Thursday, June 16, 2011

❏This vs That ❐: The United States Army vs The United States Marines

Welcome to Thursday's

US Army vs US Marines

I'm sure you've heard them ALL before:

3 Marines were walking through the forest when they came upon a set of tracks. The first marine said "Those are deer tracks." The second marine said "No, those are elk tracks." The third marine said "You're both wrong, those are moose tracks." The marines were still arguing when the train hit them.
ARMY = Ain't Ready for the Marines Yet
ARMY = Aren't Real Men Yet

Marines... Fixing the Army's mistakes since 1775 and so on and so on. 

We've all made fun of them (well most of us) in one way or another but really, what's the difference between the two to a layperson such as myself.  If a soldier or marine came up to me, "I wouldn't know the difference if my life depended on it."
Honestly, I didn't think there was much of a difference until I started reading otherwise.  I've read many arguements on forums that they are the same because they are both fighting for their countries or a soldier is a soldier no matter what uniform he wears, or the army is only a more effective force because of their budget and numbers etc. etc.  I don't really care about all that. I understand what they are trying to say.   But what I really want to know is what is the difference in terms of duties and obligations performed?  Do they train the same?  How can you tell them apart - do they wear the same uniforms or different ones?

Did you know there are roughly 1,580,255 active-duty military personnel across all the US armed forces -  that number being the second highest only to China who has a whopping 2,255,000. 

So what exactly are the differences?  And, by the way,  if there are any army soldiers or marines out there who can set the facts straight, please, by all means do so.


The United States Army is the main ground-force of the United States. The Army's main function is to protect and defend the United States (and its interests) by way of ground troops, armor (tanks), artillery, attack helicopters, tactical nuclear weapons, etc. It is both the largest and the oldest established branch of the United States military. It has its roots in the Continental Army which formed back in 1775 before the United States was even established. The first United States Army was established on June 14, 1784 following the end of the war in order to replace the Continental Army that had been disbanded.  There are approximately 553,326 active duty personnels enlisted in the Army.

Marine Corps

The Marines are often referred to as the "Infantry of the Navy." Marines specialize in amphibious operations. In other words, their primary specialty is to assault, capture, and control "beach heads," - an area of control on foreign soil, which then provide a route to attack the enemy from almost any direction. The Marines were officially established on 10 November 1775 by the Continental Congress, to act as a landing force for the United States Navy. In 1798, however, Congress established the Marine Corps as a separate service. While amphibious operations are their primary specialty, in recent years, the Marines have expanded other ground-combat operations, as well. The Marines are generally a "lighter" force when compared to the Army, so they can generally be deployed fast (although the Army has been making great strides in "rapid deployment" in the past few years). For combat operations, the Marines like to be self-sufficient, as much as possible, so they also have their own air power, consisting primarily of fighter and fighter/bomber aircraft and attack helicopters. Even so, the Marines use the Navy for much of their logistical and administrative support. For example, there are no doctors, nurses, or enlisted medics in the Marine Corps. Even medics that accompany the Marines into combat are specially-trained Navy medics. With the exception of the Coast Guard, the Marines are also the smallest service. There are approximately 204,153 enlisted personnel on active duty in the Marines. Like the Navy, there is no Marine Corps National Guard, but Marines are supported in times of need by the Marine Corps Reserves.

Army Basic Training vs Marine Basic Training
Army Basic Combat Training (BCT, the Army's equivalent of boot camp) lasts for about 9 weeks.  Marine boot camp lasts for 13 weeks.

In the U.S. Army, recruits are sent to Basic Training in a location chosen by the military Military Occupational Specialty, or MOS, which is selected upon enlistment.
Basic training is divided into two parts, which commonly take place at two different locations, depending on the chosen MOS:
  • Basic Combat Training, or BCT, is a nine-week training period.  The US has five sites for BCT.
  • Advanced Individual Training, or AIT, is where new soldiers receive specific training in their chosen MOS. The length of AIT training varies depending on the MOS and can last anywhere from six weeks to one year.
  • Several MOSs combine both in a back-to-back combined course called One Station Unit Training (OSUT), the longest recruit training in United States Armed Services, which can last up to 20 weeks.
Basic Combat Training is divided into three phases. During Phase I, (also known as "Red Phase") recruits are subject to "Total Control," meaning their every action is monitored and constantly corrected by drill sergeants. The first week of training is commonly referred to as "Hell Week," due to the intense period of adjustment required on the part of the new recruits. Marches are common throughout basic training. Recruits are sent to the "gas chamber" during Phase I, as part of training for defensive chemical warfare. They are also introduced to their standard-issue weapon, the M16A2 or M4 assault rifle.
Phase II (also known as "White Phase") is where soldiers begin actually firing weapons, starting with the assault rifle (M4A1). Other weapons the recruit becomes familiarized with include various grenades (such as the M67 fragmentation grenade) and grenade launchers (such as the M203). Recruits are then familiarized with the bayonet, anti-tank/armor weaponry and other heavy weapons. There is also an obstacle course which the soldiers are expected to negotiate in a certain amount of time. Additionally, there is continual, intense PT, as well as drill and ceremony training. At the conclusion of Phase II, soldiers are expected to demonstrate proficiency with the various weaponry with which they trained.

