Intel

Baptism in Chaos: First Women Experience ‘Black Friday’ at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego

February 17, 2021Ethan E. Rocke
Staff Sgt. Carmen Medinaponce, platoon sergeant for Platoon 3241, instructs the first women ever trained aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego on Black Friday, Feb. 12, 2021.

Staff Sgt. Carmen Medinaponce, the platoon sergeant for Platoon 3241, instructs the first women ever trained aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego inside the platoon’s squad bay on ‘Black Friday,’ Feb. 12, 2021. Medinaponce completed a tour of duty as a drill instructor aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., before volunteering for the duty in San Diego. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.

Around 2:30 p.m. Friday, the women of Platoon 3241, Lima Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, moved into their squad bay aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego and met their drill instructors for the first time.


The recruits of Platoon 3241 are the first women ever trained aboard the West Coast installation, and the day that new recruits move from the receiving barracks to the squad bay they’ll call home is affectionately known as “Black Friday.” Similar to what the Army used to call “Shark Attack,” the baptism in chaos is meant to introduce the recruits to the high-intensity operational tempo that defines entry-level military training.


Read Next: Female Recruits Make History, Stepping Onto Yellow Footprints at All-Male Boot Camp in San Diego


Marine Recruit Depot San Diego
Sgt. Stephanie Fahl, a drill instructor with Platoon 3241, paces the ranks, spot-checking and correcting recruits as they take instructions from Staff Sgt. Carmen Medinaponce. Fahl is one of three female Marines who graduated from the Drill Instructor School aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego in December 2020. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.

Previously, all women who enlisted in the Marines trained exclusively at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, South Carolina, at the all-female 4th Recruit Training Battalion, but when Congress passed the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, it included in the legislation a prohibition against gender-segregated recruit training at both of the Corps’ recruit depots. Until this year, the Marines sent all males west of the Mississippi River to San Diego, and all males east of the river to Parris Island. Congress has given the service until 2025 to fully integrate training at Parris Island, and until 2028 to do the same at MCRD San Diego.


Staff Sgt. Amber Staroscik, senior drill instructor for Platoon 3241, introduced herself and her team Friday and delivered the same speech every Marine recruit receives from their senior drill instructor. Afterward, Staroscik turned things over to her team of drill instructors.


Marine Recruit Depot San Diego Staff Sgt. Amber Staroscik
Staff Sgt. Amber Staroscik, senior drill instructor for Platoon 3241, Lima Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, inside the platoon’s squad bay before the recruits arrived on Black Friday, Feb. 12, 2021. Staroscik completed a tour of duty as a drill instructor aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, before volunteering for the duty in San Diego. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.

“From then on, it’s chaos for the recruits,” said Staroscik, who completed a tour of duty as a drill instructor aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, before volunteering for the duty in San Diego. “It’s a lot of movement, setting up the house. They’re doing things they’ve never done before, learning things from the ground up. It’s important for us to be aggressive and demonstrate our authority — to break them down and then build them up from there — because that’s how we show them the structure of how we want things done.”


Coffee or Die Magazine was granted access to Platoon 3241’s Black Friday to capture these historic photos.


Marine Recruit Depot San Diego drill instructors
Staff Sgt. Amber Staroscik, senior drill instructor for Platoon 3241, introduced herself and her team and delivered the speech every Marine recruit receives from their senior drill instructor. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.

Recruits from Platoon 3241, Lima Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, listen to instructions from their drill instructors inside the platoon’s squad bay on Black Friday, Feb. 12, 2021. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.

Marine Recruit Depot San Diego, Sgt. Ikea Kaufman
Sgt. Ikea Kaufman, a drill instructor for Platoon 3241, Lima Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, is one of three female Marines who graduated from the Drill Instructor School aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego in December 2020. Kaufman and the two other newly trained female drill instructors assigned to Platoon 3241 volunteered for the intense 12-week school and multiyear commitment to the exhausting duty of making Marines. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.

Marine Recruit Depot San Diego Black Friday
Recruits from Platoon 3241, Lima Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, stand at attention inside the platoon’s squad bay on Black Friday, Feb. 12, 2021. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.

Staff Sgt. Amber Staroscik, senior drill instructor for Platoon 3241, gives instructions to her platoon sergeant, Staff Sgt. Carmen Medinaponce, on Black Friday, Feb. 12, 2021. Both Marines completed a tour of duty as drill instructors aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, before volunteering for the duty in San Diego. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.

Sgt. Stephanie Fahl, a drill instructor with Platoon 3241 corrects recruits on Black Friday, Feb. 12, 2021. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.

Marine Recruit Depot San Diego Black Friday
A recruit from Platoon 3241 screams “Aye aye, ma’am” inside the platoon’s squad bay on Black Friday, Feb. 12, 2021. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.

Sgt. Stephanie Jordi, a drill instructor with Platoon 3241 paces the ranks, spot-checking and correcting recruits as they take instructions from Staff Sgt. Carmen Medinaponce. Jordi is one of three female Marines who graduated from the Drill Instructor School aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego in December 2020. Jordi and the two other newly trained female drill instructors assigned to Platoon 3241 volunteered for the intense 12-week school and multiyear commitment to the exhausting duty of making Marines. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.

Marine Recruit Depot San Diego Black Friday, Staff Sgt. Carmen Medinaponce
Staff Sgt. Carmen Medinaponce, a drill instructor with Platoon 3241, Lima Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, instructs the first women ever trained aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego inside the platoon’s squad bay on Black Friday, Feb. 12, 2021. Medinaponce completed a tour of duty as a drill instructor aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, before volunteering for the duty in San Diego. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.

Staff Sgt. Amber Staroscik, senior drill instructor for Platoon 3241, spot-checks and corrects recruits as they take instructions from Staff Sgt. Carmen Medinaponce. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.

Marine Recruit Depot San Diego Sgt. Stephanie Fahl
A recruit stands at attention in the squad bay behind Sgt. Stephanie Fahl, a drill instructor for Platoon 3241, Lima Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion. Fahl is one of three female Marines who graduated from the Drill Instructor School aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego in December 2020. Fahl and the two other newly trained female drill instructors assigned to Platoon 3241 volunteered for the intense 12-week school and multiyear commitment to the exhausting duty of making Marines. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.

Staff Sgt. Amber Staroscik, senior drill instructor for Platoon 3241, and Drill Instructor Sgt. Stephanie Fahl, left, spot-check and correct recruits on Black Friday, Feb. 12, 2021. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.

Recruits from Platoon 3241, Lima Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, listen to instructions from their drill instructors inside the platoon’s squad bay on Black Friday, Feb. 12, 2021. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.

Staff Sgt. Amber Staroscik, senior drill instructor for Platoon 3241, spot-checks recruits on Black Friday, Feb. 12, 2021. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.


Ethan E. Rocke
Ethan E. Rocke

Ethan E. Rocke is a contributor and former senior editor for Coffee or Die Magazine, a New York Times bestselling author, and award-winning photographer and filmmaker. He is a veteran of the US Army and Marine Corps. His work has been published in Maxim Magazine, American Legion Magazine, and many others. He is co-author of The Last Punisher: A SEAL Team THREE Sniper’s True Account of the Battle of Ramadi.

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