Marine Corps: Active Duty vs. Reserves

Marine Corps Active Duty vs Reserves
Written by Kevin Webb

Before I Get Started

There is an ongoing inner battle that occurs between Marine Corps reservists and active duty, and it includes the entire spectrum of military occupational specialties. I’m better than you, you’re not as smart, I work harder, I train more, you’re lazy, I have a civilian job, I have this, you aren’t that, blah, blah, blah. I’ve heard it all. Let’s discover the truth, the difference between reservists and active duty, how they train, when they deploy and what the lifestyles are like.

Before I go any further, it is essential to note the following.

Being a Marine is being a Marine, and at the end of the day, reservist go out and fight and die for the freedom of our country right next to active duty. To disrespect the efforts of a reservist or an active duty Marine goes against our ethos, and the reasons we (as Marines) fight.

The argument is no different than trying to convince me that only white people are good Marines, or that only a black man should be infantry, or that only a redneck should be a scout sniper, and only a Spanish Marine should be a cook. It’s stupid and dishonorable to even consider those thoughts. To limit a Marine’s professionalism and ability to execute during a mission based on stereotypes and mythical identifiers is unintelligent and mindless.

I don’t know a reservist or active duty Marine who did not sign up with the knowledge that their life may be taken in order to serve their country. At the end of the day, what is more important? I know it can be a fun game we play, but arguing about it, especially in front of civilians, is counterproductive to our efforts as a whole.

Boot Camp: Reservist vs. Active Duty

There is ABSOLUTELY no difference in the training that is required for Boot Camp. Marine active duty and reservist go through Marine boot camp side by side. They train in the same platoons, PT in the same fields, sweat in the same sand boxes and complete the same crucible. There are not separate platoons either. Boot Camp is a giant melting pot, with very little separation. In fact, the only separation that exists in boot camp is that the females do not train with the males (unlike the other military branches). They train 100% separately. You’ll be lucky to even see someone of the opposite sex during Boot Camp, except maybe the chow hall cooks. During Marine Boot Camp, you will never even split into groups dividing active duty Marines from the reservists.

Marine Combat Training & Infantry School: Reservist vs. Active Duty

Nothing has changed. The infantry training and Marine Combat Training (MCT) that Marines go through do not separate active duty from reservists. You train right next to them every step of the way.

MOS School: Reservist vs. Active Duty

Still… the training doesn’t change. Are you starting to get the drift? Again, active duty train right next to the reservists. One difference that can be found in MOS school is that reservists tend to do better, particularly regarding their testing and GPA scores. In my MOS school, the top 10 Marines in the platoon consisted of 6 Marine reservists and 4 lat-mover NCO’s. I was #8. Our #1 Marine was a reservist as well. The #11 Marine was active duty, and was a recycle from a previous platoon who got dropped on week 9 of 13.

Reservist do get pushed to the front of the training line for classing up because the state does not want to pay for them to sit around. That is one minor difference.

One of the suggested reasons why Marine reservists tend to do well is because a lot of them have completed some college or higher education. They’ve already proven to have a drive when it comes to success, and they’re now just moving that drive into the military service. Reservists have usually thought out their live’s a little more as well, as they tend to be older and more mature. This doesn’t mean that active duty have no drive. That couldn’t be further from the truth. The reservist may have just already had a driven mentality before the Corps. This is not based on scientific data.

The Fleet: Reservist vs. Active Duty

Here is where you’ll see your first tangible differences. The fleet Marine vs. the Marine reservist. There are both pros and cons regarding both active duty and being a reservist. Let’s take a look.

The Fleet Marine Pros & Cons

Pros Of An Active Duty Marine:

  • Job security
  • Paid for health insurance
  • Paid housing
  • Paid for food
  • Paid for college education
  • Scheduled PT
  • Day-to-day practical application in your MOS
  • Access to additional school, training and MCMAP instructors

Cons Of An Active Duty Marine:

  • Freedom is limited
  • Required to live at the base or location that the Marine Corps chooses for you
  • Mandatory field day every Thursday
  • Unwarranted formations
  • Less time for college education
  • Junior Marine “games”

The Marine Reservist Pros & Cons

Pros Of A Marine Reservist:

  • Choose where you want to live
  • More time to finish your college education
  • Don’t have to put up with the day-to-day “stuff.”

Cons Of A Marine Reservist:

  • Must be self-motivated to do physical training
  • NO direct college education funding for Marine Reservist
  • You must provide and pay for your own health insurance
  • Required to find and juggle a civilian career, as well as fulfill military duties on top of college
  • Housing is not paid for
  • Additional schools and training are harder to get into
  • MCMAP instructors are scarce
  • It takes longer to get ANYTHING approved

Continued Training: Reservist vs. Active Duty

If you are a reservist, and you would like to get into additional school and training, it is possible to do, but it may require more work, and longer periods of time in-between communications with getting it setup. You may only hear from your platoon leader once or twice a month, and trying to get a hold of your unit can be difficult because they are also working a civilian job.

Deployments: Reservist vs. Active Duty

This is one of the biggest misconceptions – that Marine reservists don’t deploy. Marine reservists deploy just as much as active duty, and that’s a fact. Every unit is different, just as is every MOS, but being a reservist does not exclude a Marine from being deployed, just like being active duty does not guarantee a Marine to deploy. In my small unit of 18 Marines, we currently have 6 deployed, and new deployment opportunities open up every month.

