Marine Security Guard
U.S. State Department
Mission: Marine Security Guards provide
security services to selected Department of State
Foreign Service posts to prevent the compromise of
classified material and equipment and to provide protection
for United States citizens and United States Government
property. The Marine Security Guard Battalion exercises
command, less operational control, of these Marines,
in that it is responsible for their training, assignments,
administration, logistical support, and discipline.
Mission is the general term for embassy, consulate
or legation; commonly referred to as a "post".)
focus on the interior security of a diplomatic post's
building(s). In only the most extreme emergency situations
are they authorized duties exterior to the building(s)
or to provide special protection to the senior diplomatic
officer off of the diplomatic compound. MSGs carry
a certain level of diplomatic immunity in the performance
of their official duties.
MSG Program in its current form has been in place
since December 1948, but the Marine Corps has a long
history of cooperation with the Department of State
(DOS) going back to the early days of the Nation.
From the raising of the United States flag at Derna,
Tripoli and the secret mission of Archibald Gillespie
in California, to the 55 days at Peking, Marines have
served many times on special missions as couriers,
guards for embassies and legations, and to protect
American citizens in unsettled areas.
origins of the modern MSG Program began with the Foreign
Service Act of 1946 which stated that the Secretary
of Navy is authorized, upon the request of the Secretary
of State, to assign enlisted Marines to serve as custodians
under the supervision of the senior diplomatic officer
at an embassy, legation, or consulate. Using this
Act, the DOS and Marine Corps entered into negotiations
to establish the governing provisions for assigning
MSGs overseas. These negotiations culminated in the
first joint Memorandum of Agreement signed on 15 December
1948. Trained at the DOS's Foreign Service Institute,
the first MSGs departed for Tangier and Bangkok on
28 January 1949. The authority granted in the Foreign
Service Act of 1946 has since been replaced by Title
10, United States Code 5983 and the most recent Memorandum
of Agreement was signed on 6 March 1997. The Marine
Corps assumed the primary training responsibility
in November 1954.
is a joint working relationship between MSG Battalion
and DOS. The detachment commander reports to the battalion
commander via the company commander in the administrative
chain of command. In the operational chain of command,
he reports to the Chief of Mission**
via the Regional Security Officer+
or Post Security Officer+.
The joint Memorandum of Agreement governs these relationships.
Chief of Mission refers to the senior United States
Diplomatic officer. This is normally an Ambassador
or Consulate General.)
Regional Security Officers (RSO) are Diplomatic Security
Special Agents. They are at the majority of missions
with MSG detachments. At those posts without an RSO,
one of the embassy staff is assigned the collateral
duty of Post Security Officer (PSO).)
battalion commander reports to the Director of Operations
(PO) at Headquarters Marine Corps (HQMC). MSG Battalion
currently fields over 1000 Marines at 121 Detachments
organized into seven regional MSG companies and located
in over 105 countries. Headquarters Company and Battalion
Headquarters is located aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico,
Virginia. The MSG School is part of Headquarters Company.
Company A Headquarters is located in Frankfurt, Germany
and is responsible for 20 detachments in Eastern Europe.
This company is expanding as the DOS plans to activate
MSG detachments in the states of the former Soviet
Union. Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina is the latest
addition to Company A.
Company B Headquarters is located in Nicosia, Cyprus
and is responsible for 18 detachments in northern
Africa and the Middle East.
Company C Headquarters is located in Bangkok, Thailand
and is responsible for 18 detachments located in the
Far East, Asia and Australia. Hanoi, Vietnam and Vladivostok,
Russia are the newest additions to this company.
Company D Headquarters is located in Ft. Lauderdale,
Florida. Company D is the largest company with 26
detachments in Central and South America and the Caribbean.
Company E Headquarters is located, along with Company
A, in Frankfurt, Germany. Company E has 16 detachments
in Western Europe and Ottawa, Canada.
Company F Headquarters is located in Nairobi, Kenya
and is responsible for 11 detachments in Sub-Saharan
Company G Headquarters is located in Abidjan, Cote
d'Ivoire and is responsible for 12 detachments in
Headquarters Company is composed of approximately
100 Marines providing administrative, logistical,
legal, training and education support to the Marines
around the globe.
within Headquarters Company, the mission of MSG School
is to select, train, and screen Marines from any Military
Occupational Specialty, male or female, for MSG duty.
The School is eight weeks for detachment commanders
and six weeks for sergeants and below. It is tough,
intense, and grueling. While the 30-35% attrition
rate is the highest of any Marine Corps school, the
result is that attrition from the field is only 2-3%.
This speaks volumes to the quality of the Marines
serving on MSG duty. For more information on what
it takes to become a Marine Security Guard, see MSG
companies are commanded by a Marine lieutenant colonel.
The company headquarters normally consists of two
company-grade officers (first lieutenants or captains),
a First Sergeant, an administration chief and two
clerks. The company's mission is to ensure that administrative
and training standards are maintained, as well as
to advise the diplomatic posts in their region on
the proper employment of MSGs. The company officers
and First Sergeant visit each MSG detachment at least
four times every year. They not only conduct formal
inspections, but observe detachment morale and meet
with post officials. The results of the inspections
are forwarded to the DOS.
a diplomatic post, the detachment commander and RSO
form the Post Security Team. Their relationship is
the key to the security program's success. The RSO
is overall responsible for all internal and external
security programs, as well as all background and criminal
investigations. The detachment commander is ultimately
responsible to the Chief of Mission, but normally
reports to the RSO on day-to-day issues. At larger
posts with several RSOs, the detachment may report
to one of the Assistant RSOs.
