United States Marine Corps

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United States Marine Corps Emblem
United States Marine Corps Emblem

The United States Marine Corps (USMC) is a branch of the U.S. military. While concerned almost exclusively with shipboard security service and amphibious warfare in its formative years, the Marine Corps has evolved to fill a unique, multi-purpose role within the modern United States military.

The Marine Corps is the second smallest of the five branches (Navy, Marine Corps, Army, Air Force, Coast Guard) of the U.S. military, with 172,000 active and 40,000 reserve Marines as of 2005. Only the United States Coast Guard, part of the Department of Homeland Security, is smaller. In absolute terms, the US Marine Corps is nonetheless larger than the armed forces of many major nations; it is larger than the British Army, for example.

A rendition of the emblem on the flag of the U.S. Marine Corps
A rendition of the emblem on the flag of the U.S. Marine Corps

Both the Marine Corps and the United States Navy fall under the umbrella of the Department of the Navy. While organizationally separate forces, the two services work closely together.



Flag of the U.S. Marine Corps
Flag of the U.S. Marine Corps

The Marine Corps serves as a versatile combat element, and is adapted to a wide variety of combat operations. The Marine Corps was initially composed of infantry combat forces serving aboard naval vessels, responsible for security of the ship, its captain and officers, offensive and defensive combat during boarding actions, by acting as sharpshooters, and carrying out amphibious assaults. The Marines fully developed and used the tactics of amphibious assault in World War II, most notably in the Pacific Island Campaign.

Since its creation in 1775, the Corps' role has expanded significantly. The Marines have a unique mission statement, and, alone among the branches of the U.S. armed forces, "shall, at any time, be liable to do duty in the forts and garrisons of the United States, on the seacoast, or any other duty on shore, as the President, at his discretion, shall direct." In this special capacity, charged with carrying out duties given to them directly by the President of the United States, the Marine Corps serves as an all-purpose, fast-response task force, capable of quick action in areas requiring emergency intervention.

The Marine Corps possesses organic ground and air combat elements, and relies upon the US Navy to provide sea combat elements to fulfill its mission as "America's 9-1-1 Force". Marine combat forces are largely contained in three Marine Expeditionary Forces, or "MEF's". The 1st MEF is based out of Camp Pendleton, California, the 2nd out of Camp LeJeune, North Carolina, while the third is based on Okinawa, Japan. Within the MEF's are the individual Marine Divisions (MARDIVS), Force Service Support Groups (FSSG's) and Marine Aircraft Wings (MAWs). Force Reconnaissance companies are composed of Marines specially trained in covert insertion, reconnaissance, and surveillance tactics, and some have even received special operations training. The "Recon Marines" basic mission is to scout out the enemy and report what they find.

Marine tactics and doctrine tends to emphasize aggressiveness and the offensive, compared to Army tactics for similar units. The Marines have been central in developing groundbreaking tactics for maneuver warfare; they can be credited with the development of helicopter insertion doctrine and modern amphibious assault.

The Marines also maintain an operational and training culture dedicated to emphasizing the infantry combat abilities of every Marine. All Marines receive training first and foremost as basic riflemen, and thus the Marine Corps at heart functions culturally as an infantry corps. The Marine Corps is famous for the saying "Every Marine a rifleman."

The maneuver warfare doctrine upon which the Corps is organized and the chaotic nature of the operations which the Corps has traditionally taken on causes it to place a premium on decentralized decision-making and the individual abilities of leaders at all levels. As a result, a large degree of initiative and autonomy is expected of even junior Marines, particularly the NCO's (Corporals and Sergeants) regarding the accomplishment of their particular missions, at least compared to many other military organizations. The Marine Corps has a strong tendency towards pushing authority and responsibility downward throughout its organization onto Marines to a greater degree than their counterparts in rank would have in other services.

While the Marine Corps does not necessarily fill unique combat roles, only when combined do the US Army, Navy, and US Air Force overlap every area that the Marine Corps covers. As a force, the Marines consistently use all essential elements of combat (air, ground, sea) together. While the creation of joint commands under the Goldwater-Nichols Act has improved interservice coordination between the larger services, the Marine Corps' ability to permanently maintain integrated multi-element task forces under a single command provides a special ability to respond to flexibility and urgency requirements.

