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Marine Corps Officer Ranks & Insignia: A Guide

Marine Corps Officer Ranks Image of a Marine Captain

Marine Corps Officer Ranks (Introduction)

The United States Marine Corps is known for its rigorous training and high standard of discipline, producing some of the finest officers in the military. With a structure built around a strong system of rank and authority, it is important for Marines, veterans, and military members alike to understand the various officer ranks and their responsibilities. In this blog post, we will provide a comprehensive guide to the Marine Corps officer ranks. For the sake of brevity, we will focus only on commissioned officers and we did not include warrant officers or non-commissioned officers.

Marine Corps Officer Ranks (Junior/Company-grade officers)

Although they are sometimes referred to as junior officers, don’t be fooled. Second Lieutenants, First Lieutenants, and Captains have important responsibilities in most cases as they comprise the core leadership at the company level. They are often charged with carrying out the directives of higher-ranking officers in their chain of command and enforcing Marine Corps standards. They serve as sub-team company leaders in platoons and as the leadership staff of a company which is why they are referred to as company-grade officers.

The first officer rank, the lowest rank in the officer ranks in the Marine Corps is that of Second Lieutenant. Many “butter bars” serve initially as platoon commanders or small team leaders, hopefully following the sage advice of venerated non-commissioned officers who normally have considerable operational experience than their professionally and biologically younger Marine second lieutenants. These NCOs are critical in the development of young officers and they help transform them into strong Marine leaders. They are informally and unofficially called butter bars because their rank insignia looks like a stick of butter.

Marine Corps Officer Ranks Marine Captain leading Marines

The second officer rank is First Lieutenant. First lieutenants, or “Lieutenants” as they are referred to, often serve as company executive officers or like second lieutenants, platoon commanders. They are responsible for implementing and executing the orders of their commanding officers. They also provide leadership to their subordinates and ensure the mission is carried out. Their rank insignia looks like a silver stick of butter.

The final rank in the company grade officer ranks is Captain. Some argue that next to warrant officers that this is the best rank in the Marine Corps. Captains ordinarily are company commanders or staff officers. They lead larger groups of Marines or help a staff serve a larger unit of Marines. They are responsible for operational planning and execution, as well as ensuring that all regulations and policies are followed. Their rank insignia is sometimes referred to as "railroad tracks" because of the resemblance to railway tracks.

Marine Corps Officer Ranks (Field Grade Officers)

Field grade officers are titled accordingly because they are officers who provide leadership to organizations that are in the field. They are leading or helping to lead, in the field, larger military organizations that are comprised of small company sized units. That means that usually they are located with those units and not in a headquarters somewhere. However, it is important to note, there are plenty of field grade officers who are headquarters staffers who do not serve in the field with maneuvering forces. Field grade officers are majors, lieutenant colonels, and colonels.

Majors are staff officers or battalion commanders and are responsible for leading a large number of Marines to accomplish major strategic goals. They must have a deep understanding of military tactics and strategy, and must be able to effectively communicate with their superiors and subordinates alike. Ordinarily at this stage, officers start to expand their strategic military knowledge and by now many have graduate degrees. Some attend strategic military colleges and others participate in special fellowships, giving them exposure to the business community and elected leaders to help them expand their knowledge base. Majors wear gold oak leaf clusters as rank insignias.

Marine Corps Officer Ranks Marine Colonel

Lieutenant Colonels are battalion commanders or staff officers and are responsible for managing personnel and equipment within their command. They are often involved in strategic planning and future predictions, and must be able to quickly adapt to changes on the battlefield. "Lite colonels," as they are sometimes called, wear silver oak leaf clusters as their rank insignia.

Colonels are the highest-ranking field grade officers. Colonels are also responsible for managing personnel and resources, but on a much larger scale. They are often involved in major strategic decisions and must have a deep understanding of modern warfare. Colonels, or "full birds," as they are respectfully referred to, wear eagles as a rank insignia, as shown above.

Marine Corps Officer Ranks (General Officers)

There is often confusion, sometimes even by those who wear the uniform, about what generals are called. Some believe, incorrectly, that general officers are synonymous with the term flag officers. That is untrue.

A flag officer is a Navy officer who has reached the O-7 through O-10 pay grades. Therefore, they are entitled to fly a flag which displays their rank. However, in the Army, Air Force and Marine Corps, officers in those pay grades are referred to as general officers. The confusion might come from the fact that general officers are also allowed to fly a fly denoting their rank, but only the Navy has flag officers.

The first general officer rank is that of a one-star general, also known as Brigadier General. A general officer, brigadier generals are responsible for leading a number of battalions (normally led by lieutenant colonels) or other large military organizations. They serve as intermediaries between high-level military leaders and the lower-ranking officers. They wear one silver star as a rank insignia.

Marine Corps Officer Ranks General Officer

The second general officer rank is Major General, sometimes known as a "two-star general." Like brigadier generals they lead a number of battalions or other organizations. They must have extensive experience in both combat and administrative functions, and are often involved in strategic planning on a global scale. They wear two silver stars to denote their rank.

Lieutenant Generals are high-level commanders responsible for overseeing entire regions or theaters of war. They must be able to make strategic decisions that can affect large numbers of personnel and equipment, and must be able to communicate effectively with high-level civilian and military leaders alike. They wear silver three-star insignia.

Lastly, the highest rank in the Marine Corps is that of General. They are often referred to as "four-star generals" because they wear four silver stars to indicate their rank. Generals are responsible for overseeing the entire organization. They must have a deep understanding of modern warfare and be able to make strategic decisions on a global scale. Generals are also responsible for providing leadership and guidance to their subordinates, and for ensuring that the Marine Corps maintains the highest level of readiness.

Marine Corps Officer Ranks (Conclusion)

Understanding the ranks and responsibilities of Marine Corps officers and those who wear Marine Corps Officer Ranks is crucial for anyone interested in joining the military, or for those who have already served. From the second lieutenant who is just starting out to the highest-ranking general, every officer plays a critical role in the success of the mission.

Remember, all Marines are leaders, and all Marines uphold the core values and traditions of the Marine Corps. For a full list of Marine Corps officer ranks please visit USAMM’s Marine Corps officer ranks page.

Marine Corps Officer Ranks (Summary)

  • Company Grade Officers: Second Lieutenant, First Lieutenant, Captain
  • Field Grade Officers: Major, Lieutenant Colonel, Colonel
  • General Officers: Brigadier General, Major General, Lieutenant General, General

USMC Mascot: What is the Mascot of the U.S. Marine Corps?


What is the mascot of the U.S. Marine Corps?
The U.S. Army’s Military Academy has a mule for a mascot. The U.S. Naval Academy has a goat. The U.S. Air Force has a falcon, and the Coast Guard Academy has a bear. These are the mascots for the service academies, but there is only one branch of service with an official mascot that is not attached or associated to a service academy, and that is the U.S. Marine Corps mascot. What is the mascot of the U.S. Marine Corps? Marines are proud to have English bulldogs as their mascots.

If you’ve ever asked yourself, what is the mascot of the U.S. Marine Corps we can expound. The tradition of having an English bulldog as the Marine Corps mascot started during World War I. The Marines from 1st Battalion, 6th Marines had respectfully earned their nom de guerre after fighting fiercely against the Germans in France at Belleau Wood. The Germans called the Marines “teufel hunden” which means devil dogs in German folklore. The nickname stuck and from then on, Marines were also known affectionately as “devil dogs.”

