Differences between U.S. Marines and U.S. Army

Marines are often confused with soldiers, who are members of United States Army. Some differences in appearance are:

  • Marines do not wear berets.
  • Marines wear boots only with the utility uniform, not other uniforms.
  • Reflecting their naval heritage, Marines do not salute unless they are wearing a hat (known as a ‘cover’)
  • The Marine service uniform, roughly equivalent to business attire, has a khaki shirt. The equivalent Army uniform has a light-green shirt. Enlisted Marines wear their rank insignia on the sleeve of the service shirt, but Army privates and specialists wear their rank on the collar, and NCOs wear theirs on shoulder epaulets. Marine officers wear rank insignia on the collar, whereas Army officers wear their rank insignia in a similar manner as that of NCOs.
  • The Marine class “A” service coat is olive green (as opposed to forest green for the Army) and has a waist-belt, formerly a Garrison belt for enlisted Marines and the Sam Browne belt for officers. The Marine service uniform is worn with either a barracks (service) cover, which has a bill and a round top, or a garrison cover, which comes to a peak.
  • Marines are less generous with awards and unit identification; the rationale behind this is that as a member of an elite force, it is enough to be identified simply as a Marine. For example, with the exception of breast insignia denoting a few specialized qualifications such as airborne (parachute), pilot or scuba/rebreather qualification, and small red patches sewn on the utility trouser legs and covers of some logistics Marines, Marines do not normally wear any insignia or device on their utility uniforms denoting their unit, MOS (military occupational specialty), or training. Further, many senior Marines involved in ground combat operations eschew the wearing of rank insignia in combat, on the theory that it simply makes them targets (as in Vietnam). Enlisted Marines are supposed to know who their leaders are, regardless of whether or not they are wearing rank insignia.

Utility uniform

Differences in the utility uniform include:

  • The cover (hat) of the utility uniform is constructed differently. Marine covers have eight sides and corners (hence the name “eight-point cover”).
  • Marines wear green-colored “skivvie” undershirts with their utility uniform, even in the desert. Soldiers wear brown undershirts.
  • Soldiers roll up the sleeves of their utility uniform so the camouflage is facing out. Marines roll their sleeves so that the lighter-colored underside faces out (known as “white-side out”).
  • Marines “blouse” their boots. That is, they roll the cuffs of their trousers back inside and tighten them over the boots with a cord or an elastic band known as a boot band. Soldiers either blouse their boots or tuck their trousers directly into their boots.
  • Marines do not wear any rank insignia or other device on the utility cover. The front of the cover has instead the Marine Corps Eagle, Globe, and Anchor emblem, and since the introduction of the MARPAT pattern, this insignia has been embroidered directly on the front–not ironed on as on previous covers.
  • On their utility uniforms, Marine officers typically wear their rank insignia on both collars, while Army officers, since the introduction of the new Army Combat Uniform (which mocks the MARPAT pattern), wear their rank insignia on a flap located on the front of the ACU shirt. In garrison, Marine officers typically wear collar insignia made of shiny metal, as opposed to the “subdued” stitched-on insignia worn by Army officers.
  • Marines wear a colored belt, often referred to as a “rigger’s belt”, that is color coded to represent their specific qualification under the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program.
  • Marines used to wear black combat boots with the utility uniform, as do the Army and Air Force. But in 2002, light-brown suede combat boots were introduced along with a new type of camouflage, the “MARPAT” uniform. (See photo.) Effective 1 October 2004, black combat boots were declared obsolete and no longer authorized for general wear by Marines. Exception is made for black safety boots worn for certain tasks, such as parachuting.
  • As of 1 October 2006, the old-style camouflage utility uniform, also worn by the Army and Air Force, will be declared obsolete. The only utility uniform authorized for Marines will be the MARPAT uniform.
  • As of 2004, both the Army and the Air Force have announced plans to replace their old-style “pickle suit” camouflage utility uniforms with newer designs similar to the Marine Corps digital “MARPAT” pattern. The Navy has started experimentations on the replacement of their “dungaree” and Officer/Chief Petty Officer uniforms with a variation of the “MARPAT” pattern.