In Battle for Recruits, Marines Win

The Pentagon released its recruiting statistics yesterday, and for yet another month, the Marine Corps has rocked the house, bringing in 142 percent of its recruiting goal. Also notable is that the Army National Guard brought in 112 percent, the Army Reserve 120 percent and the Air National Guard 130 percent. Very impressive numbers.

What's behind them? I speculated a few weeks ago about why the Army has weathered the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan without breaking. But there's more going on here. The Marine Corps has consistently beat its recruiting goal over the past few years, far outpacing the Army and the other services, despite the fact that the Marines (like the Army) are shouldering a great deal of the combat burden in Iraq. And the Marines are doing so without offering all of the cash and non-cash incentives that the Army is using to bring in new recruits.

What is the Marine Corps doing that enables it to recruit so well during wartime -- and can the other services do the same? E-mail me or write your thoughts in the comments section, and I'll blog about the best answers in a post next week.

By Phillip Carter |  May 14, 2008; 8:43 AM ET  | Category:  Marine Corps
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You ask 'What is the Marine Corps doing that the other services are not?'. The answer is right in front of you. The Corps is being what it has always been. America's premier fighting force. "First to Fight" is not just a slogan. The Marine Corps is simply being itself and upholding 233 years of tradition and esprit. That's what attracts recruits to the Corps, and always will. To be part of that outstanding tradition. Semper Fi! Goodnight Chesty, wherever you are.

Posted by: Robert Beale | May 14, 2008 10:48 AM


That's clearly part of it. I think all the Marine Corps ooh-rah BS pays big dividends on the recruiting front. It gives them a powerful brand to sell, one that appeals greatly to young testosterone-filled men who want to prove themselves.

But is there more?

Posted by: Phillip Carter | May 14, 2008 10:57 AM

I completely agree with the Marine Corps brand being a major part of their ability to maintain high recruit numbers. Also, I think it is because they are targeting a different group of people. While the Army aims its recruiting money at people looking for job skills and a boost for the future ("Strength for Now, Strength for Later") the Marines continue to target suburban white boys looking for excitement (Look at the commercial with the one white guy climbing up a cliff), a group whose numbers have certainly not diminished. While the Army's strategy is still effective, it is much more effective in times of an economic downturn and peace (it will be interesting to see how the Army does next year as the slow economy and poor job market continues or grows), factors which have little real effect on the Marines' recruitment strategy.

Posted by: Alan | May 14, 2008 11:16 AM

Sorry -- should add that when I say "Marine Corps ooh-rah BS," I say that with admiration and respect. And a bit of jealousy, because I think the Marines have figured out how to brand themselves better than the other services.

Posted by: Phillip Carter | May 14, 2008 11:30 AM

What you see is what you get. Every Marine is a rifleman. You join the USMC for one reason; to fight. You join because you believe that when you walk through the valley of death, you will fear no evil, because you are the scariest MF in the valley having been through boot camp. That's the "brand" pitched and no sugar coating about it. Everything about boot camp is geared toward removing your civilian programming and replacing it with the Corps' motherboard. You know that going in. The Marines you see will always be Marines, regardless of age or theater served. You can argue about it, berate it, or celebrate it. That desire to be part of a group with centuries of tradition, as well as being known as arguably the baddest individuals on the planet, is what draws people to sign up.

Posted by: Scott Walock | May 14, 2008 11:47 AM

I think your commenters have it spot on. Think of all the stories you hear about deceptive recruiters, and I would be willing to bet you haven't heard one about the Marines. The Army guys tend to paint you a rosy picture of what life is going to be like after you join, then when someone ends up in culinary support or something, their whole family and all their friends will hear about it at great length. My experience has been that the Marines flat out let you know that you are going to be a soldier, and they make good on that promise.

Also, I would add that that "ooh-rah BS" is not just a marketing strategy. It really has more to do with sculpting a reliable and effective fighting force out of, as a previous commenter put it "suburban white boys looking for excitement." If it were indeed BS, I think you wouldn't see these same numbers. People can smell that kind of thing.

Posted by: Cody Little | May 14, 2008 12:06 PM

Think they have done a better job also of holding the integrity of their officer corps. Marines trust them. You will not find a Casey, Shoomaker, Sanchez, Westmoreland or a Franks among them. Even Pace for all made against him retained a dignity. Marines do not embarrass the service or the nation.

In Vietnam, when strategy went south, they withdrew their forces years ahead of everyone else. They have tried to move to Afghanistan and away from Iraq. There is a sense of personal worth and honor projected.

It may be missing in the Army with it warrior ethos that it still holds despite its ethical hollowness - brigands filling brigades.

Posted by: Bill Keller | May 14, 2008 12:37 PM

As both a former Marine and Soldier, I might suggest that the branding of USMC is spot-on, but the annoying crap about "every Marine a rifleman" and "first to fight" isn't either a spur or stop on recruitment.

There are some things USMC simply does better structurally when it comes to recruiting (such as drawing enlisted recruiters from all MOSs as a "B-Billet" on which they're graded and then sent back to the fleet to complete their duties; a willingness to compete in all environments, not surrendering them wholesale as the USA did in much of the east and west coast metropolitan areas).

But I suspect that much of what we're seeing in USMC numbers has to do with word of mouth consumer choice in a shrinking marketplace.

Those who are in the USMC and happy with their mission, pay and benefits, tell that to those back home. They need to do that because DoD tracking now shows that only 20 percent of mothers are favorable toward military service at all, regardless of branch.