Physical Fitness: Reservist vs. Active Duty

“Reservists are fat.” This is one of the arguments you hear a lot too. The reason this belief exists is because reservists must be self-motivated to PT and stay in shape. They can’t rely on company-level, or platoon-level PT three times a week like you can in the fleet. You must kick your own butt, haze yourself and stay active… always working to increase your ability to destroy your enemy physically.

I’ve seen the “nasty reservist” first-hand. My unit’s most recent PFT was nearly a complete failure. I was the only first class PFT with a 277/300, and the closest person behind me had a 203. We had multiple failures, a second class and a third class. I saw the stereotype first-hand, though I chose not to participate in it. My personal goal was to not leave any room for people to see me as a reservist rather than a Marine.

Though there is no excuse for a failing PFT score, keep in mind that these Marines have families, full-time jobs, and many are attending college. I don’t know what fleet PFT scores look like, but I would imagine that they are better than this.

If you’re a good Marine, then you should be training on your own, even as an active duty Marine. Let’s face it, the daily 9 just won’t cut it if you’re trying to improve. It is imperative that you develop your own workout routines.

The below information was taken from the the official Marine Corps Website.

Most people think being a reservist means serving one weekend a month and two weeks a year. In many instances, that’s the right idea, but there are a variety of other ways to be a Marine without being part of the active-duty Corps.

To name just a few options, a reserve Marine can serve part time with an active-duty unit, serve full time in a unit while remaining close to home, or serve on a special task for 179 days or less. Service, of course, must satisfy Corps needs, and the possibility of mobiliza-tion to active duty always exists. Still, there is much more flexibility in reserve duty than most people realize.

Generally, reserve duty entails drills and annual training – a drill being a general period of service. Each year, a typical reserve Marine performs about 24 drill days, plus two weeks of annual training. However, as an examination of the various reserve programs shows, Marines can perform the requisite number of drills and the two-week annual training in many ways. What’s more, there are some arrangements that don’t involve the usual drills and annual training.

Active Reserve (AR)

The Active Reserve program, which may sound like an oxymoron, allows a reserve Marine to serve on a full-time basis in billets such as recruiter, administrator, or even drill instructor. This is a good option for Marines coming off active duty who want to stay closer to home, but still want to be part of the Corps.

For example, as a member of the Active Reserve, Staff Sgt. Douglas Levesque is a transitional recruiter at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. He has been an active-duty Marine, and he has experienced life outside the Marine Corps as a civilian. Now he works as a full-time Marine reservist, drawing on his background to counsel Marines who are contemplating a life beyond active duty.

Individual Mobilization Augmentees (IMA)

Another option is the Individual Mobilization Augmentees program. In this program, a reservist who can fill a particular need with an active-duty unit performs reserve duty with that unit. The ability of the reservist to fill the need is the deciding factor, and it doesn’t matter whether that ability is the result of military training, civilian education, work experience, or something else.

Dale McNeil, who oversees roughly 250 IMA reservists at Marine Corps Base Quantico and Marine Corps Combat Development Command in Virginia, said that flexibility is usually a hallmark of an IMA tour of duty.

While everything hinges on what works for the sponsoring unit, McNeil said IMA reservists commonly perform their drills and annual training on schedules that create minimal friction with civilian-world obligations.

For example, there are IMA Marines who do all of their drills and their two-week annual training consecutively, McNeil said.

As long as the sponsoring unit is getting what it

Please let me know if you have anything to add, or something that you find that you believe is incorrect.

About the author

Kevin Webb


    • @Philip, Thank you. I just checked out your blog. Are you currently in the AR program? What is your MOS?

      I haven’t read through your blog to any extent, but I’ll check it out in more detail tomorrow.

      Semper Fi


  • HI Kevin,
    I’m VERY intrested in becoming a United States Marine. I love what the Marine Corps has to offer from what i hear they sound GREAT.I have worked with other branches(army reserves & air force reserve) of the military but im very drawn to the Marines. I have a few questions regarding the Marines that i think about quite often when thinking about actually calling up my local recruiter…

    Is the so called brotherhood real?
    Are women respected in the marines? I hear other wise..
    The Marine reserves does not have healthcare? other branches offered it…
    Is it difficult to attend college or get tuition?
    Do the reserves have intelligence mos ? or is that active only…
    Does the Marines really instill a sense of purpose in you?

    Thank You Kevin
    Jessie L.

  • My son just graduated from San Diego MCRD and during Basic Training really changed his mind on reserves vs active duty. He now is really wanting to be AD. What does he need to do to get into active duty?

  • Mr. Webb,

    My son recently joined the Marines and it now about halfway through MCT for non infantry. Before taking him to MCT I had a chance to look closely at his orders and enlistment papers. I was surprised to see that he had signed up in the Marine Reserves. 6 years total with the first 4 years ‘active duty’ (I think was the terminology). I know you said there was no difference… but would you explain why the recruiter would sign up recruits as ‘Reserves’?

    Thank you,

    Robert Wood.

    • Robert Wood,

      That is very strange. Usually recruiters push Marines to go active duty rather than reserves. There is a small possibility that they made a mistake, or that there was simply a mis-understanding somewhere. Or you may be reading the contract wrong. It may be 4 years of AD and then 2 years of Reserves. Most reserve contracts are 8 years (4×4 or 6×2).

      Do you know what his ASVAB or GT scores were by any chance or what his MOS is?