"Want to know what it's like to be in the Army? Try standing in one place, ramrod straight and perfectly still. If a mosquito bites you, don't slap it. If sweat rolls into your eye, don't wipe it away. And if you scratch your thigh, do 20 push-ups and jump back into position."
- Frank Pellegrini

Phase III or "Blue Phase", is the culmination and the most challenging of all the training phases. During the first week, there is a final PT test. Recruits that fail are frequently retested, often up until the morning of their cycle's graduation. If they do not pass they are recycled to another platoon until they meet the fitness standards. The final PT Test is the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT). Usually, a Soldier needs to score at least 60 points in each APFT category (pushups, sit-ups, and 2 mile run) to pass, but in Army Basic Training, only 50 points is required, though at AIT the Soldier will take another APFT with a 60 point requirement. During Blue Phase, the recruits move on to longer and more intensive "bivouac" (camping) and FTX (Field Training Exercises), such as nighttime combat operations. Drill sergeants will make much of this an adversarial process, working against the recruits in many of the night operations, trying to foil plans, etc.
Army BCT requires the following to graduate: 35 push-ups in two minutes, 47 sit-ups in two minutes and a two-mile run in 16 minutes, 36 seconds.

Marine Corps
A recruit delivers a killing blow while
 running the bayonet course at
 Parris Island Marine Corps Recruit Depot, S.C.
The recruit was in the middle of the Crucible,
 the 54-hour-long climax
 of Marine basic training.
Lance Cpl. Michael J. Supples
Recruit training for Marines is a 13-week long program, and is followed by SOI (School of Infantry) which is mandatory for Marines of all military occupational specialties (MOS).  After induction and basic processing, trainees at Marine boot camp go through a number of training phases. Part 1 lasts for four weeks, and is mostly about turning civilians into soldiers, breaking them of civilian habits, acquainting them with discipline and toughening them up through intense physical training. By the end of Part 1, a recruit should be able to march, respond to orders and be in reasonable physical condition. In Part 2, also for four weeks, the recruits receive field training, including the basic use of firearms. Part 3 involves finishing the recruit, including the field exercise called "Basic Warrior Training." The training is concluded with an intensive three days of testing called "The Crucible."
Marine boot camp is more challenging -- both physically and mentally -- than the basic training programs of any of the other military services. Not only are the physical requirements much higher, but recruits are required to learn and memorize a startling amount of information (11 General Orders for a Sentry, USMC Core Values, Marine Corps History, and the the characteristics of the M16A4 Rifle , just to name a few). There are more than 70 "training days" in a period a little longer than 12 weeks (but don't let that fool you. There is lots of "training" going on on the "non-training days," such as the time in Reception, the time spent in "forming," and on Sundays and Holidays. It has been said time and time again by former Marines that Marine Corps recruit training was the most difficult thing they ever had to do in their entire lives.  If you are unable to perform basic exercises, you may spend a significant amount of time in PCP (the Physical Conditioning Platoon). PCP is tough: PCP's objective is physical fitness, and that's what you'll be concentrating in while in the program. Individuals remain in PCP until they can.   While it is normally a 21 day program, once you're in, you don't get out until you can do 5 pull ups in two minutes, 50 sit ups in 2 minutes, and run 3 miles in 24 minutes, 30 seconds.
Oh!  One more thing.  If you don't know how to swim, try to learn before you leave for boot camp. Before you graduate, you'll have to demonstrate basic swimming skills.

Army and Marine recruits are nearly always trained in basic marksmanship with individually-assigned weapons, field maintenance of weapons, hand-to-hand combat, physical fitness training, first aid, and basic survival techniques.

