United States Marine Corps
The United States Marine Corps (USMC), also referred to as the United States Marines, is the maritime land force service branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for conducting expeditionary and amphibious operations through combined arms, implementing its own infantry, artillery, aerial and special operations forces. The U.S. Marine Corps is one of the eight uniformed services of the United States.
The Marine Corps has been part of the U.S. Department of the Navy since June 30th 1834 with its sister service, the United States Navy. The USMC operates installations on land and aboard sea-going amphibious warfare ships around the world. Additionally, several of the Marines' tactical aviation squadrons, primarily Marine Fighter Attack squadrons, are also embedded in Navy carrier air wings and operate from the aircraft carriers.
The Marine Corps fulfills a critical military role as an amphibious warfare force. It is capable of asymmetric warfare with conventional, irregular, and hybrid forces. While the Marine Corps does not employ any unique capabilities, as a force it can rapidly deploy a combined-arms task force to almost anywhere in the world within days. The basic structure for all deployed units is a Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) that integrates a ground combat element, an aviation combat element and a logistics combat element under a common command element. While the creation of joint commands under the Goldwater–Nichols Act has improved inter-service coordination between each branch, the Corps' ability to permanently maintain integrated multi-element task forces under a single command provides a smoother implementation of combined-arms warfare principles.
The Marine Corps relies on the Navy for sealift to provide its rapid deployment capabilities. In addition to basing a third of the Fleet Marine Force in Japan, Marine expeditionary units (MEU) are typically stationed at sea so they can function as first responders to international incidents. To aid rapid deployment, the Maritime Pre-Positioning System was developed: fleets of container ships are positioned throughout the world with enough equipment and supplies for a Marine expeditionary force to deploy for 30 days.
As in the rest of the United States Armed Forces (excluding the Air Force and Space Force, which do not currently appoint warrant officers), Marine Corps ranks fall into one of three categories: commissioned officer, warrant officer, and enlisted, in decreasing order of authority. To standardize compensation, each rank is assigned a pay grade.
Commissioned officers are distinguished from other officers by their commission, which is the formal written authority, issued in the name of the President of the United States, that confers the rank and authority of a Marine officer. Commissioned officers carry the "special trust and confidence" of the President of the United States. Marine Corps commissioned officers are promoted based on an "up or out" system in accordance with the Defense Officer Personnel Management Act of 1980.
The Corps encourages the idea that "Marine" is an earned title, and most Marine Corps personnel take to heart the phrase, "Once a Marine, Always a Marine." They reject the term "ex-Marine" in most circumstances. There are no regulations concerning the address of persons who have left active service, so a number of customary terms have come into common use.
An honorably discharged Marine may be referred to as "Marine" or "Marine Corps Veteran." It is inappropriate to describe such personnel as "former Marines" or "ex-Marines." The term "retired Marine" is generally reserved for those who have formally retired after 20 or more years of service, or for those who have been medically retired. According to one of the "Commandant's White letters" from Commandant Alfred M. Gray Jr., referring to a Marine by their last earned rank is appropriate.
Martial arts program
In 2001, the Marine Corps initiated an internally designed martial arts program, called Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP). Because of an expectation that urban and police-type peacekeeping missions would become more common in the 21st century, placing Marines in even closer contact with unarmed civilians, MCMAP was implemented to provide Marines with a larger and more versatile set of less-than-lethal options for controlling hostile, unarmed individuals. It is a stated aim of the program to instill and maintain the "Warrior Ethos" within Marines. The MCMAP is an eclectic mix of different styles of martial arts melded together. MCMAP consists of punches and kicks from Taekwondo and Karate, opponent weight transfer from Jujitsu, ground grappling involving joint locking techniques and chokes from Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and a mix of knife and baton/stick fighting derived from Eskrima, and elbow strikes and kick boxing from Muay Thai. Marines begin MCMAP training in boot camp, where they will earn the first of five available belts. The belts begin at tan and progress to black and are worn with standard utility uniforms.
As outlined in 10 U.S.C. § 5063 and as originally introduced under the National Security Act of 1947, three primary areas of responsibility for the Marine Corps are:
Seizure or defense of advanced naval bases and other land operations to support naval campaigns;
Development of tactics, technique, and equipment used by amphibious landing forces in coordination with the Army and Air Force; and
Such other duties as the President or Department of Defense may direct.
The Marine Corps operates many major bases, 14 of which host operating forces, 7 support and training installations, as well as satellite facilities. Marine Corps bases are concentrated around the locations of the Marine Expeditionary Forces, though reserve units are scattered throughout the United States. The principal bases are Camp Pendleton on the West Coast, home to I Marine Expeditionary Force; Camp Lejeune on the East Coast, home to II Marine Expeditionary Force; and Camp Butler in Okinawa, Japan, home to III Marine Expeditionary Force.
Other important bases include air stations, recruit depots, logistics bases, and training commands. Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms in California is the Marine Corps' largest base and home to the Corps' most complex, combined-arms, live-fire training. Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia is home to Marine Corps Combat Development Command and nicknamed the "Crossroads of the Marine Corps." The Marine Corps maintains a significant presence in the National Capital Region, with Headquarters Marine Corps scattered amongst the Pentagon, Henderson Hall, Washington Navy Yard, and Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C. Additionally, Marines operate detachments at many installations owned by other branches to better share resources, such as specialty schools. Marines are also present at and operate many forward bases during expeditionary operations.