When the ArNG determined that it was more prudent to incentivize troopers in the community (get a large bonus for everyone you sign up, and they get bonuses too for enlisting) rather than professional recruiters or ad-buys to recruit Soldiers, they found that recruitment rates rocketed.

This, however, has long been a USMC program, albeit one without all the monetary incentives. Rather, they use an extensive leave policy that gives kids fresh from their MOS schools and other YOUNG people in the fleet the chance to sell their service, in Dress Blues, at malls, schools and depots around the country, depending on need.

USA does some of this, but not to the organized extent that USMC goes to.

Let me leave you, Phil, with a factoid you might not have heard: Across the uniformed DoD, 19 percent of MOS slots are OVERFILLED, and 41 percent UNDERFILLED. GAO is investigating whether in the USA, especially, goals to meet endstrength are simply adding recruits and retentions to MOS billets instead of spreading it across the force.

What this means is that although the numbers look good, the people aren't in the right places, and the mission still isn't being adequately filled.

So let's say you're a CPT in the USAR and you've gone to Baquaba, and you have what appears to be an undersized company of MPs, especially in the lowest ranks and junior leadership (NCO and officer) positions, but Big Army continues to tell you that they've been meeting recruitment goals forcewide for two years.

Perhaps you might notice that the fuelers are overstaffed, but you can't just grab a fueler and turn him/her into a MP overnight, can you?

Posted by: Carl P | May 14, 2008 12:50 PM

This post immediately recalled a passage I just read a couple days ago about the Marines. It summarizes what has been said above:

"When the Korean War broke, somewhat less than 10 percent of the small United States Marine Corps had seen combat. But fortunately for the Corps, the percentage was highly concentrated within officer and key NCO grades; most of the Marine troop leaders knew what war was like.

"And the Marines, who had always been largely a volunteer organization, had escaped the damaging reforms instituted within the United States Army at the end of World War II. The public clamor rose against the Army, during the war twenty times the small, parochial Corps' size, and ignored the Marines.

"In 1950 a Marine Corps officer was still an officer, and a sergeant behaved the way good sergeants had behaved since the time of Caesar, expecting no nonsense, allowing none. And Marine leaders had never lost sight of their primary-their only-mission, which was to fight.

"The Marine Corps was not made pleasant for men who served in it. It remaind the same hard, dirty, brutal way of life it had always been."

This Kind of War by T.R. Fehrenbach, pg. 128 (hardcover)

Posted by: Anonymous | May 14, 2008 1:01 PM

In order to add real numbers to the debate and not focus on mere conjecture, I also should tell everyone in the "Marines recruit white suburban boys who want to fight" nonsense that regardless of service recruiting of high quality white enlistments is way, way, way down.

Overall, enlistments are down by 34 percent since the invasion of Iraq, taking into account the economy, college attendance preferences, etc., as calibrated by RAND.

For African-Americans, it's down 45 percent; Hispanics 21 percent and whites 21 percent. The USMC has faced the same dynamic.

So how have the numbers been reached? Partly, and obviously, by lowering standards (one in five recruits now enters Army service through waivers). BOTH the USMC and the USA faced declines in recruitment between 2003 - 2005 before stopping the decline. The question is whether this has been normatively good if there's been a lower quality of enlistee.

What's being discussed now, Phil, is something I thought you would jump on: A GI Bill BEFORE service for the enlisted. Since the Army competes with colleges for recruits more than it does USMC and other services, and the real rise in USA enlisted recruitment has been on campuses or for prior service members, why not promise recruits a college degree for, say, four years in the ranks?

They start out with a higher rank, perhaps more pay and have a college degree when they get out. Kind of a pre-ROTC program for enlisted only.

Obviously, this isn't for all young men and women. But if something like 85 percent of all kids try to go to college or trade school BEFORE they consider military service, why not front-load it and take away the competition? You can go to college AND serve your country without bothering with a commission.

If you find out that you really like the Army, you can stay in and either rise through the NCO ranks or go on to the WO or OCS tracks.

It would be good for our enlisted pool, good to see a lot of "mustangs" (like you) amongst the officers and, ultimately, good for our nation to have so many educated men and women with military experience, regardless of whether they stayed in uniform or got out.

There would still be a GI Bill for those who went straight into the services, but it would be a lot smaller. Instead, we would develop a smarter, slightly older force with much of Army training transpiring on campus, where the kids want to be anyway.

Posted by: Carl P | May 14, 2008 1:04 PM

Folks who join the Marines are going to join to become part of an elite organization that goes back 233 years - not for job training or because they can't find work. The Marines have maintained their warrior ethos in the face of political correctness and people want to be part of that.

I think it goes beyond branding. Its true the Marines have, and have always had, the best PR machine going. The reality is though it goes beyond that. If it was all ooh-rah BS branding people would leave recruit training discouraged and demoralized when it didn't live up to their expectations. However that is not the case. Marines are Marines for life and there is a bond between Marines, even of different generations - which is pretty incredible considering the relatively large size of the organization. Even Marines I knew who were problem children and didn't particularly enjoy there time in the Corps still have a sense of pride in being a Marine.

With the exception of the relatively small special operations units in the other branches of the military, the Marine Corps is last real place in today's society where young people can go to become a warrior among warriors.