      The good news is that it’s much easier to go from reserves to active duty than it is to go active duty to reserves, so he just needs to request active duty when he checks in at his duty station after MCT and MOS school.

      I hope that helps.


  • My son went into the reserves in 2009. We were very proud of him but did not understand (nor did he) what he had signed up for. His current understanding is that he is simply serving 6 years as smcr. He goes to drill once a month and works 2 weeks/year. He has not received mos or combat training. Because of this he is in total limbo. They called recently to see if wanted a deployment and he did but did not qualify because he has not received combat training.
    He is being told that he will not be sent to combat training because funding is not available at this time.

    He is in total limbo and cannot get anywhere. He mos is as cook which I understand they are phasing out in a few years. Is that why he is not getting his training?

  • Just to clear a few things up. There is a HUGE difference between 03 AD and 03 Reserve. Reserve deployment cycles are alot longer than AD. As an 03 Reservist myself, our deployment cycles are 4-5 years apart. Last deployment my unit got stuck in doing FOB security. Dont expect to be a doing critical things as a Reservist, especially after the horror stories that happened in Iraq. Most 03 Reservists will do 1 deployment with their unit, possibly 2 if you check in right as they are being mobilized. Of course this always varies by unit. You also have very minimal training days as opposed to AD who trains every single day. But of course you can always “volunteer” for deployments with other reserve units. Ive seen guys mobilize with another unit, come back for a month and go again. Either way you arent the “go to” guys of the Marine Corps. Thats just the way it is. Ive seen 03 Reservists who have been on 3 deployments, yet they dont even have a CAR (Combat Action Ribbon). Its obvious. If you look on the DOD website, you rarely hear any news about Reservists. There is a reason why. Ive seen a reserve unit share the same AO as an AD unit but in the end, the only ones taking mass casualties is the AD unit. We are called “Reserves” for a reason. If anyone has ever told you as an 03 Reservist you will be doing the same thing as an AD 03, they were lying. But that doesnt mean you dont provide an important role in the war effort, it just means dont expect to see much.

    On the flip side we also do probably just as much field training as AD does, except we cram it all into a tight schedule. Problem is, as soon as we leave the field you will forget alot of the knowledge you just learned by the time you go back again. You have to constantly refresh, unlike AD where you are pretty much hazed like a nasty Boot if you dont know something right off the bat.

    MCMAP. Dont expect to do any of that. Not only are there hardly any instructors, but you simply dont have the time to do it unless you have a motivation squad leader who wants to teach you outside of drill. Only time you will ever do that is during deployments and you have alot of downtime off post while you are sitting at some crappy FOB.

    A good thing about being a Reservist is also the fact that you have the opportunity to use facilities outside of the Corps. My unit trains at nearby Army bases and uses all their high speed training areas that the Corps probably cant even afford. You also sometimes get to travel. Recent AT’s (Annual Training) units have gone to Norway and different countries in Africa for training purposes.

    I have seen out of shape Marines in the reserves first hand. I have seen Marines quit on the run. At one point 13% of the company was failing the high and weight standards. One of them was the Company XO. Sure they can still get a first class PFT but they are also on BCP because of their weight.

    Like said in this article, as a reservist you miss out on the “games” and stupid crap that goes on in the AD side. Most grunts get out after 4 years because of that reason alone. Garrison is not always fun despite all the drinking, partying and Boot hazing that goes on. Yes you will have stories none of your civilian friends will have but your restrictions are endless. But as a reservist, you have to deal with constant knowledge refreshments, self motivated PT, making a living, paying bills, taking care of your family and all the other stressful things your average hard working civilian goes through.

    I can sit here all day and rant on about AD vs Reserve but my conclusion, after everything and everyone ive encountered in the Corps so far, is this:

    AD Marines wish they could have been Reservists, and Reservists wish they could have been AD.

  • My grandson graduated from Parris Island on April 1, 2011 and has gone to additional training. He enlisted in the Marine Reserve in November because the recruiter told him there were no opening in the Active Marines (where he really wanted to go). He is 19 and has returned from his training and wants to be active duty (his first choice). He has not been to a reserve drill yet. How does he go about becoming active? He has been told to talk to the career counselor who sends him to the recruiter who sends him back to see the career counselor who refuses to talk to him. Why all the run a round? Someone must have some knowledge. Can anyone help to steer him in the right direction?

    • Hello Kay,

      He just needs to go through his chain of command and have them submit the paperwork to become active duty. It’s not easy and he may have to try several times. He needs to make sure he has high PFT and CFT scores, has MCIs done, and stays out of trouble. He needs to make sure that there are no reasons to not accept his request. If they see that he is a stellar Marine, then he’ll have a better shot at getting his paperwork pushed through.


  • Going AD right now is a slim chance. The Corps is cutting their numbers. From what i know, to go active you need to look at a few things. You need to be with your unit for atleast 2 years before even thinking about it. Once the ball gets rolling you need to go down to your recruiter and fill out a conditional release form. This needs to be approved by your CoC and your CO. Your unit also needs to be up on their numbers for the billet they are going to lose. So if he, for example, is an 0311 and they are really lacking in that department, they wont let him go. Also whatever unit he chooses to go to has to be DOWN on their numbers which i think is below 80%. You are also paid and enlisted under the Reserves so your rank might not carry over to the AD side. So if you are a Sgt in the Reserves and you somehow manage to go AD, there is a chance they might bump you down. Most of the issues has to do with contracts, pay grades, billets and alot of things that are way above your sons head to understand.