After WWI, Marines at Marine base Quantico obtained a registered English bulldog named King Bulwark, but according to the Defense Department, during a formal ceremony on Oct. 14, 1922, U.S. Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Smedley D. Butler signed documents enlisting him into the Corps, and renaming him Pvt. Jiggs, for the “term of life.” On New Year’s Day 1924, Jiggs was promoted to sergeant and seven months later, he was promoted to sergeant major. When he died four years after enlisting, he was buried with military honors. This should have put an end to the people asking what is the mascot of the U.S. Marine Corps? But it didn’t.

World War II
Asking the question what is the mascot of the U.S. Marine Corps is less important than asking the reason why bulldogs were chosen to be the Marine Corps mascot. Sure, it is important to know what is the mascot of the U.S. Marine Corps, but even more important to know why. As we’ve explained, part of the reason is because the Marines fought hard at Belleau Wood, but another reason why is because Winston Churchill had a bulldog, and it was often used as a symbol of British defiance of Nazi Germany during World War II.

When America entered WWII, the Marines had already been respectfully anointed by their enemy as devil dogs so naturally when Churchill’s ever-present bulldog was coupled with Marine Corps lore, it came as no surprise that a bulldog was put on a Marine Corps recruitment poster during WWII. The poster featured a bulldog wearing a helmet while chasing a fleeing German dachshund in a German helmet. Not to mention, bulldogs are famous worldwide as symbols of courage.

But wait, as they say on television commercials, there’s more when it comes to answering the question what is the mascot of the U.S. Marine Corps?

In 1957, the Marines started the tradition of naming their mascots “Chesty.” The question what is the mascot of the U.S. Marine Corps became less important because by then, most knew that it was the English bulldog. The focus shifted to why were the mascots named Chesty?

Chesty the Legend
The name Chesty is to pay homage to Marine Lt. Gen. Lewis Burwell “Chesty” Puller. During his Marine Corps service from 1918 to 1955, Puller became the most decorated Marine in U.S. history, earning five Navy Crosses and an Army Distinguished Service Cross. He served in Central America, World War II and the Korean War. As a tribute to the legendary man, the Corps found a way to have him live on.

Since 1957, there have been numerous mascots and today, the sixteenth iteration of Chesty is serving in the Marine Corps at Marine Barracks Washington, D.C.

The mascots serve a four-year enlistment and are then discharged into the care of an adoptive family who cares for them in retirement. Puppies are selected to replace the incumbents and begin socialization training usually under the presence and tutelage of the reigning Chesty. Puppies earn the rank of private once they complete training. Once the training is complete, the new Chesty assumes the position and the retiring Chesty enjoys retirement.

Marine Corps mascots have participated in evening parades and in other special events since their inception in 1957. What is the mascot of the U.S. Marine Corps? An English bulldog named Chesty, but did you know that the Marine Corps mascot is not alone?

Who Let the Dogs Out?
Bulldogs serve at boot camp training installations, where, like Chesty, they also participate in parades, ceremonies, and morale-boosting activities. Opha Mae II is named after Opha Mae Johnson, the woman considered to be the first female Marine. Opha Mae I also set her own precedent becoming the first female bulldog mascot in the Marine Corps. Opha Mae II currently serves as Parris Island’s 21st mascot, according to the Marine Corps.

What is the mascot of the U.S. Marine Corps at the training base in San Diego? His name is Manny, and he is, you guessed it, an English Bulldog. He is named in honor of Sgt Johnny R. Manuelito, Sr., one of the Navajo Code Talkers who trained in the first All Navajo Platoon on the base in San Diego in 1942. Manuelito helped create the code that the Navajos used during the war. He became an instructor, teaching other Navajo Marines the code. Later, Manuelito participated in the battle of Iwo Jima, where a Marine signals officer stated, had it not been for the Code Talkers, the Marines would have never taken Iwo Jima.

One of the more famous mascots was Chesty VI who got in a lot of trouble in 1979. In fact, he was reduced in rank from private first class to private for disobeying an order and destroying property. He had been ordered to stay away from a punching bag by his handler, a gunnery sergeant. The dog destroyed the bag.

Two years later, he received nonjudicial punishment for biting two corporals according to Marine Corps charge sheets. He was also given two weeks extra duty. Marines have their standards and they won't let that go to the dogs.

Female Marines: Celebrating 100 Years of Women in the Corps


The struggle for women in the U.S. military dates back to as long as there has been a nation. Women were only permitted to serve as cooks, medical, or clerical personnel and in many cases were not allowed to serve as uniformed service members. For female Marines, the story isn’t much different.

The first of the female Marines was Opha May Johnson who joined the Marine Corps Reserve in 1918. She was the first of 305 women to fill a clerical billet at Marine Corps Headquarters which allowed male Marines to ship to France to fight in World War I. About a year later, Johnson and others were separated after the end of the war.

During World War II, the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve was established in February 1943. Before World War II ended, more than 23,000 officer and enlisted female Marines (reservists) served in the Corps. Unlike their predecessors, female Marines in World War II performed more than 200 military assignments. In addition to clerical work, female Marines also performed duties as parachute riggers, mechanics, radio operators, map makers, motor transport support, and welders.

By June 1944, female Marines (reservists) made up 85 percent of the enlisted personnel on duty at Headquarters, Marine Corps and almost two-thirds of the personnel manning all major posts and stations in the United States and Hawaii. Following the surrender of Japan, demobilization of the Women’s Reserve proceeded rapidly, but a number of female Marines returned to service as regulars in the Marine Corps under the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act of 1948.

In August 1950, for the first time in history, female Marines were mobilized for the Korean War where the number of female Marines on active duty was more than 2,700. Like the female Marines who had served in two wars before them, female Marines performed stateside duty and freed up male Marines for combat duty.

Female Marines continued to serve and by the Vietnam War, there were about 2,700 female Marines on active duty serving both stateside and overseas. During the war, the Marine Corps also began opening up career-type formal training programs to female Marine officers and advanced technical training to enlisted female Marines. By 1975, the Marine Corps approved the assignment of women to all occupational fields except infantry, artillery, armor and pilot/air crew.

In 1978, Col. Margaret A. Brewer was appointed as a brigadier general becoming the first female Marine general officer in the history of the Marine Corps.

In 1985, Col. Gail M. Reals became the first female Marine selected by a board of general officers to be advanced to brigadier general.

During the early 1990s, approximately 1,000 female Marines were deployed to Southwest Asia for Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

In 1992, Brig. Gen. Carol A. Mutter assumed command of the 3d Force Service Support Group, Okinawa, and is the first of female Marines to command a Fleet Marine Force unit at the flag level. Mutter would later be the first female Marine to become a major general and the second woman in U.S. military history to earn three-stars in 1996.

In 1993, 2nd Lt. Sarah Deal is the first female Marine selected for Naval aviation training.  

In 2002, 1st Lt. Vernice Armour became the first female Marine to be an African-American combat pilot in the Marine Corps.

Today, female Marines account for around four percent of all Marine officers. Female Marines make up about five percent of the active-duty enlisted force in the Marine Corps. In 2016, the Department of Defense opened all military occupations to women.

Below are some key dates and milestones in the history of female Marines in the Marine Corps.

Captain Anne Lentz, part of the female Marines, becomes the first commissioned officer in the USMC.

In March, 722 enlisted female Marines of the Women Reserves begins training at the U.S. Naval Training School at Hunter College, NY.

A class of 71 officer candidate female Marines enters U.S. Naval Midshipmen’s School at Mt Holyoke, MA.

