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Professional Knowledge: The United States Marine Corps

professional knowledge Jan 30, 2020

It’s fitting that many plebes took the MARSOT (MARine Special Opportunities Training) Screener this past weekend, because they also took their first steps in learning all about the Marines.  This past week of professional knowledge, week 12, and the current week, week 13, are all about the Marine Corps. The Marine Corps ethos, warfighting philosophy, mission, enduring principles, organization, their history and traditions, and the fun stuff… weapons, vehicles, and aircraft.

“Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference, Marines don’t have that problem.” – Ronald Reagan

For those of you who may not be tremendously familiar with the military and are wondering why people at the Naval Academy are learning about the Marine Corps, it’s because the United States Marine Corps actually falls under the Department of the Navy.  At its core, the Marine Corps is a Maritime fighting force managed by the Secretary of the Navy, which is the reason why Midshipmen can commission into the Navy or the Marine Corps upon completion of their time at the Naval Academy.  

Also for all of our professional knowledge with the new creation of the Space Force, it will also have a very similar organizational structure.  Under the Secretary of Defense, there will NOT be a Department of the Space Force or anything like that. The Space Force will be a military branch structured under the Department of the Air Force, much like the Marine Corps falls in the Department of the Navy.

But I digress...

Plebes first learn about the Marine Corps ethos which, while probably their first time seeing it in words, have definitely witnessed the ethos embodied by the Marines on the yard on a daily basis.  Once a Marine, Always a Marine -- a mantra embraced by the Marine Corps -- demonstrates that being a Marine is a state of mind, a way of life, and a rite of passage that is earned through hard work and sacrifice.  I was incredibly blessed to have had amazing Marine mentors during my time in Annapolis and I constantly admire Marines for who they are even more than what they do.

The plebes then learn all about the warfighting philosophy of the Marine Corps, which is based on trying to tackle the challenge of warfighting in a manner that is consistent with our understanding of the nature and theory of war, and the realities of the modern battlefield.  The Marines concept for winning battles with these conditions is based on maneuver warfare. The idea of “maneuver warfare” is based on taking action to capitalize on any advantage over the adversary in order to accomplish military objectives.  

The warrior ethos and warfighting principles are all based on the principles that define the fundamental beliefs of all Marines.  The cultural identity of the Marine Corps are based on the following enduring principles: 

-Every Marine a rifleman.  Regardless of job specialty, every Marine is first and foremost a warrior.

-Every Marine Officer a Provisional Rifle Platoon Commander.  Yes even the pilots and the JAGs and everyone else.  All Marine officers go through the same training at The Basic School (TBS) to learn how to be a platoon commander.

-Expeditionary Naval Force.  Organized, trained, and equipped to conduct naval campaigns and operate on and from naval platforms.

-Combined Arms Organization.  Marines are an air-ground combined arms force organized into a force known as a MAGTF, the Marine Air-Ground Task Force.  The MAGTF is comprised of a Ground Combat Element (GCE), an Aviation Combat Element (ACE), a Logistics Combat Element (LCE), and a Command Element (CE).

-Ready and Forward Deployed.  Marines are the rapid response force to answer the nation’s call for emerging crises.   

-Agile and Adaptable.  Adapt and Overcome!

The final section is about the history and traditions of the Marine Corps. The Marine Corps’ official birthday is November 10, 1775, and was created inside the Tun Tavern in Philadelphia.  But it wasn’t until 1868 in which the Marine Corps established the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor (EGA) emblem. The EGA consists of an eagle with spread wings sitting on top of a globe of the Western Hemisphere with an anchor in the background.  The eagle symbolizes the nation, the globe symbolizes worldwide service, and the anchor symbolizes naval traditions. And if there is one thing I know from getting to witness Marines in daily action, is that they have an IMMENSE amount of pride in wearing the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor.

Your plebes will be learning far more in depth aspects of the MAGTF, Rifle platoon organization, aspects of Marine Corps tradition, and all of the weapons, vehicles, and aircraft employed by the Marine Corps, but hopefully, this provides a brief insight into the professional knowledge for the past two weeks!  Semper Fi and have a great week!

Grant is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy class of 2017. He is also the founder of Academy Insider LLC. You may reach out to Grant with questions at [email protected].  

To learn more about the Naval Academy through the perspective of a midshipman/recent graduate - subscribe to his podcast the Academy Insider Podcast with Grant Vermeer on Apple Podcasts, Google Play MusicStitcher and Spotify.

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Academy Insider LLC is not affiliated with the United States Naval Academy. All thoughts and opinions are my own and do not reflect those of the United States Navy or the Department of Defense.