    This of course also depends on his I&I Staff and how far they get pushed. They have a reputation (in every unit) of screwing things up and/or not caring to follow through with things regardless of importance. If you pushed enough for it, you might just get it.

    Also like said above, PFT, CTF, MCI’s, Pros and Cons, no NJP’s or Page 11’s etc etc and you might have a better chance. If you prove to be worth their time, they might care enough to try for you.

    Also tell him to look into the Active Reserve side as well as augmenting to deploy. There are a few options if you cant go AD. It might not be with his MOS or billet but its better than nothing.

  • This post was really informative, Kevin.

    I just turned 27 and am really feeling a calling to serve in some capacity. I have a wife and two kids, and am wondering what balancing a family life in the reserves is like, especially at the beginning what with the training, etc. I am also doing very well in my current career, and am curious about whether or not any protections are in place for those who enlist while employed (or if job protection only applies to those who had enlisted prior to beginning a job with a company).

    I have an affinity for the Marine Corps over other branches, due in large part to my little brother recently becoming a Marine.

    I am close to the age cut off, and from my understanding would probably already need to get a waiver for my age due to the likelihood of being placed in DEP. Any light you could shed, or sources you could link to, regarding enlisting in the reserves and balancing a career and family would be hugely appreciated.

  • Thanks Kevin for this post.

    I have a few questions. Im 24, married with 2 kids. I want to go in the Marines ut since I have 3 dependants I can only go reserves. So im told by my recruiter. If I go reserves with an infantry mos how easy would it be for me to switch over to AD? I heard that doing active reserve kills your chances in switchig over. Any advice?

  • I’ve been trying to get into the Marine Corps for about a year now. It isn’t fitness or a test score that kept from getting in (as of yet), but rather medical paperwork. Back in 2004, I sustained an injury to my right knee which required surgery, I had a torn meniscus. I had the surgery done and was given an all clear by my doctor and physical therapist and was told that I had no restrictions. Since that time, I’ve played hockey, have gotten myself in better shape than I’ve ever been in, and have had no issues with my knee. Last year I started down a path which I wish I had started when I first turned 18, enlisting in the Marine Corps. I took the initial hand-written quiz that just consisted of some basic math and logic skills, submitted all the necessary documentation at the time, filled out the National Security Questionnaire, as well some other paperwork. My recruiter took down the MOS that I was interested in (Reserve Unit – Artillery – Field Artillery Cannoneer 0811.. It was the only thing available that peaked interest at the time), I was given an approximate date as to when I’d be leaving for bootcamp, and that would have been in December (at the time I was talking to my recruiter, it was September/October 2010 – so a 2-3 month wait wasn’t bad.) About a month or two later, I received word from my recruiter that MEPS required more paperwork for the surgery done on my knee. For the past year, this has been what has delayed me. They request paperwork, I provide it, then they want more. It is usually 1-2 months before I hear any kind of update as to the status of my last submission of paperwork. I’m 26 years old, so I know my age probably isn’t too attractive, the fact that I had surgery I’m sure also isn’t attractive, but all of my paperwork that I’ve submitted so far has said the same thing, “No restrictions.” As I said, I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in (still have a long way to go) I can run a mile in 7 minutes (not great but it’s better than my pre-injury time of 16 minutes) – I can do the 1.5 mile in about 11 minutes flat which meets the requirements for getting into bootcamp, I can jump, run, jog, swim, and I don’t have any pain or discomfort. I want to get in to bootcamp; I want to earn that title of United States Marine. I’m not sure if anyone has any advice, suggestions, or any ideas as to what I can do – but anything would be much appreciated. If the Marine Corps doesn’t take me, I may have to see if joining the Navy or the Army is an option (then try to transfer if possible.) I’m currently looking into the Reserves as I won’t have to resign from my current job to do so, if I get through bootcamp ok (no injuries) then I’d like to pursue a carreer as an Active Duty Marine in an 0300 billet (preferably Rifleman 0311). I don’t want to start out with an Active Duty contract, have to resign from my current job, then end up getting injured in bootcamp and being unemployed. I feel confident that I will be ok and not get injured, but when you’re 26, have debt, and the economy is awful.. I need to ensure that I have an income. Again.. any advice would be very much appreciated.

  • Hi Kevin–my son is an active duty Marine currently at Camp Pendleton for his SOI. He signed on for 4 years. For some reason that I really don’t understand, he wants me to find out how he can switch from active to reserve as soon as SOI is completed. He also wants me to find out what benefits are lost in doing so. Your name keeps coming up in my web searches so I thought I’d give you a shout and see what you may know.

    Have a very blessed week!

  • Oscar,
    Switching from reserves to active duty (fleet) is easier than the other way around. However, this will require a new contract which can be difficult to get because it requires command approval.

    If you’re a reservist, I suggest this option as Active Reserves can be hard to get into. ADSW (formerly ADOS [Active Duty On Site) allows reservists to work full time. Check with your chain of command on this. If your unit doesn’t have the billet or fund, you’re not doing it.

    Recruiters assistance (for junior Marines) or Recruiters Aide (for NCOs) is also another option but you have to work it out with the recruiting chain of command and your chain of command.

  • Hi,

    I am 17 year old senior in the DEP, I sworn in a few weeks ago, I am really excited to get this started. I’m active duty infantry, and will be at Camp Pendleton. Really enjoyed the article, in-fact I cited this article in my Research Paper that I’m doing for my English Class. Thanks.