In April, the first class of enlisted female Marines graduated and reported to active duty. Approximately 525 women entered training every two weeks.

In May, the first class of female Marines officer candidates graduates and reports for duty.

In July, training for female Marines who are enlisted and officer candidates is transferred to Camp Lejeune, NC. Basic training for female Marines and much of their occupational training is at Lejeune throughout the war.

On January 29, the first detachment of female Marines, five officers and 160 enlisted women, arrives in Hawaii for duty.

In June, the commandant of the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve Policy Board recommends the retention of a small number of female Marines to serve as trained cadre for possible mobilization emergencies.

The Women’s Armed Services Integration Act of 1948 authorizes 100 regular female Marines (officers), 10 female Marines (warrant officers), and 1,000 enlisted female Marines.

On Nov. 10, eight female Marines are sworn in as first regular female Marines.

The 3d Recruit Battalion at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island is reactivated for training non-veteran female Marines. Female Marines (recruits) began arriving at Parris Island and formed the first platoon of 50 regular female Marines to take a six-weeks training course.

The first African-American woman, Annie E. Graham of Detroit, Michigan, enlisted in the female Marines. On the following day, Ann E. Lamb joined at New York City. The two women reported to Parris Island on September 10, 1949. Both subsequently reported for duty at Headquarters Marine Corps and became the first African American female Marines.

Annie L. Grimes, who would later become a chief warrant officer, enlisted into the female Marines and went to boot camp in February. Female Marines have always trained and worked in a fully integrated environment. They were never segregated due to race.

Col. Katherine A. Towle, Director of Women Marines, became the first woman line officer to retire from U.S. military service on reaching the mandatory retirement age of 55.

Master Gunnery Sergeant Geraldine M. Moran becomes the first of female Marines to become an E-9.

The first of female Marines is promoted to sergeant major (E-9). Sgt. Maj. Bertha Peters Billeb would also become the first woman to retire from the USMC with more than 30 years of service.

Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Carol Mutter becomes the first female three-star officer in the U.S. Armed Forces as she assumed the position of Deputy Chief of Staff for Manpower and Reserve Affairs at Headquarters Marine Corps in Washington, D.C.

The first three female Marines graduate from the Marine Corps’ enlisted infantry training course. PFC Christina Fuentes Montenegro, PFC Julia Carroll and PFC Katie Gorz.

Secretary of Defense Carter Ash removes all restrictions, opens all military occupations to women.

The first female Marines graduate from the Marine Corps’ Infantry Officer Course.

Marine PFC Maria Daume is the first female Marine to join the infantry through the traditional entry-level training process.

The Marine Corps’ first female armor officer, 2nd Lt. Lillian R. Polatchek, graduated from Army’s Basic Armor Officer Leaders Course at Fort Benning, Georgia. She became the first woman to lead a Marine tank platoon.

Lt. Marina A. Hierl became the first and only woman to lead an infantry platoon.

Lt. Col. Michelle Macander took over command of the 1st Combat Engineer Battalion at Camp Pendleton making her the first female Marine to command a ground combat arms unit.

There are of course dozens and dozens of firsts that females have accomplished in the Marine Corps but unfortunately, we can’t cover them all.

Today, female Marines are blazing trails throughout the Marine Corps. With military occupations wide open to them, they are showing that women have always been able to perform whatever is expected of Marines because they are in fact, Marines, and have earned the title.

USMC Awards & Medals: How They Should be Worn


How to wear U.S. Marine Corps awards is covered in Marine Corps Uniform Regulations MCO 1020.34H dated 1 May 2018. The regulation is pretty straightforward and guides Marines on how to wear USMC awards.

In fact, Chapter 5, page 1-108 is where any Marine should start reading if they want to learn about the wear of USMC awards and the Marine Corps awards order. But given the many uniforms the Marine Corps has, and the differences in uniforms between the genders, we will focus this post on the more popular uniforms that are worn by most Marines who have USMC awards.

USMC Awards
According to the Marine Corps uniform regulations, USMC awards, in particular, authorized insignia “will be worn on the left breast of all service and dress coats. It may be worn at the individual's option on khaki shirts worn as the outer garment (with or without ribbons), utility coats or the maternity work uniform coats. Miniature insignia, one-half regular size, will be worn on evening dress jackets. Breast insignia will not be worn on the cloak/cape, AWC, extreme cold weather parka, tanker jacket, field coat or sweater.

“Anodized breast insignia will be worn on all evening dress and dress uniforms. Either anodized or oxidized (also known as “antique” finish) breast insignia may be worn at the individual’s option on the service uniforms, but mixing of anodized and oxidized breast insignia is not authorized. Only anodized Marine Special Operator insignia will be worn on the dress and service uniforms. When breast insignia are worn on the utility uniform, anodized or oxidized breast insignia will be worn, with the exception that subdued brown or black breast insignia may be prescribed in a field environment in lieu of oxidized breast insignia. Only oxidized Marine Special Operator insignia will be worn on the utility uniform,” according to the USMC awards regulation section, Chapter 5 of the Marine Corps uniform regulations.

“When worn on the dress coat, service coat, khaki shirt, or maternity tunic, the insignia will be placed with wings horizontal and parallel to the top of the breast pockets (if any). On women's coats and combat utility uniform coats with slanted pockets, a horizontal line tangent to the highest point of the pocket (or top corner of the service tape in the case of the combat utility uniform coat) is considered the top of the pocket. When worn alone on the dress and service coats and shirts, the insignia will be worn in the same position a single ribbon would be worn. When worn with medals, ribbons, or marksmanship badges, the bottom of the insignia will be centered 1/8 inch above the top row of such awards. When successively decreasing rows of ribbon bars are worn (as in subparagraph 5301.5), and the top row of ribbons is such that centering the insignia presents an unsatisfactory appearance, the insignia may be centered between the outer edge of the coat lapel and the left edge of the vertically aligned ribbon rows,” according to the USMC awards regulation section, Chapter 5 of the Marine Corps uniform regulations.

USMC Awards and Awards from Other Branches
If you are a Marine who served in another branch of military service, you may be authorized to wear your previously earned awards with USMC awards. According to Marine Corps uniform regulations, “Marines who served in or were attached to another branch of the U.S. military services and received a decoration, unit award, or service award of comparable criteria to one issued by the naval service may wear the award on Marine Corps uniforms, unless otherwise prohibited by these regulations.”

The Marine Corps uniform regulations covering USMC awards continues: “Examples of other U.S. service awards which are not authorized include: marksmanship medals/ribbons (Navy/Coast Guard/Air Force), USAF Outstanding Airman of the Year, USAF Recognition Ribbon, USAF Longevity Service Award, NCO Professional Development/Education ribbons (Army/Air Force), Army Service/USAF training ribbons.

“The Combat Infantryman's Badge, Combat Medical Badge, and Combat Action Badge are not authorized for wear on the Marine Corps uniform. Upon submission of evidence to their commanding officer, personnel who are awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge or Combat Medical Badge may be authorized to wear the Combat Action Ribbon. Since the eligibility criteria for the Combat Action Badge is not comparable to that of the Combat Action Ribbon, personnel who were awarded the Combat Action Badge are not authorized to wear the Combat Action Ribbon.”

USMC Awards on Civilian Attire
USMC awards on civilian attire are also covered in the Marine Corps uniform regulations. It says “Decorations, medals, appropriate ribbon bars, or lapel buttons may be worn on civilian clothes at the individual's discretion, per the guidance provided below. Individuals should ensure that the occasion and the manner of wearing will not reflect discredit on the award.

