The Most Muscular Unit in the Marine Corps Is Accepting Applications

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Body bearers from the Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C. (8th and I), help conduct military funeral honors with funeral escort for Col. Werner Frederick Rebstock in Section 12 of Arlington National Cemetery on Nov. 13, 2019. (U.S. Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser/Arlington National Cemetery)
Body bearers from the Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C. (8th and I), help conduct military funeral honors with funeral escort for Col. Werner Frederick Rebstock in Section 12 of Arlington National Cemetery on Nov. 13, 2019. (U.S. Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser/Arlington National Cemetery)

If you can squat more than 300 pounds -- and then do it again nine more times -- the Marine Corps may have an elite job for you.

The Corps is accepting applications to join its legendary cadre of body bearers, a small unit of roughly a dozen men headquartered at Marine Barracks Washington, D.C., whose primary responsibility is to carry the caskets of Marines to their final resting place.

According to a Marine Corps administrative message, the service is looking for Marines who "possess a high degree of maturity, leadership, judgment and professionalism, as well as physical stamina and strength." To be eligible, Marines must be male, between 70 and 76 inches tall, in the rank of corporal or below, and able to serve 30 months following check-in to ceremonial drill school.

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The physical strength requirements are truly daunting. Marines must be able to conduct 10 repetitions of the following exercises:

  • Bench press 225 lbs.
  • Military press (a variant on the overhead press) 135 lbs.
  • Straight bar curl 115 lbs.
  • Squad 315 lbs.

Those selected to join the Body Bearers Section can expect to train for up to a year before they're considered ready to participate in military funerals. Once they join the section, body bearers participate in the funerals of Marines, Marine veterans and family members at Arlington National Cemetery and military cemeteries in the National Capital Region; they may also be asked to travel across the country to conduct funeral honors for former presidents and other senior dignitaries.

There's no room for error; the word "flawless" is used no fewer than four times on the Body Bearers Section web page. And while other services use eight body bearers to carry coffins, the Marine Corps uses only six.

"This billet is not for everyone. Marine Corps Body Bearers serve as a tangible, physical manifestation of the institution that our fallen brothers and sisters have poured their hearts and souls into fortifying," the page reads. "As such, the mental, emotional, and physical toll this responsibility exacts from the Body Bearers as well as Ceremonial Drill School students is immense. That being said, the honor and pride the Body Bearer Section takes in caring for Marines the way they do is one of the most gratifying experiences of their lives."

In addition to all the strength requirements, Marines must meet conventional height and weight standards and maintain first-class scores on their physical fitness and combat fitness tests. While the job was once reserved for infantry Marines, it's now open to all military occupational specialties in the Corps.

Troops who meet eligibility requirements and are interested in the opportunity should contact Company B, Marine Barracks Washington, D.C.

-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.

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