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How Marines spot each other in the wild

Marines are particularly adept at identifying each other. Here are five ways that Marines spot each other in the wild.
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look like a marine ega

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Luis Arturo Ponce Alavez Jr.

It is a well-known fact that the Marine Corps is a cult. Members of a cult can readily recognize other members through a combination of appearance, behavior, and predictable responses. Marines are particularly adept at identifying other Marines. This can be useful in situations that require responsive action such as crisis, accident or violence. The Marines instinctively know they can cooperate with one another to aid their fellow citizens. So how do they identify other Marines in public?

Here are 5 ways Marines spot each other


This isn’t foolproof. There are certain MOSes that have a subculture of having long hair by Marine standards (you know who you are!). The average Marine gets a haircut weekly, and the fade is to the skin. Marine veterans quite frequently maintain this appearance, albeit combined with a solid bro-vet beard.

What may appear as a military haircut to a civilian is scrutinized and discerned by a Marine instinctively, determining if he is a fellow leatherneck or not. Interestingly a haircut can also indicate how long an active-duty Marine has been in service. A high and tight or “high reg” is worn by the Marine on their first year or so, then again after a couple of reenlistments and accepting his status as a lifer. Marines in the two-to-four-year mark generally have the longest hair. Again, long hair by Marine standards is its own definition, it’s nasty.

look like a marine haircut
PACIFIC OCEAN (NOV. 14, 2022) – U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Oscar Estrada, an artillery fire control man with Battalion Landing Team 2/4, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, provides a haircut to Sgt. Alex Alfaro, an artillery section chief of the same unit, aboard amphibious transport dock USS John P. Murtha (LPD 26), Nov. 13, 2022. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Quince D. Bisard)

The Eagle, Globe and Anchor

Even the Marines who develop a passive-aggressive, rebellious attitude are still at heart proud of being a Marine. They will have a Marine sticker on their car, a tattoo, or a hat with an Eagle, Globe, and Anchor (EGA) reflecting their identity. Sometimes it will be something like a dress blues cover or an eight-pointed camouflage cover in the front or rear dash of their vehicle.

These are distinct, recognizable items that each have the EGA on them. From a distance, the NRA sticker on a vehicle can be mistaken for the classic Marine Corps emblem decal, but once you close the gap you can gain PID (positive identification). Fun fact, though the Marine Corps is the smallest of the services you will find infinitely more Marine stickers or cars than all the other services combined. Test this theory on your next road trip.

Watch or bracelet

look like a marine with a watch
Pvt. Brandon Barnes, left, and Pfc. Rafael Barinas adjust the times on their new wristwatches Dec. 15, 2013, on Parris Island, S.C. Recruits are not permitted to have watches; however, new Marines may purchase them. (Photo by Cpl. Octavia Davis)

Back in the day Marines commonly wore a G-Shock watch or Timex Ironman watch accessorized with a small wrist compass. The wrist compass indicated he was a ground guy who spent time in the field. The uber-motivated Marines would invest in a dive watch…yes even those who didn’t dive. It added to the “operator” look. Nowadays the array of functional smartwatches has taken off and the generation of Marines that use these will often get them in tactical colors such as olive drab or coyote tan.

The salt dogs stick to the old type of watches where “Indiglo” was a significant technological achievement. The other wrist of a Marine may display a black or silver bracelet engraved with the name of a fallen Marine. These will generally have a small EGA engraved as well. A few motivators may wear a paracord-type bracelet, but these are not as prevalent.


Carrying a knife isn’t exclusive to Marines. Plenty of service members, law enforcement, and first responders carry them too; as well as regular working folks. However, this factor in addition to other indicators can firm up the assessment. The knife is generally on the strong-arm or dominant side and has a pocket clip and thumb stud for quick access. It could be used as a weapon but most often is a practical tool. Ok, most often it’s not actually used at all, but the preparedness mindset of a Marine compels him to carry one. When someone asks for a knife and a Marine doesn’t have one on them other Marines present will shake their head in a disapproving manner. So judgey!

look like a marine with a knife
A KA-BAR employee places a USMC Fighting/Utility KA-BAR knife on a tray, waiting for the next process at a factory in Olean, New York, Nov. 19, 2019. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Mellizza P. Bonjoc)

Obscure indicators

There are other obscure indicators by which Marines can spot one another. They are similar to spotting an EGA on a vehicle, hat, or clothing article but reflect more specific information. It might be a chevron decal of their rank. Unit pride can be pretty strong (in a good unit!), so a battalion or division emblem may be sported on the vehicle or a favorite hoodie. There are official badges and insignia associated with occ fields too such as EOD and Recon; and non-official but common logos for snipers, K-9 handlers, etc. Those in the know…well they know.

These indicators though not stand alone, cumulatively contribute to Marines being able to identify each other in a crowd. It is a subconscious assessment of the surrounding area to maintain situational awareness…you know…just in case. The recognition is simply acknowledged with a head nod and perhaps a “hey brother” with an unspoken approval and an understanding “I’ve got your back if something pops off”. Marines take the whole “First to Fight” thing pretty seriously and they have the unwavering confidence that they can count on one another if things go sideways. Should that happen the 5 things listed above are how Marines spot each other.