Organization of the United States Marine Corps: Wikis


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The United States Marine Corps is administered by the Department of the Navy, which is led by the Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV). The most senior Marine officer is the Commandant of the Marine Corps, responsible for organizing, recruiting, training, and equipping the Marine Corps so that it is ready for operation under the command of the Unified Combatant Commanders. The Marine Corps is organized into four principal subdivisions: Headquarters Marine Corps, the Operating Forces, the Supporting Establishment, and the Marine Forces Reserve.

The Operating Forces are further subdivided into three categories: Marine Corps Forces (MARFOR) assigned to unified combatant commands, Marine Corps Security Forces guarding naval installations, and Marine Corps Security Guard detachments at American embassies. Under the "Forces for Unified Commands" memo, Marine Corps Forces are assigned to each of the regional unified combatant commands at the discretion of the Secretary of Defense and with the approval of the President. Since 1991, the Marine Corps has maintained component headquarters at each of the regional unified combatant commands.[1]

Marine Corps Forces are further divided into Marine Forces Command (MARFORCOM), and Marine Forces Pacific (MARFORPAC), each headed by a Lieutenant General. MARFORCOM contains the II Marine Expeditionary Force; MARFORPAC contains the I Marine Expeditionary Force and the III Marine Expeditionary Force. MARFORCOM also serves as Commanding General, Fleet Marine Force, Atlantic (FMFLANT); Commander, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Europe (USMARFOREUR); Commanding General, Fleet Marine Force, Europe; U.S. Marine Corps Forces, South (USMARFORSOUTH); and U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Strategic (MARFORSTRATCOM); as well as Commander, U.S. Marine Corps Bases, Atlantic.

The Supporting Establishment includes Marine Corps Combat Development Command (MCCDC), Marine Corps Recruit Depots, Marine Corps Logistics Command, Marine bases and air stations, Recruiting Command, and the Marine Band.


Relationship with other Services

Since the Marine Corps' combat capabilities overlap those of the U.S. Army, the latter has historically viewed the Corps as encroaching on the Army's capabilities and competing for money, missions, and fame. The attitude dates back to the founding of the Marine Corps, when General George Washington refused to allow the initial Marine battalions to be drawn from among his army. Most significantly, in the aftermath of World War II, Army efforts to restructure the American defense establishment involved the dissolution of the Marine Corps and the folding of its capabilities into the other services. Leading this movement were such prominent Army officers as General Dwight Eisenhower and Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall.[2]

The Marine Corps is a partner service with the U.S. Navy under the Department of the Navy. Both the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) and Commandant of the Marine Corps (CMC), heads of their respective services, report directly to the Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV), a civilian who heads the Department of the Navy (DON). As a result, the Navy and Marine Corps have a close relationship, more so than with other branches of the United States Military. Recent whitepapers and promotional literature have commonly used the phrase "Navy-Marine Corps Team"[3] [4]. This relationship stems from the Navy providing transport, logistical, medical, and religious service as well as combat support to put Marine units into the fight where they are needed. Conversely, Marines are responsible for conducting land operations to support Naval campaigns, including the seizure of naval and air bases. All Marine Aviation programs except for specific Command and Control and Air Defense programs are funded by the Navy and Marine Officers are assigned to the Office of Chief of Naval Operations (OPNAV) Air Warfare Branch (N88) to represent their interests and serve as action officers. By Congressional mandate, the OPNAV Expeditionary Warfare Branch billet (N85) is filled by a Marine general.

The Marine Corps cooperates with the Navy on many institutional support services. The Corps receives a significant portion of its officers from the United States Naval Academy and Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC), which are partially staffed by Marines. Marine Corps Drill Instructors contribute to training Naval officers in Officer Candidate School. Marine aviators are trained in the Naval Aviation training pipeline, and utilize Naval weapons and test pilot schools. Currently, Navy aircraft carriers deploy with a Marine Hornet squadron alongside Navy squadrons. The Navy's Blue Angels flight team includes at least one Marine pilot and is supported by a Marines C-130 Hercules aircraft.

Since the Marines do not train Chaplains or medical personnel, officers and enlisted sailors from the Navy fill these roles. Some of these sailors, particularly Hospital Corpsmen, generally wear Marine uniforms emblazoned with the Marine insignia but US Navy name tags in order to be distinct to compatriots but indistinguishable to enemies. The Marines also operate a network security team in conjunction with the Navy. Marines and Sailor share the vast majority of branch-specific awards, with Marines earning the Navy Cross, the highest honor awarded short of the Medal of Honor (which Marines also are awarded, in the Navy version of the Medal of Honor), and other like medals; while an example of the few Marine-only awards is the Good Conduct Medal.

