The Marine Corps Prayer
Almighty Father, whose command is over all and whose love never fails, make me aware of thy presence and obedient to thy will. Keep me true to my best self, guarding me against dishonesty in purpose and deed and helping me to live so that I can face my fellow Marines, my loved ones, and Thee without shame or fear. Protect my family. Give me the will to do the work of a Marine and to accept my share of responsibilities with vigor and enthusiasm. Grant me the courage to be proficient in my daily performance. Keep me loyal and faithful to my superiors and to the duties my country and the Marine Corps have entrusted to me. Make me considerate to those committed to my leadership. Help me to wear my uniform with dignity, and let it remind me daily of the traditions which I must uphold. If I am inclined to doubt, steady my faith; if I am tempted, make me strong to resist; if I should miss the mark, give me courage to try again. Guide me with the light of truth and grant me wisdom by which I may understand the answer to my prayer.
NSA's "Own" Marine Guards
15 November 1953 - 29 September 1978
They were, to say the least, resplendent. From the sparkling white cap cover and pistol belt, khaki shirt, and blue trousers to the spit-shined shoes, they were lithe young men, who spoke little but did so much to keep us safe. Who were they? The National Security Agency's (NSA's) "Own" Marine guards!
The Marine Barracks, Ft. George G. Meade, was established by a Secretary of Defense memorandum dated 9 June 1953. The Marines' mission was to provide local security for the National Security Agency. The authorized strength of the Marine Security Guard was 5 officers and 144 enlisted men.
Lieutenant General Ralph J. Canine, the first director of NSA (DIRNSA), argued that Marines were the perfect answer to NSA's security needs. The Marines had training and experience guarding United States embassies around the world. Companies "A" and "B" comprised over 200 Marines. They manned over 75 interior and exterior posts at the Ft. Meade and Friendship Annex (FANX) complexes, as well as mobile patrols, between 8 and 11 hours out of every 24. Beginning 5 hours before taking post in the building, they were part of the alert force, located in the barracks, ready to respond instantly to local emergency. Lower ranking Marines stood a fixed post, while noncommissioned officers (NCOs), corporals, and sergeants manned communications and alarm monitors in the Panel Room or supervised the guards on post or on roving patrol. NCOs with special access were assigned as security inspectors. A commissioned officer served as duty officer, in command of the guard force. During VIP visits or special events, Marines standing guard at key entry points wore the full dress blue uniform. When not standing guard, the Marines were training, in order to maintain their skills as light weapons infantrymen.
Still, they found time to participate in community affairs. One of these was the Ft. McHenry Guard, a 50-man drill team and drum and bugle corps, composed entirely of volunteers from the guard force. During warm weather, the Ft. McHenry Guard performed a traditional Tattoo ceremony at Baltimore's Ft. McHenry.* The impressive ceremony featured drill and music of the early 1800s. At each performance, a prominent personality, usually local, was chosen as an "Honorary Ft. McHenry Colonel" and served as the reviewing officer or honored guest. This activity earned the Marines two Freedom Foundation Awards and authorization to carry the colors of the City of Baltimore when parading in that city. They were also recognized as "Baltimore's Own Marine Barracks."** The Marine guard also found time to support "Toys for Tots" and other charitable activities.
There were more awards to come - the Marine Barracks, Ft. Meade, won a Meritorious Unit Citation in 1970, an award rarely given to a "peacetime" Marine unit, according to Colonel C. W. Blythe, Commander of the Marine Barracks. When formally presenting the award on 2 June of that year, General Leonard F. Chapman, Commandant of the Marine Corps, extolled the Marines' "exceptional professional competence in fulfillment of their security role" and "the example they have set in developing the military-civilian team spirit throughout the National Security Agency." The Marine Barracks, Ft. Meade, was designated a Bicentennial Command by HQ, United States Marine Corps, for their participation in the Ft. McHenry Guard. The only other Marine Corps element to gain this distinction was "Eighth and Eye" (HQ, USMC) itself.
