The Basic School

The Basic School

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Warrant Officer Akeel Austin

7 min read

TBS is not a “check in the box.”

It is a course designed to provide students with the basic skills necessary to effectively lead as a Marine officer.

Students who do not successfully complete the course may face a variety of administrative actions, including repetition of the course, recycle to a different Basic Officer Course, or revocation of commission and separation from service.

The material you learn throughout TBS will stay with you throughout your careers. You will hear a lot of complaints about how TBS is too infantry focused and not applicable to everyone. This is untrue. Although you may never call for fire or clear a building, the common understanding of how we as a Marine Corps operate is what enables us to be effective.

Keep your eyes on the end goal, leading Marines.

The Basic School is a MARATHON NOT A SPRINT

TBS is LONG. It will feel like a long time, but it will also go very quickly. I'm sure you've experienced that sort of paradox before. In any event, the length of TBS has a lot of effects on things:

First Impressions Will Be Misleading

Your perception of people will change over the course of TBS. Don't be too quick to judge your fellow lieutenants.

Avoid Conflict With Others

You'll be living with these people for a several months. Don't piss people off if you can avoid it.

Control Your Pace

It is important to not burn yourself out. Lieutenants needs to start and finish strong, but don't go full "motard" in the first few weeks of TBS only to get sick of your own attitude in the middle of FEX I.

Most Importantly: Don 't Dwell On Mistakes And Failures

Everyone will have a bad day. Everyone will fail. When your day comes, pick yourself up and keep moving as if nothing happened.

A personal story:

I received the highest "military skills" grade in the Company, and got a fancy award for it at graduation. Mil Skills is about a third of your total grade and consists of events like PT, marksmanship, land navigation, and tactical decision making. In the beginning of TBS, no one, not even myself, would have placed a bet on me achieving the highest overall mil skills score in the company. I failed the initial Double Obstacle course. I failed almost every day land navigation, and night land navigation.

I got put on so many remedial training it wasn't even funny. For a month and a half, I had to spend an hour on the O-Course every Saturday to work on my technique. I went to virtually every land navigation remedial, day and night, for either failing or coming close to failing. I never let it get me down, and I knew I couldn't fail on the graded event.

The result of this attitude? I nailed the Double-O Course and was one of the few lieutenants to get 100% on both land navigations.

Everyone will fall on their face. When it happens to you, get back up like nothing happened.


It matters how well you do at TBS. Even without MOS selection. One could even argue that the MOS you get is of secondary importance to your overall performance. Here's why:

Reason 1 - Career designation

We're in a shrinking Marine Corps. Even if you say you just want to do 4 years and get out, you want to keep the option of staying in OPEN. You may fall in love with the lifestyle and the job, or you may just want the opportunity to say "I'm leaving you Marine Corps" instead of the other way around. At TBS, the top 5% of your class gets career designated. The top 10% gets a letter from the Commanding General of training command put in their file. Everybody else has their TBS rank in there somewhere as well.

Reason 2 - Lasting Impressions

Your peers will come out of TBS knowing from experience whether you're competent. You will run into your peers in the future - at MOS school, in the fleet, wherever.

Reason 3 - Confidence

The better your lineal standing is, the more confident you will feel coming out of TBS. Knowing that you came out on top of 90% of your peers is extremely rewarding. You'll be seen as a natural leader, and you'll feel like it too. You don't want to step in front of your Marines knowing that you graduated at the bottom of your class. You want to know that you're a competent performer, the best of the best.

Bottom line : When everyone else "drops their pack," ie stops caring about their grades and performance… DON'T. That's an opening you can exploit. Their grades will go down while yours climb steadily.


TBS requires an interesting sort of physical fitness. Being good at the PFT doesn't mean you're going to perform well here. As a refresher, there are several graded PT events: PFT, CFT, Double-O, and E-Course. These are important (especially the Double-O and the E-Course), but don't make up THAT significant of a chunk of your overall grade. You all know how to prepare for events like this, so there's no excuse for not doing so.

The main physical fitness challenge for most will be the humps. Depending on your company (basically, depending on the weight your CO wants in your pack), they can be extremely challenging. There's only one graded hump (the 15 mile), and the light weight of your pack on that hump actually makes it pretty easy. However, all the humps out/back to/from the FEXes will be difficult. You probably won't fail TBS for falling out of a hump, or humps, since they're not graded, but it's one of the best ways to lose the confidence of your peers. Don't be weak on humps. And the only way to get good at humps is to load your pack up and practice them.

Typical load of a FEX hump will be anywhere from 90-110lbs. That includes flak, kevlar, and your weapon. Obviously, don't start practicing by putting 100lbs of weights in your pack; not only will the weight distribution be ridiculous, you can't start out with that much and expect to do well. Instead, work you way up from whatever your baseline is. By doctrine, the pace at TBS is 3mph. In practice, it's about 3.5. You can track your speed via GPS programs for your phone. If you can't handle that much weight yet, try to go faster with lighter weight.

In general, focus on OVERALL physical fitness, not fitness for a particular event like the PFT or CFT. Being fit is simply expected at TBS; if you're not, you will instantly be highlighted.


Your SPC (Staff Platoon Commander) will have a huge impact on your experience at TBS, and on your final grade. Your SPC's opinion of your leadership ability makes up 40% of your total grade at TBS.

Most of you will get great SPCs; the majority of the captains at TBS are great. In some instances, circumstances will not be ideal and you just have to deal with it.

More Thoughts

The Basic School instills a basic level of tactical competence in Lieutenants. You will have the basic training necessary to become a Rifle Platoon Commander no matter what your MOS is.

Aside from PT, you can best prepare yourself for TBS by EDUCATING YOURSELF!!! Read some books on the Marine Corps reading list. Immerse yourself in "MAGTF- ery" by reading MCDPs 1 through 6. Read MCDP 1-0 "Tactics." Check out the Commandant's reading list.

Having this base line understanding of Warfighting will set you apart from your peers, and it will really show at MOS school when you get MAGTF level training (especially for Intel, Logistics, and Comm).