The Marines argue that they do not and should not take the place of the other services, any more than an ambulance takes the place of a hospital. Nonetheless, when a pressing emergency develops, the Marines essentially act as a stopgap, to get into and hold an area until the larger machinery can be mobilized. The opinions of other military men and politicians have, at times, differed, and President Harry S. Truman considered abolishing the Corps as part of the 1948 reorganization of the military. As Truman said, "The only propaganda machine that rivals that of Stalin is that of the United States Marine Corps." Truman, a former U.S. Army artillery captain in WWI, still resented the high degrees of praise bestowed the Marines after the First World War mostly at the expense of Army units. He also believed that the Army proved that they could do amphibious landings with the actions in North Africa, Italy and Normandy so there was no need for a separate service to fulfill this function.

An example of this coordinated, time-sensitive capability could be seen in 1990, when the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (22nd MEU) conducted Operation Sharp Edge, a noncombatant evacuation operation, or NEO, in the west African city of Monrovia, Liberia. Liberia suffered from civil war at the time, and civilian citizens of the United States and other countries could not leave via conventional means. Sharp Edge ended in success. Only one reconnaissance team came under fire, with no casualties incurred on either side, and the Marines evacuated several hundred civilians within hours to U.S. Navy vessels waiting offshore.

Creation and history

The Marine Corps was originally created as the "Continental Marines" during the American Revolutionary War, were formed by a resolution of the Continental Congress on November 10, 1775, and first recruited at Tun Tavern in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They served as landing troops for the recently created Continental Navy. The Continental Marines were disbanded at the end of the war in April 1783 but re-formed on July 11, 1798. Despite the gap, Marines worldwide celebrate November 10 as the Marine Corps Birthday.

Historically, the United States Marine Corps has achieved fame in several campaigns, as referenced in the first line of the Marines' Hymn: "From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli". In the early 19th century, First Lieutenant Presley O'Bannon led a group of eight Marines and 300 Arab and European mercenaries in capturing Tripoli. Separately, the Marines took part in the Mexican-American War (1846–1848) and assaulted the Castillo de Chapultepec, or the Chapultepec Palace, which overlooked Mexico City. The Marines were placed on guard duty at the Mexican Presidential Palace, "The Halls of Montezuma".

(Joe Rosenthal / ©Associated Press)U.S. Marines raise the American Flag on Iwo Jima on February 23, 1945
(Joe Rosenthal / ©Associated Press)
U.S. Marines raise the American Flag on Iwo Jima on February 23, 1945

After these early 19th-century engagements, the Marine Corps occupied a small role in American military history. They saw little significant action in the American Civil War, but later become prominent due to their deployment in small wars around the world. During the latter half of the 19th century, the Marines saw action in Korea, Cuba, the Philippines, and China. During the years before and after World War I, the Marines saw action throughout the Caribbean in places such as Haiti and Nicaragua. These actions became known as "The Banana Wars", and the experiences gained in counter-insurgency and guerrilla operations during this period were consolidated into the Small Wars Manual.

In World War I, the battle-tested, veteran Marines served a central role in the U.S. entry into the conflict, and at the Battle of Belleau Wood, Marine units were in the front, earning the Marines a reputation as the "First to Fight". This battle marked the creation of the Marines' reputation in modern history. Rallying under the battle cries of "Retreat? Hell, we just got here!" (Captain Lloyd Williams) and "Come on, you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?" (then Gunnery Sergeant, later Sergeant Major Dan Daly, two time Medal of Honor recipient), the Marines drove German forces from the area. The Germans allegedly referred to the Marines in the battle as "Teufelshunde", literally, "Devil Dogs", or more loosely, "Hell Hounds", a nickname Marines proudly hold to this day. There seems to be no documentation, however, that such a term was ever used in the German army.

In World War II, the Marines played a central role in the Pacific War, and the war saw the expansion of the Corps from two brigades to two corps with six divisions and five air wings with 132 squadrons. The battles of Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa saw fierce fighting between US Marines and the Imperial Japanese Army. The secrecy afforded their communications by the now-famous Navajo code talkers program, is widely seen as having contributed significantly to their success.