In 1972 the Deputy Secretary of Defense, citing diminishing enlistments and budget, decided to withdraw the Marine support for NSA. Despite a vigorous reclama by DIRNSA, it turned out to be a no-win situation, and the Marines left as ordered. The Marine Barracks officially closed on 30 June 1978. But they left behind a "legacy" - sub-unit I, Alfa Company, Marine Support Battalion. They continued to stand post until 22 September and provided the Alert Force until 29 September 1978.*** NSA's "Own" Marines were unique, highly professional, and a credit to the United States Marine Corps.
* Tattoo is a tradition passed to us from the British Army. The ceremony is that of a formal guard mount which occurs just before posting the guard at the end of the day. It signals those who have no business in a fort or barracks to withdraw before the gates are secured and sentinels posted, and for troops not on duty to retire to their quarters. The word "tattoo" itself is believed to derive from the phrase "tap toe" (to "toe" or close the tap on a keg of spirits). In its display of prowess in drill, and its accompanying music, Tattoo is a signal no one can mistake.
** Richardson, Herb; "Leatherneck" magazine; February 1977
*** Hackman, Neil; "SOUNDOFF"; 28 November 1978
Former Marines as NSA Federal Protective Service Officers
In September 1977, letters were sent by the Director of the General Services Administration (GSA), to 23 individuals who would soon be hired and trained to relieve the Marines of the NSA Detachment at Ft. Meade, MD. Following extensive background investigations of more than 1,000 individuals who had applied for various positions with GSA, the Commanding Officer, Federal Protective Service (FPS), under the auspices of the GSA, selected these 23 men and women as the vanguard of civilian personnel to take-over the physical security of the Agency at both Ft. Meade and its Annex near the international airport, then known as “BWI.”
By October 9, of that year, these 23 – 21 men and 2 women – had received their employment acceptance letters and written orders, with directions to report, by October 25th, to the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, Glynco, Brunswick County, Georgia. With their letters in hand, designating them “General Schedule – 3” Federal employees, these “Federal Protective Officers” arrived in the temperate climes of coastal Georgia for 2-months of intense classroom and physical training. Assigned to be housed in a single ‘barracks’ building and common classrooms, they soon became well-acquainted.
As they matured into full-fledged Federal Protective Officers, they learned that fully 11 of their number had previously served in the US Marine Corps. This would prove an essential element in the success of the FPS at NSA. The group not only matured and became competent ‘officers,’ they fully expected to take a leadership role in the protection of the National Security Agency. They were taught, and learned well, the functions of apprehension and arrest, first-aid, inspection and investigation, vehicle pursuit, and the compulsory weapons indoctrination for side arms, shotgun, and automatic weapons. They were taught the basics of hostage negotiation and the elements of ameliorating conflicts. They participated in field exercises that tested their resolve and their ability to perform under extreme physical and emotional conditions. And, they all graduated in December, to return to their homes and begin working at the NSA.
Upon return to Maryland, and introduction to the embedded Marine Corps Security Force, an initial trepidation soon turned to full cooperation as the former Marine FPS Officers showed their abilities and willingness to learn from and work with the active duty Marines. Within a short time, these former Marines had been fully accepted by the current Marines and were shown and told about all the nuances of Panel monitoring, patrolling the grounds, standing 'posts,' and dealing with the ‘civilian’ employees of NSA.
Out of the first 23 FPS Officers, the 11 former Marines soon were selected to fill management positions within their own force. They were appointed to teach and train newer officers as they came on-board. Of the remaining 12, from the original class, only 9 were permitted to continue working at the Ft. Meade facility by April 1978. By May 1978, a sufficient number of additional officers, some former Marines among them, had been hired and trained to assimilate all the positions from the USMC Security Detachment.
The active duty Marine force was no longer visible on the Ft. Meade campus of NSA by July 1978. However, new FPS officers were restricted to mostly 'external' posts around the facility, until background investigation, which by this time were taking the better part of 9 months to complete, could allow them full access. During this time they were further indoctrinated into the force and in the NSA culture. Guard house duty became a favorite activity to avoid having to sit around in the squad room watching old Army technical training movies. One such movie, "How to Build an Igloo," became the source of much amusement throughout the group.
