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Birth of a Motto

Lance Cpl. Karl Schmidt and Pfc. Aramis C. Sandoval, a squad automatic weapon gunner and administrative clerk, guard force, Headquarters and Service Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, patrol through farmland on their way to set up a vehicle checkpoint May 30. Schmidt, from Morton Grove, Ill., and Aramis, from Bronx, N.Y., are members of the H&S guard force, a group of mostly non-infantrymen who perform infantry duties in their battle space.

FORWARD OPERATING BASE GERONIMO, Afghanistan — The phrase, “every Marine a rifleman” is so overused it’s gone from motto to cliché, but if Cpl. Eric Ramirez has his way a new battle cry will emerge — every Marine an infantryman.

Ramirez is no stranger to the life of a grunt. His boots have seen more than 600 dismounted patrols in Iraq, but for his current deployment, the third in just as many years, the 21-year-old infantryman wanted something different.

Instead, Ramirez ended up in the same scene, but with new characters.

He still patrols. He still stands post and sets up vehicle checkpoints. He still denies the enemy movement, only now it’s with the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, Headquarters Company Guard Force, a group of mostly non-infantrymen who perform infantry duties in the Headquarters and Service Company battle space.

“The deployments I’ve been on before, H and S Co. has never had its own battle space,” Ramirez said. “When they decided to give H and S Co. its own space they needed infantrymen to step up to the challenge and help lead the guard force.”

Using an interpreter, Cpl. Eric
Ramirez, squad leader, Headquarters and Service Company, 3rd
Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, speaks with a local elder about the
12 bags of fertilizer found in a farmer’s van at a vehicle checkpoint
near Forward Operating Base Geronimo May 30.

An H and S Co. battle space isn’t new. The current area of operations 3rd Bn., 3rd Marines, occupies was inherited from their sister battalion 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, who also had a guard force. The 1st Bn., 3rd Marines, guard force didn’t take over its own battle space until near the very end of the deployment.

Of the 12 men in Ramirez’s squad, only three, counting him, are infantrymen by trade. The rest hold billets like truck driver, administrative clerk, field radio operator … all grunt support. But for Ramirez their military specialty doesn’t matter as much as another title — Marine.

“A lot of grunts would put these guys down,” Ramirez said. “They’d say, ‘they’ve never patrolled, they’ve never done this or that, blah, blah, blah …’ Yeah, they’ve never patrolled but we’re still all Marines. You can train a Marine to be an infantryman. If they haven’t had the same training as you of course they won’t be on the same level, but I guarantee by the end of the deployment they will be.”

At first Ramirez worried the Marines under his charge wouldn’t be enthusiastic about their new positions. They already had jobs they’d been trained to do. Who would want to be dropped into an unfamiliar role? But the men surprised him with their motivation and eagerness to head outside of the wire, a term used to describe the uncertainty outside of a forward operating base. His squad completed their first patrol without being accompanied by a platoon sergeant or commander May 30 near Forward Operating Base Geronimo, and Ramirez was pleased by how quickly they had absorbed his training.

For some in Ramirez’s squad, like with many Marines, there’s always been grunt envy.

Pfc. Aramis C. Sandoval went to his local recruiting office in Bronx, N.Y., just a little more than a year ago hoping to enlist as an infantryman. When his recruiter told him he’d have to pick a new military occupational specialty, Sandoval settled on administrative clerk. He hopes to be a lawyer one day and figured a chance to work as a clerk in a base legal office would help him build experience.

With less than a year in the Marine Corps, Sandoval, the trained office worker, is a rifleman in Afghanistan — a white-collar warrior.

“I give all the respect to the grunts,” Sandoval said with a tired sigh. “This work is not easy at all. It’s physically and mentally demanding. The pressure is the biggest challenge. I don’t ever want to look back and think I got a Marine hurt because I wasn’t doing something right.”

The work is as fulfilling as it is demanding. Sandoval’s face may usually be covered in sweat, dirt and awkward tan lines from constant, post, patrol and training, but it’s got a smile on it as well.

As for Ramirez, when he’s out on patrol he doesn’t see the difference between leading a squad of infantrymen and a squad of clerks.

“Just because you’re not a grunt doesn’t mean you’re not a Marine,” Ramirez said. “Everyone knows a Marine is a rifleman. If they wanted to
do just one job they would have probably joined (another service) or something. The Marine Corps is a combat-arms service. We’re all expected to be combative.”

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12 Responses

  1. John Doe says:

    RESPECT to all Marines who risk their lives in defense of Corps and country. Semper Fidelis.

  2. Johnny says:

    Quit getting your feelings hurt because you didn’t sign a contract for the Infantry. If you wanted to be a Grunt you would have asked for it before you left for bootcamp. If your a POG your still a POG even after you go on a couple of patrols or stand a little post. I am not discounting non-Infantry MOSs they are needed but by this train of thought (All Marines are Infantrymen) then I guess Im MARSOC.

