UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS
Force Recon Association

Recon FAQ
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This FAQ was compiled by an instructor at the Amphibious Reconnaissance School.

Table of Contents

  1. What is US Marine Reconnaissance & who are these "Recon Marines"?
  2. What's the difference between "Battalion" & "Force" Recon?
  3. Are women allowed to try out for Marine Recon?
  4. I'm thinking about joining the Marine Corps. How do I become a Recon Marine?
  5. I'm already IN the Marine Corps. How do I try out for Recon?
  6. What training and schools can I expect to attend?
  7. Do Recon Marines get more pay than other Marines?
  8. I'm going to be a Marine Officer, how do I get in Recon?
  9. Do officers in Recon units lead their Marines on missions in the field?

What is US Marine Reconnaissance & who are these "Recon Marines"?

US Marine Reconnaissance units are tasked with providing the commander of a larger force of Marines with information about his operational area. Their missions usually focus on specific information requirements which, due to their changing or unique nature, cannot be obtained by means other than putting a man on the ground to observe and report. Recon Marines are, by nature, capable of independent action in support of the larger unit's mission. We also are, as an additional and entirely separate focus, tasked with a wide variety of "direct action" missions which provide a Marine Amphibious Ready Group with a limited special operations capability.

We are similar in characteristics to Navy SEALs, Army Rangers, Air Force Combat Controllers, but complement, rather than replace the other services "special" operational forces. In cooperation with these special operations forces, the deployed Marine units (including Recon support) provide a theater commander with a range of options. Marine Recon retains our basic focus as a supporting component of the combined arms Marine Air/Ground Task Force, constantly forward-deployed in the security interests of the United States.

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What's the difference between "Battalion" & "Force" Recon?

Within a Marine Air/Ground Task Force there exists two separate recon units. The Ground Combat Element commander has a platoon of Recon Marines in his support. This platoon focuses on the Ground forces area of interest.  This platoon is commonly referred to as the "Battalion" or sometimes "Division" recon platoon, as their parent command is the Marine Division.

The MAGTF commander also has a platoon of Recon Marines to focus on the MAGTF (Force) area of interest. They are normally the ones tasked with the "special operations" missions which draw the imagination of Recon hopefuls. They also retain their mission of general reconnaissance support to the force commander. This platoon is commonly referred to as the "Force" recon platoon as their parent command is the Marine Expeditionary Force.

With the addition of U. S. Marine Forces Special Operation Command (MARSOC) in SOCOM, the Marine Special Operations Battalions (MSOB) provide force reconnaissance and direct action to the DOD.

Basic training paths for Reconnaissance Marines in these units are similar. More advanced training focuses on a platoon's likely missions while deployed, so training individual and unit training paths diverge as a deployment nears.

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Are women allowed to try out for Marine Recon?

Under current rules, all recon billets are considered ground combat positions & so are not open to women.
Women's role in the Armed Forces is a hot topic today, however there are no plans to open the 0321 MOS (Recon) to women. I have seen women filling support billets (supply, admin.) in reserve recon units, although I imagine that is by exception & not something to plan your career around.

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I'm thinking about joining the Marine Corps. How do I become a Recon Marine?

The Recon enlistment option is designated UZ. The best chance of getting into Recon is to enlist with a UZ enlistment option contract. This enlistment option guarantees the enlistee the chance at getting into Recon.

Qualifications for this enlistment option include (but may not be limited to):

  • A GT of 105 or higher
  • No moral waivers
  • No drug waivers
  • Eyesight correctable to 20/20
  • Not colorblind
  • The ability to obtain a secret clearance

The UZ enlistment option is available by quota. If the quota has been reached, a recruiter may not be able to offer the UZ option to an enlistee until the next quota period.

In addition to the requirements above, the applicant must:

  • Complete Boot Camp
  • 1st Class PFT
  • Score Expert in rifle qualification

Upon graduation of Boot Camp the Marine will attend the School of Infantry (SOI).

After SOI, the Marine will attend the Basic Reconnaissance Course (BRC). After successful completion of this school the Marine will be assigned the Primary MOS of 0321 - Basic Reconnaissance Marine.

If a Marine fails any of the steps along the way, his contract is modified from UZ to UH as if he had enlisted into Combat Arms (Infantry).

For recruits contracted with the UH enlistment option, it is also possible to volunteer for Recon while attending SOI.

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I'm already IN the Marine Corps. How do I try out for Recon?

Like any other lateral move, see your chain of command. In my experience, 0321 in grades PVT-SGT is anywhere from 10-40 % undermanned, so the opportunity is there. The typical situation is, a Marine who excels to the point of having a chance at Recon has a difficult time getting his current command to let him go. Successful recon candidates from the fleet that I have seen are exemplary Marines in their current unit, work with their chain of command, and are recommended by their First Sergeant or Sergeant Major to the local Recon unit SNCO's at the appropriate level. 

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What training and schools can I expect to attend?

Initial training consists of Marine Recruit Training, & the School of Infantry, training as a rifleman. Students are then assigned to the Basic Recon Course. Upon successful completion of the BRC, Marines report to their assigned recon unit & receive various professional, technical and tactical training. Among these are:   Airborne (basic and Military Freefall) Jumpmaster, Pathfinder, Ranger, Scout-Sniper, Combat Diver (SCUBA) Diving Supervisor, Mountain warfare & assault climber, Jungle operations, specialized training in urban tactics, Close Quarters Battle & shooting skills, demolitions, communications, photography, controlling aircraft landing operations and directing Airstrikes, Naval Gunfire and Artillery..

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Do Recon Marines get more pay than other Marines?

Recon Marines do not receive any incentive pay just for the recon qualification. Those Marines who are Parachute or SCUBA qualified receive hazardous duty pay while they occupy a billet which requires those skills. For instance, I receive both Jump & Dive pay in my current job, but when I was a Drill Instructor I did not, even though I remained qualified & continued to wear jump wings, etc. Like all Marines, those with foreign language fluency may qualify for language pay as well.

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I'm going to be a Marine Officer. How do I get in Recon?

Currently, Recon units gain their officers from two sources.
    First is the Infantry (0302) officer who has typically has 2+ years experience in a Battalion with at least one deployment. At this point he's ready to be a Weapons Plt Leader or a Company XO. Some opt to take the recon indoc and, with approval from their chain of command, receive orders to a recon unit.
    Second is the ground intelligence officer (0203) who attends intel school and infantry officers course before coming to the Basic Recon Course. Some even go on to receive their insert schools (jump & Dive). Upon completion of this school pipeline, the LT is assigned to a recon unit.
    At the time of my last tour in 2d Recon Bn, we had 3 or 4 of the 0203 Intel officers & the remainder of our platoons had 0302 Platoon Commanders. We were short of qualified officers and some platoons had GySgt Platoon leaders as well.

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Do officers in Recon units lead their Marines on missions in the field?

Normally, the Recon Platoon Commander works in the Landing Force Operations Center (LFOC) or Combat Operations Center (COC). Here he receives reports from his teams, transmits direction to them & coordinates any support they need in the field. Recon Team Leaders are normally Sergeants or Staff Sergeants (some Force Recon Teams). The Team Leader is the senior man to go to the field on missions. Some missions require the full platoon to act as a unit, and in that case the Platoon Commander may also go to the field.

Marine Units in general seem to be led by at least one rank lower than the equivalent type of unit in other services..... a source of pride for Marines. To see another point of view, the Corps gets equal work from someone they pay significantly less.....

Then again, money isn't everything.

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