  • Im a reservist in the Marine Corps. I really like this article, it was really on point. I have active duty friends in the corp, and they talk alot of crap. I, guess its one of those things that you just have to look at the big picture, and rely on the facts instead of what you heard. This was a great article. Everything was true, and a fact.

  • hi, i am currently a “inactive reserve” status, i EAS on 2011/07/01 as a Cpl. which was pretty close to picking up SGT just about 30 points away. I just recently check my MOL for curious reasons to update my personal info and stuff and realized, it say “SGT” as my rank, is this some kind of a flaw with ADMIN?

    • Thomas – That would suggest that you are now a Sgt. It’s possible that admin screwed up (no surprise there), but it is likely that you made the cutting score. How long have you been a Cpl.?

      Kevin Webb

  • So i have a few questions. I’ve been on active duty 2 years and when I’m done with active duty I’m thinking about going reserves. What do you guys do on the drill days actually drill like in boot camp and are the typical two weeks of training for things like the rifle range? and I heard that you cant just enlist into the reserves while you’re on active duty you have to actually EAS then go through a recruiter again is that true? and can you still use the GI bill benefits from your active duty service? and do you guys get to go on MEUs at all? I was just wondering about that

    • Drill is NOTHING like drill at boot camp – it’s just what they call it.

      During drill you will usually PT, take care of admin stuff, and then complete training within your MOS… whatever that would entail.

      For the 2 weeks, you’ll typically spend one week on green-side training (PT tests, rifle range, pistol qual, a short hike, MCMAP, etc.). The second week you’ll focus on your MOS – learning new equipment, training methods, field exercises, etc.

      I don’t know the ins and outs of switching from active to reserve, but I do know that it is next to impossible to do before your EAS.

      You still get GI bill benefits if you’ve deployed, and you will have the same deployment opportunities in the reserves, it’s just tougher to do so you have to stand out from the crowd more.

      Kevin Webb

  • Hey Kevin,

    Great article! I just took my oath of enlistment and am set to ship out in a few months as a reservist. However, I scored a 97 on my asvab and many people (including recruiters) are suggesting that I do active-duty because it would open up any job possibility.
    What are you thoughts?

  • Yo kevin, im currently on active duty and i have a little less than a year on my contract. Im a 0341 and im really thinking about going reserves once my time is up. Can u please shoot me some information on how i would do this and the likely hood of this working out. I did my 4 years as a grunt and i dont want to be done the USMC, im not a shit bag my any means, im a lcpl squad leader with a brown belt in mcmap and i run a 300 pft and cft, i just want a little more chill of an enviorment and i mostly want to be closer to home for family reasons. If u could get bak to me on that i would appreciate it. Thank u.

  • I recently went to a recruiter expressing interest in enlisting into the Marine Corps as a Reservist with the intention of going active duty after several years of service in the Reserves. My recruiter assured that this process was completely possible and probable if I performed my duties well, however, I have been doing some research and haven’t had much luck in finding out how one could go about this and how it would be possible. When I say active duty I mean for the full 20 and possibly beyond.

    My question to you is:
    Would I be able to be a reservist for say, 3 years, then go active duty and remain in the Marine Corps (provided they allow me to re-enlist every time my contract expires)?

  • @ Josiah and for anyone looking to go enlist in the reserves, then try to go active duty:

    You might as well forget that idea. Go AD from the start. Trying to go from the reserves to active duty is a difficult process to get started. A lot of marines aren’t successful in getting their package accepted to switch over. Plus, with the troop draw down the Marine Corps is cutting manpower down as well which will make things even more hard to transition over from reserves to AD.

    There aren’t any real benefits of being a reservist versus being active duty. If all you want is the title “Marine”, go into the reserves. The benefits (reserve G.I. Bill) are marginal compared to AD

    Also, for anyone planning on enlisting and staying for 20 years:

    Don’t have your sights set on such a big goal. Military life might not be for you or you just probably really hate getting treated like a P.O.S. Lance Corporal 24/7. First enlistment is going to be bad. After that, it gets better. You’ll pick up rank and responsibilities (and headaches). You’ll be held accountable for your junior Marines actions and their problems will become your problems. If you can stand the “games”, good for you.

    Also, if you haven’t read 03Reservist’s response: You need to. A lot of good info in there.

    Quick side note:

    Traditionally, Reservists sign a 6 by 2 contract. Meaning, they are obligated to drill for 6 years on contract and are non-obligated to serve the 2 remaining years of their contract. So, if you don’t want to be in reserves for 6 years, ask your recruiter what other options that are available.

    • Going from the reserves to AD is difficult, but trying to go from AD to reserves is literally impossible. If you want to test the waters in both worlds, then go reserves first.

      The reserves and AD both offer there pros and cons as listed in this article. I would love to go AD, but it would require my wife quitting a job that she loves, and it would mean moving away from our family, which my wife also does not want to do. My joining was a bit of a compromise and the reserves fit the bill for us exactly.

      Another benefit of going reserves first is that you can pick up rank before hitting the fleet and you’ll have less crap to put up with as a PFC and LCpl. I joined late, so I was a 25 year old PFC, married, with a kid, a house and a good job. The last thing I wanted was to be somebody’s paper shredder for 2 years.

      I’m by no means trying to talk anyone out of AD, I’ve just had a pleasant experience as a reservist within my current situation.

