By Sydney Johnson
Each branch of the United States Armed Forces has unique characteristics. Every branch has specialized units, different uniforms and different traditions. But what specifically separates the Marines from the other branches?
Although they are one of the smaller military branches, they are elite and mighty like the rest. Here are six traits that set them apart.
The Marines Operate as a Part of the Department of the Navy
The Marine Corps is the only branch that is independent but serves as part of another branch. Originally, the branch was founded as the Continental Marines in 1775, as a separate entity from the Navy. Then, in 1834, President Andrew Jackson expressed that he wanted the Marines to be part of the Army. However, the then-Marine Corps commandant, Archibald Henderson, had proven the branch’s effectiveness on sea, in addition to land, and so he persuaded Congress to put the Marines in the Department of the Navy. The Navy and Marine Corps have been considered “sister services” ever since.
The Marines Are Often First on the Ground
The Marines Corps often serves as a quick reaction force and has special units that are trained to respond to crises wherever and wherever necessary.
In fact, the branch is sometimes referred to as the “tip of the spear,” because these combat-ready units typically spearhead conflict operations. One of these special types of units, Marine Expeditionary Units (MEUs), remain prepared for combat at all times, which often means they are among the first to respond during contentious military situations.
The Marines Guard U.S. Embassies
Thanks to the Marines’ versatility, they have one particularly unique responsibility: protecting our nation’s embassies around the globe.
This responsibility is exclusive to the Marines, so they have a specialized unit called the Marine Corps Embassy Security Group, which is dedicated to protecting U.S. embassies all over the world.
The former Commandant of the Marine Corps Robert Neller stated that, as of 2016, “Marines are routinely serving at 174 embassies and consulates in 146 countries around the globe.”
Marines Learn Martial Arts
Every service member undergoes specialized training upon entry into their respective branch and before deployments, but the Marine Corps is the only branch with a program dedicated to martial arts.
Implemented in 2000, the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP) prepares Marines for hand-to-hand and close quarter combat, in case they find themselves unarmed during a mission. The program utilizes several fighting styles, including Jiu-Jitsu, Taekwondo and Krav Maga.
They Award the Title of “Honorary Marines”
Awarding civilians with the title “Honorary Marine” is a tradition that dates back to 1992. These individuals earn the title by making noteworthy contributions to the Marine Corps. Among those who have been honored are Chuck Norris, Gary Sinise (who played Lieutenant Dan in the film Forrest Gump), Bugs Bunny and Bob Hope.
Honorary Marines are not always famous actors. For example, in March of 2020, the Marines awarded photographer Barbara Mathews the esteemed title for selflessly volunteering over the course of 10 years to capture amazing images and video of hundreds of Marine Corps events. Fewer than 100 people have been given this title.
They Have a Special Holiday Mission
You’ve probably heard of Toys for Tots – the organization known for distributing toys to children whose parents struggle to afford new toys for them during the holiday season. This program is not just a nice nonprofit organization – it’s a Marine Corps mission.
The organization, owned by The Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, is run by the Marine Corps Reserve. The Marines lead humanitarian missions all over the world, but they’ve been delivering toys to children since 1947. To date, they have distributed 584 million toys to children across the United States.
-This story was originally published in 2020. It has been updated in 2021.
More Stories Like This
What do Marines do and Why Are They Part of the Navy?
Did you ever wonder what U.S. Marines do and why they are part of the Navy? The answer begins with taking a deeper, historical look at what Marines are and what they do.
How Many Military Branches Are There and What Does Each Branch Do?
With about 1.3 million active-duty service members, the U.S. Armed Forces is one of the largest militaries in the world. But what do the six branches of the military - the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Space Force and Coast Guard - do?
How Long is a Military Deployment?
Not all military deployments are uniform. Some are in combat zones, and some are not. Some last a month, and some last a year. Read about how deployments can vary from branch to branch and situation to situation.
More from the USO
May 20, 2022
Even in the Most Remote Locations in Africa, U.S. Troops Still Receive USO Expeditionary Support
Service members deployed to northwest Africa, where there are no brick-and-mortar USO centers, still receive USO support thanks to the efforts of the USO’s expeditionary team, who bring morale-boosting USO programs and activities right to the front lines.
May 19, 2022
How the U.S. Military Made the T-Shirt the Most Popular Garment in the World
T-shirts are something most people wear almost every day all around the world. But did you know that the history of the T-shirt, and its rise to global popularity, has roots in the U.S. military dating back to World War I?