By January 1979, some of the original members of the FPS group began finding promotion opportunities with such other Federal organizations as Border Patrol, Capitol Police, Uniformed Secret Service, US Park Police. Others went on to civilian law enforcement careers, even with the Prince Georges and Howard County Police Departments. One young member of the FPS, Billy Martin, moved on to the Baltimore City Police Department. He was not a Marine, but had been accepted as a competent officer who could be depended upon to do his job and give 10% more. Billy Martin, while on foot pursuit of a known felon in Baltimore, was ambushed and shot and killed in 1981.
The transition from USMC Security Detachment to civilian police force at the National Security Agency had been an overwhelming success. By mid-1979, the new force of Federal Protective Officers had become accepted into the NSA family and could be counted on to take-up where the Marine Corps had left off. I know, because I was one of the original 23 - one of those 11 Marines....Mike Corbett.
What Makes a Marine a Marine?
Ask a Marine what's so special about the Marines and the answer would be "esprit de corps," an unhelpful French phrase that means exactly what it looks like - the Spirit of the Corps. But what is that spirit and where does it come from?
The Marine Corps is the only branch of the U.S. Armed Forces that recruits people specifically to fight. The Army emphasizes personal development ("An Army of one"), the Navy promises fun ("Let the journey begin"), the Air Force offers security ("It's a great way of life"). Missing all of those advertisements is the hard fact that a soldier's lot is to take lives at the risk of his own and perhaps to suffer and die for his country. Even the thematic music of the services reflects this evasion. The Army's "Caisson Song" describes a pleasant country outing over hill and dale, lacking only a picnic basket. "Anchors Aweigh," the Navy's celebration of the joys of sailing, could have been penned by Jimmy Buffet. The Air Force song is a lyric poem of blue skies and engine thrust. All is joyful and invigorating, and in the main, safe. There are no snipers in the hills or land mines in the dales, no torpedoes or cruise missiles threaten the ocean cruise, and no bandits are lurking on your "six" to shoot you out of the sky in the wild blue yonder. The Marines' Hymn, in contrast, is all combat. "We fight our country's battles, First to fight for right and freedom, We have fought in every clime and place where we could take a gun, in many a strife we have fought for life and never lost our nerve."
The choice is clearly made. You may join the Army to go to adventure training, or join the Navy to go to Bangkok, or join the Air Force to go to computer school. You join the Marine Corps to go to war! But the mere act of signing the enlistment contract confers no status in the Corps. The Army recruit is told from his first minute in uniform that, "You're in the Army now, soldier!" The Navy and Air Force enlistees are sailors or airmen as soon as they get off the bus at the recruit training center. The new arrival at Marine Corps boot camp is called a recruit, or worse (a lot worse), but never, never, ever a Marine. Not yet, maybe never. He or she must earn the right to claim the title of UNITED STATES MARINE and failure returns you to civilian life without hesitation or ceremony. Recruit Platoon #2210 at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, California trained from October through December of 1968. In Vietnam, the Marines were taking two hundred casualties a week and the major rainy season operation, Meade River, had not yet even begun as yet. But Drill Instructors had no qualms about winnowing out almost a quarter of their 112 recruits, graduating only 81.
Note that this was post-enlistment attrition; every one of those who were dropped had been passed by the recruiters as "fit for service." But they failed the test of Boot Camp, not necessarily for physical reasons because at least two of them were outstanding high school athletes for whom the calisthenics and running were child's play. The cause of their failure was not in the biceps or the legs, but in the spirit - in the spirit that should have been in them but even their Drill Instructors could not instill it. They had lacked the will to endure the mental and emotional strain, so these young men would not become Marines. Heavy commitments and high combat casualties notwithstanding, the Corps reserves the right to pick and choose. It always will.
