Marines: More on American Naval Infantry


September 28, 2005: The U.S. Navy recently announced that they are creating a Naval Infantry branch, to provide the fleet with some special operationstype ground combat capability formissions along the coasts. The navy can no longer depend on the independent minded marines for this. While it will be some time - perhaps a couple of years - before this force is able to undertake significant missions, it's worth noting that the navy already has some infantry combat-trained personnel in its ranks.

· Seabees. Founded 63 years ago, during World War II, the Seabees - the "Naval Construction Force" - numbers some 10,000 active duty and 12,000 reservists. Usually organized and deployed as battalions, seabees are trained in both construction and defensive combat. An undetermined number of seabees are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, where they are putting both sets of skills to use.

· Masters-at-Arms (MAs). These are the Navy's security and anti-terrorism personnel. Trained in police procedures, anti-terrorism, and force protection, they are normally armed like police officers, but have some light infantry capability. The MA force numbers about 9,500.

· Hospital Corpsmen. Hospital Corpsmen provide medical services to the Navy and Marine Corps. The Navy has nearly 30,000 Hospital Corpsmen, some 23,000 active duty and 6,000 reservists. Several thousand currently served in Marine units. Hospital Corpsmen serving with the Marine Corps - "Green" in Navy parlance - receive infantry training for defensive combat.

· Chaplains' Assistants. Chaplains' Assistants provide general support to Chaplains, which may include everything from assisting at services to serving as drivers. Since Navy Chaplains provide religious support to the Marine Corps, the Assistants to those Chaplains receive extensive combat training, to provide protection for their charges. Rumor in the Navy has it that of all "Green" personnel in the Navy, Chaplains' Assistants are the most skilled in ground combat. They are also by far the fewest in number, since hardly a hundred chaplains serve with the Marine Corps.

Until about the early-1970s, all naval personnel received some training in infantry combat, in the event that they might be called upon to serve in landing forces. That training has since been watered down considerably, but is being revived for the new Naval Infantry specialists.


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