Before I Get Started
There is an ongoing inner battle that occurs between Marine Corps reservists and active duty, and it includes the entire spectrum of military occupational specialties. I’m better than you, you’re not as smart, I work harder, I train more, you’re lazy, I have a civilian job, I have this, you aren’t that, blah, blah, blah. I’ve heard it all. Let’s discover the truth, the difference between reservists and active duty, how they train, when they deploy and what the lifestyles are like.
Before I go any further, it is essential to note the following.
Being a Marine is being a Marine, and at the end of the day, reservist go out and fight and die for the freedom of our country right next to active duty. To disrespect the efforts of a reservist or an active duty Marine goes against our ethos, and the reasons we (as Marines) fight.
The argument is no different than trying to convince me that only white people are good Marines, or that only a black man should be infantry, or that only a redneck should be a scout sniper, and only a Spanish Marine should be a cook. It’s stupid and dishonorable to even consider those thoughts. To limit a Marine’s professionalism and ability to execute during a mission based on stereotypes and mythical identifiers is unintelligent and mindless.
I don’t know a reservist or active duty Marine who did not sign up with the knowledge that their life may be taken in order to serve their country. At the end of the day, what is more important? I know it can be a fun game we play, but arguing about it, especially in front of civilians, is counterproductive to our efforts as a whole.
Boot Camp: Reservist vs. Active Duty
There is ABSOLUTELY no difference in the training that is required for Boot Camp. Marine active duty and reservist go through Marine boot camp side by side. They train in the same platoons, PT in the same fields, sweat in the same sand boxes and complete the same crucible. There are not separate platoons either. Boot Camp is a giant melting pot, with very little separation. In fact, the only separation that exists in boot camp is that the females do not train with the males (unlike the other military branches). They train 100% separately. You’ll be lucky to even see someone of the opposite sex during Boot Camp, except maybe the chow hall cooks. During Marine Boot Camp, you will never even split into groups dividing active duty Marines from the reservists.
Marine Combat Training & Infantry School: Reservist vs. Active Duty
Nothing has changed. The infantry training and Marine Combat Training (MCT) that Marines go through do not separate active duty from reservists. You train right next to them every step of the way.
MOS School: Reservist vs. Active Duty
Still… the training doesn’t change. Are you starting to get the drift? Again, active duty train right next to the reservists. One difference that can be found in MOS school is that reservists tend to do better, particularly regarding their testing and GPA scores. In my MOS school, the top 10 Marines in the platoon consisted of 6 Marine reservists and 4 lat-mover NCO’s. I was #8. Our #1 Marine was a reservist as well. The #11 Marine was active duty, and was a recycle from a previous platoon who got dropped on week 9 of 13.
Reservist do get pushed to the front of the training line for classing up because the state does not want to pay for them to sit around. That is one minor difference.
One of the suggested reasons why Marine reservists tend to do well is because a lot of them have completed some college or higher education. They’ve already proven to have a drive when it comes to success, and they’re now just moving that drive into the military service. Reservists have usually thought out their live’s a little more as well, as they tend to be older and more mature. This doesn’t mean that active duty have no drive. That couldn’t be further from the truth. The reservist may have just already had a driven mentality before the Corps. This is not based on scientific data.
The Fleet: Reservist vs. Active Duty
Here is where you’ll see your first tangible differences. The fleet Marine vs. the Marine reservist. There are both pros and cons regarding both active duty and being a reservist. Let’s take a look.
The Fleet Marine Pros & Cons
Pros Of An Active Duty Marine:
- Job security
- Paid for health insurance
- Paid housing
- Paid for food
- Paid for college education
- Scheduled PT
- Day-to-day practical application in your MOS
- Access to additional school, training and MCMAP instructors
Cons Of An Active Duty Marine:
- Freedom is limited
- Required to live at the base or location that the Marine Corps chooses for you
- Mandatory field day every Thursday
- Unwarranted formations
- Less time for college education
- Junior Marine “games”
The Marine Reservist Pros & Cons
Pros Of A Marine Reservist:
- Choose where you want to live
- More time to finish your college education
- Don’t have to put up with the day-to-day “stuff.”
