Marine pilot vs Naval pilot

Matty011

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I know a marine pilot is classified as a navy pilot. Unfortunately there is limited information about marine pilots. I am trying to get a better understanding on the difference between a Marine and navy pilot. I know a marine pilot is a gun man first, but what are differences as far as the lifestyle of the two. Do marine pilots live on air craft carriers? Do marine pilots fly more? Please help thanks.
 

THParent

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Yeah. I qualified expert with a rifle but I was not a rifleman, per se. I think that takes away from what our infantry does. I was a POG to those wonderful infantry folks, and that has always been okay with me. ;)
As for the question about whether or not Marine pilots fly more, I can only speak to the 1980's. Back then, everybody got to fly. There was plenty of fuel and flight time to go around. It was a good time to be a pilot.
Marine aviation (much like the Corps in general) is very very small, compared to The Navy. Small isn't better, it's just different. If I had to hazard a guess, I would say that Naval Aviators get to fly more, these days.

I can't begin to describe the lifestyle differences of the two. Not in a post on a forum. Why do you ask? If you're wondering how you should commission, you may be getting WAY ahead of yourself, here.
If you get an appointment to USNA or a NROTC contract, you will have four (4) years to figure that one out. All through those years, you will be exposed to Summer training blocks which will either appeal to you or not. You can make your decision based on real-world, hands-on experience then, rather than asking for advice from strangers now. The good thing is that there's time. A decision doesn't need to be made for some time.
 

Old Navy BGO

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Just a few comments...but as THP noted, it is too broad a question to answer clearly.

1) First, a small point..Marine pilots are not "navy pilots, " but instead are Naval Aviators, with the same training and Wings of Gold. Marine Naval Aviators go through carrier qualifications before winging, and for some ..that is the only time they will ever operate on a carrier.

2) It is true that all Marine Corps officers (not just pilots) are trained in basic infantry tactics, through TBS, AOCS, or the various other programs. That is part of the allure of the Marine Corps...a common core training that sets them apart from other services. This training has served them well, when they had pull together platoons of cooks and bakers when fighting their way out of Chosin Reservoir, to a more recent incident where a Marine Harrier squadron had to defend their flight line in Afghanistan or Iraq.

3) Historically, the Marine Corps has often been treated as the poor stepchild of the Navy, a lower priority in the constant Pentagon budget wars. They are famous for doing the most with the least, and usually the last to get the cutting edge equipment and weapons. I don't follow current budgets, but do know that certain USMC aviation communities are struggling with aging platforms (legacy Hornets), while Navy is getting the new and improved aircraft first. I've also heard that both USN and Marine aviation are struggling for flight hours, and fly at substantially lower rates than we did in the 80-90s.

4) On the Aviation side, the primary missions are different ... Navy aviation mans the carriers, with power projection and fleet defense missions, where much of the USMC aviation side is focused on providing ground support for the grunts. There are of course, exceptions, as there used to be (and may still be) an initiative to cross deck Marine F-18 squadrons on carriers. (In addition, I had a classmate commanding a Navy F18 squadron stationed at a USMC base).
 

kpmom2013

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Emphasis on #3 above. My DS graduated from USMMA in 2023 and had offers for pilot slots in both Navy and Marine Corps. He branched Navy and had been happy with that choice. Both services currently struggle with getting flying hours. The primary reason for my son's choice is input from his older brother who is a Special Operations Independent Duty Corpsman and has experience working with both Navy and Marine Corps pilots. Both my DS's have observed that the Marine Corps is much more strapped for cash than the Navy and as a result, many more of its aircraft are grounded. Marines take pride in doing more with less, but aviation and cutting corners due to lack of funding are not a good combination.
 

OldRetSWO

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There are of course, exceptions, as there used to be (and may still be) an initiative to cross deck Marine F-18 squadrons on carriers.
Marine Squadrons became part of Carrier Airwings as one of Admiral Zumwalt's initiatives in the early 70's and I believe that there is a USMC squadron in every carrier Airwing. Also, USMC Rotary Wing, Osprey and Harrier (soon to be F35B) also embark on and deploy with Navy Amphibious ships.
 

