OKINAWA, Japan -- More than 9,000 sailors are currently embedded into Marine Corps units, wearing Marine Corps uniforms rather than their traditional Navy uniforms and, to the surprise of many Marines, they’re not all “Docs”.
The Fleet Marine Force is comprised of sailors who are assigned to, or work with, Marine Corps units said Command Master Chief Christopher W. Moore, the III Marine Expeditionary Force command master chief. Though the most commonly known billets fall under health services and religious ministries, there are billets under aviation groups and squadrons, as well as infantry and logistics battalions. Most Marines are familiar with corpsmen and religious personnel, or RP’s.
Some less common FMF jobs include “Seabees,” or construction support sailors or Navy divers, who work alongside reconnaissance Marines.
“In most cases, sailors fill a role that is not inherent within the Marine Corps structure,” said Moore, a native of Phoenix, Arizona. “One example of that is the Navy Diver. [The 3rd Marine Division Reconnaissance Battalion] is billeted for a Navy master diver who helps train and ensures the safety of our recon Marines. The master diver is able to run a decompression chamber and also provide support to the battalion by maintaining diving equipment.”
As with any assignment there are perks to the FMF, one of them being the ability to qualify for the Fleet Marine Force warfare insignia, said Moore.
“Similar to the enlisted surface or enlisted aviation warfare insignia, this device identifies sailors who have qualified as an FMF warfare expert. This means that they have demonstrated a level of proficiency through practical demonstration of skill sets critical to serving with Marines and they have demonstrated a level of professional knowledge necessary for them to integrate into their respective FMF unit,” said Moore.
To receive the Fleet Marine Force warfare insignia, sailors must pass a test showing competency in weapons proficiency, land navigation, radio communication and Marine Corps knowledge. They also have to pass a Marine Corps Physical Fitness Test and Combat Fitness Test.
Not only is serving in the FMF a valuable opportunity to sailors, but it’s also a critical component of the Marine Corps warfighting mission, said Moore. The Marine Corps would not have these billets if there was no value in having a sailor alongside to support.
“Consider a squad of Marines holding a position,” said Moore. “As these warriors are engaged in combat and potentially taking casualties, I would argue that without a corpsman providing medical care in support of those Marines, those Marines may not be able to remain in the fight, and in turn, might not be able to achieve that mission essential task.”
The sailors who encompass the FMF largely go unnoticed by Marines but without them the Marine Corps would not be able to complete the varied tasks that are part of the Marine Corps mission, said Moore. Not every sailor has the opportunity to serve in the FMF, but those that do say they gain a cherished experience.
“It’s not often that a sailor has the opportunity to fire an M777 Howitzer or fly in an MV-22 Osprey or come across a shoreline in an Assault Amphibious Vehicle,” said Moore. “More often than not, sailors finish their assignment with a strong sense of unit pride, comradery and esprit de corps.”