Authorized by the Secretary of the Navy 15 July 1997, the Marine Corps Drill Instructor (DI) Ribbon was established to recognize the profound impact that DIs play in the development of every Marine Corps recruit. Beyond ensuring that each recruit is squared away in all the fundamentals of Marine Corps service, DIs also pass on the heritage, culture, and history of the Corps—a job that is much a sacrament as it a duty.
While some Marines volunteer for the job of Drill Instructor, a substantial percentage are selected for the three-year tour of duty. Future DIs begin their careers at one of the Corps’ two Drill Instructor Schools held at the Marine Corps Recruit Training Depots in San Diego Parris Island, South Carolina. Over a twelve-week period, DI students not only receive intensive training subjects ranging from tactical military concepts and principles to first aid, time management, and physical fitness, but also are taught leadership skills and the methods of imparting their knowledge to the recruits under their tutelage
Graduation from DI School is followed by assignment to a Recruit Training Battalion as a junior member of the instructor team, where they’ll be able to shadow experienced DIs and learn the most effective techniques for hammering home the importance of Marine Corps doctrine and training. It also will give them an idea of the extreme demands that will be placed upon them when they advance to the position of Experienced Drill Instructor and Senior Drill Instructor. During the 13 weeks spent training a platoon, DIs have time for little more than work and sleep, and training doesn’t stop for holidays like Thanksgiving or Christmas.
The Drill Instructor Ribbon is awarded to Marines who complete a successful three-year tour of duty in a 0911 billet, but they can qualify for the award if they transfer out provided they have completed a minimum of 30 months of DI duty. For Marines who earned their DI MOS before December, 1996, that service requirement is twenty months—an important distinction since the ribbon can be awarded retroactively.