Hurricane12

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This is a simple question with a slightly complicated answer. The simple response is that Marine pilots are in the Marine Corps and Navy pilots are in the Navy, but that's not necessarily helpful to you. Warning: long post to follow.
-Both attend the same schools to winging, with Marines taking a 6 month detour to The Basic School prior to showing up to Pensacola. Depending on the needs of the services, Marine or Navy requirements may be stricter to pass different phases of flight school. For example, during the height of the Iraq/Afghanistan Wars, the Marines were apparently taking everybody with a pulse and pushing them through, but when I was in flight school Marines were required to get higher scores than Navy students throughout (to include higher grade requirements for jets, etc.).
During flight school, the playing field is pretty level. There are a mix of Navy/Marine students and IPs (plus Coasties) and generally every phase is relatively "service blind." Marine and Navy students will often be paired together for flights and so on. There are some subtle cultural differences between Marine/Navy studs but for the most part everybody gets along. Post selection and wings at the end of flight school is where the difference really starts.

For life in the fleet: I will lead with I am biased and have a certain opinion because I am a Marine. While there are things I definitely don't like about my job, I think I'm happier than I would be in the Navy. My Navy friends hear me talk about the Marine Corps and Thank God they went Navy. So, your mileage may vary.

The simplest, and not most accurate, way to think about this is that Marine aviation exists to support ground Marines. Naval Aviation exists to support the fleet and its strategic objectives. So for example while the Marine Corps and Navy both fly helicopters, for example, Marine helicopters train to shooting missiles/rockets/guns in support of ground forces as their primary mission while Navy helicopters train to antisubmarine or surface ship warfare as their big focus.
Marines will generally be collocated or close to the ground units they support, while Navy units will be dis-aggregated across the coast at helicopter or jet bases and come together as an air wing for deployment.

Who gets the most flight time ebbs and flows. I',m pretty sure I get more (and more interesting) hours than my Navy helicopter counterparts, we both get more than most of the guys flying jets in either service, and everybody gets less than the people who fly the big multi-engine aircraft. The "Marines get the worst stuff" is a bit of a misnomer these days. We definitely have struggles with readiness and budget, but the tide is turning and the aircraft in most communities are pretty new with a few exceptions.

The biggest cultural difference in my mind is that in the Navy each of the big communities is considered relatively equal. Everybody knows that everybody else has an important part to play, whether they drive a submarine, a surface ship, or a helicopter, and separate career paths are considered valid. People in the Navy seem to understand better that different communities require different things and it is expected of you to become a tactical expert in fighting your aircraft/ship/whatever over your knowledge of how the whole Navy operates.
In the Marine Corps, people outside the AirWing don't necessarily "get it" and aviation can become a kind of second-class community among officers. Marine Air exists to support the grunt and we love doing it but that comes with the knowledge that our needs are not necessarily understood by the higher headquarters. The non-flying job burden is generally higher in the Marine Corps than in the Navy and you are expected to be a jack of all trades and master of everything. Your quality of life will be lower. But, ultimately, I find it incredibly rewarding. When I deployed, I knew that if we went to combat (we didn't) I wouldn't be shooting for some anonymous dude on the radio, it would be to support the guy who lives across the hall from me. I love leading Marines and think my helicopter mechanics are some of the finest, hardest working Americans out there.

Both will have their pain outside of the cockpit after an initial flying billet of 3-5 years, or maybe more. In the Navy, that comes with tours to the Carrier Staff. In the Marine Corps, that normally comes as a tour as a Forward Air Controller (FAC) or Air Officer with a grunt unit, which is generally considered a rewarding, if difficult, tour.

As an Academy grad I obviously had a choice between Navy and Marine Air and I went Marine with no regrets but it's not for everyone.

Best,

gun (wo)man Capt Hurricane
 

THParent

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Love the mushroom soup scene. What a perfectly crappy father figure that character was. Hoo boy.
 

NavyHoops

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The item to think about... what happens if you don’t fly? You start down a path and you could decide you don’t want to fly, meet ASTB scores are medically DQ’d from flying or get dropped from flight school. It happens... more than you think. Would you prefer to be on ships? Does the thought of living in dirt and being in the field sound bad? Remember you do non-aviation tours too. For the Navy that can often mean being on a carrier in a non-flying billet. For the Marines, as Hurricane pointed out, could mean being attached to ground units.
 

usna1985

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My $0.02 from knowing pilots in both services but not being one in either, is that Marine pilots are first and foremost Marines. In our day (when service selection was done very differently), quite a few folks opted for Marine air having great interest in being a pilot and little interest in being a Marine. Not only did most not do well at TBS, but they also weren't very happy. The converse was true for those who picked Marine air b/c they wanted to be a Marine pilot (emphasis intended).

