Marines Disarmed? Unlikely

Ok, so everyone seems up in arms over alleged reports of Marines not being allowed to have live ammo while guarding the embassy in Cairo. I am highly skeptical of these reports.

About a year and half ago, FAST Company sent a platoon to reinforce security at the American Embassy in Cairo. I had the opportunity to visit the Marines for a few days during the mission. All the FAST Marines as well as Marine Security Guards were armed and were carrying live ammo. I have a hard time believing this would suddenly change a year later.

Embassies are generally not guarded by hordes of heavily armed infantrymen. Marine Security Guard’s primary duties include the protection of classified material. They are well armed but they are armed for an internal security mission and not to repel enemy assault by fire and close combat.

I actually met a Marine who was at the embassy in Iran back in 1979. He taught a class at what was then Marine Security Guard School in Quantico in 1995. Marine Guards were instructed not to engage the Iranians as they were coming over the wall that day. Why? There were only seven or so Marines and about a million Iranians. 

As far as ROEs in Cairo I can only speculate. Security personnel were most likely instructed not to engage anyone hopping over the walls. I imagine most of the Americans were in the main building at the embassy which is built like a keep.  Again, Marine guards are armed for internal security and were more than likely standing by to repel invaders from the main building. Since I wasn’t there I can only guess as a former embassy guard and FAST Company 1stSgt. Even if I knew I wouldn’t say it here, so there you have it. 

Another thing to keep in mind when you hear about security personnel not being armed is that outside the American compound, we all have to follow the laws of the host nation. If they don’t allow the carry of firearms then guess what? We obey the local laws.

Anyway, if you see a Marine overseas, he is probably armed. More than likely with bullets too. Don’t let the hype of your preferred political spectrum spin you into believing something untrue. I think it’s good advice no matter where you fall.

Semper Fi,
America’s SgtMaj

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16 comments

  1. Well put Sgt Major. How would you like to be head of the Defense Department when I take over the White House? Or if you like, Secretary of State or whatever post you’d like. You just name it. You are the man.

  2. 1. Wasn’t going to comment about this, but since you have….
    2. In the Army, possession of a piece of brass was a courtmartial offense. Really. Taken totally seriously.
    3. Switch over to the Corps. My men always had ammunition.
    4. A few times, wished they hadn’t. But enforcing conditions like the Army enjoyed (?) was not going to work in my units.
    5. In a hyper aggressive, testosterone dripping society, we poured gasoline on the flames, anyway.
    6. The MSG are better trained and more tightly disciplined, but still Marines.
    7. The one time I was an unarmed observer, wasn’t. My boss asked me if I was holding.
    8. Didn’t lie to my superiors. He just nodded. Have wondered if he was checking to see if I was a total fool.
    9. Anyway, unless things have totally changed, the Marines could see a whole procession of State Department types, JAG Officers and other odd bods threatening hell and damnation if they didn’t comply with the establishment notion of good conduct.
    10. The Marines would listen, nod at the appropriate places and then do what they thought they needed to.
    V/R JWest

  3. SGM,
    When in the absence of facts, the media and others start rumors.
    Even in West Berlin during peace time, we had live ammo for Brigade Guard— we were not “locked and loaded” but we had ammo.
    (I found the “why” we didn’t lock and load when we had idiots do so and shoot the walls etc)

  4. I was an MSG in Cairo not long before the revolution and based on my experience, I also think this rumor is total BS. As you mentioned in your post, the MSGs you met were carrying live ammo. That was ALWAYS the case.

    The current ambassador in Cairo is a career diplomat who has served in a variety of dangerous countries and the idea that she would not only blow off a high threat, but actually change years of unquestioned policy to REDUCE security is ludicrous.

  5. JWest, I was going to leave it alone too but it seems too many folks are willing to buy the story at face value.

    CI Roller, you know as well as I do the only cure for that is to have the troops carry live ammo more often. Sounds counter intuitive but it’s true.

    Magoo, for you, anytime.

    Female Marine, agree. The RSOs in Cairo were dialed in too. I find the hold thing total BS.

  6. BS probably, but there is a somewhat of a precedence for Ambassadors… or at least one Ambassador being a walking talking Darwin Award wannabee.

    I’m talking about Beirut 83′.

    The Marines had a good, solid defense set up, including a pair of Dragons over-watching the primary approach to the HQ area.

    The Ambassador decided that it was too scary looking and might offend the local yokels. He ordered most of the defense dismantled, 1x 5 round mag in the mag pouch on a couple guards.

    Not long after, boom. Many dead.

    Of course, the Marine commander had to fall on his sword afterward, for following orders, under protest, of course.

    I’ve had a hate on for State ever since, and I wasn’t even there. Still pissed off we weren’t allowed to go pay a visit in force for good old fashioned payback.

    – Grimmy

  7. Grimmy, I would say because of that kind of precedence Marines ALWAYS have the right to defend themselves if they feel they are in danger.

    While I was in FAST and questions would come down about if our Marines could wear civilian clothes or carry concealed. blah, blah, blah. My response was always along the lines of: “If you want a switch blade, go ask for one. If you want Marines then you’re getting a battle axe and all it entails.” Generally my ranting was at my CO as he was on the phone being far more diplomatic than I.

  8. America’s SgtMaj:

    When I went to Korea in 1986 to participate in Team Spirt with the CalARNG, we were issued our weapons with bolts and firing pins, but no ammo. I, however, had live ammo; and I suspect that others may also had their own supply.

    I am not a United States Marine, but I am not entirely stupid.

    Paul L. Quandt

  9. I highly doubted that the Marines would have been unarmed, however, the rumor had longer legs and now I hear people stating it as if it was fact. Most of these people have never bothered to even attempt to check out if it was true or not.
    Train like you fight!!!

  10. I highly doubted that the Marines would have been unarmed, however, the rumor had longer legs and now I hear people stating it as if it was fact. Most of these people have never bothered to even attempt to check out if it was true or not.
    Train like you fight!!!

  11. While I hesitate to challenge you in your area of expertise:

    Yes, there’s no way that a couple of platoons could shoot everyone coming over the wall. However, I suspect that if the first 20 people over the wall got shot dead, there would be a sudden lack of volunteers to be #21.

  12. While I hesitate to challenge you in your area of expertise:

    Yes, there’s no way that a couple of platoons could shoot everyone coming over the wall. However, I suspect that if the first 20 people over the wall got shot dead, there would be a sudden lack of volunteers to be #21.

  13. Ron, ideally the presence of FAST allows the consulate to remain open for business. In the event of hordes of people with bad intentions begin storming the walls FAST will defend the interior long enough for the MEU to arrive. In that case it’s more about lives than property.

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