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Why the Marine Corps is the Elite

Updated on October 6, 2014

“The Marines I have seen around the world have the cleanest bodies, the filthiest minds, the highest morale, and the lowest morals of any group of animals I have ever seen. Thank God for the United States Marine Corps” (Knight). These infamous words came out of the former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt in 1945, after being questioned on what she thought of the Marine Corps. Even though she spoke these words 62 years ago, many people feel the same about the Marines today. What makes the Marine Corps (and the Marines that in it), the elite is the training, the esprit de corps, and the traditions it maintains.​


To be called a United States.Marine, an individual needs to attend basic training, or “boot camp”. Marine Corps boot camp is held in two different locations in the United States; the individual is sent to the closest one depending on where they reside. If a person lives to the west of the Mississippi River they are sent to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Santiago, California. If a potential recruit lives to the east of the Mississippi River they are sent to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina. There are two major exceptions. First, females are sent to Parris Island regardless where they live, and officers are sent to Quantico, Virginia for The Basic School. ​​The training Marine recruits receive at boot camp is like no other, even other U.S. military branches’.


The first noticeable difference between Marines’ boot camp and others is the length of the recruit-training. Marine recruits train for 13 long weeks, while the Coast Guard’s stay is eight weeks, the Navy is eight weeks; the Air Force’s training is six weeks and three days. The Army has a new and semi-complicated system of basic training; they have an integrated program of their Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) School and their basic training. The stay of the Army recruit depends on which job they have chosen; for example, an infantryman would receive nine weeks of basic training and six weeks of their MOS school,

Even though both male and female recruits are sent to Parris Island, which does not mean that they are trained together or even see each other through out their training. Male Marines take up one side of the island, while females take up a small portion on the other side. However, if highly motivated, and completely stupid, a recruit may take notice of the gender at certain occasions. Some occasions may include at the Parris Island base chapel on Sunday, the rifle-range chow hall, the hospital aboard Parris Island, and the first night at boot camp during processing. On rare occasions, a recruit or two may sneak out of their squad bays at night or some other location and meet up with another recruit. These incidents are rare thanks to motion detectors on the outside of the door, which alert Drill Instructors in the DI hut. These incidents are taken very seriously and are punished severely.​​However, not all branches of the U.S. military have the same philosophy of gender-segregated training.


The Army has two locations for their females, Fort Leonardwood, Missouri, and Fort Jackson, South Carolina. At these two boot camps the males and females have separate living areas, but they train together and interact routinely. The Army’s barracks for recruit males and females are close in distance.At the Navy Recruit Training Center Great Lakes, IL, the males and females also live in separate squad bays but train together. The Coast Guard Training Center Cape May, NJ, additionally train their male-female recruits together, but they too sleep separately.


The Marine Corps is the only branch that believes it is in the best interest of the recruit, the drill instructors, and the training, for recruits to be segregated during boot camp. The Marine Corps takes it a step further by all females is taught by female drill instructors, as well as males being taught by male drill instructors. However, a male primary marksmanship instructor may be utilized during the rifle-range, and male drill instructors may teach some customs and courtesy, and history classes to female recruits.

Lastly, the actual training at boot camp/basic training is quite different between the branches. Marine Corps boot camp is broken down in to three “phases”. Phase one of boot camp the basic learning phase. This phase includes breaking down the recruits both mentally and physically, this is the hardest phase of boot camp. In this phase, the recruit learns what is expected of them, how to drill, how to wear the uniform properly, hence the name “basic learning”.​​Phase two is the rifle-training phase of boot camp. In this phase, the recruit learns how to handle weapons properly, memorizing the safety conditions, and how to fire the weapon properly.


Recruits train on M-16 A2 service rifle, carrying them everywhere, except when they are in chow or are asleep. Marine recruits become very close to their rifle, often times naming them. Marine recruits clean their weapon quite frequently; they know how well they treat their weapon is how well their weapon will treat them. Many recruits fear failing, or going “unk” on the rifle-range. If recruits fail on the rifle range they have to go back a week or more in training, prolonging their stay on Parris Island. This fear gives recruits inspiration to maintain their weapon and learn everything about it.​​The third phase of boot camp, or the “field training” phase is essential to Marine recruits; this phase simulates many battle time situations.