On the flip side, I know a recent grad who had a USMC aviation "contract" (that was his service assignment) but got to TBS and decided he wanted to be a ground Marine -- wanted to lead troops more directly, so to speak. They let him do it and he was happy. The story proves the point that you first want to be certain about being in the USMC.
 

Old Navy BGO

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Marine pilots are first and foremost Marines.

^ This is probably the best point made on this thread .... you have to want to be a Marine Officer. I've told the story here several times about my Plebe year squad leader who selected Marine Air because his class rank was too low to go Navy Air. I won't go into details again, but he was about the worst Midshipman I encountered, and I have always imagined TBS chewed him up and spit him out. (I'm going to have go back and figure his name, Google him , and find out what happened). The current (its not new anymore) Service "assignment" process was established to help eliminate this type of issue.
 

Dr. Strange Love

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^ This is probably the best point made on this thread .... you have to want to be a Marine Officer. I've told the story here several times about my Plebe year squad leader who selected Marine Air because his class rank was too low to go Navy Air. I won't go into details again, but he was about the worst Midshipman I encountered, and I have always imagined TBS chewed him up and spit him out. (I'm going to have go back and figure his name, Google him , and find out what happened). The current (its not new anymore) Service "assignment" process was established to help eliminate this type of issue.
.
I’m way more than curious .... Can you elaborate on what the subject mid’s Issue(s) were — were they Technical, Personal, or both?
.
 

usna1985

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^^^^

I had a similar experience with several upper class in my company. They just weren't temperamentally suited to -- or interested in being -- Marines. Not sure I can explain it beyond that.

You see, in our day, not as many people wanted to go USMC out of USNA as do today. To get folks to be Marines, USMC "guaranteed" men (since women could not be USMC aviators at the time) that, if they were qualified to fly (remember you had to have 20/20 vision and there was no LASIK or PRK), you could be a pilot or NFO (different vision standards, of course). As Old Navy BGO says, some people couldn't get pilot or NFO billets in the USN due to low class rank and thus went USMC for that option. But they didn't want to do TBS, weren't "ooh-rah," or any of that. As noted, it didn't turn out well.

Different time, different place. And, as Old Navy points out, service "assignment" was implemented in part to eliminate the above. Thus, I think today folks at USNA have a MUCH better sense of what life will be like if they select USMC air -- and aren't assigned to the USMC if the Marines aren't convinced the person really wants to be a Marine. But I'm sure there are a few who slip through the cracks. It will come back to bite them sooner or later.
 

USMCGrunt

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On the flip side, I know a recent grad who had a USMC aviation "contract" (that was his service assignment) but got to TBS and decided he wanted to be a ground Marine -- wanted to lead troops more directly, so to speak. They let him do it and he was happy. The story proves the point that you first want to be certain about being in the USMC.

I always love to hear redemption stories where people turn away from "the dark side" and see the light. ;)
 

Old Navy BGO

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Can you elaborate on what the subject mid’s Issue(s) were — were they Technical, Personal, or both?
- To steal '85's line, he really wasn't temperamentally suited for, or interested, in being a Midshipman or a Naval Officer. He was there because he wanted to fly. To be honest, I really don't even remember his name...
 

OldRetSWO

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For the information/education of the current generation of interested folks, in the old days, there was no mandatory "bulldog" training so the USMC did not have the opportunity to get a look at prospective Marines doing Marine type things prior to Service Selection. The way it worked is that the First Class mids came down to Service Selection in the order of their class rank and chose from what was available. When spots ran out, the folks ranked lower in the class had fewer things to choose from but as long as USMC spots were still available, any of us could choose them.
 

usna1985

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"Bulldog" is now called "Leatherneck." But OldSWO is correct, in the "old days," you didn't necessarily have to have interest or aptitude for going USMC -- or actually anything other than subs and maybe SEALs (USNA program at the time was MUCH smaller and MUCH less formalized than today). As OldNavyBGO said, this is one of the reasons they moved to Service Assignment (vs Service Selection). And the main reason they implemented Leatherneck (formerly Bulldog). This helps ensure that folks who select USMC want to be Marines and have the tooks/skills/aptitude to be successful.
 

BarryD

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"Bulldog" is what PLC Seniors/OCS is/was called for NROTC MO MIDN. For a period of time both USNA and NROTC MIDN went to Bulldog, but USNA eventually dropped it and started their own Leatherneck program. Bulldog still exists and is still required for NROTC MO MIDN, but now it's just referred to as OCS.

Two different programs, although with a similar mission.
 
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