Difference Between Navy SEALs And Marines

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The U.S. Marines and Navy SEALs are considered two of the most elite military fighting forces in the world. The two branches are incredibly unique, each with their own history, culture and roles within the U.S. Armed Forces.

In this article we walk you through the major differences between the Navy SEALs and Marine units of the United States Military. For those who are considering a career with the U.S Military, Understanding the difference between the Marines and the Navy can help you make the right decision.

Who are the Navy SEALs?

The United States Navy Sea, Air, and Land (SEAL) Teams, commonly known as Navy SEALs, are U.S. Navy’s primary special operations force and a component of the Naval Special Warfare Command.

Among the SEALs’ main functions are conducting small-unit special operation missions in maritime, jungle, urban, arctic, mountainous, and desert environments. SEALs are typically ordered to capture or to kill high level targets, or to gather intelligence behind enemy lines.

The SEAL teams also perform some of the military’s most difficult missions, including lightning-fast hostage rescues and the killing of high-level terrorists.

SEAL training is open to members of the U.S. Navy between the ages of 17 and 28, though special waivers are available through age 33.

Recruits who pass two months of preparatory training, including a battery of demanding physical and mental screening tests, enter an extremely rigorous six-month Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training program, often said to be the toughest in the U.S. military.

During the training, they undergo constant physical and mental conditioning and are trained in a host of skills, including basic water competency and swimming, underwater combat, weapons and demolitions, and navigating on dry land.

The SEALs trace their heritage to various elite units in World War II, particularly to naval combat demolition units (NCDUs) and underwater demolition teams (UDTs) whose “frogmen” were trained to destroy obstacles on enemy-held beaches prior to amphibious landings in Europe and the Pacific.

SEAL units took part in several U.S. military engagements abroad, including the protection of merchant shipping in the Persian Gulf in 1987–88 during the Iran-Iraq War, the intervention in Panama in 1989, and the liberation of Kuwait during the Persian Gulf War (1990–91).

Who are the Marines?

The United States Marine Corps, also referred to as the United States Marines, is the maritime land force service branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for conducting expeditionary and amphibious operations.

The Marines are divided into four groups: the operating forces that do the actual fighting, the headquarters for leadership, the supporting establishment that provides logistical support, and the Marine Corps Reserve. The Marine Corps relies on the Navy for sealift to provide its rapid deployment capabilities.

The Marine Corps was founded on Nov. 10, 1775, when the Continental Congress ordered two battalions of Marines be created to serve during the Revolutionary War. They further resolved that this force be acquainted with maritime operations in order to serve aboard naval vessels. Thus, the United States Marine Corps always has been an expeditionary naval force ready to defend the nation’s interests overseas.

The Marines as the U.S military department within the Navy is charged with the provision of marine troops for seizure and defense of advanced bases and with conducting operations on land and in the air incident to naval campaigns. It is also responsible for providing detachments for service aboard certain types of naval vessels, as well as security forces for naval shore installations and U.S. diplomatic missions in foreign countries. 

Marines have participated in all wars of the United States, being in most instances first, or among the first, to fight. In addition, Marines have executed more than 300 landings on foreign shores and served in every major U.S. naval action since 1775.

Also Read: Difference Between Federal And Prisons In United States

Navy SEALs vs Marines: Key Difference

Points of ComparisonNavy SEALsMarine Corps
DescriptionNavy SEALs, are the U.S. Navy’s principal special operations force and a part of the Naval Special Warfare Command.Marines is the maritime land force of the U.S army responsible for conducting expeditionary and amphibious operations.
FormationThe SEALs were officially formed in 1962 by President John F. Kennedy.The Marine Corps was founded on Nov. 10, 1775 by the Continental Congress.
NatureNavy SEALs are the U.S. Navy’s main specialised operations force.Marine is the elite fighting forces of the Navy, capable of fighting on land, air and sea.
CapabilityNavy SEALs perform specific missions within the battle which require finesse rather than brute force. Majorly perform operations where brute force is required.
TrainingThe Navy SEALs training is far more rigorous and demanding.The training is less rigourous and demanding when compared to the SEALs.
Fighting UnitsUsually organised and fight in small units.Usually organised and fight in relatively large Units.
Garrison/HQNaval Amphibious Base Coronado

Joint Expeditionary Base–Little Creek
The Pentagon
Arlington County, Virginia
Nicknames“Frogmen”, “The Teams”, “The Men with Green Faces”“Jarheads”, “Devil Dogs”, “Teufel Hunden”, “Leathernecks”
Motto“The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday”.
“It Pays To Be A Winner”.
“Never Out Of The Fight”.
Semper fidelis
(“Always faithful”)
SizeMarines has about 300000 active personnel with about 80000 reserve as of 2021.There are some 8000 SEALs on active duty as of 2021.

Key Takeaways

  • The United States Marine Corps (also known as USMC or Marines) is one of the 5 branches of the U.S. military under the Department of Defense.
  • Navy SEALs are the U.S. Navy’s main special operations force. They’re part of the Naval Special Warfare Command (NSWC) and are the maritime component of the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM).
  • The Marine Corps dates all the way back to 1775 and was created by the Continental Congress to serve in the Revolutionary War.
  • The SEALs were officially formed in 1962 by President John F. Kennedy. In 1983, Underwater Demolition Teams (UDTs), who were also essential during in the Korean Conflict, became part of the SEALs.
  • The Marines are capable of fighting on the land, sea and the air. They employ armored vehicles, fighter aircraft, helicopters and artillery to complete their missions.
  • Navy Seals fight as small units and perform specific missions within the battle which require finesse rather than brute force. 
  • Like the Marines, Navy SEALs can fight on the land, sea, and from the air, but completing a specific mission, rather than overwhelming their enemy, is their primary function.
  • All sailors who want to become SEALs must survive a punishing gantlet of physical tests.
  • Although the Marines are highly respected and considered one of the most elite fighting forces, the Navy SEALs training is far more rigorous and demanding than that of the Marines. Normally only about one-quarter of any candidate class completes the SEAL’s BUD/S training.