For example, one night Marine recruits go to the rifle-range with face paint, Kevlar,flak jacket, and fire off tracer rounds down range. During this exercise, a drill instructor, or some other instructor will fire a flare into the air. During this time recruits are instructed to stay very still, representing a situation they may encounter during war. During another event, Marine recruits go through a long obstacle course at night with the same battle gear they had on previously. In this obstacle course, recruits go under barb-wire, climb over wooden obstacles, and go through large cement pipes; if it is raining or if the ground is wet, that is a large bonus. The last thing recruits do in this phase is graduate; many Marines will tell you this is the proudest day of their lives.

The other branches of the military do have difficult boot camps, but most will agree that the Marine Corps boot camp is the most difficult. Many people order the degree of difficulty from the weakest being the Air Force, Coast Guard, Navy, Army, and then finally the Marines. In fact, Marines debate which boot camp was more difficult, San Diego or Parris Island. The Marines from San Diego say that they have hills with the infamous “Reaper”, while Paris Island Marines boast about getting “smoked” in the sand-pit with monstrous size sand fleas. Either way, both Marine Corps boot camps are extremely difficult and produce quality Marines.

After graduating from San Diego, Parris Island, or Quantico, a Marine will be a Marine forever. A person could have only done four years then gotten out, or could have ran away after boot camp graduation; once a Marine always a Marine. The reason why the Marine Corps is a band of brothers (and sisters) is the esprit de corps. Esprit de corps can be defined as “a sense of unity and of common interests and responsibilities, as developed among a group of persons closely associated in a task, cause, enterprise, etc.” (Dictionary.com). By this definition, Marines are bounded together because of task, cause, and association; these three principals are clearly laid out in the Marine Corps hymn.




MARINES' HYMN

From the halls of Montezuma, to the shores of Tripoli,


We fight our country's battles in the air, on land and sea.


First to fight for right and freedom, and to keep our honor clean;


We are proud to claim the title of United States Marine.

Our Flag's unfurled to every breeze from dawn to setting sun.


We have fought in every clime and place, where we could take a gun.


In the snow of far off northern lands and in sunny tropic scenes,


You will find us always on the job, the United States Marines.

Here's health to you and to our Corps, which we are proud to serve.

In many a strife we've fought for life and never lost our nerve. CAUSE

If the Army and the Navy ever look on heaven's scenes,

they will find the streets are guarded by United States Marines.

​All Marines remember citing this hymn in their racks at night while laying at attention. Many Marines remember all three stances of the hymn, but at minimum, all (or at least all should) remember the first stance. This hymn can also bring up memories of singing, or rather screaming the hymn on their graduation day, especially the line “I am proud to claim the title United States Marine”.

However, as much of a sense of pride the Marines hymn provides, this is not the only source of esprit de corps. Marines also sense unity through their traditions, which Marines have many of. For starters, many Marines ignore the fact they are a department of the Navy. Marines were originally used on ships to provide security on Navy vessels because the Navy was being overrun by pirates and the British.

With all the interaction between the Marines and the Navy, Marines adapted the Navy jargon. For example, Navy (and Marines) call a door a “hatch, a window a “porthole”, the floor a “deck”, the left side “port”, and the right side being “starboard” acting as if parts of a room are pieces of a ship.​Many Marines will tell you that their eagle, globe, and anchor (EGA) is the best tradition; it makes them unique from the rest of the branches.


The EGA are handed to Marine recruit at the instance they become a Marine during graduation. The EGA is a collar device worn on non-utility uniform and is seen in the pattern on the digital camouflage utilities. The eagle stands for the proud nation they fight for and the family back home. The globe is shown to represent the field service the Marine Corps provides, and interestingly shows the western hemisphere. The anchor represents the Navy traditions, and the fact that they are a department of the Navy.​​However, the EGA is not the only part uniform that has traditions behind it.


On the side of the dress trousers on Marine Corps officers and on Noncommissioned Officers is a thick red line, this represents the blood shed at the battle of Chapultepec, during the Mexican-American war. This battle was very deadly for Marine Officers and NCO's, 90% of them died. Marine Officers have another privilege, they get to wear the quatrefoil on top of their dress and service covers. The quatrefoil has French roots but was produced back when Marine snipers would sit in the riggings of a ship, and would identify friend from foe from the quatrefoils on top of their cover.

There are too many Marine traditions to list, but some smaller ones should be recognized since it encompasses what it is to be a Marine. The colors of the Marine Corps are scarlet and gold, which are usually plastered on everything in a Marine building. Next, the Commandant of the Marine Corps has the license plate 1775; if a Marine hits a car with this license plate it would be wise to come out of the wreckage saluting.