Miniature medals may be worn with civilian evening dress (see paragraph 5203). The Medal of Honor may be worn with civilian evening dress. It will be worn around the neck with the ribbon under the coat jacket and the medallion hanging one inch below the bow tie. Miniature replicas of ribbons made in the form of enameled lapel buttons, or ribbons made in rosette form, may be worn on the left lapel of civilian clothes except civilian evening dress. Enameled lapel buttons should be worn with the long axis parallel to the ground.

“Honorable discharge, retirement, and FMCR buttons may be worn on the left lapel of civilian clothes except civilian evening dress. Those buttons manufactured with prong and clutch fasteners may be worn as tie tacks.”

USMC Awards and Decorations
USMC awards, with the exception of those decorations worn pendent from the neck, will be arranged in a horizontal line in order of precedence from the wearer’s right when medals are worn. The bottom edge of all medallions will be aligned.

“Hamilton Wash large and miniature medals, also known as ‘anodized,’ may be worn at the individual's option. Marines who exercise this option will have their own medals anodized at their own expense. Anodized medals will not be worn together with non-anodized medals by the same individual (except when a specific medal is not available in anodized finish); however, Marines with anodized medals may wear them in formation with Marines who have standard non-anodized medals,” according to the Marine Corps uniform regulation covering USMC awards.

USMC awards, particularly, medals with suspension ribbons bonded to a plastic backing instead of a metal bar are approved for wear at the option of the individual. These medals lie flatter than the standard medals and may include magnetic fasteners in lieu of clutches for attaching to the uniform. These medals will bear Marine Corps approval identification.

“Marines will wear all large medals to which they are entitled on dress ‘A’ coats. Miniatures of all medals entitled are required for officers/SNCO's when evening dress uniforms are worn,” according to the Marine Corps uniform regulations governing USMC awards.

The Marine Corps uniform regulation is a very detailed publication that informs the reader with granular details about spacing between medals, how medals show lay, overlap, etc. If you want to ensure your USMC awards are squared away for something like the Marine Corps Ball, it might be a good idea to leave your rack construction to knowledgeable professionals, like the folks at USAMM, or carefully and painstakingly put your rack together using the regulation.

Marine Corps Ball: 10 Etiquette Do's & Don'ts

Marine Corps Ball History
The Marine Corps Ball is an event Marines and their loved ones look forward to every year. Since 1921, the Corps has celebrated their birthday and honored the legacy of the U.S. Marine Corps at the Marine Corps Ball. November 10 is the official birthday of the Marine Corps and the date is marked with the celebration of the Marine Corps Ball.

Prior to 1921, the birthday was celebrated on another day, but it was Gen. John A. Lejeune who issued Marine Corps Order No. 47, Series 1921. In the order Lejeune summarized the history, mission, and tradition of the Marine Corps. It further directed that the order be read to all Marines each year on 10 November to honor the founding of the Marine Corps. 

Marines follow orders and not long after LeJeune’s order was issued, commands began to recognize and celebrate the birthday. In 1923 the Marine Barracks in Pennsylvania held a dance. Washington Navy Yard Marines arranged a mock battle on the parade ground and in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the Marine baseball team played the Cuban team and won.

What to Expect at the Marine Corps Ball
Individuals who are new to the Marine Corps or Marine Corps culture should try to learn as much as they can about the Marine Corps Ball before the Marine Corps Ball. Don’t worry, there won’t be a test, but it helps to understand what is happening at the ball while it is happening.

The Marine Corps Ball is split into two parts. The first part of the Marine Corps Ball is the official ceremonial part. This is the part of the Marine Corps Ball where the official parties enter, the cake is cut, speeches are made, orders are read and the attendees learn about the legacy that is being celebrated. This part of the Marine Corps Ball last about an hour or so.

The second part of the Marine Corps Balls is the non-ceremonial part. This is when Marines and attendees get to eat, drink, dance and socialize. Some say that this is the “fun” part of the Marine Corps Ball, but the first part is so packed with history and tradition that it is hard to argue that the first part isn’t equally as appealing as the second.

Marine Corps Ball Do’s
Get Ready!
Not sure why this is, but it always seems like the Marine Corps Ball is a 1,000-meter target; something far away and not a threat. Then suddenly the Marine Corps Ball is just days away and a lack of preparedness sends people into a tailspin.

There are roughly 200,000 Marines in the active-duty force and in the reserve. Each year around the same time they all try to get their uniforms ready for the Marine Corps Ball so it is like a flock of locusts hitting a field of crops when it comes to uniform supplies. Clothing sales might be wiped out and lack what is needed to complete a uniform and other retailers might need ample time to assemble your order and ship it to you.

Do plan ahead and prepare for the Marine Corps Ball well in advance. This will not just save money and time it can help avoid stress and tension and not take the fun out of a really great event. Identify what ribbons or medals are needed for uniforms early on and buy locally or get it done professionally online with enough time so it can be produced and shipped with plenty of time.

Knowledge is Power
Marines will be instructed on uniform requirements for the Marine Corps Ball, but those who are guests of Marines might need help in preparing to attend the Marine Corps Ball.

Do offer your guest/date as much information as possible (like sharing this article) about the event. Help connect them with other men or women attending as guests who might have experience with what to wear and what to expect. Guests who know what to expect and prepare accordingly will be more comfortable and enjoy the event more.

Arrive on Time
Punctuality is paramount in the military and in the Marine Corps it is an expectation. Make arrangements to get to the Marine Corps Ball on time and take into account things like unexpected traffic and accidents. Some Marines choose to stay at hotels hosting the Marine Corps Ball to make arrival and departure easier, but a lot of money doesn’t need to be spent in order to make it to Marine Corps Ball on time.

Do be punctual.

Dress Accordingly
The Marine Corps Ball is a formal event. That means that women should be wearing full length gowns. Gown slits should be conservative. This isn’t an event for cocktail dresses and gown colors should complement the Marine’s uniform.

Men who are attending the Marine Corps Ball must wear tuxedos or a suit and tie. This isn’t a good place for business casual; collared shirt with a blazer, no tie. Save that for the tech company. This is a formal event.

Do wear formal attire to the Marine Corps Ball.

Show Respect
The Marine Corps Ball is all about recognizing and respecting the Marine Corps history, traditions and legacy. As previously mentioned, the first hour or so of the ball is dedicated to the ceremonial part of the ball. A guest of honor will likely speak and everyone is expected to pay attention and stay seated during the ceremonial portion of the ball.

At the table, be social and polite and avoid sitting there texting or posting on social media. There will be a time and place for that. Show respect for those at the table by interacting with them and become a part of the ball rather than focusing on capturing moments to share on social media.

Do show proper respect during the ceremonial part of the Marine Corps Ball and also show proper respect to other ball attendees. Use polite language like "please" and "thank you."

Marine Corps Ball Don’ts
After dinner and dessert, the dancing begins. Everyone loves to dance and when combined with a little liquid courage, things can get interesting quickly. Remember to keep the dancing clean.

Twerking, grinding, dry humping, butt-slapping and everything in between can be a lot of fun, but fun can still happen without it. Be respectful of the fact that unit leaders will be attending as well as a guest of honor. There might even be kids there.

This is a formal event and not some bonfire keg party or spring break trip to the coast. There is no need to learn ballroom dancing, and guests can dance to modern music, but keep it clean.