Semper Fi,


Posted by: 02K | May 14, 2008 1:11 PM

"not for job training or because they can't find work. The Marines have maintained their warrior ethos in the face of political correctness and people want to be part of that."

Actually, that's why I joined. But it's not why the MAJORITY of Marines join.

Believe it or not, DoD actually asks people why they enlist. Some of this can be fuzzy (kids giving the answer they think DoD wants to hear, not the real deal), but the USMC is like other services in that only about a quarter recently have said that they joined to serve their nation, to fit into a warrior ethos, blah, blah, blah.

The vast majority of USMC MOSs are not combat arms (although there's a higher representation of them there than in other branches, including the one in which I served, 03), and those who choose other MOSs obviously had their choice, right?

The ironic thing is that DoD also tracks perceptions about the military; across the youth population of America, the dominant view about military service is NEGATIVE -- but even those these young people have negative perceptions about military service, they still join!

While some comments have suggested that upon completing recruit training Marines mysteriously feel bonded to the service, I would suggest that most in the ranks take a more complex view. I know I sure did, otherwise we wouldn't COLLECTIVELY termed the USMC the "suck," the "big green weenie" among the more utterable phrases in polite company.

In the Army, the ubiquity of "FTA" on latrine walls (head and bulkhead respectively for Marines) might suggest a similar dynamic at play.

I say this as someone far prouder to have been a Marine than a Soldier, so sue me Phil.

Why Marines and other branch enlistees enter service while holding negative perceptions about the military is still being studied, but perhaps something might be said about the upfront cash bonuses, et al, that goes into determining one's course.

Or we can continue to toss out divine John Wayne-esque simplicities.

Posted by: Carl P | May 14, 2008 1:58 PM

I agree with the branding, etc. There is another point that hasn't been made and I'm speaking only from USMC experience. Every month HQMC (MCRC) tasks the Eastern and Western Recruiting Regions (ERR and WRR) with a DEP and ship mission. These numbers have to be made each month or the Marine Corps misses mission. ERR and WRR in turn task their recruiting districts but inflate the numbers slightly to ensure they (ERR and WRR) make mission even if a recruiting district does not. The recruiting districts then task their recruiting stations (RS) with an inflated mission as well. Again this is to ensure the district "makes mission" even if one or two RS's do not. Recruitiers and officers will still get fired for "missing mission" thru out the year but in the end the Marine Corps looks good in front of congress because they over produced and it makes for good press.

Posted by: RS CO | May 14, 2008 2:00 PM

When a person get's out of the army they say when asked that they were in the army. When a person get's out of the marines they say they are a marine. Once a marine always a marine.

Posted by: John | May 14, 2008 3:03 PM

Speaking as a former Marine and current Soldier, I'll very quickly add my two pence worth of generalities and opinions.

* People want to join "winning organizations" and the USMC Recruiters look and act like winners. I.E. Uniform squared away, no fat rolling over the belt.
* In this day and age of rampant consumerism and possible nihilism, joining the Marines gives young people a purpose and shared heritage. It doesn't help that most corporations are just absolutely mind numbing experiences. I have had two breaks in service so, no, I haven't spent my whole life wearing green.
* The Marines are a tribe and at heart we all want to belong to a unit right? Don't get me started with any connection to broken families etc. I don't have the education to answer that one.
* I'll have to agree with the other poster on the Corps not sugar-coating their message. In this era of ridiculous marketing that honesty may go a long way.

Just my thoughts.


Posted by: MSG DJ Vidrine | May 14, 2008 3:35 PM


I've addressed this before, but here goes.

1) The USMC leverages its entire history to "sell" itself alongside the full range of its missions/uniforms. Since OIF kicked off, the Army is feverishly trying to show off only one side: ACUs and Desert Boots. With the pixelated Army Strong campaign, it's as if nothing existed pre-2004. This is a huge mistake.
The USMC strikes a nice balance. They showcase the full spectrum of their lineage. America's Marines was a great ad.

2) The USMC cedes no corner of the US as "too hard" to recuit in. The USMC is everywhere. They have an enlisted recruiting station in posh, downtown Ridgewood, NJ. They recruit for officers on every campus - and actually get LTs every year from NYU, Dartmouth and Williams. The USMC takes the time effort to understand the unique aspects of local areas/environments. They assign top flight officers to recruiting duty ... even GEN Pace was an OSO in Buffalo. In the Army, Recruiting Command is truly a "backwater". Given the systemic personnel shortages in the Army officer corps, today's Army Recruiting Company Commanders, Battalion S-3s and XOs truly are the "bottom 10%" of their respective year groups. If you suck as an Armor or MP Major, you probably won't be the best Recruiting XO in Southern California or Recruiting Company Commander in Manhattan.
The USMC personalizes its pitch. The Army applies a DesMoines/Raliegh template to the unique NYC or Chicago market and gets predictably disappointing results.


The Army's cohesion/esprit has never come from being part of the "big Army." The Army has always drawn its strength from unit/MOS/branch cohesion. Don't believe me? Visit any nursing home or VFW post. Army vets will take pride in their "outfit" or branch/MOS.
Despite these well known observations, the Army is ignoring this and obliterating these very ties when it needs them most with branchless ACUs, no CIB/CAB/CMBs in combat zones, taking full-color unit patches off of the proposed "new" Class A.
The Army has many proud symbols which engender fierce pride in the force ... we need to use them! We have logos, insignia and symbols. Why then do we now use the "Army Star" as a symbol. Why is the "Army Star" patch now worn by recruiters and Army staff at HQDA? This is a vestige of the disastrous "Army of One" ad campaign and should be purged from our memory. Want a branding idea? Have detailed recruiters where the unit patch of their last unit.