If a person would like to see the Marine Corps epiphany of traditions and customs, they should go to a Marine Corps birthday ball. At this ball, which is held around the 10th of November each year, Marines put on their best uniforms and celebrate the Marine Corps birthday. During the ball Marines listen to the commandant’s Marine Corps birthday message,listen to key speakers, dance, drink, and most importantly, the cake cutting ceremony. At this point in the evening, the youngest Marine and the oldest Marine hover around the cake. The oldest Marine cuts the cake with the Marine Corps sword, and hands it to the younger Marine; this represents the passing of traditions, values, and knowledge down to the junior Marine.

To conclude, the Marine Corps is the best branch of the U.S. military. Marines are a very proud people, with a rich history, and a sense of purpose and pride. They live by the honor code of courage, honor, and commitment. What makes Marines so different is the training; from the beginning they are expected to be better than every other branch. Marines train the hardest, have the most difficult physical fitness test, and expect the most discipline from one another. I am proud to be a Marine, even though I am no longer on active duty. I am also glad that I had an opportunity to go to Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom II.

This quote from an unknown Canadian citizen sums up what it is like to be a Marine"Marines are about the most peculiar breed of human beings I have ever witnessed. They treat their service as if it were some kind of cult, plastering their emblem on almost everything they own, making themselves up to look like insane fanatics with haircuts ungentlemanly short, worshipping their Commandant almost as if he were a god, and making weird animal noises like a band of savages. They will fight like rabid dogs at the drop of a hat just for the sake of a little action and are the cockiest SOB's I have ever known. Most have the foulest mouths and drink well beyond a man's normal limits. But, their high spirits and sense of brotherhood set them apart and generally speaking the United States Marines I have come in contact with are the most professional soldiers and the finest men I have had the pleasure to meet".

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    • Alli Rose profile image
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      Alli Rose Smith 3 years ago from Washington, DC

      Semper Fi. Marine!

    • Alli Rose profile image
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      Alli Rose Smith 3 years ago from Washington, DC

      Thanks Rebel, we always say "Same team, same fight".

    • Alli Rose profile image
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      Alli Rose Smith 3 years ago from Washington, DC

      Thanks fpherj48 for all the sacrifices you have made!

    • rebelogilbert profile image

      Gilbert Arevalo 3 years ago from Hacienda Heights, California

      I enjoyed your hub about United States Marines, Ali. I like how you compared them to other branches of the military.

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 3 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Alli.......Semper Fi! You'll get no argument from the PROUD daughter of Niece of and MOTHER of a U.S. Marine!.........Up++++

    • Alli Rose profile image
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      Alli Rose Smith 3 years ago from Washington, DC

      Edward, that's awesome you do that. I hope if I break down, it will be while you pass by. That's what I love about the Marines, a built in family and friends. Ooh rah!

    • Alli Rose profile image
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      Alli Rose Smith 3 years ago from Washington, DC

      Alan, thank you for your comment. The U.S.Marines were actually patterned off the Royal Marines in the American Revolution. We were awed by the honor, courage, and commitment. Thanks for the post!

    • alancaster149 profile image

      Alan R Lancaster 3 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      I've never been in the military for reasons beyond my control. The only uniforms I've worn were Scouts, security and Royal Mail... However, I have great respect for service men and women.

      My Dad was in the Green Howards (a famed North Yorkshire regiment that ceased to exist not long ago, but traced its roots to Marlborough's time in the 7 Years War) to begin with in 1941 before transferring to the Royal Engineers as a sapper machine gunner (Bren), and earned a Combined Services badge for his time in Italy. Being wounded south of Rome earned him recovery time in Rome and he spent his 21st in Florence, being shot at by the retreating Germans who demolished every bridge.

      The Marines, whether Royal or US, have been in difficult situations by virtue of their badge. Commando-type operations are usually either reserved for paratroopers, engineers or marines. The US Marines are a self-contained entity within the US armed forces, unless here in Britain where deployment is distributed more widely.

      You've a right to pride, wear it responsibly.

      PS, your third picture seems to have gone awal

    • Edward J. Palumbo profile image

      Ed Palumbo 3 years ago from Tualatin, OR

      The Corps was very good to me, good for me, and I remain proud of it. I am still in contact with brothers with whom I served in Viet Nam, and that is difficult to explain to the uninitiated. A Marine always has "family". As I drive, if I see a disabled vehicle with a USMC sticker on it, I will stop to render assistance if it's needed. Best wishes to you, and "Semper Fi!"

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