Traditions

The traditions born from our Corps reflect a legacy of more than two centuries and point to the manner in which we make Marines, win our nation's battles and develop quality citizens. From our music to our mantras, from our cadences to our creed, these are the traditions of a proud and distinguished warrior class.

Rifleman's Creed

Every Marine is first and foremost, a rifleman. This becomes evident in the first days of Marine Corps Recruit Training, as all recruits since World War II have learned to recite the Rifleman's Creed.

This is my rifle. There are many like it, but this one is mine.
My rifle is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life.
My rifle, without me, is useless. Without my rifle, I am useless. I must fire my rifle true. I must shoot straighter than my enemy who is trying to kill me. I must shoot him before he shoots me. I will…

My rifle and myself know that what counts in this war is not the rounds we fire, the noise of our burst, nor the smoke we make. We know that it is the hits that count. We will hit...

My rifle is human, even as I, because it is my life. Thus, I will learn it as a brother. I will learn its weaknesses, its strength, its parts, its accessories, its sights and its barrel. I will ever guard it against the ravages of weather and damage as I will ever guard my legs, my arms, my eyes and my heart against damage. I will keep my rifle clean and ready. We will become part of each other. We will...

Before God, I swear this creed. My rifle and myself are the defenders of my country. We are the masters of our enemy. We are the saviors of my life.

So be it, until victory is America's and there is no enemy, but peace!

Silent Drill Platoon

Bayoneted rifles flying from Marine to Marine, the lineup of crisp dress blue uniforms, the rhythmic slap of rifles caught by leather-gloved hands: The Silent Drill Platoon exemplifies Marine Corps discipline, precision and skill. Members of the Silent Drill Platoon are handpicked to represent the Marine Corps. Through intense practice, they learn to perform precise rifle drill movements flawlessly for audiences across America—without a single verbal command ever being spoken. The platoon is based at the historic Marine Barracks Washington, D.C., "8th & I." The Barracks is the oldest active post in the Marine Corps, and is located on the corners of 8th & I streets in southeast Washington, D.C. The Barracks supports both ceremonial and security missions, and is also the home of the Commandant of the Marine Corps.

United States Marine Band "The President's Own"

The presidential inaugurations of George Washington and John Adams are the only two in our nation's history that did not feature the musical performances of the United States Marine Band. Established on July 11, 1798 by an Act of Congress, the United States Marine Band is our nation's oldest, continuously active professional music organization. On March 4, 1801, Thomas Jefferson became the first President of the United States to be greeted by the band at his inauguration, and is credited with giving it the name, "The President's Own." Charged with the unique primary mission of providing music for both the President of the United States and the Commandant of the Marine Corps, "The President's Own" also appears in more than 500 public appearances annually.

Nicknames/Mantras

Devil Dogs "Teufelhunden" – Nickname given to Marines by German soldiers for their relentless fighting during the Battle of Belleau Wood in 1918.

Jarheads – Nickname given to Marines in reference to their high-and-tight haircuts.

Leathernecks – Nickname given to Marines who fought in the Revolutionary War, in reference to the leather collars seen on their uniforms. The leather collars were meant to protect against slashes from swords or sabers during a naval boarding action.

"No Marine Left Behind" – A mantra that speaks to teamwork, loyalty and brotherhood that exists between Marines. Marines will intentionally risk their own safety to aid wounded comrades, or to retrieve the remains of fallen comrades.

"Ooh-rah" – A motivational cry that signifies Marines are ready and eager to accomplish the mission before them.

"Every Marine a Rifleman" – A mantra that speaks to the willingness and ability of every Marine to engage the enemy in direct combat, regardless of their primary MOS.

"Improvise, Adapt and Overcome" – A mantra that symbolizes the flexibility, resourcefulness and quick decision-making ability found throughout the Marine ranks.

Semper Fidelis – Latin for "always faithful," Semper Fidelis became the Marine Corps motto in 1883.