During the Battle of Iwo Jima, Raising of the Flag on Iwo Jima, a famous photograph of five Marines and one Navy corpsman raising the US flag on Mt. Suribachi, was taken. Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal, who had come ashore earlier that day to observe the progress of the troops, said of the flag raising on Iowa Jima, "...the raising of that flag on Suribachi means a Marine Corps for the next five hundred years". The acts of the Marines during the war added to their already significant popular reputation, and the USMC War Memorial in Arlington, VA was dedicated in 1954. The Korean War saw the Marines land at Inchon and assault north into North Korea along with the Army. As U.S. forces approached the Yalu River, the People's Republic of China, fearing an incursion by American forces, sent armies over the river to engage American forces within Korea.

US Marines fight in the city of Fallujah, Iraq during Operation Phantom Fury, November 2004
US Marines fight in the city of Fallujah, Iraq during Operation Phantom Fury, November 2004

At the Battle of Chosin Reservoir, the First Marine Division, vastly outnumbered but vastly better equipped and trained, fought Chinese forces. Recovering equipment left by Army forces who had scattered in disordered retreat, the Marines regrouped, assaulted the Chinese, and inflicted heavy casualties during their fighting withdrawal to the coast.

The Marines also played an important role in the Vietnam War at battles such as Da Nang, Hué City, and Khe Sanh. Marines were among the first troops deployed to Vietnam, as well as the last to leave during the evacuation of the American embassy in Saigon.

After Vietnam, Marines served in a number of important events and places. In 1983, a Marine barracks in Lebanon was bombed, causing the highest peacetime losses to the Corps and leading to the American withdrawal from Lebanon. Marines were also responsible for liberating Kuwait during the Persian Gulf War, as the Army made an attack to the west directly into Iraq. In 1995, Marines performed a successful mission in Bosnia, rescuing Captain Scott O'Grady, a downed Air Force fighter pilot, in what is called a TRAP (Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel).

Most recently, the Marines served prominently in the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the subsequent occupation, where a light, mobile force was and is especially needed. Perhaps most notably, the Marines spearheaded both assaults on the city of Fallujah in April and November 2004.

Reputation of the Marine Corps

The Marine Corps has a widely-held reputation as a fierce and effective fighting force and the Marines take pride in their gung-ho attitude, they are indoctrinated with a strong belief in their chain of command and the importance of esprit de corps, a spirit of enthusiasm and pride in themselves and the Corps. The Marine Corps is popularly seen as possessing a degree of fame and infamy among the enemies they fight, and examples of this effect are readily seized upon and publicized by the Corps and its supporters. During the 1991 Gulf War, after Iraqi forces had already been bloodied by the Corps in the first ground engagement of the war at Khafji, U.S. Army General Norman Schwarzkopf used a public demonstration of a Marine landing on Kuwait and the Iraqi port of Umm Qasr to pin down Iraqi units, while the Army then executed a sweep from the West.

Most recently, Iraqis in the Persian Gulf War and 2003 invasion of Iraq were said to have taken special note of Marine Cobra helicopters and the distinctive look of the Marine combat uniform. The Marines have taken steps to build on this psychological advantage by, for instance, developing a new utility uniform that makes Marines easier to distinguish from other US servicemen. See the Web site of the Permanent Marine Corps Uniform Board (PMCUB) for illustrations of the various Marine uniforms.

The Marine Corps has also recently initiated an internally designed martial arts program, an idea borrowed from the South Korean Marines, who train in martial arts and who, during the Vietnam War, were widely rumored to all be black belts. Due to an expectation that urban and police-type peacekeeping missions will become more common in the 21st century, which will place Marines in even closer contact with unarmed civilians, it is expected that the Marines will benefit from having a larger and more versatile set of less-than-lethal options for controlling hostile, but unarmed individuals. It is also a stated aim of the program to instill and maintain the "warrior culture" within Marines.