Cons Of A Marine Reservist:
- Must be self-motivated to do physical training
- NO direct college education funding for Marine Reservist
- You must provide and pay for your own health insurance
- Required to find and juggle a civilian career, as well as fulfill military duties on top of college
- Housing is not paid for
- Additional schools and training are harder to get into
- MCMAP instructors are scarce
- It takes longer to get ANYTHING approved
Continued Training: Reservist vs. Active Duty
If you are a reservist, and you would like to get into additional school and training, it is possible to do, but it may require more work, and longer periods of time in-between communications with getting it setup. You may only hear from your platoon leader once or twice a month, and trying to get a hold of your unit can be difficult because they are also working a civilian job.
Deployments: Reservist vs. Active Duty
This is one of the biggest misconceptions – that Marine reservists don’t deploy. Marine reservists deploy just as much as active duty, and that’s a fact. Every unit is different, just as is every MOS, but being a reservist does not exclude a Marine from being deployed, just like being active duty does not guarantee a Marine to deploy. In my small unit of 18 Marines, we currently have 6 deployed, and new deployment opportunities open up every month.
Physical Fitness: Reservist vs. Active Duty
“Reservists are fat.” This is one of the arguments you hear a lot too. The reason this belief exists is because reservists must be self-motivated to PT and stay in shape. They can’t rely on company-level, or platoon-level PT three times a week like you can in the fleet. You must kick your own butt, haze yourself and stay active… always working to increase your ability to destroy your enemy physically.
I’ve seen the “nasty reservist” first-hand. My unit’s most recent PFT was nearly a complete failure. I was the only first class PFT with a 277/300, and the closest person behind me had a 203. We had multiple failures, a second class and a third class. I saw the stereotype first-hand, though I chose not to participate in it. My personal goal was to not leave any room for people to see me as a reservist rather than a Marine.
Though there is no excuse for a failing PFT score, keep in mind that these Marines have families, full-time jobs, and many are attending college. I don’t know what fleet PFT scores look like, but I would imagine that they are better than this.
If you’re a good Marine, then you should be training on your own, even as an active duty Marine. Let’s face it, the daily 9 just won’t cut it if you’re trying to improve. It is imperative that you develop your own workout routines.
The below information was taken from the the official Marine Corps Website.
Most people think being a reservist means serving one weekend a month and two weeks a year. In many instances, that’s the right idea, but there are a variety of other ways to be a Marine without being part of the active-duty Corps.
To name just a few options, a reserve Marine can serve part time with an active-duty unit, serve full time in a unit while remaining close to home, or serve on a special task for 179 days or less. Service, of course, must satisfy Corps needs, and the possibility of mobiliza-tion to active duty always exists. Still, there is much more flexibility in reserve duty than most people realize.
Generally, reserve duty entails drills and annual training – a drill being a general period of service. Each year, a typical reserve Marine performs about 24 drill days, plus two weeks of annual training. However, as an examination of the various reserve programs shows, Marines can perform the requisite number of drills and the two-week annual training in many ways. What’s more, there are some arrangements that don’t involve the usual drills and annual training.
Active Reserve (AR)
The Active Reserve program, which may sound like an oxymoron, allows a reserve Marine to serve on a full-time basis in billets such as recruiter, administrator, or even drill instructor. This is a good option for Marines coming off active duty who want to stay closer to home, but still want to be part of the Corps.
For example, as a member of the Active Reserve, Staff Sgt. Douglas Levesque is a transitional recruiter at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. He has been an active-duty Marine, and he has experienced life outside the Marine Corps as a civilian. Now he works as a full-time Marine reservist, drawing on his background to counsel Marines who are contemplating a life beyond active duty.
Individual Mobilization Augmentees (IMA)
Another option is the Individual Mobilization Augmentees program. In this program, a reservist who can fill a particular need with an active-duty unit performs reserve duty with that unit. The ability of the reservist to fill the need is the deciding factor, and it doesn’t matter whether that ability is the result of military training, civilian education, work experience, or something else.
Dale McNeil, who oversees roughly 250 IMA reservists at Marine Corps Base Quantico and Marine Corps Combat Development Command in Virginia, said that flexibility is usually a hallmark of an IMA tour of duty.
While everything hinges on what works for the sponsoring unit, McNeil said IMA reservists commonly perform their drills and annual training on schedules that create minimal friction with civilian-world obligations.
For example, there are IMA Marines who do all of their drills and their two-week annual training consecutively, McNeil said.
As long as the sponsoring unit is getting what it
Please let me know if you have anything to add, or something that you find that you believe is incorrect.