Close Order Drill

From the very first day of training to the final march on the graduation parade deck, every recruit practices Close Order Drill, the precise method of marching in formation. Though no longer used to align combat formations on the battlefield, Close Order Drill still has several practical purposes today. In addition to providing a standard, orderly manner for unit movements, it also teaches discipline, instills habits of precision and automatic response to orders, and ensures new team and squad leaders become accustomed to issuing proper commands assertively. Marines have always been known for their flawless execution of drill. In 1876, the Secretary of the Navy officially bestowed Marines with the honor of being "First on foot, and right of the line." To this day, Marines march at the head column of Naval formations. 

Marine Corps Birthday

Marking the birth of our Corps and honoring our proud lineage of warriors, November 10th is a celebratory occasion throughout our ranks. Since the official order that established it as a Marine Corps holiday in 1921, the Marine Corps birthday has been a yearly reminder of the brave spirit that has compelled young men and women to defend our nation and its interests for more than two centuries. The celebration includes a formal Birthday Ball (when in garrison), the reading of a birthday message from the Commandant, the cutting of a birthday cake by the commanding officer, and the presentation of the first and second pieces of cake to the oldest and youngest Marines present. Whether on a stateside base or on a remote post abroad, on this day, every Marine who serves or who has served is entitled to the words, "Happy Birthday, Marine."

The Marines' Hymn

The most recognizable military hymn and the oldest official song in the U.S. Armed Forces, The Marines' Hymn is a reminder of the sacrifice and courage that Marines have shown on the battlefield. It is an important part of Marine Corps culture—every Marine can recite its three stanzas by heart.

From the Halls of Montezuma,
To the shores of Tripoli;
We fight our country's battles
In the air, on land, and sea;
First to fight for right and freedom
And to keep our honor clean:
We are proud to claim the title
Of United States Marine.
 
Our flag's unfurled to every breeze
From dawn to setting sun;
We have fought in every clime and place
Where we could take a gun;
In the snow of far-off Northern lands
And in sunny tropic scenes;
You will find us always on the job
The United States Marines.
 
Here's health to you and to our Corps
Which we are proud to serve;
In many a strife we've fought for life
And never lost our nerve;
If the Army and the Navy
Ever look on Heaven's scenes;
They will find the streets are guarded
By The United States Marines.

"The Commandant's Own"

An ensemble of talent, devotion and readiness, "The Commandant's Own" is the only Drum & Bugle Corps in the active duty U.S. Armed Forces. Members of this unit are one of the only two Marine Corps units authorized to wear the highly distinguishable "Scarlet Coat" when in dress uniform. The Marines of "The Commandant's Own" make freedom ring throughout our Corps, our nation and beyond.

All-Marine Color Guard

The practice of guarding national and unit flags (known as the "colors") on the battlefield is a practice that precedes even the founding of our nation. The earliest military color guards marched into battle as an honored part of their regiments, using the colors to inspire, guide and rally their units. Today, the tradition of safeguarding our national and organizational colors is ceremoniously upheld by the Marine Corps Color Guard. Comprising a detail of four Marines, the Marine Corps Color Guard renders the proper customs and courtesies while posting and retiring the American Flag. This honored tradition shows respect to our nation and those who have served it. While two Marines bearing rifles flank the formation, the other two Marines present the flags of the United States and of the Marine Corps. A salute is rendered by lowering the Marine Corps flag while holding the National Ensign high.

Soldiers from the Sea

The amphibious capabilities that have defined our ship-to-shore reputation would not be possible without the close relationship that exists with the U.S. Navy. As a result of these ties to our sister service, several nautical terms have become part of every Marine's standard lexicon:

  • Starboard: Right
  • Port: Left
  • Deck: Floor
  • Porthole: Window
  • Bulkhead: Wall
  • Galley: Kitchen
  • Sick Bay: Medical Office
  • Overhead: Ceilings
  • Mess: Dining Area
  • Head: Restroom
  • Passageway: Hallway
  • Scuttlebutt: Water Fountain