      Kevin Webb

  • I’ve been active duty and I’ve done reserves.
    I’ve been deployed with both sides and let me tell you…

    There are sh*tbags in every unit. Good and bad Marines.
    It does not matter if you are active or reserves.
    In the end, a Marine is a Marine regardless of status.

    I find it hard though to be in the reserves. Mainly because I have to pay for everything and juggle two lives.
    PTSD, is a big problem among reservists.

    We come back from deployments to our civilians lives.
    There you see the dramatic change in environment and it messes with you.

    In the end though, a Marines is a Marine

  • Thanks Kevin, i was about to sign the papers and go to boot camp for April 17th, but luckily i found the pros and cons of both active duty and reserves.. My recruiter told me i was able to go active duty after i get into the reserves once i get my foot in the door, after my mos school. So now i am just going to wait until i can go for active duty instead, which will be September, or October, i don’t want to be in reserves for 2 years and then have to go through my chain of command which won’t be easy as you said in your post. This really helped me a lot and saved me some time, i just want the benefits of active duty, i don’t want to have to burn through all the money i get paying for housing, health insurance, etc.. Am i better off waiting to go active?

  • I have a few questions. i have been wanting to join since 9/11 when I was still in grade school, but life made some changes and it didn’t happen the way I’d had hope. I wanted to become a Reservist by going through basic and then come back and finish college,get my degree, become a officer(mustang)…

    but one question is, I have done some time in college and was wondering if I went to basic, after do i get a slight higher starting rank instead of a private or PFC? Or how does one get a higher rank right out of basic?

    and second is, One of my friends had to go to a veterans affair doctor or psychiatric because during his time in basic he was saying he was sexual harassed by others, not hazed like being pushed around, but actually raped at one point and couldn’t say anything because of threats. luckily he got over it with some help and now a great Marine and has no threats due to his transfer and the “others” can’t touch him. been to Iraq and back with no problems two times. But i was just wondering does that kind of thing happen a lot? he is not a small weak guy at all, one of the biggest guys i know so i know he did not give in willing. and it is just a sad thought of that happening and dramatizing for individuals before they even see combat and a sense of betrayal by fellow brothers.

    but i always wanted to be a Marine, still do, been in my family for 3 generations and i want to keep it going.

  • As MIN has stated; “…in the end a Marine is a Marine.”. For anyone questioning whether to go AD or Reserve: you are a Marine the day you graduate from Boot Camp only because you did more than most and EARNED the title of United States Marine. It doesn’t matter if it was Parris Island or San Diego, you are a Marine. The Drill Instructors might ask who is Reserve, but, my experience was that they were HARD on everyone: no favorites, ever! You join the Marine Corps for one reason…to become a Marine,fight for your Country no matter what the cost. You then become a member of the best brotherhood in the world: The United States Marine Corps. What happens after Boot Camp is secondary. You made it. At that moment you will understand: Few have tried: Few have made it, and fewer aren’t as proud. Better known as THE FEW, THE PROUD, THE MARINES.

    Go after your dream to be a Marine and as the Marine Corps League Motto states: Once a Marine Always a Marine!!!!

    Any questions?

  • I have a question. Does the marine reserves require you move out of your home town permanently for the 6 year drilling status?

  • I know marines serve on ships, and at embassies, but using infantry or armor as an example, please tell me just what is the difference between the army and the marines. I know they use their basic training to advertise the Corps, but the other services do a lot of the same thing in basic. Having done it in another service, I know. Marines won’t agree with me on that, but that is what they taught.

    I always admired the marines especially when a Korean War Vet told me they knew how to fight in Korea,but many army troops had been rushed through basic and sent to Korea without really knowing how even properly use their M-l.

    Regardless, once through basic, I fail to see what marines do that isn’t done by the army. Even amphibious operations were done by the army, reference Normany, Salerno, etc.

    In closing, I’m not trying to criticise the Marine Corp, just asking for a valid answer to a valid question.

    Semper Fi Mack,

    Darryll V. Wilcox, MSgt, Ret. USAF

  • Tricare is available for reservists. You do have to pay a small premium of around 60 dollars a month for a single person. Also dental insurance at a very small premium.

  • I served 6 years in the Marine Corps Reserve and I’m damn proud of the fact. I love being a Marine and the brotherhood that I share with them. I’m now a member of the Marine Corps League and I’m Proud to be part of an organization where Marines help Marines. I’m 53 years old right now and wouldn’t hesitate a minute to pick up a rifle and stand side by side with my fellow Marines. Semper Fi !

  • I am really lost on wether to go AD or Reserves. I am trying to go get into this Police Prep school but i wana go thru boot and become a Marine first.
    So would reservist be better for now?
    I am going to enlist as a MP.

  • I am currently in college, and I want to join the Marine Reserve. However, I continually hear it is more difficult to get financial aid from the USMC vs say the Army. My conflict is that I want to be a Marine. How difficult is it really? Where can I find more information? Any help is appreciated.

  • Webb,

    This article has helped me a lot, but I have two questions. What are the Junior Marine “games”? and how do you get the job you want in the Marines as reserve and active duty? I am in college right now in a law enforcement major and looking into the Military Police and 03 jobs. Thank you for your time.

  • I am scheduled for AD leaving 8-26-13 I want to switch to reserve. Do I still get money for college and is there a long wait for a new date? Any pros/cons with this decision. Thanks got the info

  • I am writing this to try to open the thinking minds on how to improve the military from Reserves to Active Duty.

