The Marine Corps is a small fighting force deep in lore, history, culture, and intricacies that can be tough to navigate. Marines can serve for years and not find their way to the bottom of Marine Corps knowledge. As such, I’ve come to learn a few things as both a Marine, and now a civilian fascinated by history and culture. These USMC facts are easily escapable for the average Marine, and these five represent an odd mixture of regulations, culture, and tactics that many, even Marines, may not be aware of.
The USMC Boat Marines
I served as a Marine infantryman for five years. I worked with weapons and line companies, I worked with LAR, Recon, Scout Snipers, and more. It wasn’t until years later I that I became aware of the Boat Marines. By Boat Marine, I mean 0312 Riverine Assault Craft Marine. The Corps dumped the MOS in 2020, but I was on active duty between 2008 and 2013 and never heard of these guys.
USMC Boat Marines also include the defunct 0314 and the still-active 0316 MOS. 0316 is an additional MOS and supplements a traditional infantry MOS, and utilizes rubberized small crafts. The 0312 and 0314 Boat Marines operated Riverine Assault Crafts. These ruggedized patrol crafts were used in Iraq to patrol rivers and control these areas.
Boat Marines were a combined effort between the Navy and the Marine Corps and shouldn’t be a surprise. Marines are water-borne infantry by their very nature, so boats have to be a factor eventually.
Capes are allowed
Have you ever looked at the Marine dress uniform and thought, “Man, it’d look a lot better with a cape?” Of course, it would. Dress blues, a sword, and a cape sound sick. Well, boys, the USMC offers you the Boat Cloak. As far as USMC facts go, this is the most fashionable. Male Marine officers and SNCOs are allowed to wear the Boat Cloak with the Dress A or B blues uniform.
The Boat cloak features a black exterior and red interior with a soft wool-like collar and a button-down design. It’s a special order item and costs about 750 bucks to make and order. Please allow eight weeks for delivery! The Boat Cloak is rarely seen, but come blues season, at least one SNCO will pop up wearing this bad boy.
A separate fitness test for one specific role
Marine Corps Body Bearers have both the honorable and sad job of carrying Marines to their final resting place. These Marines are subject to strict requirements, including: having a first-class PFT and CFT, being between 70 and 76 inches tall, being within regular Marine Corps height and weight standards, and being a Sergeant or above.
Additionally, they have to pass a Body Bearer fitness test and maintain these weight lifting standards. Body Bearer Marines must be capable of completing ten reps of the following exercises:
- 225 Pound Bench Press
- 135 Pound Behind the Neck Military Press
- 115 Pound Strict Barbell Curl
- 315 Pound Barbell Squat
Currently, this is the only fitness test the Marine Corps utilizes weight lifting techniques for. This has led to USMC Body Bearers being labeled the strongest Marines in the Corps. These USMC facts help me set my own goals even as a gross civilian.
We use grappling hooks
It’s true, of all the USMC facts we have, at least one makes us look like Batman. We use grappling hooks! Marines wield grappling hooks for a variety of reasons. This includes searching for improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and mines. Marines can tuck behind cover, throw and drag a grappling hook through a suspected IED area. It’s like a version of the claw game you see with teddy bears in supermarkets, but it’s for things that explode.
Grappling hooks make an appearance in urban operations and give a means for Marines to climb over walls and into windows. While it sounds like Batman, the grappling hook often gives a holding point and a little boost to the climbing Marine. You aren’t scaling up the sides of buildings like Batman and climbing multiple stories. However, an 8-foot wall or second-story window is easier to get over while wearing full gear with the assistance of a grappling hook.
The Yucca Man
Finally, we get to the story of the Yucca Man. This is likely the most widespread of the USMC facts on this list. Anyone who was stationed in Twentynine Palms knows the story of the Mojave bigfoot. According to legend, any Marine unlucky enough to find himself on watch in the endless desert of the Twentynine Palms training area may have an encounter with the Yucca Man.
The natives of the area have long told stories about these desert bigfoots and their spread to the Marine Corps. I think it’s due to two main reasons. First, these stories are fun to tell new Marines and work them up a bit before sending them out for some night guard duty or road guard position.
Second, training at Twentynine Palms for a battalion level combined arms exercise (CAX)/Mojave Viper training event will exhaust the Marines. It’s made to simulate a month at war, and Marines are constantly training and dealing with the desert heat, endless training operations, and sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation and exhaustion can cause hallucinations, and I’m willing to bet some exhausted Marines have had some visual and auditory hallucinations.
On my first deployment, I remember many nights on post after a 24-36 hour operation guarding the base and having a healthy amount of hallucinations.
USMC facts, myths, and beyond
America needs an Army, an Air Force, and a Navy, but America wants a Marine Corps. The Marines have long held the heart of the American civilian. A mixture of glory and capability mixed with a perception of a plucky underdog gives the Marine Corps a completely different cultural impact. Part of that impact is the unique culture, roles, and capabilities the Marine Corps has. These small USMC facts are only part of a much richer culture, so sound off below on your favorite USMC facts that we might not know.
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Feature image: U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class James Norman