detachment commanders are responsible for the operation
of the detachment and are considered "commanders"
by the Marine Corps. This is a unique distinction
because it is one of the very few times a staff noncommissioned
officer (SNCO) can officially carry this title. Detachment
commanders can be staff sergeants (E-6) through master
sergeants (E-8). Unlike the individual MSGs, the detachment
commanders can be married. Detachment commanders need
not have had a previous tour as an MSG, though many
have. Being a detachment commander is one of three
"special duty" assignments that an enlisted
Marine generally needs in order to have a successful
career. The other two special duties are recruiting
and drill instructor.
size is based on the individual diplomatic post's
requirements. The local threat level, the size and
layout of the building(s), and the amount of workday
business are all taken into account when determining
the number and frequency of MSG security posts. The
minimum detachment size is one detachment commander
and five MSGs (referred to as a "1 and 5"
or "1/5"). This allows them to man one security
post 24 hours per day, 365 days per year, while keeping
the duty hours at a reasonable level so that the MSGs
can conduct other routine training, internal management
of the detachment, and have some time off. Diplomatic
posts that require more than one security post have
proportionally more MSGs. Approximately 40% of the
Battalion's detachments are 1/5, 40% are between 1/6
and 1/10, and the remaining 20% are larger than 1/10.
The largest detachment is in Cairo with two SNCOs
and 28 MSGs. Detachments with more than 17 MSGs are
assigned two SNCOs; one is the detachment commander
and the other the assistant detachment commander.
1" is the name of the primary interior security
post. It is normally in the lobby or main entrance
of the building housing the Chief of Mission. Post
1 is the principal command station for all access
control to the building. It is equipped with closed
circuit televisions, radios, intrusion detection and
fire alarm controls. Residing behind bulletproof glass,
the MSGs survey the personnel traffic and monitor
the various security displays around the clock.
the larger diplomatic posts, additional security positions
are labeled Post 2, Post 3, etc. They may be manned
24 hours per day every day or just during normal business
hours. They could have a full compliment of security
displays and equipment similar to Post 1 or they could
be a roving security watch after the embassy has closed.
must always be prepared to conduct reaction drills,
called "Reacts", to their embassy for emergencies
such as fires, bomb threats, bombs, intruders, riots
and demonstrations. Upon reaching the embassy, they
assemble in the "React Room" to receive
orders and direction from the detachment commander.
This room provides not only a storage area for weapons,
ammunition, and personal protective equipment, but
a safe and secure position to suit-up for the React
situation. Each potential React scenario is practiced
and has its own standardized drill from which the
MSGs can modify to fit the actual situation.
addition to the normal duties carried out at their
home detachment, MSGs are sent on temporary additional
duty to protect classified material during official
Presidential, Vice Presidential, or Secretary of State
visits overseas. Normally, MSGs man a security post
in a hotel which the DOS and Secret Service Special
Agents use as an operations center. MSGs wear civilian
coat and tie while performing this duty.
OF A MARINE SECURITY GUARD
duty is considered a "good deal" by the
Marines in the Corps. They have an increased opportunity
for promotion, live in conditions better than most
Marines in the Fleet Marine Force, and get the opportunity
to live in places they likely would not if they weren't
graduating from the School, an MSG can expect two
15-month tours. There are some 12-month hardship tours.
Detachment commanders will have two 18-month tours.
MSGs can take Continuous Overseas Tour (COT) Leave
between their tours. Many return to the United States
for their COT leave, but more than a few spend it
MSGs and detachment commanders are assigned to a detachment
based on the needs of the Battalion, however, their
preferences, any geographic restrictions, and input
from the company commanders are factored into the
assignment decision. Additionally, the Battalion uses
a lineal quality of life ranking of all the detachments
to ensure that an MSG that had a more austere first
tour will get a "better" second tour and
vice versa. Finally, some MSGs are further screened
and nominated to serve at selected special duty diplomatic
majority of the Marines live in the civilian community
in a house referred to as the "Marine House".
Each gets their own bedroom and often their own bathroom.
The detachment manages its own mess fund to ensure
adequate nutrition for all. Every Marine House is
equipped with exercise facilities and areas to host
social events. Some houses even have a swimming pool
or large lawn for organized athletics or large gatherings.
The MSGs also take advantage of the Armed Forces Radio
and Television Service and the Naval Motion Picture
Service to watch current shows and movies.
MSG detachment is involved in every facet of life
within the American community they serve. Whether
hosting social events, sponsoring local community
activities, or just generally adding to the rich experience
of living overseas, our MSGs are indeed "Ambassadors
in Blue." Recent events, however, have clearly
highlighted the true benefit and mission of the MSGs.
The unplanned and unexpected evacuation of the embassies
in Freetown, Sierra Leone (May 1997) and Brazzaville,
Congo (June 1997) were greatly facilitated by the
actions of the detachments. Whether organizing convoys
to the airport, destroying classified equipment, or
providing protection to embassy personnel, the MSGs
of these detachments where uniformly praised for their
these two evacuations are at the extreme end of the
mission continuum, MSG detachments are called upon
every day to react to the embassies for crowd demonstrations,
fires, intruder and bomb threats. Many an American
citizen in trouble overseas has been calmed and reassured
in the middle of the night when in calling the embassy,
they hear "This is Post 1, American Embassy,
Sergeant Striker, how may I help you?" .
the MSG Program enters its 50th year, it remains as
strong and vital as ever. The close cooperation between
the Marine Corps and the DOS at every level is nothing
short of superb. It is to the great benefit of not
only both organizations, but to the Nation's security,
that the MSG Program continue. However, everyone associated
with the Program realizes that MSG duty can be dangerous.
Our diplomatic missions, and particularly our MSGs,
are visible symbols of the United States. Since 1968,
11 MSGs have died in the line of duty defending missions,
personnel and classified material at embassies and
consulates around the world.
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