Don’t dance in ways that will raise eyebrows.

Alcohol is served at most Marine Corps Balls because guests are expected to behave like adults. That means drinking socially and responsibly and knowing when to stop drinking. That does not mean drinking to the point of intoxication; staggering with slurred speech.

If there is a toast, that does not mean chugging the contents of a glass until it is empty. It also does not mean sitting up at the bar doing shots. Drawing attention by drinking too much can be a bad thing.

Don’t drink too much.

Simply put, dump the tech toys. While it is important to capture some images from the Marine Corps Ball, it is even more important to experience it. There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking a few pics at the event with your friends, date, leaders and guest of honor, but texting and posting on social media should be avoided. Posting, sharing, texting can always be done after the ball or the next day. It is better to live the experience than document it.

Don’t spend the majority of the time at the Marine Corps Ball facedown into a phone screen.

It is important to want to be a part of this event. Some people do not like formal events and they are uncomfortable attending them. Maybe they are socially awkward or simply do not like the formality of it all, but this event happens only once per year and it is important to show respect for the Corps and fellow Marines.

Attend the entire Marine Corps Ball and once the greenlight is given signaling to attendees that they can leave, then it is appropriate to say “goodnight” and depart. Avoid sneaking out. A few hours socializing is worth it.

Don’t leave until given a greenlight, which is normally once the dancing is underway. Ensure you announce your departure and make the rounds.

Discredit to the Corps
It is important to remember that the Marine Corps Ball is an event that honors the traditions and legacy of the Marine Corps. Marines are the stewards of the Corps reputation and brand.

Posting and circulating inappropriate pics or videos online via social media, or performing behavior that does not align with Marine Corps standards and values harms the Corps.

Don’t discredit the Corps.

The Marine Corps Ball is a wonderful event that occurs each year and that rededicates Marines to the Corps, but also embraces Marine Corps family members, friends and guests and shows them a glimpse of the loyalty and honor known to Marines.

Be proud to be a Marine. Be proud to have earned the title. Be proud of sharing this special event with those in attendance.

When Is The Marine Corps Ball? 9 Facts You Should Know

Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominiqu

On November 10, 1775, the Second Continental Congress ordered the creation of two battalions of Marines. Samuel Nicholas was commissioned as a captain of the nascent force of Continental Marines and at the Tun Tavern in Philadelphia, Nicholas mustered two battalions of Marines and thus began the U.S. Marine Corps.

In 1921, the 13th Commandant, General John A. Lejeune, issued Marine Corps Order No. 47, Series 1921. General Lejeune's order summarized the history, mission, and tradition of the Corps. It further directed that the order be read to all Marines each year on 10 November to honor the founding of the Marine Corps.

Soon after, Marine commands began to not only honor the birthday, but celebrate it. In 1923 the Marine Barracks at Ft. Mifflin, Pennsylvania staged a formal dance. The Marines at the Washington Navy Yard arranged a mock battle on the parade ground. At Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the Marine baseball team played a Cuban team and won with a score of 9 to 8, but this was only the beginning.

The founding of the Marine Corps has been celebrated with a birthday ball every year since 1925. The first formal birthday ball took place in Philadelphia in 1925. Guests included the commandant, the secretary of war (known today as the secretary of defense), and a host of statesmen and elected officials.  Prior to the ball, Gen. Lejeune unveiled a memorial plaque at Tun Tavern, the birthplace of the Marine Corps. Then the entourage headed for the Benjamin Franklin Hotel for an evening of celebration.

Over the years the annual Birthday Ball grew, taking on a life of its own. In 1952, Commandant Gen. Lemuel C. Shepherd Jr. formalized the cake-cutting ceremony and other traditional observances. Current Marine Corps policy mandates that the first piece of cake must be presented to the oldest U.S. Marine present and passed to the youngest Marine representing the passing of tradition from generation to generation. The birthday cake is traditionally cut with the Mameluke sword. The first piece of cake is given to the guest of honor.

Traditionally, the second piece is given to the oldest Marine, then handing the third piece to the youngest Marine signifying the passing of experience and knowledge from the old to the young of the Corps. Among the many such mandates is the reading of the commandant’s birthday message to the Corps. Like the U.S. Marine Corps itself, the annual birthday ball has evolved from modest origins to the dignified function it is today. On 10 November, regardless of where Marines are stationed or deployed, they will always hear “Happy Birthday Marine.”


When is the Marine Corps Ball?
November 10 is the official Marine Corps birthday, and the Marine Corps ball is ordinarily held on that day. However, circumstances vary, and given that Marines are all over the world, celebration dates might vary.

When is the Marine Corps Ball Celebrated by Units?
When in doubt, a Marine’s chain of command is the best source to answer this question. Marine Corps units effectively spread the word about the Marine Corps Ball, so it should be known well in advance that the ball is coming.

FACT: Most Marines are given plenty of notice by their units to get themselves ready and presentable for the ball. Remember, if a ribbon or medal refresh is in order, order well enough in advance to ensure they arrive on time. Notifying your date or spouse of the event in advance will also help them find something to wear in plenty of time. The more lead time, the better.

Photo by USMC Cpl. Gabrielle Quire

When is the Marine Corps Ball for the Marine Corps Reserve?
U.S. Marine Corps Forces Reserve units are similar to other Marine units except they are comprised of part-time Marines. Given many of the members have civilian job requirements and Marine Forces Reserve training requirements, Marine Corps Balls for the Marine Forces Reserve are held at the discretion of the unit.

FACT: This is a formal event, so guests/dates/spouses must wear formal, full length dresses for women, and tuxedos or suits for men. Marine Corps affiliated organizations recommend less cleavage and lower dress slits. Dresses should not be cocktail dresses. Men should wear suits or tuxedos. In both cases, the color and the outfit should complement the Marine’s uniform. Remember to keep it comfortable.

U.S. Embassy Guyana photo

When is the Marine Corps Ball if Stationed at a U.S. Embassy?
There are nine Marine Corps Embassy Security Regions around the world and believe it or not, the Marine Corps celebrates birthdays with a birthday ball at those remote locations. Ordinarily, the ambassador is the president of the ball, and the guest of honor is a dignitary from the host nation. The celebrations aren’t large, but they are still fun and meaningful.

FACT: Traditions are an important part of Marine Corps culture. It is important to adhere to those traditions and guests, newcomers or veterans to the Corps, must be respectful of tradition. The ceremony, which lasts about an hour, is the highlight of the evening. A cake will be cut, speeches will be delivered, and then there will be a reading of Gen. John A. Lejeune’s birthday message, and the birthday message from the current commandant. Nobody should standup during this time or leave their table for bathroom breaks.

Photo by Staff Sgt. Donald Holbert

When is the Marine Corps Ball if in training?
Marines in training will still celebrate, or at least pause to recognize, the Marine Corps birthday. Much is dependent on what training course the Marines are attending, but at the very least, a happy birthday greeting will be rendered.

FACT: The Marine Corps Ball is a social event, but don’t make it about social media. In many cases, there will be assigned seating which will require attendees to possibly speak to strangers or people they do not know. It’s okay to have another attendee take a photo but sitting at a table with a craned neck glued to a screen isn’t a good look. Be social, interact with other guests and take in the event. 

Photo by D. Myles Cullen

When is the Marine Corps Ball if I’m deployed?
As mentioned, most Marine Corps units do something to recognize the birthday. At Camp Fallujah in 2004, during combat operations, Marines were seen and heard singing Happy Birthday in the showers. Later, they congregated for a austerely baked cake and did a ceremony as best they could with what they had on hand.