While the reputation of the Marine Corps has remained largely positive in recent years, at least within the United States, the Corps has still struggled with occasional negative press and perceptions. In many conflicts, members of the other armed forces of the United States have complained that the Marine Corps often emphasizes its prowess at the expense of the reputation of Army or Navy units which are nearby. An example occurred at the Battle of Chosin Reservoir in the Korean War, when a Marine officer (probably Lt. General Lewis "Chesty" Puller) disparaged the undermanned Army infantry regiment which took the initial Chinese attack. Additionally, the aggressive tradition of the Marine Corps, and the public perception of the Corps' as both an agressive organization and an elite force within the US military, has at times led to public relations issues surrounding accusations of bullying, harrassment and hazing since WWII.

In its post-World War II history, the Marine Corps reputation has been damaged several times. The first major event was the Ribbon Creek Incident on April 8, 1956, when the junior DI, Staff Sergeant Matthew Mckeon, led his assigned platoon into a tidal stream on Parris Island in the purpose of disciplining his platoon, while violating several basic Marine and training regulations. 6 recruits died. SSgt McKeon was court-martialed, and, with significant media coverage, an extensive Congress investigation took place.

See also: The Ribbon Creek incident

This issue was revived in the late 1980s with the release of the movie Full Metal Jacket, which, although it meant to associate loosely to the incident in 1956, was completely located in the Vietnam War era. Still, it projected some attention on then-current basic training in the USMC.

In recent years, following incidents of hazing in various Marine Corps units, such as ANGLICO and the Silent Drill Platoon; incidents involving civilians in Status of Forces Agreement countries; and other public relations issues that could cast the Corps into disrepute, increasingly further-reaching measures have been taken to prevent such incidents and protect the public image of the Marine Corps. Standing orders prohibit hazing and inititation rituals of any kind, at least officially. Marines on Okinawa and at other posts are regularly subject to restrictions and curfews, particularly following incidents between Marines and civilians. Marines today are also discouraged from publicly disparaging other branches of service. These and other measures reflect a realization that the Marine Corps is generally more visible and higher profile than the other branches of service in all that it does and that it relies upon the goodwill of the American people and Congress to a much greater degree for its survival.


Typical aviation units are squadron, group and wing. There are four Marine aircraft wings:

There are also four Force Service Support Groups:


Here is the typical organization for Marine Corps infantry units, from smallest to largest: (Note that the organization and weapons below are from Marine Corps Table of Organization and Equipment standard. Any Marine Corps unit might be organized differently under their own SOP and specialized units, such as Force Reconnaissance, could certainly carry different weapons):

  • fire team: four Marines; team leader (M16A4 with M203 attachment), automatic rifleman (M249), assistant automatic rifleman(M16A4), and rifleman (M16A4).
  • squad: three fire teams and a corporal or sergeant as squad leader
  • platoon
    • rifle platoon: three squads, a Navy corpsman, a platoon sergeant (staff sergeant), and a lieutenant as platoon commander
    • weapons platoon: a 60mm mortar section, an assault section, a medium machine gun section (using M240G 7.62mm machine guns), a Navy corpsman, a platoon sergeant (gunnery sergeant), and a lieutenant as platoon commander
  • company
    • rifle company: three rifle platoons, a weapons platoon, a Navy corpsman, a administrative clerk, a police sergeant (corporal or sergeant), a training NCO, a company gunnery sergeant, first sergeant, a first lieutenant as executive officer, and captain as commander
    • weapons company: an 81mm mortar platoon, an anti-armor platoon, and a heavy machine gun platoon
    • headquarters and support company:
  • battalion: three or four companies, commanded by a lieutenant colonel
  • regiment: three or four battalions, commanded by a colonel
  • brigade: less common in the Marine Corps, but typically made up of one or more regiments and commanded by a brigadier general
  • division: three or four regiments, officers and others, commanded by a major general

Battalions and larger units have a sergeant major, and an executive officer as second in command, plus officers and others for: Administration (S-1), Intelligence (S-2), Operations (S-3), Logistics (S-4), Civil Affairs [wartime only] (S-5), and Communications (S-6).

As of 2004, there are four Marine divisions:

In World War II, two more Marine Divisions were formed: the Fifth and Sixth, which fought in the Pacific War. These divisions were disbanded after the end of the war.

