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Navy SEALs vs. Marines: 3 Key Differences

Navy SEALs vs Marines surfacing

On the surface, it makes sense for someone to make a comparison like Navy SEALs vs Marines. To the unindoctrinated, these are two of the most popular and formidable military forces in the world, so naturally it would seem like a good comparison to make. However, while the two have much in common, the two forces could not be more different.

The Marine Corps is a branch of service that is a part of the Department of the Navy. While it is a part of the Navy, the Marines are their own branch. Because they are smaller, they can have exceptionally rigid standards because there are less bodies needed to fill the needs of the Corps. Marines want smart but rugged men and women.

The Navy SEALs (Sea, Air, and Land) special warfare sailors must also be smart and rugged, but their training is at a much different and higher level than that of Marines. For example, the dropout rate of Marine Corps boot camp examined in a recent study commissioned by the Marine Corps found that female recruits dropped out of training at a 13 percent rate. Male recruits dropped out at a 21 percent.

Compared to Navy SEALs, Navy SEALs vs Marines, the SEALs dropout rate is more than 85 percent.

1. Navy SEALs vs Marines (2 Different Branches)
Both the SEALs and Marines are a part of the Department of the Navy, they are both from two different branches of service. A Marine, cannot become a Navy SEAL. There is no process for that. Now, that is not to say that Marines cannot leave the Marine Corps and become Navy SEALs. That has happened, but there is no direct pipeline for a Marine to join the SEALs. Each is in their own branch of service.

Marine Corps training can certainly help a SEAL candidate because the Marine will have the experiences of Marine Corps training to fall back upon. Physically, mentally, emotionally, a SEAL candidate who served in the Corps might have an edge over others in the class.

Navy SEALs vs Marines

Similarly, a SEAL cannot become a Marine. There is no process stream for that action. If a SEAL wanted to become a Marine they would have to complete their term with the Navy and then apply to become a Marine. And here’s the kicker, if accepted, despite all of the badass training that the SEAL completed, they would still have to attend and successfully complete all Marine Corps training, including boot camp. The Marines have policies that stipulate that all Marines must go through their basic enlisted or officer training.

Navy SEALs vs Marines? In this case, the SEALs are more highly trained and if a SEAL went to the Marine Corps, it would be considered by most as a step backwards, but one of the great things about the Marine Corps is that they have high standards. If a Navy SEAL wanted to earn the Eagle, Globe and Anchor (EGA), they would have to do it like everyone else and earn it. Just because they are Navy SEALs, does not give them the right to wear the EGA. That probably might not make sense to many, but it definitely makes sense to us. That’s why they’re the few and the proud.

2. Navy SEALs vs Marines (Training is different)
While Marine Corps boot camp is the most challenging initial military training of all the branches, it is also the longest. However, it is initial military training. It is a place where civilians are taught to wear a uniform, how to perform military customs and courtesies, how to walk and talk like a Marine. Civilians are transformed at boot camp. They learn to use weapons and they themselves, become weapons. But we cannot lose sight of the fact that it is, basic training. Yes, it is hard. Yes, it is the hardest boot camp out of all of the services, but it is nowhere near as hard as the training that Navy SEALs endure. Navy SEALs vs Marines? SEAL training is much harder than Marine Corp boot camp; by a lot.

Navy SEAL candidates endure a grueling program that most would agree is the toughest training in any branch of service. SEAL classes have an 85 percent dropout rate and the training to become a SEAL lasts for about a year compared to three months of Marine boot camp. Not to mention, SEAL candidates must attend Navy basic training first before they attend SEAL training.

Navy SEALs vs Marines boat

SEALs then are trained at HALO (high altitude low opening parachuting), HAHO (high altitude high opening parachuting), SCUBA and all sorts of other rigorous schools. SEAL training is far harder and far more technical.

3. Navy SEALs vs Marines (Operator vs Rifleman)
Third, SEALs become special operators upon completion of six months of Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) Training and roughly four months of high-paced advanced tactical training known as SEAL Qualification Training (SQT). While some may attend additional training opportunities, most will join a SEAL team and start platoon training not long thereafter.

Things are different for Marines. Upon completion of boot camp, recruits become Marines and some will work as aircraft mechanics, others might work in personnel, and others might serve as supply personnel. The point is that not all Marines become part of a tactical force. And even if they did, they would be basic infantrymen.

SEALs specialize in combat arms trades. They will all have specialties and some will become snipers, explosive experts, medical, and other related specialties. Some of the teams specialize in counterterrorism and direct action, so there are not a lot of desk jobs for SEALs.

Navy SEALs vs Marines haircut

The two are very different in this regard. While it is true that every Marine is a rifleman, not every Marine is a special operator. Yes, some Marines go on to become Force Recon Marines which are basically special operators, but those are a select few. In the case of SEALs, every SEAL is an operator.

Navy SEALs vs Marines? Well, much depends on what you want to do. If you just want to serve, but you want a difficult challenge and you want to earn something, then the Marines are for you. Earning the EGA will make you a part of one of the oldest military families in the world.

If you are looking for the ultimate physical, mental and emotional challenge, then the Navy SEALs are it.