Marine Air-Ground Task Force

Basic structure of a Marine Air-Ground Task Force.

Today, the basic framework for deployable Marine units is the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF), a flexible structure that can vary in size. A MAGTF is composed of four elements: the command element (CE), the ground combat element (GCE), the aviation combat element (ACE) and the logistics combat element (LCE) [5]. A MAGTF can operate independently or as part of a larger coalition. It is a temporary organization formed for a specific mission and dissolved after completion of that mission.

The MAGTF structure reflects a strong tradition in the Corps towards self-sufficiency and a commitment to combined arms, both essential assets to an expeditionary force often called upon to act independently in discrete, time-sensitive situations. The history of the Marine Corps as well has led to a wariness towards relying too much on its sister services, and towards joint operations in general.

A MAGTF varies in size from the smallest, a Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), based around a reinforced infantry battalion and a composite squadron, up to the largest, a Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF), which ties together a Division, an Air Wing, and a Logistics Group under a MEF Headquarters Group.

The three Marine Expeditionary Forces are:


Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU)

There are usually three MEUs assigned to each of the U.S. Navy Atlantic and Pacific Fleets as components of the Fleet Marine Force, with another MEU based on Okinawa. Each is commanded by a colonel that can be an infantry officer or aviator. The MEU components consist of a command element, ground combat element, aviation combat element and a logistics combat element each commanded by a Lieutenant Colonel. While one MEU is on deployment, another is training to deploy, and one is standing down, resting its Marines and refitting. Each MEU is trained during its workup evolution to perform special operations tasks and is then designated as a MEU(SOC) (Special Operations Capable). The MEU can tailor its equipment to the expected tasking, but usually embarks an artillery battery with 6 tubes and either M1A1 tanks or Light Armored Vehicles (LAVs).

MEU Components:

  • Command Element
  • Aviation Combat Element (AV-8B Harrier, UH-1, AH-1, CH-46 or MV-22 and CH-53 organized as a composite squadron)
  • Ground Combat Element (reinforced infantry battalion task organized for deployment)
  • Logistics Support Element (equipped with motor vehicles as needed)

The MEU deploys as part of a Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) composed of Navy L class ships (LHD or LHA, LSD and LPD that embark the MEU and can transport it ashore with LCAC, LCU surface craft and/or Amphibious Assault Vehicles such as the AAV-P7A1 or using the ACE's helicopter lift assets embarked aboard the LHD or LHA. Under the ESG concept, additional surface units such as an AEGIS Arleigh Burke class destroyer (DDG-51} or Ticonderoga cruiser (CG) and a guided missile frigate {FFG) and a submarine (SSN) are also assigned as the ESG deploys. The theatre component commander can use the ESG in its entirety or detach units as needed.

Ground Combat Elements

The basic organization of Marine Corps infantry units follows the "rule of threes", which places three subordinates under a commander, not counting support elements[6]. The organization and weapons are from the Marine Corps Table of Organization and Equipment standard. Note that these are principles, but according to manpower and mission needs units can deviate from the TOE (e.g. with 4 subordinate units instead of 3, or a commander who is a rank above or below the rank specified). Supporting units will have their own organization and equipment, but generally also follow the "rule of threes"

  • A fire team is the basic element of the GCE. It consists of four Marines: the team leader/rifleman (M4/M16), one rifleman (M4/M16), one grenadier (M4/M16 with M203) and one light machine gunner (M249). The team leader is typically a Lance Corporal or Corporal.
  • A squad is made up of three fire teams, in addition to a Corporal or Sergeant as squad leader.
  • A rifle platoon consists of three squads, and a headquarters element made up of a Platoon Leader, a Platoon Sergeant and a Navy Corpsman. The Platoon Sergeant advises the Platoon leader, usually a 2nd or 1st Lieutenant, in making decisions. A weapons platoon will substitute for the squads a 60 mm mortar section, an assault section, and a medium machine gun (M240G) section. It is led by a 2nd or 1st Lieutenant.
  • A rifle company consists of three rifle platoons, a weapons platoon, and support staff. A weapons company will substitute for the rifle platoons an 81 mm mortar platoon, an anti-armor platoon, and a heavy machine gun platoon.
There is also a Headquarters and Service Company, consisting of a headquarters platoon, a communications platoon, a service platoon, and the Battalion Aid Station. It is led by a Captain.

A brigade, commanded by a brigadier general, is less common in the Marine Corps, but is typically made up of one or more regiments plus support units.

Battalions and larger units have a Sergeant Major, and an Executive Officer as second in command, plus officers and others for: Administration (S-1), Intelligence (S-2), Operations (S-3), Logistics (S-4), Civil Affairs (wartime only) (S-5), and Communications (S-6). Units of battalion size or larger may be reinforced by the addition of supporting tank or artillery units, as in the Battalion Landing Teams comprising the GCEs of Marine Expeditionary Units.