Air-ground task forces

The Marine Corps organization is flexible, and task forces can be formed of any size. Modern deployed Marine units are based upon the doctrine of the Marine air-ground task force, or MAGTF. A MAGTF can generally be of any of three sizes, based upon the amount of force required in the given situation; however, all MAGTFs have a similar organization.

A MAGTF is comprised of four elements: the command element (CE), the ground combat element (GCE), the air combat element (ACE) and the combat service support element (CSSE).

The smallest type of MAGTF is the Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU). The MEU is trained to operated as an independent force or as part of a Joint Task Force. Four elements make up a Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable): The Command Element is the standing headquarters for the MEU, usually headed by a Colonel (O-6). The Ground Combat Element is a Battalion Landing Team; an infantry battalion reinforced with tanks, artillery, engineers, amphibious vehicles, light armored vehicles, and other ground combat assets. The Aviation Combat Element is made up of a composite squadron of both fixed and rotary-wing aircraft. The Combat Service Support Element consists of a MEU Service Support Group which handles the logistics and administration needs of the MEU. The specific makeup of the MEU can be customized based upon the task at hand; additional artillery, armor, or air units can be attached, including squadrons of F/A-18 Hornet and Harrier jets.

There are usually three MEUs assigned to each of the U.S. Navy Atlantic and Pacific Fleets, with another MEU based on Okinawa. While one MEU is on deployment, one MEU is training to deploy and one is standing down, resting its Marines, and refitting. Each MEU is rated as capable of performing special operations.

A Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB) is larger than a MEU, and is based upon a Marine regiment, with larger air and support contingents.

A Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF), as deployed in Iraq in 2003, comprises a Marine division with an artillery regiment, several tank battalions, several LAV battalions, as well as an air wing. The I Marine Expeditionary Force as deployed in the Persian Gulf War ultimately consisted of the 1st and 2nd Marine Divisions as well as considerable Marine air and support units.


Officer Rank Structure of the United States Marine Corps
General Lieutenant General Major General Brigadier General Colonel Lieutenant Colonel Major Captain First Lieutenant Second Lieutenant
O-10 O-9 O-8 O-7 O-6 O-5 O-4 O-3 O-2 O-1
Staff Noncommissioned Officer Rank Structure of the United States Marine Corps
Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Sergeant Major Master Gunnery Sergeant First Sergeant Master Sergeant Gunnery Sergeant Staff Sergeant
E-9 E-9 E-9 E-8 E-8 E-7 E-6
Noncommisioned Officer Rank Structure of the United States Marine Corps
Sergeant Corporal
E-5 E-4
Enlisted Rank Structure of the United States Marine Corps
Lance Corporal Private First Class Private
E-3 E-2 E-1
no insignia

This list is in ascending order. It includes pay grades and abbreviations in the style used by the Marine Corps.


NOTE 1: The E-8 and E-9 levels each have two ranks per pay grade, each with different responsibilities. Gunnery Sergeants indicate on their annual evaluations, called "fitness reports", or "fitreps" for short, their preferred promotional track: Master Sergeant or First Sergeant. The First Sergeant and Sergeant Major ranks are command-oriented, with Marines of these ranks serving as the senior enlisted Marines in a unit, charged to assist the commanding officer in matter of discipline, administration and the morale and welfare of the unit. Master Sergeants and Master Gunnery Sergeants provide technical leadership as occupational specialists in their specific MOS. First Sergeants typically serve as the senior enlisted Marine in a company, battery or other unit at similar echelon, while Sergeants Major serve the same role in battalions, squadrons or larger units.

NOTE 2: The Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps is the senior enlisted Marine of the entire Marine Corps, personally selected by the Commandant of the Marine Corps.

Some enlisted ranks have commonly used nicknames, though they are not official and technically improper. For instance, a Master Sergeant, is commonly called "Top". A Gunnery Sergeant is typically called "Gunny", and (much less often) "Guns". A Master Gunnery Sergeant is often called "Master Guns".

Likewise, Lance Corporals are often referred to (derisively) as "Lance Coolies", "Lances", or "Lance Criminals". Though they are not usually called by rank due to their status as "non-rates".

Unlike the US Army, no enlisted personnel is referred to as "Sarge", and most NCOs will take offense to the term. Likewise, ranks such as Staff Sergeant or Gunnery Sergeant, are never shortened to Sergeant.

