Most of the major military powers have some sort of naval infantry force, but the United States Marine Corps is undoubtedly the largest and most powerful. In fact, it’s almost a miniature military in its own right, complete with its own air and aviation units and a very close relationship with the US Navy (although contrary to common belief it isn’t part of the Navy). Through the USMC’s 239-year history there have been several attempts to merge it into the US Army, starting under the administration of President Andrew Jackson, but all have failed. In the past, Defense Secretary Gates publicly worried that the USMC was “becoming a second army.” It’s easy to understand why someone might think that, because they’re both ground combat forces with similar capabilities, so are there really enough differences to justify keeping them separate?
To the casual observer, there might not appear to be a huge difference between a US Army infantry soldier and a USMC rifleman, other than the camo pattern. The weapons and rank insignia are almost identical. It’s when you get to training, doctrine and roles that differences start to emerge.
Army infantry are trained to operate across the full spectrum of warfare, while the Marines are an expeditionary force. That means the Army can usually depend on having a higher level of support – especially logistics – available to them. The Marines expect to survive on their own resources for a while, because their whole ethos is built around invasion from the sea. That’s why the Marines exist in the first place. George Washington didn’t want to give the Navy troops from his Continental Army, but the admirals wanted infantry who could fight on or land from their ships – so they recruited their own. Even today, everything in the Marine Corps inventory can be carried on a ship and brought ashore across a beach, either from a Navy ship or using the Corps’ own aviation assets. For the first hours or even days after a landing, there’s no guarantee that logistics support will be available, so Marines train to make do with less.
That mindset shows up at every level. The US Army has elevated the concept of firepower to an art form; troops move forward to locate the enemy and fix them in position with a heavy weight of automatic fire so they can be destroyed by crew-served weapons, artillery and air strikes. The Marines can’t carry the same amount of ammunition, especially for heavier ordnance, so they’ve turned individual marksmanship into something close to a religion. While the Continental Army wore blue coats similar to their French allies, the Marines adopted the forest green of the British riflemen, along with a similar philosophy of small unit warfare, maneuverability and marksmanship. Today the Marines favor the longer but more accurate M16 over the M4 carbine for most roles, and emphasize the fact that every Marine is a rifleman first. Responsibility and command authority are pushed down to lower ranks, and individual initiative is more highly valued. Marines place huge value on controlled, focused aggression because of their more offensive role, while the Army’s broader taskings need a different balance.
An Army infantryman and USMC rifleman have the same basic function – to take or hold ground through close dismounted combat. The difference is the way they go about it. The Army can deliver enormous force, enough to overwhelm any opponent, and has a vast range of capabilities. The Marines are a smaller but more purely offensive weapon. Their units are lighter and easier to move, can be in action faster but won’t hold out forever without backup – there’s only so much they can carry with them. In a full-scale war, the US Army will occupy the enemy’s house after the Marines have kicked the door in. Whatever the worries of the politicians might be, the Corps doesn’t duplicate the Army’s infantry; it complements it.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.