History classes in boot camp? Stop a soldier on the street and ask him to name a battle of World War I. Pick a sailor at random and ask him to describe the epic battle between the Bon Homme Richard and the Serapis. Most everyone has heard of McGuire Air Force Base. So ask any airman who Major Thomas McGuire was and why he is so commemorated. All of the services have glorious traditions, but no one teaches the young soldier, sailor, or airman what his uniform means and why he should be proud to wear it. But if you ask a Marine about the battle for Belleau Wood, he'll tell you about it. Faced with an enemy of superior numbers entrenched in tangled forest undergrowth and reachable only by crossing an open wheat field under murderous machinegun fire, the Marines received an order to attack that could only be charitably called "ill-advised." It was insane. Artillery support was absent and air support had yet to be invented, so the brigade charged the German machineguns with only bayoneted rifles, grenades, and an indomitable fighting spirit. A bandy-legged little barrel of a gunnery sergeant, Daniel J. Daly, rallied his company with a shouted, "C'mon, you sonsabitches! Do you want to live forever?" He took out three machineguns himself, and would have been given the Medal of Honor had he not already been awarded two of them. French liaison officers, hardened though they were by four years of trench-bound slaughter, were shocked as the Marines charged across the wheat field under a blazing sun and directly into the teeth of the German fire. Their action was so anachronistic on the twentieth century battlefield that they might as well have been swinging cutlasses, but the enemy could not stand up to this. The Marines took Belleau Wood and the Germans thereafter called them "Teuful Hunden" - "Devil Dogs."
Every Marine knows this story and dozens more. We are taught them in boot camp as a regular part of the curriculum. Every Marine will always be taught them. You can learn to don a gas mask anytime, even on a plane in route to the war zone, but before you can wear the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor and claim the title, you must learn about the exploits which made that emblem and title meaningful. As long as you can march and shoot and revere the legacy of the Corps, you can take your place in line. And that line is as unified in spirit as in purpose. A soldier wears branch of service insignia on his collar along with metal shoulder pins and cloth sleeve patches to identify his unit. Sailors wear a rating badge that identifies what they do for the Navy. Marines wear only the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor - that and personal ribbons and the cherished marksmanship badges. There is nothing on a Marine's uniform to indicate what he or she does, nor to what unit the Marine belongs. You cannot tell by looking at a Marine's uniform whether you are seeing a truck driver, a computer programmer, or a machine gunner. The Corps explains this as a security measure to conceal the identity and location of units, but the Marines' penchant for publicity makes this the least likely of explanations. No, the Marine is amorphous, even anonymous, by conscious design. No matter what other skills he has learned, every Marine is a rifleman - first and foremost. Whether a Marine has been schooled in automated supply or automotive mechanics or aviation electronics is immaterial. Those things are secondary - the Corps teaches them because it must use them on the modern battlefield requiring technical appliances and since the enemy has them, we must, too. But no Marine boasts mastery of these skills. Our pride is in our discipline, marksmanship, and our membership in a fraternity of courage and sacrifice. A Marine may serve a four year enlistment or even a twenty-plus year career without ever seeing action, but if the order is given, Marines will charge across the wheat field again!
Edgar Guest wrote of Belleau Wood, "For the honor of the fallen, for the glory of the dead, the living line of courage kept the faith and moved ahead." They are all gone now, those Marines who made a French farmer‘s little wheat field into one of the most enduring of Marine Corps legends. Many of them did not survive the day and eight decades have claimed the rest. But their actions are immortal.
The Corps remembers them and honors what they did - so they live forever and Dan Daly's shouted challenge takes on its true meaning. If you lie in the trenches you may survive for now, but someday you will die and no one will care. If you charge the guns, you may die in the next two minutes, but you will be one of the immortals. All Marines die, be it in the red flash of battle or in the white cold of a nursing home - in the vigor of youth or the infirmity of age, all will eventually die - but the Marine Corps lives on. Every Marine is living still in the Marines who claim the title today. It is the sense of belong to something that will outlive your own passing which gives people a light to live by and a flame to mark their passing.
THE TITLE "UNITED STATES MARINE." HARD-EARNED - BUT ONCE EARNED, IT'S YOURS FOR LIFE! SEMPER FIDELIS.
Not sure who originally wrote this. It has been passed on from one Marine to another for some time now. As far as I can tell, the original author signed his name "The Gunner."