Serving in the Marine Corps is a unique experience.  I know you hear that sort of statement a lot from your crazy uncle that still demands everyone call him “gunny,” and from your high school friend’s nineteen-year-old kid that just hit the fleet and now only shares memes about being a “sheepdog” on Facebook, but the truth of the matter is, the Marine Corps is an environment unlike any other I’ve ever experienced – and I’ve had my fair share of experiences.

The thing is, signing your life away to Uncle Sam’s favorite gun club isn’t quite like deciding to serve in the Army, Navy, or Air Force.  That isn’t to say there aren’t badass hard-chargers in each branch – you’ll find a fair cross-section of homecoming kings and awkward nerds in every corner of the U.S. military.  It’s not emotional toughness, physical strength, or (perhaps obviously to some) intelligence that makes you a Marine – it’s a strange combination of masochism, an unwillingness to quit, and more often than you’d suspect, fear, that does it.

A close friend of mine is currently moving her way through what I call the Army’s “accession pipeline.”  She has already completed basic training, and is now attending a specialized school for her occupational specialty.  The letters she wrote to me from boot camp, combined with our conversations since she arrived at school, brought back a flood of memories about my own time in the Marine Corps’ pipeline.  We often have pleasant conversations about all the experiences we now have in common – but what stands out to me far more, are the things we don’t.  So, with that in mind, here are a few things people are often surprised to learn about Marine Corps training, even if you served in the military yourself.

1. You are forbidden from speaking in the first person at recruit training.

Some people have accused Marines like me of being arrogant.  While I don’t see myself as that type of guy, I can appreciate the observation from a service standpoint.  No, Alex the writer isn’t all that arrogant, right up until you cross the line into Sergeant Hollings territory – wherein I immediately become certain I can fight an entire bar or subdue an angry grizzly bear.