The four Marine divisions are:

In World War II, two more Marine Divisions were formed: the Fifth and Sixth, which fought in the Pacific War. These divisions were disbanded after the end of the war. The 5th Marine Division was reactivated for service in Vietnam but was disbanded again in the early 1970s.

Aviation Combat Element

The mission of Marine Corps aviation is to provide the MAGTF commander with an Aviation Combat Element (ACE) capable of conducting air operations in support of the seizure and defense of advanced Naval bases, and conducting such land operations as may be directed by the Joint Force commander.

The ACE supports the MAGTF by providing the six functions of Marine aviation: assault support, anti-air warfare, offensive air support, electronic warfare, control of aircraft and missiles, and aerial reconnaissance.

Aviation units are organized into:

The four Marine aircraft wings are:

Logistics Combat Element

In addition to logistics, the LCE provides engineers, air and naval gunfire liaisons, maintenance troops, medical personnel, and other specialized units.

The four Marine logistics groups are:

Marine Corps Special Operations Components

Although the notion of a Marine special warfare contribution to the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) was considered as early as the founding of USSOCOM in the 1980s, it was resisted by the Marine Corps. Then Commandant Paul X. Kelley expressed the popular belief that Marines should support Marines, and that the Corps should not fund a special warfare capability that would not support Marine operations.[7] However, resistance from within the Marine Corps dissipated when Marine leaders watched the Corp's "crown jewels" - the 15th and 26th MEU (Special Operations Capable) (MEU(SOC)s) sit on the sidelines during the early stages of Operation Enduring Freedom while other special warfare units led the way.[8] After a three-year development period, the Marine Corps in 2006 agreed to supply a 2,700 - strong unit, Marine Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC), which would answer directly to USSOCOM. [9]

Marine Special Operations Command

MARSOC Emblem.jpg

The Marine Special Operations Command is the Marine Corps's special operations component that reports to United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). Also, it is the first and only fully "unconventional and special warfare" operators. Currently, MARSOC trains, organizes, equips and, when directed by the Commander, USSOCOM, deploys task organized, scalable, and responsive U.S. Marine Corps special operations forces worldwide in support of combatant commanders and other agencies.

The MSOAG, formerly the FMTU, has been operating since 2005, before MARSOC formally existed. MARSOC was formally activated during a February 24 ceremony at Camp Lejeune, N.C., where MARSOC is now headquartered. Fox Company, 2nd Marine Special Operations Battalion, was the first of the Marine Special Operations Battalions' companies to activate in the Spring of 2006. Drawing its manpower from the core of 2nd Force Reconnaissance Co., Fox Company's creation came at the expense of 2nd Force Reconnaissance Co., which stood down upon the transfer of its platoons to both MARSOC's 2nd Marine Special Operations Battalion, and a new company (Delta) of 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion.

Marine Corps (Special Operations Capable) forces

The Special Operation Capable forces are the units of the Marine Corps that are fully equipped, and prepared for any hostile, or emergency worldwide. Being very co-dependent of the air-ground task force, they are capable of conducting special operations in conventional warfare, and often overlapping in unconventional methods, comparable to other special operations forces of maritime regions. Many special mission tasks are mostly infantry support units, such as reconnaissance, ANGLICO, and others.

See also


  1. ^ "Marine Corps Organization".  
  2. ^ Krulak, Victor H. (1984). First To Fight: An Inside View of the U.S. Marine Corps. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-785-2.   Chapter 7, The Marines' Push Button 113-119
  3. ^ Clark, Adm. Vern (October 2002). "Sea Power 21". Proceedings (Naval Institute Press) (October 2002). Retrieved 2006-07-28.  
  4. ^ Lt. Col. James Kuhn. Enduring Freedom. [Film]. Department of the Navy.  
  5. ^ "MARADMIN 562/06". Renaming of the Combat Service Support Element (CSSE) to the Logistics Combat Element (LCE). US Marine Corps.  
  6. ^
  7. ^ Smith, Jr., W Thomas (2005). "Marines, Navy SEALs Forge New Special Operations Team; An exclusive interview with U.S. Navy SEAL Commander Mark Divine".,13190,082205_Marines,00.htm? Retrieved 2006-07-31.  
  8. ^ Priddy, Maj. Wade (June 2006). "Marine Detachment 1: Opening the door for a Marine force contribution to USSOCom". Marine Corps Gazette (Marine Corps Association) (June 2006): 58–59.  
  9. ^ Graham, Bradley (2005-11-2). "Elite Marine Unit to Help Fight Terrorism, Force to Be Part of Special Operations". Washington Post.  


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