The Corps operates the same HMMWV as does the Army, which is in the process of being replaced by the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV). However, for its specific needs, the Corps uses a number of unique vehicles. The LAV-25 is a dedicated wheeled armored personnel carrier, similar to the Army's Stryker vehicle, used to provide strategic mobility. Amphibious capability is provided by the AAV-7A1 Assault Amphibious Vehicle, an armored tracked vehicle that doubles as an armored personnel carrier, due to be replaced by the Amphibious Combat Vehicle, a faster vehicle with superior armor and weaponry. The threat of land mines and improvised explosive devices in Iraq and Afghanistan has seen the Corps begin purchasing heavy armored vehicles that can better withstand the effects of these weapons as part of the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle program.
The Marines operate the M777 155 mm howitzer, including the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), a truck-mounted rocket artillery system. Both are capable of firing guided munitions.
The organic aviation capability of the Marine Corps is essential to its amphibious mission. The Corps operates both rotary-wing and fixed-wing aircraft mainly to provide Assault Support and close air support to its ground forces. Other aircraft types are used in a variety of support and special-purpose roles. The light transport and attack capabilities are provided by the Bell UH-1Y Venom and Bell AH-1Z Viper. Medium-lift squadrons utilize the MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor. Heavy-lift squadrons are equipped with the CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter, which are being replaced with the upgraded CH-53K.
Marine attack squadrons fly the AV-8B Harrier II; while the fighter/attack mission is handled by the single-seat and dual-seat versions of the F/A-18 Hornet strike-fighter aircraft. The AV-8B is a V/STOL aircraft that can operate from amphibious assault ships, land air bases and short, expeditionary airfields, while the F/A-18 can only be flown from land or aircraft carriers. Both are slated to be replaced by 340 of the STOVL B version of the F-35 Lightning II and 80 of the carrier F-35C versions for deployment with Navy carrier air wings.
The Corps operates its own organic aerial refueling assets in the form of the KC-130 Hercules; however it also receives a large amount of support from the U.S. Air Force. The Hercules doubles as a ground refueler and tactical-airlift transport aircraft. The USMC electronic warfare plane, the EA-6B, was retired in 2019. The Marines operate unmanned aerial vehicles: the RQ-7 Shadow and Scan Eagle for tactical reconnaissance.
Marine Fighter Training Squadron 401 (VMFT-401), operates F-5E, F-5F and F-5N Tiger II aircraft in support of air combat adversary (aggressor) training. Marine Helicopter Squadron One (HMX-1) operates the VH-3D Sea King and VH-60N Whitehawk helicopters in the VIP transport role, most notably Marine One, but are due to be replaced. A single Marine Corps C-130 Hercules aircraft, "Fat Albert", is used to support the U.S. Navy's flight demonstration team, the "Blue Angels."
The basic infantry weapon of the Marine Corps has been M16A4 service rifle. Most non-infantry Marines have been equipped with the M4 Carbine or Colt 9mm SMG. The standard side arm is the M9A1 pistol. The Colt M1911 is also being put back into service as the M45A1 Close Quarter Battle Pistol (CQBP) in small numbers. Suppressive fire is provided by the M27 IAR, M249 SAW, and M240 machine guns, at the squad and company levels respectively. In 2018, the M27 IAR was selected to be the standard issue rifle for the all infantry squads. In 2021, the Marine Corps committed to fielding suppressors to all its infantry units, making it the first branch of the U.S. military to adopt them for widespread use.
Indirect fire is provided by the M203 grenade launcher and the M32 grenade launcher in fireteams, M224 60 mm mortar in companies, and M252 81 mm mortar in battalions. The M2 .50 caliber heavy machine gun and MK19 automatic grenade launcher (40 mm) are available for use by dismounted infantry, though they are more commonly vehicle-mounted. Precision firepower is provided by the M40 series and the Barrett M107, while designated marksmen use the DMR (being replaced by the M39 EMR), and the SAM-R.
The Marine Corps utilizes a variety of direct-fire rockets and missiles to provide infantry with an offensive and defensive anti-armor capability. The SMAW and AT4 are unguided rockets that can destroy armor and fixed defenses (e.g., bunkers) at ranges up to 500 meters. The smaller and lighter M72 LAW can destroy targets at ranges up to 200 meters. The Predator SRAW, FGM-148 Javelin and BGM-71 TOW are anti-tank guided missiles. The Javelin can utilize top-attack profiles to avoid heavy frontal armor. The Predator is a short-range fire-and-forget weapon; the Javelin and TOW are heavier missiles effective past 2,000 meters that give infantry an offensive capability against armor.
Every year, over 2,000 new Marine officers are commissioned, and 38,000 recruits are accepted and trained. All new Marines, enlisted or officer, are recruited by the Marine Corps Recruiting Command.
Commissioned officers are commissioned mainly through one of three sources: Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps, Officer Candidates School, or the United States Naval Academy. Following commissioning, all Marine commissioned officers, regardless of accession route or further training requirements, attend The Basic School at Marine Corps Base Quantico. At The Basic School, second lieutenants, warrant officers, and selected foreign officers learn the art of infantry and combined arms warfare.
Enlisted Marines attend recruit training, known as boot camp, at either Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego or Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island. Historically, the Mississippi River served as a dividing line that delineated who would be trained where, while more recently, a district system has ensured a more even distribution of male recruits between the two facilities. All recruits must pass a fitness test to start training; those who fail will receive individualized attention and training until the minimum standards are reached. Marine recruit training is the longest among the American military services; it is 13 weeks long including processing and out-processing.
Following recruit training, enlisted Marines then attend The School of Infantry at Camp Geiger or Camp Pendleton. Infantry Marines begin their combat training, which varies in length, immediately with the Infantry Training Battalion. Marines in all other MOSs train for 29 days in Marine Combat Training, learning common infantry skills, before continuing on to their MOS schools, which vary in length.