One thing is for sure: We need to "lose" the ACUs on any recruiting visit to colleges, schools or career fairs.

Posted by: IRR Soldier ... | May 14, 2008 3:40 PM

I will add the following thoughts:

1) Proportionately or enlistments per 1,000, the USMC granted more felony waivers than the Army did in FY 2007.

2) The USMC Reserve is miniscule in relation to overall active duty endstrength - in fact, not much larger than the NYPD. Significance? Not much interneccine fighting for recruits among the USMCR and the USMC. The Army on the other hand has a LARGER drilling reserve component than regular force. This complicates recruiting and creates an us vs. them attitude rather than the USMC's "all in this together" approach.

Posted by: IRR Soldier... | May 14, 2008 3:59 PM

IRR, I don't know your nickname but you make a great deal of sense about separating out ArNG and USAR numbers. When you do that, you notice that both recruitment and retention problems have been worse for ArNG and USAR than for the "regular" force.

There are many reasons for this, but I don't want us to forget how BRAC and depot closures nationwide have harmed our key method of recruiting at the most local level: No ArNG or USAR depot, less recruits.

Don't forget one other thing, IRR: In a sense, USA and USArNG have declared a truce of sorts with the pilot "Active First" program. It's actually been more successful than anyone thought it would be and likely will be expanded beyond its initial 1,800 recruits.

It probably doesn't hurt either ArNG or USA that the recruits serve up to four years of active duty up front (the typical ArNG call up under Title X has been 18 months anyway, for a recruit pretty much the icing on 10 months of initial active duty training, so 28 months or so of active duty service in his or her first three years, depending on MOS). And it doesn't hurt ArNG that the bonuses of up to $60,000, I believe, come from USA budget and not the ArNG.

The larger issue for me is whether we're hurting ourselves normatively by focusing so exclusively on endstrength as if "90,000" is some kind of magical statistic, like batting .300 or hitting 61 home runs before everyone began taking steroids.

If we know that one out of every five Army MOSs are overstrength, that we're taking more "moral" waivers, recruiting a fatter and older force and giving up on more high quality recruits, does it matter than we round out the BCTs under the 90,000 mandate by 2012?

How do the "moral" waivers affect their units? Do older and chubbier recruits degrade unit effectiveness? Will the "Active First" program backfire because once in the "regular" Army those in the program won't want to fulfill their ArNG service obligation, thus removing the chance for them to return some AD experience to the depot?

What if the depot to which he originally drilled isn't there four years later? Or his unit that needed his MOS four years ago has been replaced by something else?

I don't have the answers to any of these questions.

Posted by: Carl P | May 14, 2008 4:22 PM

A couple thoughts.

First and foremost, I have the utmost respect for our Marines and Soldiers.

What about grander economic factors? (Grander as in having less to do with the Marine Corp or Army themselves, but more macro like factors.)
First, globalization has dampened the ability of intelligent and hard working folks from getting great physical labor and assembly line jobs. So the cream of that crop, a crop that is becoming more scarce in America, is turning towards the one place they can thrive: the USMC. Make no mistake, many folks who ended up in factories or in fields had the brains to attend any college, but many still preferred a good physical job. That kind of lifestyle is now harder to find at a livable wage in America. But the Marine Corp offers it with all the respect good, decent, and hard work should be rewarded with.

Second, the economy has been pretty rough lately, which may exacerbate the above noted issues. There was an interesting article in the NY Review of Books about a month ago regarding the motivation behind many who join the Army. Many of the folks interviewed (not a rigorous, statistical analysis) mentioned that their lives were not heading in great directions, so the Army offered a way out of a small town life. Again I wonder if the people who feel that way first turn to the Marines (brand issues etc), and then trickle to the Army. (No disrespect intended to the Army.)

As Phil pointed out, there may not be one or two or more reasons for this, but rather a number of variables that have an impact on the issue.

Interesting question and I look forward to seeing Phil's follow-up post on it.

Posted by: Jack L | May 14, 2008 10:03 PM

Tell you what, 23 years later my two knuckleheaded friends can still tell you the names of all their MC recruiters, and probably their wife and kids names, too. Me, I can't begin to remember the name of the yayhoo that talked to me once to sign the contract and then one more time just before I left for Basic a year later at Dix. No surprise here how the Corps exceeds its goals.

Posted by: PFM | May 14, 2008 10:17 PM

Just a little added note - the Marine Corps does their Birthday ceremony the way the Army only wishes it could. Oldest Marine, Youngest Marine - you can't beat the Esprit de Corps reinforced by their traditions.

Posted by: PFM | May 14, 2008 10:21 PM

Well, I dealt somewhat with all four services for a year or so while I was helping out at Spirit of America - we engaged them all in helping us with logistics as well as in in proposing projects.

Institutionally, the Marines were vastly more flexible, responsive, and creative than any of the other services. Individuals at each service showed all those characteristics - but I definitely got the feeling that it was a part of the Marines' institutional DNA.

It was also amusing (and embarrassing) for me to go to a meeting at Pendleton prepared to 'sell' a bunch of Marine officers on microfinance as a tool for them to use in Iraq, only to discover that they were better informed about it than I was. To be honest, I've never been happier to be somewhat foolish...

