The following is some of the best TBS advice you’ll ever hear. Written by a current Human Intelligence Officer (0204), you know the information is quality, as each TBS class normally has only 1-2 slots for this MOS.
What to bring:
Room cleaning supplies (Lysol, Windex, Clorox Wipes, rags, vaccum)
Standard Toiletries (toothbrush/paste, razor/blades, deoderant, shampoo/body wash, mouthwash, etc)
Quick Dry Towels (2)
Optional: Coffee Maker, Jet Boil, Ziploc Bags, balaclava, cold weather undergarments, Gatorade, water bottles, bowls/plates/tupperware/silverware/can opener, laundry bin
Note: Check out Quantico's Best for the nametapes, dogtags, and kill patch
How to prepare
Hike. Physically, hiking under load is almost everyone’s point of friction. Hiking with a flak is a different animal than you’ll be used to, so if you can replicate that I would suggest doing so. With hiking comes knowing how to take care of your feet and body (what socks/boots work best for you, how often should you change socks, powder vs no powder, etc.). Wisdom comes from experience-hiking is no exception.
Learn/perfect field craft. When I say field craft I mean how to bivouac. How to thrive, not just survive, when you’re out in the tree line. You’re going to be spending a good amount of time in the field. Focus on what system works for you in regards to snacks, sleeping items, shaving items, etc. For me it was stuff like camelback elixir tablets, a blow-up pillow and a jet boil camp stove when it got colder (to name a few items). More importantly, figure out where you need to go mentally in order to retain a driven, positive mental attitude in austere conditions.
Read MCDP-1 Warfighting and MCDP 1-0 Tactics as many times as you can before you show up. Read, re-read, take notes, and memorize concepts. Become fluent in these two pubs. No other resource will be more impactful on your time at TBS.
Figure out a way to get a good workout in 30 minutes at the end of the day when you’re dog-a** tired. Kettlebells, TRX bands and Crossfit WODs are some suggestions to look into (don’t need to buy anything-TBS gym has everything you’ll need). Staying in shape is going to rest solely on your personal discipline to do so. There is no substitute for physical fitness-and no excuse for the lack of it.
Things to note (my 2 cents)
Know what drives you BEFORE you show up. TBS is absolutely a winnable game, but every morning you have to be willing to put foot-to-a**, go outside your comfort zone and do everything it takes to end up at the top of the pack. Doing this is sh***y more times than not because you’ll be tired and exhausted and frustrated with all the bullsh** – but it can be done.
Keep the balance. This place is a sprint, for 26.2 miles. I drove 3 and a half hours every 2-3 weeks to spend the night/weekend with my girlfriend. That’s what I needed to recharge and not lose my mind. For some, that’s not an option, but the need to relax and slow down is the same for everyone.
Master you destiny. Create opportunities and seize opportunities. Talk to the instructors, your SPC, the people around you. Let you SPC know what MOS you want, and why you want it. My buddy got his 1st choice MOS because he went into his SPC’s office and told him why he believed he would be best suited for that job. Behavior like that is the hallmark of a professional.
Be a good dude. You define yourself in the moment-the comfortable moments, and the cold, hungry and tired moments. Every minute of every day, be the guy or gal that your peers can count on to get the job done, or to have a positive attitude, or to provide some comic relief. Your reputation as a man/woman and a leader comes from gaining the love and respect of those who cross your path. Take this sh** seriously.
Don’t be nervous when you show up. The first two weeks are devoted to admin, medical and gear draw. It’s slow, boring, and you’ll have plenty of time to acclimate to the TBS environment. The days prior to check-in I wasted a huge amount of energy being nervous, not knowing what to expect and generally being in the dark. Completely unnecessary. Show up excited, hungry, eager to learn and establish relationships with those around you. You’re finally finished with the hazing process and get to learn how to close with and destroy enemies of the United States.
I’ll close with saying that once you put the bars on your shoulder, you’re an officer. You’re not an “officer in training,” you’re not an “untrained officer,” you’re not an “officer awaiting MOS assignment.” An officer of Marines. That’s all anyone is going to see, and that’s all anyone is going to care about. The imperative is on YOU to act in whatever way is best representative of the kind of officer you want to be. Starting at commissioning…you are out of time. You’ve made it. Now be it.