How The Marines are Different
From an Army colonel....
"What makes Marine infantry special? Asking the question that way misses the most
fundamental point about the United States Marine Corps. In the Marines, everyone-sergeant,
mechanic, cannoneer, supply man, clerk, aviator, cook-is a rifleman first. The entire
corps, all 170,000 or so on the active rolls, plus the reserves, are all infantry. All
speak the language of the rifle and bayonet, of muddy boots and long, hot marches. It's
never us and them, only us. That is the secret of the Corps."
"If Army infantry amounts to a stern monastic order standing apart, on theedge of the
wider secular soldier world, Marine infantry more resembles the central totem worshiped by
the entire tribe. Marines have specialized, as have all modern military organizations. And
despite the all-too-real rigors of boot camp, annual rifle qualification, and high
physical standards, a Marine aircraft crew chief or radio repairman wouldn't make a good
0311 on a squad assault. But those Marine technical types know that they serve the humble
grunt, the man who will look the enemy in the eye within close to belly-ripping range.
Moreover, all Marines think of themselves as grunts at heart, just a bit out of practice
at the moment. That connections creates a great strength throughout the Corps."
"It explains why Marine commanders routinely, even casually, combine widely disparate
kinds of capabilities into small units.... Marines send junior officers and NCOs out from
their line rifle companies and expect results. They get them, too."
"Even a single Marine has on call the firepower of the air wing, the Navy, and all of
the United States. Or at least he thinks he does. A Marine acts accordingly. He is
expected to take charge, to improvise, to adapt, to overcome. A Marine gets by with
ancient aircraft (the ratty C-46E Frog, for example), hand-me-down weapons (such as the
old M-60 tanks used in the Gulf War), and whatever else he can bum off the Army or cajole
out of the Navy. Marines get the job done regardless, because they are Marines. They make
a virtue out of necessity. The men, not the gear, make the difference. Now and again, the
Marines want to send men, not bullets."
"This leads to a self-assurance that sometimes comes across as disregard for detailed
staff-college quality planning and short shrift for high-level supervision. Senior Army
officers in particular sometimes find the Marines amateurish, cavalier, and overly
trusting in just wading in and letting the junior leaders sort it out. In the extreme, a
few soldiers have looked at the Corps as some weird, inferior, ersatz ground war
establishment, a bad knockoff of the real thing. 'A small, bitched-up army talking Navy
lingo,' opined Army Brigadier General Frank Armstrong in one of the most brutal
interservice assessments. That was going too far. But deep down, many Army professionals
tended to wonder about the Marines. Grab a defended beach? Definitely. Seize a hill? Sure,
if you don't mind paying a little. But
take charge of a really big land operation? Not if we can help it."
"Anyone who has watched an amphibious landing unfold would
be careful with
that kind of thinking. The Marines actually have a lot in common with their elite Army
infantry brothers, if not with all the various Army headquarters and service echelons.
True, Marine orders do tend to be, well...brief. But so do those of the airborne, the air
assault, the light-fighters, and the rangers, for the same good reason: Hard, realistic
training teaches soldiers how to fight by doing, over and over, so they need not keep
writing about it, regurgitating basics every time. More enlightened soldiers consider that
goodness. A three-inch thick order, a big CP, and lots of meetings do not victory make.
The Marines consciously reject all that. And why not? Despite the occasional Tarawa or
Beirut, it works." "A Corps infused with a rifleman ethos has few barriers to
intra-service cooperation. The Army talks a great deal about combined arms and does it
down to about battalion level, often with great wailing and gnashing of teeth. Marines do
it all the way down to the individual Marine. Soldiers have defined military occupational
specialties and guard their prerogatives like union shop stewards. Finance clerks don't do
machine guns. Mechanics skip foot marches to fix trucks. Intell analysts work in
air-conditioned trailers; they don't patrol. Marines, though, are just Marines. They all
consider themselves trigger pullers. They even like it, as might be expected of an
-- Colonel Daniel F. Bolger, USA DEATH GROUND: TODAY'S AMERICAN INFANTRY IN
BATTLE pp. 264-266.