When white suburban son Biggest Guy decided to enlist, I encouraged him to look at the Marines, on the premise that if he didn't make selection, based on my experience above, he'd find it a far more amenable environment than the Army. (Phil, an update - he got sick and was cycled back for SFAS until June) You can tell how much influence I had...


Posted by: Armed Liberal | May 15, 2008 2:26 AM

The services appeal to different needs and personalities. While Air Force recruits tend to be someone who wants technical skills training as their primary interest, Marine recruits tend to be someone who wants to belong to something, or needs to prove something to themselves. The Marine message is "come with us and prove your a man", short and simple, that's what all the fighting dragons and such is about on their advertising. I could never figure out why anyone joined the Navy, and the Army keeps shifting their message on what they are all about.

I always found Marines to be a fine bunch of people, but when you boil it down they provide two services to the nation; operational maneuver from the sea and an structured environment for young men with inadequacy issues. Other thing that gets overlooked is the Marine's are not a great career opportunity for most enlistees; they only retain about 25% of their force after their initial enlistment is over, the rest are shown the door.

Posted by: Been there, done that | May 16, 2008 11:22 AM

The Marines have a much, much, MUCH smaller recruiting goal than the Army, yet are "equal" in "brand" identification - the entire populace knows of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines, even though the Marines are actually part of the Navy. Imagine if the Army had two recruiters for every recruiter it has today - one for the the infantry, and one for the rest of the Army. The Marines are part of the Department of the Navy, but they recruit their on their own. That helps them meet their goals.

Next is the "brand identification" talked about above - they do tend to attract more "adventurers" than the Army. That is not always a good thing, but it helps recruit.

Next is the fact that they have a much smaller scope of work - the Army has 212 jobs for goodness sake. Most people "join the Marines" instead of what happens in the Army - picking a job. I think that helps attract a more specific type of recruit. The Army recruiters have to recruit for 212 jobs, and thus they must recruit signal corpsmen, dental techs, and trigger-pullers. Again, the more limited number of Marine MOS's helps their recruiters focus, the much-wider demands of the Army results in Army recruiters with a much higher challenge, plus the Army, unlike the Marines, has to compete with the Air Force and Navy for many recruits. For instance, somebody who wants to get technical training, as opposed to grabbing a rifle and going after bad guys, has a choice: Navy (safer than the Army but long deployments), Air Force (safer than the Army and no sea duty, but less travel), and the Army (you are going to Iraq, buddy, technician or not - at least that is what most recruits think, and it is often true). The Marines don't have those types of jobs and thus don't have to compete with the other services like the Army has to do. Plus the Army must compete with the Marines for the "trigger-puller" types, which the Navy and Air Force don't have to do. Thus if the kids who want to be an operating room technician look at their opportunities, if they choose the Army they are going to Iraq, if they choose the Navy or Air Force they probably are not - and the resulting recruiting shortfall that may result is not the result of better recruiting by the Marines, who aren't even filling those jobs and don't care about them.

In short, being an Army recruiter is more challenging, with more demands and more variability, than in any other service.

Assume you have a limited pool of eligible recruits, say 1,000. You have 10 recruiters and need to recruit 100 recruits. I have 50 recruiters who need to recruit 500 recruits. You need to recruit for 15 jobs. I need to recruit for 100. Even though each recruiter, yours and mine, has to recruit 10 people, my challenge is vastly greater than yours. Add in that I have to fill jobs that the Navy and Air Force also recruit for, plus all of my jobs you are recruiting for, while you only compete with me. My challenge is vastly greater. I need to take half of all eligible recruits, you need 10%. Even with the same number of recruiters per recruit, I have the tougher job.

On top of that, our young people who are considering military careers are not stupid - a huge factor unmentioned by the few who want to claim "Marines are just better" or "have more esprit" etc. etc. is that the Army's tours are 12 to 18 months, while most Marine tours are about 6 months in Iraq. Don't think that makes a difference? It sure as hell does. The Army and Marines are bearing the burden for this war, and their casualties show it, but the Army combat arms soldiers have the heaviest burden of all. They spend more days in combat than the Marines, with correspondingly higher casualties (you can't just compare Marine casualties to Army casualties because the Army has relatively-safer jobs the Marines don't have, you have to compare, say, infantry to infantry, otherwise you are comparing dental techs to infantry).

It's like WWII, the Marines get (and deserve) great credit for their fighting prowess in the Pacific, but more soldiers fought the Japanese than Marines, and they suffered proportionately to the Marines - but the Army also fought in Europe, the Marines did not. The Army for some reason is generally not given credit for its efforts in the Pacific.

As for the "first to fight" stuff, that is silly and, while a nice slogan, simply untrue.

As for "Institutionally, the Marines were vastly more flexible, responsive, and creative than any of the other services" - that is a bunch of BS. Just by way of example, institutionally the Army has the following types of infantry units:

Light infantry
Mechanized infantry
Airborne infantry
Air Assault infantry
Stryker infantry

The Marines have the following types of infantry units:

Amphibious infantry

Yep, sure looks "more flexible" and creative to me.

The Marines are a different type of force with a different mission and different strengths and weaknesses than the Army, and the comparisons made between them are usually (almost always) comparing apples to oranges without the person making that comparison understanding the inherent flaw in such a comparison.