Warrant Officers

  • W-1, Warrant Officer, WO
  • W-2, Chief Warrant Officer 2, CWO2
  • W-3, Chief Warrant Officer 3, CWO3
  • W-4, Chief Warrant Officer 4, CWO4
  • W-5, Chief Warrant Officer 5, CWO5

NOTE 3: A Chief Warrant Officer, CWO2-CWO5, serving in the MOS 0306 "Infantry Weapons Officer" is designated as a special rank: "Marine Gunner". A Marine Gunner replaces the Chief Warrant Officer insignia on the LEFT collar with a bursting bomb insignia. Other Warrant Officers are sometimes informally also referred to as "Gunner" but this usage is not correct.

Commissioned officers:

NOTE 4: There has never been any O-11 "five-star" General rank thus far in the Marine Corps, though such a rank could theoretically be created at any time by act of Congress (the first time Congress were to promote a Marine Officer to such a rank). Historically, O-11 ranks, such as "General of the Army" or "General of the Air Force" (five star General) or "Fleet Admiral" were established during WWII to allow US General- or Flag-grade officers to command foreign officers under the allied command structure who, otherwise, would have technically outranked them (an example would be a British "Field Marshal", a rank which does not exist in the US military but would be equivalent to a five-star General). Currently, no officer in any branch of the U.S. military holds a grade of O-11.


The Commandant of the Marine Corps functions as the highest-ranking officer of the Marine Corps. Even though more senior Marine officers occasionally exist, the commandant is still in charge of the administration of the Marine Corps. The commandant is a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and reports to the Secretary of the Navy, but not to the Chief of Naval Operations.

As of October 2005, Marine Generals Peter Pace (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) and James L. Jones (Commander of the United States European Command; NATO Supreme Allied Commander, Europe; and a former commandant of the Marine Corps) are senior in time and grade to the commandant. However, the commandant does not report to them.

The commandant is responsible for keeping the Marine Corps in fighting condition and does not serve as a direct battlefield commander. However, he is the symbolic and functional head of the Corps, and holds a position of very high esteem among Marines.

As of April 2005, the Commandant of the Marine Corps is General Michael W. Hagee, who became Commandant in January of 2003.


The new camouflage 'Marine pattern', aka 'MARPAT', used by the Marines. Shown here is the woodland pattern. There is also a desert pattern.
The new camouflage 'Marine pattern', aka 'MARPAT', used by the Marines. Shown here is the woodland pattern. There is also a desert pattern.
Enlisted Marine blue dress uniform.
Enlisted Marine blue dress uniform.

Marines are often confused with soldiers, who are members of United States Army. Some differences in appearance are:

  • Marines do not wear berets.
  • Marines wear boots only with the utility uniform, not other uniforms.
  • Reflecting their naval heritage, Marines do not salute unless they are wearing a 'cover' (aka hat).
  • The Marine service uniform, roughly equivalent to business attire, has a khaki shirt. The equivalent Army uniform has a light-green shirt. Enlisted Marines wear their rank insignia on the sleeve of the service shirt, but Army privates and specialists wear their rank on the collar, and NCOs wear theirs on shoulder epaulets. Marine officers wear rank insignia on the collar, whereas Army officers wear their rank insignia in a similar manner as that of NCOs.
  • The Marine class "A" service coat is olive green (as opposed to forest green for the Army) and has a waist-belt, formerly a Garrison belt for enlisted Marines and the Sam Browne belt for officers. The Marine service uniform is worn with either a barracks (service) cover, which has a bill and a round top, or a garrison cover, which comes to a peak.
  • Marines are less generous with awards and unit identification; the rationale behind this is that as a member of an elite force, it is enough to be identified simply as a Marine. For example, with the exception of breast insignia denoting a few specialized qualifications such as airborne (parachute), pilot or scuba/rebreather qualification, and small red patches sewn on the utility trouser legs and covers of some logistics Marines, Marines do not normally wear any insignia or device on their utility uniforms denoting their unit, MOS (military occupational specialty), or training. Further, many senior Marines involved in ground combat operations eschew the wearing of rank insignia in combat, on the theory that it simply makes them targets (as in Vietnam). Enlisted Marines are supposed to know who their leaders are, regardless of whether or not they are wearing rank insignia.

