General Wallace M. Greene Jr., wanted to order 700 hats immediately. On Saturday, July 21, 1956 at 7:30 a.m. all 603 drill instructors of the recruit training command obtained their new hats.


The Commandant of the Marine Corps announced on Sept. 13, 1996, that all female Drill Instructors were authorized to wear the previously male-only "Smokey" field hat. The commandant's decision has answered the frequently asked question, "Why not?" It was first asked in 1976 when the first females graduated from DI School and again in 1983 when female DIs began wearing the scarlet shoulder cord. During their Sept. 26, 1996 graduation ceremony, female DI School graduates were issued field hats. A cord retirement ceremony took place Oct. 2, 1996, after which female DIs ceased wearing the scarlet cord and began wearing the cover. The commandant, General Charles C. Krulak, was on hand for the event.

    The final scarlet shoulder cord, the previous symbol of a female DI, was placed in the Parris Island Museum. Marines that wear the field hat, the campaign cover or the "Smokey" and train Marine Corps recruits must train recruits by the Drill Instructor Creed. The Creed was written in 1956 by Drill Instructors for Drill Instructors.

"These recruits are entrusted to my care.
I will train them to the best of my ability.

I will develop them into smartly disciplined,
physically fit, basically trained Marines,
thoroughly indoctrinated in love
of Corps and country.

I will demand of them, and demonstrate by my own example,
the highest standard of personal conduct, morality and professional skill."