The hater's guide to the US Marine Corps
This is the second in a series about how branches of the military hate on each other. We’ll feature all branches of the U.S. military, written by veterans of that branch being brutally honest with themselves and their services.
The military branches are like a family, but that doesn’t mean everyone always gets along. With different missions, uniforms, and mindsets, troops love to make fun of people in opposite branches. Of course when it counts in combat, the military usually works out its differences.
Still, inter-service rivalry is definitely a thing. We already showed you how everyone usually makes fun of the Air Force. Now, we’re taking on the U.S. Marine Corps.
The easiest ways to make fun of the Marine Corps
One of the quickest ways to make fun of Marines is to call them dumb. Plenty of acronyms and inside jokes have been invented to harp on this point, like “Muscles Are Required, Intelligence Not Essential” or even referring to them as “jarheads.”
The interesting thing about calling Marines names however, is that somewhere along the line they just decide to own that sh-t. Many terms used in a derogatory fashion — jarhead, leatherneck, and devil dog — eventually morph into terms that Marines actually call themselves. It’s like a badge of honor.
The thinking that Marines are not intelligent often stems from it being the smaller service known more for fighting on the ground, and the thinking that shooting at the bad guys doesn’t take smarts. There is some truth to this — they don’t call them “dumb grunts” for nothing — but the Marine Corps infantry is actually a very small part of the overall Corps, which also has many more personnel serving in admin, logistics, supply, and air assets.
In a head-to-head battle of ASVAB scores (the test you take to get into the military), the Air Force or Navy would probably come out on top, due to these services having many more technical fields. But plenty of Marine infantrymen (this writer included) know that being in the Marine infantry — or at least being really good at it — takes plenty of brainpower paired with combat skills and physical fitness.
Other common ways to make fun of the Corps are to go after their gear or barracks, since they usually get the hand-me-downs from everyone else, or to focus on their insanely-short and weird-looking haircuts.
Then there are people who tell Marines they aren’t even a branch, they are just a part of the Navy. To which every Marine will inevitably reply, “Yeah, the men’s department.”
This brings us to an important point to remember that in every insult on the Marine Corps, there is at least some truth behind it. But Marines are masters at spinning an uncomfortable truth into something positive, a point not lost on a Navy sailor writing a poem in 1944 calling them “publicity fiends.” Here are some examples:
When a new Marine comes to the unit, he or she might be told, “Welcome to the Suck.” Basically, a new guy is told that his life is going to suck and that’s a good thing.
“Retreat hell! We just got here!” and “Retreat hell! We’re just attacking in another direction.” — Even when the Marines are pulling back from the front, they aren’t retreating. They are attacking in a different spot, or conducting a “tactical withdrawal.”
“If the Marine Corps wanted you to have a wife, you’d be issued one.” — Forget about married life. Just focus on shooting and breaking things.
But if you want a real taste of the Marines, this quote from an anonymous Canadian (via The Marine Corps Association) just about sums it up:
“Marines are about the most peculiar breed of human beings I have ever witnessed. They treat their service as if it was some kind of cult, plastering their emblem on almost everything they own, making themselves up to look like insane fanatics with haircuts to ungentlemanly lengths, worshiping their Commandant almost as if he was a god, and making weird noises like a band of savages. They’ll fight like rabid dogs at the drop of a hat just for the sake of a little action, and are the cockiest SOBs I have ever known. Most have the foulest mouths and drink well beyond man’s normal limits, but their high spirits and sense of brotherhood set them apart and, generally speaking, of the United States Marines I’ve come in contact with, are the most professional soldiers and the finest men I have had the pleasure to meet.”
Why to actually hate the Marine Corps
The Marine Corps is the smallest branch of the military, and it has a reputation for getting all the leftovers. This means everything: weapons, aircraft, and gear have traditionally been hand-me-downs from the Army.
Let’s start with the barracks: Usually terrible, though for some it’s getting better. There’s a rather infamous (thanks mostly to Terminal Lance) barracks known as Mackie Hall in Hawaii, which most Marines refer to as “Crackie Hall,” since it’s in a dark, desolate part of the base that’s right near a river of waste everyone calls “sh-t creek.” While the Corps has been building better housing for Marines, it’s still nowhere close to what the other services can expect.
Then there are the weapons and gear. Go on deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan and you’ll see even the lowliest Army private with top-shelf uniforms, plenty of “tacticool” equipment, and the latest night vision. And on their brand new M4 rifle, they’ll have the best flashlight, laser sights, and whatever brand new scope or optic DARPA just came up with. But here’s the plot twist: That soldier never even leaves the FOB.
All of this “gee-whiz, that would be awesome if I had that” equipment will usually end up in the hands of Marines eventually. It’s just going to be a few years, and only after it’s been worn out by the Army.
That’s not to say the Marines don’t have their own gear specifically for them. The MV-22 Osprey aircraft was designed with the Corps in mind, along with amphibious tractors and others, like the Marine version of the F-35 fighter.
Despite their sometimes decrepit gear and weapons, Marines also spin this as a point of pride — they are so good at this — rationalizing the terrible by saying they can “do more with less.” But if an airman or sailor is thinking this one through, they are saying to themselves, “but I’d rather do more with more” from the comfort of their gorgeous barracks rooms that look like hotel suites.
There’s also the Marine language barrier. Especially in joint-command settings, service members from other branches might be scratching their heads when they hear stuff like “Errr,” “Yut,” or “Rah?” in question form.
And as for what Marines hate about the Marine Corps: Field Day. Everyone can all agree on field day being the worst thing in Marine Corps history. The top definition of what “field day” is in Urban Dictionary puts it this way:
“A Thursday night room cleaning to prep for a inspection Friday morning that is required to go way beyond the point of clean to ridiculous things like no ice in your freezer, no water in your sink, no hygiene products in your shower. Most of the time you truly believe that someone woke up one morning, sat down with a pen and paper and just came up with a bunch of ridiculous things to look for in these “inspections”. Basically Field day is just another tool used by Marine Corps leadership to piss off and demoralize Marines on a weekly basis.”
That’s basically all true. Which leads some to count down the days until they get out, the magical, mystical day of E.A.S. (End of Active Service):
Why to love the Marine Corps
There are many reasons to have pride in the Marine Corps, and it usually comes down to its history. Since 1775, the Marine Corps has had a storied history of fighting everyone, including pirates, standing armies, and terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan.
And knowing history and serving to the standard of those who came before is a big part of what it means to be a Marine. A Marine going to Afghanistan today was likely told at boot camp about the Marines who were fighting in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam — with the idea that you definitely don’t want to tarnish the reputation they forged many years ago.
While there were many negatives aspects highlighted about the service here, many Marines see these instead as ways the Marine Corps operates differently. Marines see the bad as a way of thinking that “we don’t need perks” to do our job, which comes down to locating, closing with, and killing the enemy. The Marines even have a longstanding mantra to “improvise, adapt, and overcome.”
Other things to be proud of: Marines can get stationed in some pretty awesome spots like Hawaii and southern California for example, although some are sent to the dark desert hole that is 29 Palms. And besides the combat deployments, peacetime Marines enjoy awesome traveling and training in places the Army usually doesn’t go: Hong Kong, Australia, Singapore, or the famous and beloved “med floats.”
And hands down, the Marine Corps has the absolute best dress uniforms and the best commercials.
For male Marines (as far as what your recruiter tells you), the dress blue uniform is like kryptonite to females in a bar. Interestingly enough, that same uniform is like kryptonite to young impressionable men who are interested in being among the “Few and the Proud.”