How to Speak to a Marine

If you wish to continue communicating with your Recruit, even when he or she becomes a Marine you will have to learn a new language.

First, a couple of big NO NOs.

It is the United States Marine Corps, not Corp. A Corps is a military unit smaller than an Army and larger than a division. Corp is the abbreviation for Corporation.

Marines go to Boot Camp, not basic training. The Corps goes well beyond the basics and returns a well trained gentleman or lady to the society from which it harvests recruits.

Drill Instructors make Marines, Drill Sergeants herd soldiers. The first of the Army Drill Sergeants were trained at Marine Corps Drill Instructor School.

After becoming a Marine at Boot Camp graduation Marines go to Marine Combat Training at either Camp Lejeune, NC (Camp Geiger area) or Camp Pendleton, CA. At 4-weeks of MCT they are taught soldiering skills. The exception is that Marines with the Infantry MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) go directly to the SOI (School of Infantry) at Lejeune or Pendleton.

Every Marine is a rifleman. They may have other technical skills but every Marine can pick up a basic infantryman’s weapon and fall into an infantry company seamlessly–the necessary skills are imbued into every Marine.

The Marine Corps is historically part of the Navy and Navy tradition and language permeates the lives of every Marine. When a Marine finishes boot camp, MCT and technical school they are assigned “to the fleet”. Even though Marines are no longer assigned to ship’s companies as “Seagoing Marines” their regular job is always “in the fleet”–even if it is in an air wing.

Marines use Navy language–some of which is: Toilet = head; floor = deck; wall = bulkhead; ceiling = overhead; rumor = skuttlebut. Learn more of the Marine language. But please do not be offended, some of the language is obscene and politically incorrect.

“Aye” means yes to a Marine. “Aye, Aye” means I understand and will carry out your order.

Marines NEVER salute indoors unless they are carrying a weapon or are “on duty”.

Semper Fi is short for Semper Fidelis which is Latin for Always Faithful. Unofficially some Marines will use Semper Gumby meaning Always Flexible.

When the Marines Hymn (never call it the Marine Corps Hymn) is played a Marine will snap to attention and remain in that position until the song is complete. Every Marine knows all three verses of the Marines Hymn and even a couple of alternates–some of which can even be sung in mixed company.

There are no ex-Marines or former-Marines, there are only Marines. “Once a Marine always a Marine,” it’s just that some are on active duty, others are reservists while still others are retired and very many are not currently on duty–but they are always ready to grab a weapon and fall into a fireteam if called upon. The Marine Corps is the only service in which it is possible to refer to every member with one term. From the newest boot camp graduate to the Commandant of the Marine Corps every one will happily respond to “Marine”.

“Oohrah” is a motivational word used by Marines to punctuate sentences. It is pronounced with feeling and incites the juices to flow. The Army has tried to steal it with “Hoo-ah” but has manifestly failed. The Army also stole Marine “Cammies” and called them BDUs (Battle Dress Uniforms). Marines now wear “pixels” in the field (the Army has now adopted a “pixelated” uniform of their oen). Marines never wear fatigues and the field uniform is sometimes called utilities.

And one final point. While recruits are not Marines, they are members of the United States Marine Corps for legal purposes. They join the Marine Corps when they raise their right hand the first time–it is automatic. BUT, they are not Marines until they earn the title–at Boot Camp graduation.

So good luck communicting with your Marine (or perhaps Marine Recruit).

Glenn B. Knight
Veteran Sergeant of Marines
Seagoing Marine (USS Independence)