Comments on this post ( 11 )

  • Mar 28, 2024

    First of all, the drop out rate doesn’t mean anything. Did any of you keyboard warriors ever think that maybe the Marine Corps basic training drop out rate is lower than the SEAL’s because the Marine Corps Drill Instructors are far better trainers than the SEAL instructors? Look at the history of the Marine Corps. 249 years of excellence. Not just winning battles but winning entire wars. The first special op was Presley O’Bannon taking Derna in 1805. I judge training by the results that it reaps. Marines are far better than SEAL’s. Just a simple fact.

    — Harry Post

  • Jan 15, 2024

    This sounds like a Navy Seals mom wrote this article? Why would you compare special operations training of one branch to basic training of another branch?

    — Charles

  • Dec 02, 2023

    To Marianne Guevara,
    An excellent book to read about an exceptional Marine is called Marine Rifleman by Wesley L Fox. It’s his story from boot camp as a private to Colonel. He was also awarded the Medal of Honor.

    — Dennis Kargul

  • Nov 28, 2023

    I and my team served alongside SEAL Team 10 “Desert Frogs” in the AOR around Fallujah in 2006/2007 timeframe. They were completely unprepared for sustained ground combat ops, nor the intensity of combat WE MARINES dealt with on daily basis. When I asked the team leader where the hell he learned to go on a patrol in a tactical column formation…he said “Fort Bragg”…apparently they attended a shortened version of the Army’s basic infantry course.

    These jokers showed up with 10+ inch barreled M4s, SIG 9mm, and the absolute shitshow of a “tactical collector” they had to support them was a complete lardass (kid you not folks) from DIA who carried a Glock with a mag in it that stuck out close to 2" beyond the magazine well, and maybe a 13" long barrelled H&K or M4 rifle.

    It was embarassing watching them try to go after a local IED cell walking along the main water canal in Zaidon. They didnt even bother to properly study the terrain topography, build a sand table, or they would have known a small unit could use the dried out wadis (dried out Euphrates river canals) which were perfect natural concealment for one’s movement at night or day.

    Just finished reading an article which went in depth through all the discipline problems SEAL Team Six (DEVGRU) has had since 2001 with unanswered war crimes, mutilations of enemy bodies, canoeing of enemy heads’, taking ears as souvenirs, etc.

    It was sad to read because I know thousands of Navy SEALs serve/d very Honorably, as quiet professionals, and gave their hearts/minds/lives for our country and the constitution, and to earn their Trident. I hold those men/women in very high regard…but the ones who got away with murders, war crimes, etc. are dulling the shine of the Trident which stands for some of the finest warriors the Navy has to offer.

    DEVGRU and NSW’s WARCOM need to pull their heads out of their ass and get back to basics of excellence through bringing back pride in military bearing and discipline. One doesn’t need a beard and endless tats (tatoos) and look like a bag of ass in uniform or in-country during combat to be a great SEAL operator!

    Much love to my Navy brothers-in-arms who hold high the torch!

    Semper Fi

    — James Felps

  • Nov 27, 2023

    Becoming a Marine was one of the best things I could have done. Becoming a Marine from being a civilian is much harder than becoming a Seal. We have to learn from scratch. Seals have formal training. Seals are already in shape. It seems someone is trying to compare Marine Boot Camp to Seal Training. Please stop there is nothing like becoming a Marine. Remember the Few, the Proud, the Marines.

    — Eddie L. Crishom Jr

  • Nov 27, 2023

    I agree with Stan statement completely.
    Semper FI

    — Michael Mikulovsky

  • Nov 06, 2023

    Navy seals have to go through basic Navy training before they go to BUDS.
    a reason why Buds training is so long and difficult would be the fact that the Navy has no infantry training . the students who attend Buds are already behind compared to Rangers Green Berets and Marine Raiders. take out the underwater demolition training and it cuts the length in half.

    — Patrick Cotter

  • Sep 19, 2023

    When comparing NAVY SEALS to others in the US Military one MUST compare special operation Groups. If you want to compare branches then one can compare Navy v Army v Marines etc. The Teams are not a branch of the US military but a SOG of the United States Navy. Force Recon and the Raiders would be a SOG of the Marines and the Rangers and Green Berets would be a SOG of the Army. Seals and all SOG unit members must be able to acquire a TSC and succeed in their specialized training. That said I agree the Seals have the most difficult training.

    — Michael J. Foy

  • Jun 01, 2023

    Excellent analysis –
    LCPL T. H. Macmanus USMC
    1918896 1960-1962

    — Thomas Macmanus

  • Jun 01, 2023

    Hello! What would be a good basic book on the US Marine Corp for a civilian to read who wants to understand something of the history, training and operations? We have just finished two years sponsoring a Naval Academy midshipman who was just commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Corp. and we want to become knowledgeable about his new life. He was in the top 1% of his class and was awarded a full scholarship to Cambridge to earn his Masters in Economics.

    Marianne Guevara

    — Marianne Guevara

  • May 08, 2023

    While it is true that a SEAL receives much more training than the “basic Marine”, this is not an “apple to apple” comparison. SEALS are a specialized unit within the Navy. Want a fare comparison? Try Marine Raiders vs. Navy SEALS.
    Semper Fi

    — Stan

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