  3. Zpena88 says:

    yea its a foundation and thats it. Ive almost lost my life because of non 03’s trying to play grunt! I would feel insulted if “every marine an infantryman” was ever adopted!

  4. Shabel, John T. Cpl 2430772 says:

    I was an 0351 – but never saw a 106 or anything else I was trained on. Was with B 1/27 1st as a grunt. I wish that I had been trained as an 0311. I had a whole bunch of OJT in the summer of ’68. Allenbrook provided either a very quick education or a very dark body bag. Combat grunts are very special people in any war. Semper Fi

  5. Jeff Kyle says:

    Same sentiments, just change that from CH-46 to CH-53A.

    Semper FI

  6. Will says:

    As an alumnus of 1st Battalion 3D Marines, H&S Co, I can say with certainty that non-03s have their work cut out for them. However infantrymen have the fight. Spending 4 years in an infantry battalion, deploying on three combat pumps as a non-03 caused me to appreciate the Marines on patrol all day-every day. It is easily for FOB bound Marines to become complacent and forget that we support the warfighter. 1/3, 3/3, and now 2/3 H&S Companies all created an infantry guard out of the staff sections, taking Marines with minimum training outside of their occupational specifies and employing them in the infantry role. All members of the guard adapted and conducted themselves as infantrymen would. The H&S Guard enabled the support of the line companies. These Marines all performed above reproach and do give credit to the quote “Every Marine a Riflemen”.

    Semper Fidelis Lava Dogs

  7. Chuck says:

    Every Marine is a rifleman. Feb 1968 Camp Pendleton proved that. Tet 68 was in full swing, Marine Corps was sending the 27th Rgt over to Nam. There was not enough grunts to fill the 3rd Bn, so support personnel became “instant” grunts. One day I am a truck mechanic, a few days later I’m in Nam as a fireteam leader with Lima Co 3/27. Operation Allenbrook proved we were grunts. Semper Fi

  8. jim says:

    Lets put it this way when they ask for grunts up to do a raid your all of the sudden h&s but on comment post or the news paper were all grunts huh.
    You wouldnt hear a photographer in vietnam claim grunt after being imbedded wih them for a tour, Be proud of what you chose, Not what you think you are!!


  9. Matt says:

    I was part of this Guard Force. It was 3rd Bn 3rd Marines. I can tell you that as a 3531 I did more Grunt work than some Grunts. We patrolled, stood post, did working parties and all the other misc things Grunts do. I felt more like an 03 than anything this deployment.

    As for David’s comment, I can understand where is coming from. It’s hard work requiring phsyical and (more importantly) mental endurance. I know first hand that kind of work breeds a strong pride in the words they use to describe themselves. Too often that is misunderstood as arrogance and elitism. The 03s have my respect, now more than ever.

    Everyone plays their part in our Corps. If I wasn’t here chow and water wouldn’t make it to the patrol bases. Without the Admin field we wouldn’t get paid or promoted, And you can talk without Comm. I take pride in my job, and I love what I do. I think too often Grunts are targeted for being arrogant because a FEW of them are legitimately elitist. For the most part they’re good guys, and I would trust them sooner than some Motor T Marines.

  10. Jim says:

    The Marine Corps gave me an opportunity. They gave me the opportunity to take advantage of the training they could offer. And, if I was able to rise to the occasion and apply myself through the hardships and regimen that would be there during the training, then I would have another opportunity. This opportunity would be one to put to practical operation the new skills that I had learned. But, first and foremost they made me aware, in no uncertain terms that I would have to pass the physical and emotional tests that would be there every step of the way in first becoming a Marine. And, in becoming a Marine I would have to not only accept, but internalize the fact that I would be a rifleman. I would learn the fundamentals, suffer some of the pain, and come to an appreciation of what the grunt life was all about. Then, and only then would I have the ability to appreciate the reason I was a Marine – to support my fellow Marines in any way I could. My CH-46 was a tool to Marines of who I was proud to be one.

  11. Rob says:

    Since every Marine goes through the same SOI foundation, I think you had better show less arrogance David. Maybe you don’t want M1A2s, M198s, AV8Bs, AH1W/Zs, or F/A 18s to support at the drop of a hat. Aww, you don’t need money, water, food, ammo, or fuel anyways. Do you have any idea how many non-03xx Marines make up provisional rifle companies. These Marines not only fill Infantry functions but also have to take care of all the other business that takes care of the 03xxs. Get off your stupid high horse or you will find the Corps a very lonely place.

    PS In my day in the Corps your attitude would have got your a** tossed from the Corps.

  12. David says:

    I would never accept hearing “Every Marine an Infantryman.” Infantryman, Grunt, rifleman, 11, these are all titles that grunts use to describe themselves. These are titles we earn, not only through SOI, but through the hardships we go through each and every day in our occupation and gives a sense of brotherhood that is even tighter than the title of Marine. Every Marine is a Marine, nobody can take that away from them, if every Marine wanted to a be a grunt, they would have signed up for it.