    Because to be honest the reserves and active are like a bell curve the differences and similarities between.
    Both motivated to help and serve the country honorably. But both live completely different lives month in month out like you talked of. We both share the same uniform with no unique identifiers or qualifiers showing a difference. But because the major differences in lifestyles I think there should be a reserve program completely changed ground up to maximize the potential of the actual people putting that uniform on. My just happened to be a reservist in the navy young pup recruit who took a hazing and much much worse monthly form young punk active duty guys who always had one thing or two to haze me on. My lack of experience on a real live operating navy ship. Imagine trying to learn a tank efficiently on 1 weekend a month?! is that a good navy marine analogy? but the reserves goes across the board regardless all for the betterment and protection of the country!

    The reserves only have 2 days to learn something with proficiency. That alone anywhere in the world civilian or military does not come with a high probability of success. But it is expected of reservists in a high stress place by all accords the military. Not a good pairing from the get go for efficiency or really positive results.

    Add stress onto that during drill weekends either from angry active duty guys that are forced by command to work with reservists and the learning curve evens dips lower.

    If we could recreate the reserves what would it look like?

    Take into account, without formalities of today’s reserves, the American military in ww2 grew by 75% with reservists and succeeded.

    To be partially successful to learn something at high proficiency on one weekend a month you must make the training very unique and tailored and special for the student. In this case the reservist.

    My only solution is to put reservist to work with only reservist or very specialized active duty personnel on reserve weekends. Allowing for internal bickering and those argument between Active Duty and Reservist on reserve weekends just takes away from special times to learn and become honorable serving service men and women. We don’t need to be getting better at arguing or belittling. There are not stripes I can add to my uniform for that. And in fact it is demoralizing and someone usually looses a little sense of self which in the long run hurts the overall performance of the Military component and there for the country you serve and protect.

    Reservist are the vulnerable ones especially if they served no prior active duty but are forced to work on hi level platforms on weekends with active duty who are their age who relate to other active duty guys through punking and bullying and just do it to the reservist now and have one more thing to punk the young reservist on, their lack of knowledge and experience.

    Their is a hi level of failure in this situation mentally for a young reservist who just wants to serve his country honorably but has become a whipping post for young angry punk active duty to haze hard for a weekend. That was my experience. And because I was in an enlistment and serving honorably and following every order no matter how dumb i thought and demeaning, I tried to believe it as normal and I took this anger to the real world and got in a lot of street fights and started loosing my real job that paid for my rent etc…because 1 weekend a month is not a lot of time and space when you know you will be right back and hear the same crap again and feel the belittlement 1 more weekend.

    Why do I say this? Well it is to wizen the wize. I lived it. I survived it. I affected me. I hope others don’t have to go through it. I hope my story helps others. But is surely hurt and sucked.

    Reservists. Especially young no prior active duty just got out bootcamp motivated smart wanting to serve their country honorably reservists.

    • Hello Aaron,

      You make some great points! The training deficiencies are wide-spread too. Imagine having to learn a software that takes professionals years to learn efficiently in just 2 days a month. And really, once you strip away the admin and other training that has to be done, you’re looking at maybe 6 hours of total training on a specific system or procedure.

      I’ll address this in more detail later, but keep up the critical thinking.


  • Webb,

    Thanks for taking up my comment. It came with 8 years real world boots on the ground experience living the life of a 18-26 yo no prior service SELRES attached to a unit reporting to an Active Duty FFG. I think looking back on it the detailer(can detailers make mistakes?) made a mistake sending me there no prior service. Why? In 4 years being there I never met another reservist who never served active duty. I was the only 1. The actv duty guys who shook me down at my first muster thought it wierd I had no active service but were forced to work with me as the Reserve Center and Reserve Unit attached is a separate command then the Ship. I was forced to think it was normal to try to soak up learn whatever was told me to learn in 2 days things 100 percent the other guys did on active duty. Yes it was an impossible position to ever feel comfortable proficient and valid on anything on that ship surrounded by guys who did it daily.

    And to add to that Active Duty in general the more I talk to people that served in Combat theaters reservist and active duty do not mix well all the time.

    I think this mixing in peacetime should be limited more. Reservist should train separately developing team in between reservist units. And do pick up and support work based on a to do list for an active duty unit on reserve weekends. They should not work together in Reserve Weekends. Let the active duty have their weekends of freedom.

    So to take your program example with programs, that I am sure does take place, should be completely changed because it creates impossible expectations. And if you are 18 and just graduated boot as a SELRES it is unhealthy and wrong in so many ways to have that guy or girl have self expectations to learn what it takes active duty to learn 365 days a year on 2 days a month. The Reserve Benefits are not enough to forgo time reading your college manuals to be reading MOS and Rate Manuals in between weekends. And this unhealthy expectation can lead to mental problems because the reservist will either feel like a looser for not learning fast enough and or get angry and resentful etc etc etc.

    Infact, my life goal developed during boot hearing guys talk of how fast 20 years is and retiring was to also retire start with 8yr SELRES enlistment was to go to college get a degree and become an officer. It was sort of a backwards self created ROTC program without the administration or safety net of ROTC advisers who send you out ROTC CADETS in groups for camaraderie and support to Real Military Units in the Summer. I am sure I am not alone as some Marines who went SELRES at 18 see the same trajectory. All I say to them is know your options and speak your mind if something is not right or the expectations are draining. You are not so high level of a military asset as to get burned with expectations that can be draining for the limited benefits of a SELRES contract. Take for example with an 8 year SELRES contract fulfilled Honorably you will not get VET STATUS because although you did a lot of active duty time you did not do 180 days straight to get VA benefits.