In the "Battle" for recruits, the Marines haven't "won," they have a much smaller and easier-to-achieve mission, and they are succeeding, while the Army has a much harder, wider, more challenging mission with a much, much broader scope, and is having trouble succeeding. Not because the Marines are doing it better - but because the "it" the Marines are doing is not at all sufficient for the Army. If the Army did "it" like the Marines then the Army would have even more problems in recruiting. The missions are different, but as always, the Army has the widest, broadest, deepest, and hardest challenges, as in World War II. That does not take anything away from the Marines or discount the critical role they play in our national defense, it simply recognizes the truth: as the largest of the armed forces and the one specializing in the most critical role - land combat - the Army is the main effort in our national defense, and all other branches of service exist to support that main effort. And it is tough, and the Army is having a hard time, and pointing out the success of the Marines is great, but should not be thought of as in any way a criticism of the Army's efforts in a different mission with more challenges.

In short, our nation is at war, the Army IS our nation at war, and the Army - and thus the USA - is having a difficult time. I am glad the much smaller USMC is not, but the Marines don't have the same capabilities as the Army and this problem should be addressed with that in mind. Otherwise instead of attempting to solve a national challenge, we will instead only cast blame or think it is an Army problem alone, instead of a national problem.

Posted by: JD | May 16, 2008 3:51 PM

I am a Vietnam vet - army in country.

The Marines are elite combat troops. Warriors are looking for that. The army is a huge organization with many skill sets including a big bureaucracy.

Posted by: Jeff Crocket | May 16, 2008 4:18 PM


Posted by: blecchhhh | May 16, 2008 7:20 PM

Post 1
Come on JD, you know better, you've dragged some of this stuff out in the Old Intel Dump. We do have an Air Wing, you know (Swing with the Wing).
At- is a list of USMC occupations/MOS/Sub groupings. Some aspects of your post are true, but you
generalize a lot. The Corps by the way has a hard time getting its' humanoid feedstock, as of late, and consequently, has had to increase waivers, probably take more
cat III lowers etc.; the active duty folks now allow E-6's to serve beyond 20, E-7's beyond 22, in order to get bodies to the front.

The changes in recruiting a more complex than is reflected in the comments here. Look at RS CO's comments above, he knows, because his handle (sorry could be she),
means Recruiting Station CO. (as in RS Denver for instance), commanding many recruiting sub stations, and staying on top of the twin missions of contract and ship
(also replace DEP discharges, community relations).

Posted by: Blecchhhh | May 16, 2008 8:22 PM

Post 2
I was on recruiting duty in the Corps in the past (the golden age of the eighties). A major difference between the Marines and Army is not the total number of bodies needed (since Army recruiters have larger numbers to deal with the higher needs), but in the quality of the recruiters. As IRR has often inferred, the Army condemns people to recruiting duty...and it shows. In the day, a Marine RS CO (major/LtCol) who failed at this duty was dead in the water career wise. Conversely, after kick ass tours, both of our CO's (Grunts) were placed in Key billets as full birds in the Gulf war. For enlisted Marines, a super tour on Recruiting/DI would make you a favorite candidate on promotion boards when choosing between hard chargers (The fitreps would acclaim quantifiables instead of the same lame Boilerplate). I could tell you stories about the Army recruiters dragging van loads of Cat IV and V's nightly for MEPS testing, in order to squeeze one pearl out of the cracked shell discard pile....funny stuff. Our recruiting school actually failed people, that could not communicate effectively, or launch into an Ad Hoc speech at the drop of a hat.

Posted by: Bleccchhhh | May 16, 2008 9:00 PM

In closing, let me add that, in order to mirror IRR soldier's pronunciamentos on the subject, that the Marine Corps, in both Officer and enlisted ascensions, will yield no territory, nor population sub grouping in order mission success;once a region or a population is abandoned, you'ss play hell getting it back...out of sight out of mind. If today's Action Army wishes to fight all of its' future, uncalled for, under planned, Tommy Franks-like orchestrated, Third world Dung Heap State dismantlements, ginned up by micro-weenied draft dodging Neocon trolls and NCA miscreants, is it wise to focus more and more on culturally and rurally segregated Red State Good Ole' Boys as your "Warrior" feedstock? Does the GINGO rule not apply somewhat? How abiut diminishing returns? Can Basic training be made any easier?

Posted by: Bleccchhhh | May 16, 2008 9:10 PM

Bleccchhhh, you were doing pretty well until your third post. And then you just had to ruin whatever impact you might have made by posting more Marine macho BS.

Who do you Marines think you are? You read your press clippings too much. You're nothing without the Navy and the Army. We feed you, and we train you. In my line of work--intel--your people are trained by the Army and other agencies and have then been detailed to the Army to learn how to do what they're trained to do, working for Army officers and NCOs. Your teeth would rot out without the Navy. Your combat medics are provided by the Navy, as are the surgeons who heal your wounds. Boy, you're real bad asses. And you never acknowledge this: you rag on the Navy just as you do on the Army.

Schwartskopf saved a lot of Marines when he rejected the pleas from Marine commanders for an amphibious landing in the first Gulf War. Your commanders didn't care about those mine fields, but Schwartskopf did. Inchon is long ago. The Marines no longer storm beaches. In Vietnam, the first Gulf War and now in Iraq, the Marines have performed very well in the infantry role, but no better than Army infantry units.

Getting back to the point of this post, there is a lot the Army could learn from the USMC. Marine recruiting is far better, and the Marines have done an enviable job in developing that espirit de corps, etc., regarding which so many people are in thrall. But the Marines are still the Marines, totally dependent on other services to do their job, something they never advertise. And something that's not nearly so true with the other services.