Army vs Marine Uniforms

Marines are often confused with soldiers who are in the United States Army.  However, there are some differences in appearance:
  • Marines do not wear berets.
  • Marines wear boots only with the utility uniform, not other uniforms.
  • Marines do not salute unless they are wearing a hat (known as a "cover").
  • Marines do not wear covers indoors, unless they are "under arms", i.e. carrying a weapon or wearing a duty belt.
  • Marines are less generous with awards and unit identification. For example, with the exception of breast insignia denoting a few specialized qualifications such as airborne (parachute), pilot or scuba qualification, or red patches sewn on the 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.
A 4th Infantry Division
 soldier modeling new ACU.
The Army Combat Uniform (ACU) is the current combat uniform worn by the United States Army. It is the successor to the Battle Dress Uniform (BDU) and Desert Camouflage Uniform (DCU) worn during the 1980s and 1990s. It features a number of design changes, as well as a different camouflage pattern from its predecessor.  The U.S. Army uses the Universal Camouflage Pattern (UCP), which blends tan, gray and green (Desert Sand 500, Urban Gray 501 and Foliage Green 502) to work effectively in desert, woodland, and urban environments. The color scheme of the Advanced Combat Uniform is composed of a slate gray, desert sand and foliage green pixel pattern, which becomes darker or lighter depending on exposure to sunlight.  The shade black was omitted from the uniform since it does not exist in nature. Pure black, when viewed through night vision devices, appears excessively dark and creates an undesirable high-contrast image.
Marines wearing the MCCUU with combat equipment

The Marine Corps Combat Utility Uniform (MCCUU) is the current battledress uniform of the United States Marine Corps.  both the MCCUU, and its distinctive camouflage pattern, MARPAT, are exclusive to the Marine Corps, which holds the patents to their design, and are not available to the civilian market. MARPAT is available in two color schemes, woodland and desert.
When rolled, the sleeves of the blouse are tightly folded up to the biceps, exposing the lighter inside layer, and forming a neat cuff to present a crisper appearance to the otherwise formless uniform. In the past, when Marines wore the Battle Dress Uniform, this served to distinguish them from the Army and Air Force, who rolled their sleeves so that the camouflage outside of the cuff folded down over the completed roll.
Unlike the previous BDU, the MCCUU was designed to be used with body armor, which previously restricted access to front pockets. To further distinguish the uniform, upon close examination, the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor can be found within the pattern.

The United States Army and the United States Marines are very different. They have different mission goals and they accomplish those goals in different ways. Many people want to lump these two groups together, but they are simply not the same.   
  • The United States Army is present during the major parts of the battle, and it is a larger armed force than the Marines which means a larger budget, more and better equipment etc.
  • Marines are a "Force in Readiness".   They are lighter and quicker and ready to go on a moment's call therefore needing little notification for a deployment. This is why the Marines are usually asked to go in first. Any attack needs a fast calculated attack in order for the rest of the troops to come in and take control.  
  • The Army is unlike the Marines in that they have extensive support staff, which would include personnel of a medical nature. The Marine Corps will rely on the Navy in order to have many support services. 
  • The Marines often work closely with the United States naval forces for logistic, transportation, and training purposes. However, the Marine Corps remain a separate branch in the military leadership structure.
  • Training for both the Marine Corps and the Army are intense.  However, the Marines, some would argue, would seem to be the most disciplined and well trained.
I still can't really distinguish between the utility uniforms except maybe that one is less 'decorated' than the other.   However, in the end, each armed force is designed for a specific purpose and each one is the best at what they do.  They are both brothers in arms who fight for the same purpose in the same war and therefore rely on each other's help get the same job done. 

Some Interesting Facts and Figures:
  • How many marines are there in the world?  According to NationMaster website, the world's navy personnel accounts to 1,423,800 marines. The United States, Brazil, Taiwan, Thailand and France are the top five countries in the number of marines, with 380,600, 68,250, 68,000, 64,000 and 63,300, respectively. On average, the navy personnel rate per country is 0.7 (per 1,000 people).
  • The Korean War was the first conflict in American history in which black soldiers were integrated into white military units.
  • From the beginning of the 1970s, most Western armies began to admit women to serve active duty. Only some of them permit women to fill active combat roles, including New Zealand, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Norway, Israel, Serbia, Sweden and Switzerland. Other nations allow female soldiers to serve in certain Combat Arms positions, such as the United Kingdom and the United States, which allows women to serve in Artillery roles, while still excluding them from units with a dedicated Infantry role.
  • DADT (Don't Ask Don't Tell), is the official United States policy, now pending repeal, on homosexuals serving in the military. The policy prohibits military personnel from discriminating against or harassing closeted (people who have not disclosed their sexual orientation or gender identity ), homosexual or bisexual service members or applicants, while barring openly gay, lesbian, or bisexual persons from military service.
  • As of 2010, the suicide rates in the U.S. armed forces are at record high levels. In some theaters of operations, such as Afghanistan, losses due to suicide exceed deaths due to enemy actions. Rates among the Army and Marines run at about 20 per 100,000 people per year.

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