    And I know that the military does not always care if things are fair. But they would not put a woman in certain situations. And they do not make officers sleep in enlisted quarters for reasons that make you realize they do make rules based on appropriateness. So they should make as often as possible appropriate training programs with appropriate expectations and results. They should not be setting up young green recruits SELRES in this matter to believe it is appropriate to learn things in 2 days that it takes people 365 on active duty to feel comfortable doing proficiently. Infact I think they could of taught me all they taught me in 4 years in 1 month of active duty time if called up. They should of put me in a unit to 1. Feel comfortable with appropriate training requirements and expectations.

    I think we both see with the problems of inappropriate expectations with given training in both our examples.

    These scenarios of experience should enlighten people that read them.

    The military is a good place for a lot of people to succeed in life.

    It is always a place that is improving constantly. Including well designed programs including reserve programs that allow for success breading better mental health equaling a stronger Military.

    And in this regard these comments are valid.

    Very interested in seeing your solutions and improvements for identified problems.


  • I’ll add another difference- how a reservist is treated by active duty. I earned my Sgt stripes on active duty, was Honorably Discharged, and became a reservist to take care of my ill father. I had 2 part time jobs, went to school 6 days a week, and earned a 6 figure job to help pay my dad’s bills.

    During my 2 week training at Camp Pen, where I had originally been stationed, an MP Corporal got smart with me in the presence of my troops when he checked my (now) E5 reservist ID. Needless to say, I chewed his E4 self a new one and offered the opportunity to speak with his Sgt or OOD, whoever was in charge that weekend. I shouldn’t have had to explain that I had served and earned my stripes on active duty and he was being insubordinate. So, I’ve experienced both sides. Ultimately, I’m proud to have served my country, and I’m still a 3rd generation Marine! Semper Fi!

  • ACTIVE DUTY IS A WASTE OF LIFE AND BRAIN CELLS. I spend 6 months of every year in the field, if you don’t know what that is like you should really stop bitching. Knee pain, back pain, getting dicked around by higher ups, standing in formation for no apparent reason, having to wake up every morning at 5 for PT. BARRACKS DUTY. And dealing with this closet-homo CMC’s reawakening dream. Cutting score has been closed out for almost a year and when it opens for Cpl the score is almost 1700, that used to be the score to pick up Sgt. Everybody that gets to go home everyday really needs to get over themselves and realize that they don’t live in a small room with another man in the middle of bumfuck nowhere with no hot water.

  • I have to say that I agree with this statement:

    :: Everybody that gets to go home everyday really needs to get over themselves and realize that they don’t live in a small room with another man in the middle of bumfuck nowhere with no hot water. And dealing with this closet-homo CMC’s reawakening dream. :::

  • Call me slow or whatever, I served 72 -76 the last 2.5 years on MSG Duty Honorble Discharge E5 Sergeant. I still cannot seem to get a clear answer for what an EAS is or possibly I am looking for what E. A. S. stands for. Maybe I forgot, maybe it was referred to as something else, e.g. orders upon graduation.??? So many new acronyms or letters such as EAS etc I see on Marine Corps Web Sites and they mean nothing to me as I am 40 years out. I guess I’m looking for the simple E is for .>>> A is for>>> etc I probably already know but I need it spelled out. Many Thanks

  • Hey Kevin could you post up some info about going officer in AD or as a Reservist? Have you heard of or met anyone that enlisted in AD and pursued commissioning or as a reservist? My plan was to go enlist as a reservists and try to become an officer.

  • Sergio
    I was in the Navy Reserves Selres Straight Reservist 8 year enlistment 18 out of high school. After bootcamp I noticed yes getting a degree and then going officer would be a great idea and plan.

    Although my plans did not work out like that I still think it is a good if not great idea.

    You will not need to be doing crazy e1 e2 e3 stuff if you active duty in the wrong unit as you progress in your degree and go officer.

    If you are a straight reservist with no active duty time you get limited benefits such as health care including mental health care in between weekends from the Military. So basically if you are in a terrible unit that stresses you out as a reservist try to get out somehow without jeopardizing your enlistment. Why do I say this? being overwhelmed as a reservist with limited health care limited to the weekend allows for a stress condition to build up in you that may affect your life including college as you worry about the next weekend of drill. And another point. I found out that all the drills are considered IDT inactive duty training. I interpret that now as you should be doing something that is inactive because you have limited benefits to support you. So basically when I was serving my drills I was serving under judged by active duty who were completely protected and did not mind sending me home with a headache.

    It seems to me know years removed that you can also look into being a Selres and also join ROTC at the same time.

    Let me know if you thought of that or if any of this helps.


  • Random question here for Marine Reservist.

    What are the major types of Marine Reserve Units?

    When I was at the Navy Marine Reserve Center to do admin and such I always saw a bunch of Marines maintaining their weapons.

    I was in a composite crew of active duty with small mix of reservist attatched to an active duty combatant ship usually out at sea on a weekend.

    Do Marine Reservists have any kind of units like this?


  • I’m in the process of becoming a marine waiting till Dec/Jan for the new contracts for active duty..just wondering if you could tell me how you like being a marine,what has it done for you personally and if you had any advice I could use

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