Old saying: The USMC's primary mission is dancing with the Navy, something that stems from the Marines' role as a subsidiary of the Navy, manifested by working as security guards for admirals.

Comparing the Marines and the Army is an apples and oranges exercise. The Marines to the Army are fundamentally as McDonald's is to a full-service sit-down restaurant.

The services are just not the same at all. And the USMC's constant drive to prove its superiority is somewhat akin to the younger brother trying to prove he's more manly than the older brother. The only competition between the services is that driven by the USMC. But the fact is, the nation could survive without the Marine Corps; the same cannot be said about the Army. The Army does the heavy lifting.

Posted by: Publius | May 17, 2008 1:09 AM


Posted by: Bleccchhhh | May 17, 2008 4:17 PM

Testing again????

Posted by: Bleccchhhh | May 17, 2008 5:05 PM

Why are my posts being blocked? Are only Army Dawgs and psychophantic others allowed her?

Posted by: Bleccchhh | May 17, 2008 5:09 PM

shot 1 - Publius
I've heard your and JD's ramblings on the Army's size and varied missions before, I spoke of recruiting Mission and territory only; It's you guys that are macho. So, since that is the Coin of the realm today, tell me this stuff about rating Army and Marine Corps Infantry. And you would know this How? Books perhaps! The last time I heard, CI guys/officers are not used to rate the abilities of DoD infantry units. I can also bet that you rated no units in I Corps...I Corps was the Haps.

Ole' Moshe Dayan went on a DoD sponsored tour of Vietnam in 66. Bein' ornery and such, he avoided briefings by the starched jungle Ute mafia, and instead went to the field with line units and Special Forces personnel. Upon leaving, he stated that he thought the Marines and SF were "Golden." In fairness to the Army, he had one experience with a rather sad actor of a company CO who thought lying on his stomach and barking in a radio was a capital idea, given the firefight in progress. I will try and get the Link. His visit with the marine grunts introduced him to Victor "Brute" Krulak's boy, then a Company CO, given the genes, probably an unfair comparison with the former example.

Posted by: Bleccchhhh | May 17, 2008 6:11 PM

SHot 2 - Publius
What is not unfair, however, is bringing up The Shake and Bake enlisted to Officer program that squirted out the likes of Lt. William Calley. This is not to paint all graduates of this program with a DooDoo brush, since I met one fellow from that circumstance who was an effective leader. Most people don't know that Calley was a mental midget, and as became the poster boy and living embodiment to the fact that the Army went too far down in the gene pool, and too fast in the process in order to get warm bodies to the front. The Corps had a similar program that started in 1966, but the selectees went to the regular Officer training programs. A lot were decorated enlisted men with Korean War experience, or were natural, effective leadership types.

Posted by: Bleccchhhh | May 17, 2008 6:13 PM

SHot 3 - Publius
Ah yes, effective leadership types; Need I bring up CWO Hugh Thompson, who landed his bird in front of a gaggle of about to be waxed peasants. He was a true leader, though he was treated like Shiite, career wise, for his actions, by all of the High ranking officers. Let's have a hand for LtGen Peers (of DakTo fame) who investigated MyLai, and came to the conclusion that all sorts of high ranking officers all the way to Corps level should have fried for their actions. Errr, he was told to peddle his papers elsewhere. Have I mentioned in the past that Gen Peers was also investigating Bgen Donalson (of the Vaunted Americal Division) for his habit of playing "Nap of the earth Plink-a-dink) in the comfort of his C&C bird) the dinks, in this case being peasantoid personnel (targets of opportunity - in the parlance of the day. Have I mentioned that he personally questioned the vaunted Colin Powell on this subject (I wonder if, as a staff officer he conceivably could have ridden in that bird with Donalson. No matter, the pilots who testified were transferred, and the Army CID investigation was spiked....RHIP...rank has its privilege. How about that li'l oriental lad, General Taguba (another fine leader), who upon doing his duty by conducting an investigation on the Abu Ghraib matter, was also treated like a Dink, and a Leper, until his forced early retirement. Them White Boy Genruls could not put up with his uppity dark ass. Didn't he know how to play the game? The Answer is no, so they played him like Sammy Davis Junior. I know some will bring up Haditha, and that is fair, but Grunts waste civilians in every war....always have, always will. The Lt of that unit was not on the ground that day. Part of his many duties is to prevent the animals from going off the reservation sort of speak. As for the Bn Co of that unit, stick a fork in him!

Posted by: Bleccchhhh | May 17, 2008 6:14 PM

Shot 4 - Publius.. I see that posting here is to be done in like in code programming/execution...sequential firing.

I leave you with this: If you wish to further the Macho (I abhor Macho - I like facts though), I may or may not participate. I ran into an Air Force study on Managerial versus Traditional leadership models in the Vietnam War (Army vs USMC--wouldntcha know) ENJOY, or NOT

Shot out!

Posted by: Bleccchhhh | May 17, 2008 6:17 PM

Oh! This last was to be the first shot. I echo mailed publius anyways, so check for traffic on your account..Just superimpose this one,
You need to go to the PI pharmacy and refill your Xanax prescription. I did not mention anything in my last post about Macho stuff or mission accomplishment outside of recruiting (abandoning populations etc,). All of that has been said before by IRR soldier, in greater detail, in short Army Recruiting is not playing smart now or for the long term.