FACT: While alcoholic beverages are a part of most birthday balls (unless restricted due to general order restrictions overseas), there is no need or requirement to drink. If a Marine and their date imbibe, keep it within reason. Understand that the point of the ball is to recognize and honor the traditions of the Corps. Getting drunk is not a good optic.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Ryan Young

When is the Marine Corps Ball if A Marine is Afloat?
Much like the circumstances faced when a Marine is deployed, being afloat might cause a modification in the celebration. This is a great time to be Semper Gumby. Remember, if on a ship, Marines are doing the work they’ve always done. Any celebration will be meaningful.

FACT: Conversations over dinner should not include topics like politics, religion, controversial issues, or any shop talk. This is a great opportunity to ask questions about those at the table. Where they are from? How long have they been associated with the Corps? Ask questions about their families, etc.
When is the Marine Corps Ball if Home on Leave?
Marines home on leave can celebrate the Corps’ birthday on their own, or find a local unit and see if they can attend that birthday celebration.

FACT: Toasts are a part of military balls. If a Marine or the Marine’s date are not alcoholic beverage drinkers, they should not refuse the toast. Not toasting is poor taste. Marines and their guests should use beverages suitable to their values and raise those glasses for the toast. For those who do drink alcohol, take small sips when responding to toasts. Do not chug or drink the entire glass. This is in poor taste.

When is the Marine Corps Ball for Marine Veterans?
Everyone knows, there are no such things as former Marines. Once a Marine, always a Marine. That said, Marine veterans if interested in attending a Marine birthday ball should reach out to local Marine units and inquire about attendance. If there are no local units or if Marine units restrict attendance to only unit members, then Marine veterans can explore veteran organizations nearby which likely will have an event recognizing the birthday.

FACT: The Nation until recently has been at war for more than 20 years. Without a doubt, the birthday ball will honor fallen Marines. Being ready for this emotional part of the night is important. Remember that this is a birthday celebration of Marines, past and present.

Marines know when the Marine Corps birthday ball is, so when they are heard asking “When is the Marine Corps Ball?” it is more an acknowledgment that they know it is approaching, that they need to prepare, and that they are ready to recognize the birth of their beloved Corps. Semper Fi.

A Life of Service

David A. Flynn in army fatigues in front of Humvee

Hoosier David A. Flynn knew early on in his life that the open fields of the midwest would not be able to contain his wanderlust. Beyond the corn fields of Loogootee, Indiana there was a siren’s call; a call to service. The small-town charm that keeps many mid-westerners grounded to their identity would be unable to tether Flynn.

“I always knew from an early age that I wanted to be in the United States Marines,” Flynn said. He joined the U.S. Marine Corps while in college at Indiana State University in Terre Haute. He was commissioned through the Platoon Leaders Course and he attended Officer Candidate School in Quantico, Virginia during the summer, continuing with his university studies in the fall and spring.

“If you pass the first session/summer you return and complete a second summer; then back to the university and upon graduation you are commissioned a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps Reserve,” Flynn said. “After that you go back to Quantico for about seven or eight months and attend the Basic School which all Marine lieutenants complete. After that you are sent to your follow-on school depending on assigned/chosen specialty.”

For Flynn, his assigned specialty was to serve as a Combat Engineer Officer and as a Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) officer. He served in engineer units with the Marine Air Wing and Marine Force Service Support Groups, but he also served in task organized and special forces MAGTF’s as well as with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU). After 22 and half years, he retired as a lieutenant colonel only to continue serving the nation in forward areas all around the world as a contractor.

Like many military veterans who literally poured their blood, sweat and tears into serving on the many fronts of the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT), both as a military officer and later as a contractor, Flynn has opinions about how the wars have been managed, but overwhelmingly and without question, he is positive about the work he’s done during his military career and as a civilian, especially the work he did during the GWOT.

“9/11 was a serious wake up call for me and the country and the world in general, I think,” Flynn said. “For sure it inspired people to enlist and do other things in maybe a more patriotic way as it brought the country closer to the evil that the U.S. military and others deal with and train to deal with on a daily basis.”

After 9/11, Flynn was reassigned to the Marine Corps Training Assistance Group (MCTAG) as a brigade lead advisor to the Royal Saudi Marine Corps in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

“We assisted the Saudi Royal Marine Corps with training and planning and other subjects as well as worked with them on equipment that was sent to them under the Foreign Military Sales Program; things like Tow II missiles, 81mm mortars, A2 HMMWVs, upgraded .50 caliber machine guns and sights.”

Flynn was in Saudi Arabia when the United States invaded Iraq in 2003. Not long after, Flynn was sent back to the states only to be reassigned back to the MCTAG which was putting together a team of U.S. advisors to help rebuild the Iraqi Army and the Iraqi Ministry of Defense. A colonel that had worked with Flynn in Saudi Arabia requested Flynn to be the executive officer for the initial team of forty U.S. advisors. He deployed to Iraq in November 2003.

They would be charged with standing up an entire division, three brigades and nine battalions. Flynn was initially assigned to the Coalition Military Assistance Training Team (CMATT) which would later become Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq. He and his team were at Taji Military Training Base just a short flight from the International Zone in Baghdad. They were a part of an AST (Advisor Support Team), charged with training, equipping and mentoring nascent Iraqi security forces

five army soldiers smiling in front of a Humvee

“The generals and senior officers I worked for in all services were really top-notch,” Flynn said. “They gave you a very big job/order/assignment to accomplish and then set you to it. They used mission orders and let you do it. There is not a lot of written info on how to re-stand/reform a military organization after you just quickly defeated them and disbanded them so the playing field was wide open.”

Flynn was the deputy division advisor to start with, but after six months his colonel transferred back to the states and Flynn became the senior advisor for the 1st Iraqi Infantry Division. Flynn was leading three brigades, nine battalions and a division staff, as well as personnel at the Iraqi Ministry of Defense.

“We were training all the Iraqi military at that time as it had just really started up in a major way after the disbanding of the Iraqi military,” Flynn said. The Iraqi military had been disbanded by American administrators in Iraq and CMATT was charged with rebuilding Iraq’s forces.

“There were other advisors at first, that did not fall under CMATT as they were from units in areas where Iraqi units were at the start and they were training them and trying to integrate them into local defense in whatever area/bases/towns U.S. forces were operating/working,” Flynn said. “CMATT started to get all of them under a bigger umbrella to mirror up things so we did not have six different Iraqi armies.” CMATT standardized training, uniforms, policies, operations, equipment, pay and many other things.

“We had over 15,000 or so Iraqis come through training the almost two years I was involved in the program,” Flynn said. “We started out with one brigade headquarters and three battalions and it grew into a whole division; and then we started two more divisions. We also stood up, trained and equipped the 1st Iraqi Mechanized Brigade which consisted of a brigade headquarters, one tank battalion and two motorized rifle battalions.” A fete that was accomplished before the first Iraqi national elections in 2004.

“We used a lot of their old equipment; weapons, vehicles, tools,” Flynn said. “We issued new cammie uniforms, newer AKs and pistols and stuff that was being filtered in. We got a lot of tents, furniture, computers, weapons, basic gear and load bearing equipment and personal protection equipment from unit/base Defense Reutilization Management Offices and in old Iraqi bases and warehouses that were captured during the war.”

army soldier at desk typing on computer

Flynn credits the supply and finance teams supporting the advisors for their “incredible work” tracking, accounting and managing so much diverse gear/equipment from so many sources. 