Utility uniform

Differences in the utility uniform include:

  • The cover (hat) of the utility uniform is constructed differently. Marine covers have eight sides and corners.
  • Marines wear green-colored "skivvie" undershirts with their utility uniform, even in the desert. Soldiers wear brown undershirts.
  • Soldiers roll up the sleeves of their utility uniform so the camouflage is facing out. Marines fold their sleeves so that the lighter-colored underside faces out (known as "white-side out").
  • Marines "blouse" their boots. That is, they roll the cuffs of their trousers back inside and tighten them over the boots with a cord or an elastic band known as a boot band. Soldiers either blouse their boots or tuck their trousers directly into their boots.
  • Marines do not wear any rank insignia or other device on the utility cover. The front of the cover has instead the Marine Corps Eagle, Globe, and Anchor emblem, and since the introduction of the MARPAT pattern, this insignia has been embroidered directly on the front--not ironed on as on previous covers.
  • On their utility uniforms, Marine officers typically wear their rank insignia on both collars, while Army officers, since the introduction of the new Army Combat Uniform (which mocks the MARPAT pattern), wear their rank insignia on a flap located on the front of the ACU shirt. In garrison, Marine officers typically wear collar insignia made of shiny metal, as opposed to the "subdued" stitched-on insignia worn by Army officers.
  • Marines wear a colored belt, often referred to as a "rigger's belt", that is color coded to represent their specific qualification under the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program.
  • Marines used to wear black combat boots with the utility uniform, as do the Army and Air Force. But in 2002, light-brown suede combat boots were introduced along with a new type of camouflage, the "MARPAT" uniform. (See photo.) Effective 1 October 2004, black combat boots were declared obsolete and no longer authorized for general wear by Marines. Exception is made for black safety boots worn for certain tasks, such as parachuting.
  • As of 1 October 2006, the old-style camouflage utility uniform, also worn by the Army and Air Force, will be declared obsolete. The only utility uniform authorized for Marines will be the MARPAT uniform.
  • As of 2004, both the Army and the Air Force have announced plans to replace their old-style "pickle suit" camouflage utility uniforms with newer designs similar to the Marine Corps digital "MARPAT" pattern. The Navy has started experimentations on the replacement of their "dungaree" and Officer/Chief Petty Officer uniforms with a variation of the "MARPAT" pattern.


The Marine motto "Semper Fidelis" means "Always faithful" in Latin. This motto often appears in the shortened form "Semper Fi!" It is also the name of the official march of the Corps, composed by John Phillip Sousa. Another motto commonly used in recuriting is Marines - The Few. The Proud..

The colors of the Marine Corps are scarlet and gold. They appear on the flag of the United States Marine Corps, along with the Marine Corps emblem: the eagle, globe, and anchor, with the eagle representing service to the country, the globe representing worldwide service, and the anchor representing naval traditions. The emblem, adopted in its present form in 1868, derives partially from ornaments worn by the Continental Marines and the British Royal Marines, and is usually topped with a ribbon reading "Semper Fidelis".

Two styles of swords are worn by Marines. The Marine Corps officer sword is a Mameluke sword, similar to the sword presented to Lt. Presley O'Bannon after the capture of Derne during the First Barbary War. Noncommissioned officers carry a different style of sword, similar in style to a Civil War cavalry sabre, making them the only enlisted personnel in the U.S. military authorized to carry a sword.

Marines have several generic nicknames, mildly derogatory when used by outsiders but complimentary when used by Marines themselves. They include "jarhead" (it was said their hats on their uniform made them look like mason jars, or that the regulation "high and tight" haircut gave the appearance of a jar-lid), "gyrene" (perhaps a combination of "G.I." and "Marine"), "leatherneck", referring to the leather collar that was a part of the Marine uniform during the Revolutionary War period, and "Devil Dog" (German: Teufelshund) after the Battle of Belleau Wood.

