Marine Career Paper

When the United States decided to fight the Iraqis in Kuwait in the Desert Storm operation of 1991 or intervene in the violence in Somalia in the mid-nineties, the Marine Corps was called upon to execute the missions. While The Marines Corps is the branch of the Navy specializing in amphibious tactics, meaning that it combines land and water maneuvers. With the help of an air support division, Marines are a rapid-response force, able to deploy troops to anywhere on the globe on short notice. The Marines are intended for short-term strikes, leaving the longer missions to the larger and slower-moving Army. Five thousand Marines are stationed on Navy ships around the world, and along with major bases in Camp Pendleton, California, and Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, 20,000 Marines live and work in Okinawa, Japan.

Broadly speaking, anyone who wants to be one of “the few, the proud” needs to choose between two career paths: that of an enlisted Marine and that of a commissioned officer. Enlistees make up the majority of the active-duty force of 178,000 men and women, but contrary to common belief, only 15% of them are infantrymen-those who do the sloshing, on-the-ground, in-the-line-of-fire work. The rest work in communications, electronics, intelligence, supply, armor, or other duties. Being one of the Marines’ 18,000 officers requires a higher level of education, training, and commitment, but offers greater responsibility and career potential in return.

Many young men and women enlist in the Marine Corps directly after graduating from high school. Anyone 17 years of age or older can join, though 17-year-olds need parental permission. The benefits of enlisting in the Marines include health care, life insurance, 30 days of paid vacation a year, and in many cases, housing and all of the perks of living on a base, including a food commissary and free use of recreation facilities. Another attractive benefit of joining the military is the money available for college. The Montgomery GI Bill, enacted in 1944 to assist veterans of World War II, helps servicemen and women finance their educations, supporting them for up to 36 months in a college or university, trade school, correspondence courses, or flight school. The typical payment is $528 a month, though the amount varies with length of service, and it is good for up to ten years after a Marine ends his or her active duty.

Anyone who is considering enlistment should spend time talking to their local Marine recruiter who can lay out the nuances of the many programs offered. For example, two people can enlist together and be eligible for the “buddy deal,” which insures that they will be stationed together and can qualify them for advanced rank and pay. The Quality Enlistment Program offers geographic choice in exchange for a six-year commitment. There is an enlistment option for musicians as well as “delayed entry,” usually employed by high school students who wish to postpone the beginning of their active duty until after they graduate. Highly qualified applicants could be candidates for the Enlistment Options Program, which features cash bonuses and accelerated training programs.

When a person enlists directly out of high school, he or she has the rank of private. The first step in an enlisted Marine’s career is basic training, better known as boot camp. Recruits spend 12 weeks being called “maggot” in either the Parris Island Recruit Depot in South Carolina or the San Diego Recruit Depot in California. They are up at five every morning for a day of marching drills, combat training, rifle instruction, and education in the history and traditions of the Corps.

With time and good performance, Marines are promoted through corporal, sergeant, master sergeant, and sergeant major levels, and pay is increased accordingly. Enlisted Marines who excel and want to join the officer ranks – a move that earns them the unofficial title of “mustang” – can do so by attending Officer Candidate School alongside of those seeking a commission out of college. A high school diploma or equivalent is required for enlistment in the Marines. Enlistees also must take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test, which covers reading, math, science, and mechanics skills. Aside from the academic requirements, enlistees must be United States citizens and meet moral and physical standards. Another option is the ROTC program offered at many colleges.

The Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) was founded in 1926 to train future officers in the armed forces. The program pays for students’ college tuition, and they earn their degree while being groomed for their military commission. Marine Corps aspirants participate in Naval ROTC, which is offered at more than 60 colleges and universities in the United States.

The primary benefit of participating in ROTC is the financial assistance: a college student’s full tuition, cost of books, and other class fees are covered, and a monthly allowance is typically awarded. Students are responsible only for their own room and board. The requirements for receiving a scholarship specify that a student be more than 17 years old on September 1 of the year he or she enters college and less than 27 upon graduation. Qualified applicants must pass a physical exam and be legally allowed to bear arms in the United States. Academically, applicants need a high school diploma or equivalent, be accepted to a certified NROTC university, and receive a minimum score of 1100 on their SAT or their combined score from English and math section of the ACT must be at least 45. Upon graduating from NROTC, students enter the Marine Corps as second lieutenants. NROTC participants are committed to eight years of service in the Marine Corps, with at least four on active duty.

The ROTC academic curriculum for Marine-option students requires classes in national security policy and the history of American military affairs in addition to the regular academic requirements for the student’s degree. Outside of the classroom, students must attend weekly three-hour sessions of drill instruction, inspection, and lectures. Other activities that NROTC midshipmen participate in include military balls, Fleet Week, parents’ weekend, community service, and social outings.

The Marine Corps at the United States Naval Academy. Future Marines have the same Academy experience as those who plan on entering the Navy after graduation, but they attend the Corps’ Basic School for 26 weeks after graduation to supplement their naval education with training in land navigation, small-unit tactics, weapons, and communications. They enter the Marines as second lieutenants and typically start off as platoon commanders in charge of 35-43 enlisted Marines. The time commitment to the Marines after graduating from the Naval Academy is five years.

Tuition, room and board, and medical and dental insurance are covered for all students, called “midshipmen,” at the Academy. The hierarchy of midshipmen is generally structured by class, and first-year students are known as “plebes” rather than freshmen. They go through Plebe Summer before entering, a seven-week ordeal similar to boot camp that is intended to change them from “civilians to midshipmen.”

Students at the Naval Academy have a highly regimented lifestyle, with times specified for meals, class, exercise, extra-curricular activities, studying, and sleep. As excellent physical fitness is expected in all midshipmen, everyone is required to participate in. In terms of classes, plebes have their class schedule essentially decided for them, with mandatory courses in calculus, chemistry, U.S. and naval history, naval science, and English/rhetoric. After the first year, students have more choice in their course work, selecting one of 18 majors while fulfilling core requirements in engineering, natural sciences, social sciences, and the humanities. All midshipmen, even humanities majors, graduate with a bachelor’s of science degree to reflect the technical training they’ve completed. Alongside their academic pursuits, students must undergo at-sea training and character education.

Student life at the Academy is governed by a code of conduct called the Honor Concept. It is an agreement among midshipmen based on an idea of doing more than simply abiding by written rules. It encourages fairness and integrity and has no tolerance for lying, cheating, or stealing.

High school students who want to go to the Naval Academy should be sure to have four years of math and English on their transcripts as well as one year each of chemistry and physics, two years of a foreign language, two years of history, and demonstrated computer skills. For the entering class of 2005, 55% scored between 600 and 699 on their SAT verbal, and 58% scored in the same range on their SAT math. Almost all admits rank in the top fifth of their high school class.


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