When Flynn and his men were due to rotate back, they were asked to stay on board and help stand up, train and equip the mechanize brigade. Flynn would end up staying in Iraq until April 2005.

 “I feel really good about my time in Iraq. It was a billet and assignment that allowed us to really work outside the box and be creative as we were doing a lot of things for the first time at this scale and we were the first bigger group,” Flynn said. He believes the way he and his men did the initial tasks in training, mentoring, teaching and providing different aspects of support were spot on. 

“I think people have to understand that this was a starting point and it was from scratch with people that were culturally different; different religions, norms and practices across everything they do and you had to try and strike a balance with that in some respects,” Flynn said. “Security was paramount as the insurgency was in full swing and growing so that took a lot of dedicated planning, training and thought. You could never let your guard down in any situation. Even with a little so called down time nothing changed with our security posture. We were operating by ourselves for the most part and after a few months we were not on U.S. bases and the Iraqis were all armed so it was not anything you took lightly.”  

Flynn did not only build an Army, he built relationships that have stood the test of time and violence. Many of the Iraqi officers and soldiers he trained still keep in touch with him.

army soldier David Flynn posing with Iraqi Army Officer

“After I retired in early 2006 and started contract work, I was sent to Iraq by my company and worked there the next couple of years,” Flynn said. “We were rebuilding and building new Iraqi military bases and police stations as well as border posts and water wells throughout the country,” Flynn added. “With my contacts I was able to work security details and get support from Iraqi army and police units based on people I had helped train in areas we had formally operated.”

But Iraq was an immensely dangerous place and those contacts would be unable to keep Flynn from getting shot. Something he had avoided for more than 20 years in uniform. 

“When I was wounded in Iraq in 2006, I had only been out of the Marines for about 24 days,” Flynn said. “We were ambushed north of Baghdad in the Sunni Triangle in a town called Tarmiyah which was south of Balad along the way up route Orange.”

“As a contractor I served in Iraq, Afghanistan and Africa for GWOT. There was a lot of travel involved and a lot of time at numerous construction sites,” Flynn said. “In Afghanistan we worked primarily on new base construction for the Afghan Air Force that was standing up as well as work on future Afghan Army bases to include warehouses, maintenance sites and barracks. In Africa I worked all over the continent. We were building a counterterrorism facility/school/base in Gao, Mali when the Tuereg and ISIS/AQ uprising really took hold throughout Mali and led to a coup by their military while we were there. 

“I also worked in training the FARDC (Armed Forces Democratic Republic of the Congo) in the Democratic Republic of Congo at a jungle base camp,” Flynn said. “The U.S. was training battalions and we had built a post at an old Belgium base in the jungle near Kisangani.  We worked multiple tours in Mali, Somalia, Uganda, Kenya, Mauritania, Senegal, Burundi, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Ethiopia, Niger, Rwanda and Djibouti as well on numerous missions for their countries.”

two men in storeroom sorting boxes

In Afghanistan, Flynn served as a contractor. He never deployed to Afghanistan as a Marine. He worked on larger construction contracts helping build Afghan military facility infrastructure in Kandahar, Kabul, Mazi-Al-Sharif and Jalalabad. He is plain-spoken about America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan.

“It makes me sad, frustrated, angry, happy to have survived the whole of it and many other emotions,” Flynn said. “I think everyone knew in one way or another that things were not going to turn out in a good way. Nation building has never been nor never will be a U.S. military function. Sadly, many people in our government can’t see the forest for the trees in front of them and go haphazard into things with no real plan, more like wishes for a better tomorrow, and the reality on the ground is 180 degrees the opposite. 

“We keep doing it from the 1950s on to no real success. As a superpower we should know better. We really have or should have had some set goals and objectives as limited they may really be, go in let the military accomplish those and get out. Sadly enough, we are facing the same issues in Afghanistan now. I think our hearts and wanting to do certain things are in the right place but due to the actual lay of the land, the patience of the U.S. and its partners, the cost in so many areas to include lives of U.S. service men/women, the long term will to really go in and get it done by our government, the world, the U.N. and others; it is just not really there.”

For the past 12 years, Flynn has devoted much of his professional energy to working in Africa. He has worked on multiple construction projects, but also provided aid, equipment and supplies to various nations. He has also provided exercise support and training.

“There is so much going on in the world and as long as I feel that I am capable I will continue to assist where I can,” Flynn said. “As long as I feel able and feel like I have something to contribute I would like to keep going. There is no lack of places we could work and if we can make some baseline and deeper success in some of these places it should help them and us in the longer term.” 

Flynn is able to help bring some semblance of stability to an unstable world because his own world has a solid foundation. His wife of 38 years, Jan, is a teacher and together they raised four children, two boys, two girls, who have all grown and moved away after college. They are working throughout the country. 

 “Both of my daughters are married and have children of their own so I currently have four grandchildren, three girls and one boy to keep me busy with any down time,” Flynn jokes. “Lots of baseball, soccer, dance classes, camps, travel and so much swim time.” Flynn recognizes that without his family’s support, things would be much harder.

“My whole family has been supportive of this type of lifestyle,” Flynn admits. “With being married throughout my time in the Marine Corps and having our children grow up in the military they are all used to the deployments and issues that come with not being around as much as you would like. All of my children travel and have studied overseas and appreciate the bigger view of the world that they get to be exposed to.”

What makes Flynn a little different than other retired officers is that he doesn’t assume the common posture so many officers take as all-knowing, claiming how their dirty boot time was harder than what any future generation will endure.

“I think that like all U.S forces, they (future U.S. forces) will do well and get the job done no matter what the order or what the task,” Flynn said confidently. “We need to use our forces in ways that protect the American people, our country and way of life first. There are other missions but let’s remember and do the important one first.”

As for Marines, Flynn sees changes, but not in the Corps’ identity.  

“While current leadership has swung and given up a lot of our core capabilities, the Marines will always be the nation’s force that is ready to answer the call at the blink of an eye,” Flynn said. “We have U.S. Marines for one reason and that is to be America’s force in readiness. I think Marines will endure and always come out on top.”

As for his service in Iraq, Flynn looks back on it fondly and honestly.

Army Soldier David Flynn posing in classroom with Iraqi children

“I am really proud of my service in Iraq and I am so proud of the women and men who served alongside of me,” Flynn said. “It was not easy and contrary to popular belief I can be hard on people at times. It was high stress and mission accomplishment was a must. There was no room for failure or the ability to adjust and work on quick mission orders and keep everyone safe. The soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen, civilians, interpreters were all serious professionals. We had people from the guard, reserves of all forces, active components, retired/civilians and NATO countries all woven together in small groups doing monumental tasks with little support and writing up the training as they went along and came across a new ditch/hurdle. Nothing stopped these teams.” 

Steve Alvarez is an Iraq War veteran. He is the author of Selling War: A Critical Look at the Military's PR Machine published by the University of Nebraska Press (Potomac Books).

The Marine Corps Values: Words to Live By

Marine Corps soldiers in uniform saluting with US and USMC flags in background

Corporate greed and institutional decay brought about a tidal wave of organizational reflection in the 1990s and the U.S. military wasn’t immune to the introspection. During the 1990s, all the service branches formally adopted service-specific values that they had long ago embraced and lived since the services were founded. Most recently, in 2021, the U.S. Space Force adopted its own set of values.