This nicknaming extends to the Corps itself. The acronym 'USMC' is regularly reworked into "Uncle Sam's Misguided Children," "University of Southern Michigan College" or, even, "Upper Sandusky Motorcycle Club". The word 'Marine' is said to stand for 'My Ass Rides In Navy Equipment' ,'My Ass Really Is Navy Equipment' or 'Muscles Are Required Intelligence Not Essential'. Even Marines themselves have semi-derogatory nicknames for their Corps, with Marines during the Vietnam era labeling it 'the Crotch' and Cold War era Marines preferring 'the Suck'.

A spirited cry, "Oorah!", is common among Marines, being similar in function and purpose to the Army's "Hooah" cry, but is probably more commonly used among Marines than "Hooah" would be in the Army. "Oorah!" is usually either a reply in the affirmative to a question, an acknowledgment of an order, or an expression of enthusiasm (real or false).

In the 1991 Gulf War, Iraqi soldiers nicknamed the Marines "Angels of Death". Another so-called term of endearment for Marines was "blackboots". This was due to supply shortages, leaving tan, desert boots unavailable to most Marine units. Haitians called Marines participating in relief operations "whitesleeves" because of the way they roll up the sleeves of their utility uniform, called "cammies" colloquially. In Somalia, they were referred to as "The Devils in black boots", due to their rapid deployment preventing them from acquiring desert boots.

Initial training

Training for commissioned officers occurs through NROTC, the Navy Reserve Officers Training Corps; OCS, Officer Candidate School, including the Platoon Leaders Class (PLC), or the United States Naval Academy. After that, all officers spend their first six months, regardless of accession route or further training requirements, at The Basic School at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia. The Basic School, solely for freshly commissioned second lieutenants learning the art of infantry and combined arms warfare, is an example of the unique approach the Corps takes to fostering the credo that "Every Marine is a rifleman first."

Enlisted Marines attend boot camp, at either Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego or Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, just outside Beaufort, South Carolina. Women must attend Parris Island, but men train at either depot. The Mississippi River serves as the dividing line which delineates who will be trained where (with some minor exceptions), based on the what recruiting district the enlistee was recruited from.

Enlisted Marines then attend School of Infantry training at Camp Lejeune or Camp Pendleton, generally based upon where the Marine attended boot camp. Infantry Marines begin their Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) training immediately with the Infantry Training Battalion (ITB), while all other Marines train with the Marine Combat Training (MCT) Battalion before continuing on to their MOS schools.

In 1997, the school at Camp Lejeune expanded the MCT program to integrate female Marines. This basic infantry training for all Marines is one element of the philosophy that "Every Marine is a Rifleman."

Marine bases and stations

Main article: List of U.S. Marine Corps bases


  • The United States Marines have recently agreed to supply a 2,600 personnel unit which will report directly to U.S. Special Operations Command. The move, the result of years-long negotiations between the Defense Department, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Marine Corps Commandant Michael W. Hagee will create a new organization called Marine Special Operations Command. [1]
  • Marines guard U.S. embassies (Marine Corps Security Guard) and other foreign missions, in cooperation with the Diplomatic Security Service. Marines also stand guard at the White House.
  • The president's helicopter is Marine One, part of HMX-1, in Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia.
  • Marines do not serve as Chaplains or Corpsmen (medical workers). Naval personnel fill those roles. They would generally wear the Marine uniforms of the day with Navy markings when serving with the Marines. Officer Ranks and E-7/E-9 Chief Petty Officer Rates are worn on the collar, while E-2/E-6 Enlisted Rate are worn on the left sleeve. For example, when wearing utility uniforms, a Navy Corpsman wears their rank/rate on the right collar, a shield with the Caduceus on the left, and U. S. Navy over the right breast pocket. The Chaplains would also wear their ranks on the right collar and US Navy above the right breast pocket but wear a a religious symbol on their left collar to signify their religious preference.
  • The Marine Corps Band, known as "The President's Own", is charged with providing music for the President of the United States and often plays during state functions.
  • Three infamous former Marines are Lee Harvey Oswald, Clayton Lonetree, and Charles Whitman. Lonetree was a Marine embassy guard who was court-martialed for spying for the Soviet Union.
  • Academy Awards

See also

The "Commandant's Own" Drum and Bugle Corps
The "Commandant's Own" Drum and Bugle Corps

External links

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