Posted by: Bleccchhhh | May 17, 2008 6:29 PM

another forgotten paragraph - Publius
As to your old wives' tale about General Black Head's wanting to save Marine lives, sniff, sniff, ...The few the proud, the dead on the beach. Those guys off shore were a "demonstration"...look it up in your Army dictionary. Boomer probably did not have those late to the party dilettantes in his plans. Our Ayrab allies, Saudis, Omanis, (Emiratis?), and all were to/did storm up the coast highway on their way to their military parade in Kuwait city. So to have a large mashup of Ayrabs going north colliding with the amphibious jarheads heading west is a doctrinal NoNo.

Posted by: Bleccchhhh | May 17, 2008 6:35 PM


Posted by: Bleccchhhh | May 17, 2008 6:44 PM

Okay I get it, a sentence at a time.
All of which is academic since the Ayrabs ran into no resistance, since any Iraqiman with a brain was nowhere within 30 clicks of any beachhead.

Posted by: Bleccchhhh | May 17, 2008 6:46 PM

They were instead hauling ass west northwest to Al Jarrah for the only northward route home (highway of death).

Posted by: Bleccchhhh | May 17, 2008 7:15 PM

Test again

Posted by: Bleccchhh | May 17, 2008 7:20 PM

with all the Kuwaiti bagatel and rolling stock not nailed down.

Posted by: Bleccchhhh | May 17, 2008 7:22 PM

Hey Phil, Is that chopped enough for you? Shot out!

Posted by: Bleccchhhh | May 17, 2008 7:23 PM

232+ years of tradition unimpeded by progress...

USMC officer: enlisted ratio ~ 1:9

USA officer: enlisted ratio is ~ 1:5

600+ colonels in the USMC compared to 3,500+ colonels in the USA...

The USMC does not have its own elite service academy but does take a % of grads from Annapolis each year.

Every USMC officer shares a common experience through The Basic School (TBS) with the exception of waivers for some aviators during the Vietnam years.

Alumni support from Corporate America, Capitol Hill, Hollywood, media, and associations...

Posted by: QuangXPham | May 19, 2008 8:10 AM

Note how all of those who beat their chests and proclaim "Marines do it better" have no solutions whatsoever to the problems the Army AND Marines are facing. The Marines met their goal, thus the problem must be the Army's methods, thus the solution is to make the Army do it like the Marines.

It doesn't matter to them that the Army faces a larger and different challenge. It doesn't matter that their proposed solution, which appears to be making the Army into the Marines, won't work and will do great harm to our national defense.

All that matters is that they claim they are "better."

How unpatriotic and disloyal to our nation.

As for the guy who claimed I learned about the differences between the Army and Marines from books - no. Simply wrong. I served in the US Army as an enlisted rifleman, NCO, and infantry officer, and I did a tour at the NTC in the Opfor.

The best Marine Corps in the World is the USMC. The best Army in the world is the US Army. Which is better? The question alone reveals ignorance. It depends on the mission. And Americans are serving in both, and deserve the best. The Army is facing a manpower shortage and lowering standards. For some reason a few supposedly "patriotic" former marines feel good about that. I, as a citizen, do not. Nor do I think the problem is of the Army's own making, nor is the solution within the Army's power. It is a national crisis, but a few here prefer only to beat their chests and proclaim their supposed superiority rather than helping to attack a national problem. They treat the issue like one a sports fan would about a problem facing a rival team, rather than what it is - a critical national security issue that affects all of us. Since the USMC is not and never will be large enough to defend the nation, what happens with the Army should be of great concern to the Marines, as they have a vital role to play in our national defense. Yet that is not what comments here reveal - instead it is "how do we compare infantry to see which is better?" That is a dumb question. The USMC and Army are on the SAME SIDE.

Yet still comments here, including Phil, seem to think the problem is the way the Army recruits rather than the environment in which that recruiting is done, the vast majority of Americans who view the war in Iraq as a tragic and avoidable mistake, the attempt (fairly successfully) by the right-wing extremists to make the military a Republican constituency, thus serving alone begins to have political overtones, the civil-military divide, the misuse of a small professional force in a role which it was never intended to fill (a long-drawn out holding action with no relief in sight while we go shopping and enjoy tax cuts), the constant drumbeat of true stories about neglect of our wounded warriors, VA mismanagement, and on and on. And the supposed roots of the lowered standards and recruiting shortfalls? Well, the Army is doing it wrong, and the marines met their goal, so it must be an Army problem with an Army solution, right.

Of course not. Perhaps the Air Force is recruiting better than the USMC, because the USAF has not lowered standards like the USMC. The lowered USMC standards must be due to the marines doing it wrong, correct? And thus the USMC should start recruiting the way the Air Force does, right? Like I said, of course not. But that is what many say, and what Phil implies, about the Army.

And yet many former marines (or those who claim to be anyway) commenting here think the problem is an "Army problem."

That does not do any credit to the USMC. I hope the comments here from former marines are not typical of most former marines, as that would reveal a loyalty problem with the USMC, placing the needs or wants of the USMC above those of our republic. Almost all of the many marines I worked with over the years put America first, their loyalty to the Constitution first, and traitors like Oliver North (who violated his oath) were the exception, and they viewed their Army brothers in arms with respect.

Has that changed?

Posted by: JD | May 19, 2008 3:26 PM

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