The Marine Corps values are no different. Adopted formally in the 1990s, it is widely accepted that the Marine Corps values have been at the center of Marine Corps culture since 1775.

“Honor, Courage, and Commitment are not just words; they frame the way Marines are to live and act,” wrote the 30th Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Carl E. Mundy Jr whose memorandum made official the adoption of the Marine Corps values.

The Marine Corps values for decades have helped the Marine Corps create its identity by expecting its Marines to live with Honor, Courage, and Commitment. It requires Marines to adhere to higher standards of professional and personal conduct, and devote themselves to the good order of discipline.

Mundy believed and wrote in his memo that the purpose of creating the Marine Corps values was to “Enhance transformation into U.S. Marines through a rigorous, thorough reaffirmation of Marine Corps Values training and education.”

Mundy penned the “Statement on Core Values of The United States Marines” and he identified each Marine Corps value. They are:

This is the cornerstone of Marine Corps values and character. This word is a beacon that helps Marines navigate the complex world in which they operate. It enables them to be ethical, uncompromising in principles, and to conduct themselves with integrity. By doing so, Marines are accountable for their actions and hold others accountable for their actions.

A Marine cannot be honorable without courage. As we’ve all heard, it takes bravery to do the right thing and courage thus is the centerpiece of the Marine Corps values. In addition, the physical nature of Marine Corps missions requires that Marines muster bravery and overcome the paralytic nature of combat. Intestinal fortitude is a huge part of the Marine Corps values, whether it means stepping up to do the right thing, or executing a hard mission with honor and integrity.

According to the Marine Corps, commitment is the spirit of determination and dedication found in Marines. It leads to the highest order of discipline for individuals and units. It is the ingredient that enables constant dedication to Corps and country. It inspires the unrelenting determination to achieve victory in every endeavor.

Clearly, the Marines expect a 24/7 commitment to the Marine Corps values. While a Marine may be off duty and not in uniform, they are still expected to live by the Marine Corps values. This commitment does not end when they leave military service.

Ask any Marine veteran and they will proudly tell you, once a Marine, always a Marine. This complete devotion and commitment to the Marine Corps values is what separates the Marine Corps from other branches of service.

Boot Camp Graduation Gifts: Five Ideas For Their Special Day

Marines marching in formation with dress uniforms

Boot camp, basic combat training, BMT; the entry level training that all new military recruits endure when they join the U.S. Armed Forces is referred to differently depending on the branch of service, but everyone joining the U.S. military must endure the rite of passage and attend some type of basic training.

Basic training for every branch of service is different and varies in difficulty, but when its over all participants are happy about their accomplishment and a great way to show them that you’re proud of their achievement is to purchase boot camp graduation gifts. If you do not have a lot of military experience or you’re unsure of what to buy, let us help you with our short list of ideas for boot camp graduation gifts.

Subscriptions used to be hard to manage, but thanks to technology, anyone can read, watch and play games from their personal devices.

Subscriptions make great boot camp graduation gifts because hard copy magazines are fading into history and most, if not all, magazines are available in a digital format with a subscription. If your newly minted Soldier, Airman, Marine, Sailor, or Guardian isn’t really into periodicals, then maybe a subscription to a popular streaming channel might be a great gift. If the new service member in your life is a gamer, there are plenty of membership subscriptions that will satisfy their gaming fixes and also make great boot camp graduation gifts.

Gift Cards
Gift cards make great boot camp graduation gifts because they give the recipient complete freedom to purchase what they want. Gift cards can be used in a variety of ways to shop for uniform items, including ribbon racks, or service pride items, but rest assured, you can’t go wrong with gift cards as boot camp graduation gifts, especially when you can send them virtually via e-mail or drop them in the mail as a traditional plastic card.

If the basic trainee graduate in your life loves to read, then good boot camp graduation gifts are books. If the graduates have reading devices, you can simply digitally purchase a book for them and they are sent a link to download their book. You can also buy them a credit on a particular e-book platform and they can download a book of their choice if you don’t want to be deal with shipping something.

If your young troop knows where they are headed after graduation, then consider hard copy books and even audio books for them to listen to. These formats make great boot camp graduation gifts for those who are book fans.

Military Gifts
Some great boot camp graduation gifts are things like shadow boxes, coin racks, and flag cases. Even though graduates are new to the military, these are great boot camp graduation gifts because they can keep them ready and use them once they start receiving awards, coins or other tokens of military service. They will own a way a showcase their tokens. These are always awesome boot camp graduation gifts.

Service Pride
Things like hoodies, t-shirts, and hats all make great boot camp graduation gifts. It’s a nice way for that special basic trainee in your life to show their pride while keeping warm and looking sharp.

Whatever boot camp graduation gifts you decide to buy, shopping and shipping early is always smart to ensure your trainee knows you are thinking about them as they complete their training.

Gifts For Marines: The Ultimate Holiday Gift Guide

Earned. Never Given. T-Shirt

The holidays are closing in fast and if you have a U.S. Marine in your life, you might be looking for gifts for Marines that will show them how much you care about them and show them the pride you have in their service.  

The key to buying great gifts for Marines is to truly think about who they are and what they like. If that still doesn’t do the trick to help you find great gifts for Marines in your life, then try this short list to find the perfect gift for the Devil Dog in your life and be sure to take advantage of Black Friday and Cyber Monday specials.

Subscriptions used to be hard to manage, but thanks to technology, anyone can read, watch and play games from their personal devices.

Subscriptions are great gifts for Marines because hard copy magazines are fading into history and most, if not all, magazines are available in a digital format with a subscription. If your Marine isn’t really into periodicals, then maybe a subscription to a popular streaming channel might be a great gift. If the Marine in your life is a gamer, there are plenty of membership subscriptions that will satisfy their gaming fix.

Gift Cards
Gift cards make great gifts for Marines because they give the recipient complete freedom to purchase what they want. Gift cards can be used in a variety of ways to shop for Marine uniform items, including ribbon racks, or service pride items, but rest assured, you can’t go wrong with gift cards as gifts for Marines, especially when you can send them virtually via e-mail or mail them as a traditional plastic card.

Marine Corps Pride
Marine Corps hoodies, t-shirts, and hats all make great gifts for Marines. It’s a nice way for that special Marine in your life to show their pride while keeping warm and looking sharp. Theater hats take a step up and allow them to show their OEF or OIF pride.

If the Marine in your life loves to read, then great gifts for Marines are books. If they have reading devices, you can simply purchase a book for them and they are sent a link to download their book. You can also by them a credit on a particular e-book platform and they can download a book of their choice if you don’t want to be bothered with shipping something to a Marine who is currently deployed.

If your Marine isn’t deployed, then consider hard copy books and even audio books for them to listen to as they work out or drive to work. Either format makes great gifts for Marines who are book fans.

Military Gifts
If you’re shopping for a seasoned Leatherneck in your life, then odds are great that your Marine’s career has allowed them to collect a lot of coins, awards and trinkets from their many years of service. Items like shadow boxes, coin racks, and flag cases are wonderful gifts for Marines who have amassed items that reflect their military service. Your Marine might be so busy that they’ve likely not had the time to organize those items in a way that they can be properly showcased.

These are awesome gifts for Marines or Marine Corps veterans with a few years of service under their belt.

Whatever gifts for Marines you decide to buy, shopping and shipping early is always smart to ensure your Marine loved one knows you are thinking about them during the holidays. Remember, take advantage of those Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales to not only get a great gift, but to save your hard-earned cash.