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Marine Corps Embassy Security Group
MSG Shield (1).jpg
Founded 1948
Country United States
Branch United States Marine Corps
Type Security guard
Role Embassy security
Size approx. 1,000 at 125 locations[1]
Garrison/HQ MCB Quantico, Virginia, U.S.
Nickname(s) "Marine Security Guards", "Marine Embassy Guards"
Motto(s) In Every Clime and Place
Col Frank E. Wendling[2]

A Marine Security Guard, also known as a Marine Embassy Guard is a member of the Marine Corps Embassy Security Group,[3] (formerly Marine Security Guard Battalion), a battalion-sized organization of U.S. Marines whose detachments provide security at American embassies, American consulates and other official United States Government offices such as the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, Cuba, or the United States Mission to NATO in Brussels, Belgium.


The U.S. Marine Corps has a long history of cooperation with the U.S. State Department, going back to the early days of the country. From the raising of the American flag at Derna, Tripoli and the secret mission of Archibald H. Gillespie in California, to the Boxer Rebellion 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.

The formal and permanent use of Marines as security guards began with the Foreign Service Act of 1946, which authorized the Secretary of Navy to, upon the request of the Secretary of State, assign Marines to serve as custodians under the supervision of the senior diplomatic officer at a diplomatic post. The first joint Memorandum of Agreement was signed on 15 December 1948 regarding the provisions of assigning Marines overseas. Trained at the Foreign Service Institute, the first Marines arrived at Tangier and Bangkok in early 1949. The Marine Corps assumed the primary training responsibility in November 1954. The authority granted in the Foreign Service Act of 1946 has since been replaced by 10 U.S.C. § 5983 and the most recent Memorandum of Agreement was signed in August 2008.

In response to the 2012 Benghazi attack, Congress ordered a near doubling of Marine Security Guards in the midst of a post-war drawdown in overall USMC numbers.[4] The USMC has responded by redeploying one company from 1st Battalion 1st Marines while additional guards are trained.[5]


A Marine Security Guard examines a security system in December 2004.

Marine Security Guards raising the American flag at a new U.S. embassy in Astana, Kazakhstan in 2006.

The primary mission of the MSG is to provide security, particularly the protection of classified information and equipment vital to the national security of the United States at American diplomatic posts. This is accomplished under the guidance and operational control of a civilian federal agent of the Diplomatic Security Service, known as the Regional Security Officer (RSO) who is the senior U.S. law enforcement representative and security attaché at U.S. diplomatic posts around the world.[6] In addition, MSGs provide security for visiting American dignitaries and frequently assist the RSO in supervising host country and/or locally employed security forces which provide additional security for the exterior of embassies. The MSGs fall under operational control of the RSO and are administratively controlled by the Marine Corps Embassy Security Group. The secondary mission of Marine Security Guards is to provide protection for U.S. citizens and U.S. Government property located within designated U.S. Diplomatic and Consular premises during exigent circumstances, which require immediate aid or action.

MSGs 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.[7]


The Marine Security Guards number approximately 1000 Marines at 150 posts (also known as "detachments"), organized into nine regional MSG commands and located in over 135 countries in 18 time zones, as well as its headquarters at Marine Corps Base Quantico.[2] Headquarters Company, along with MSG School, is composed of approximately 100 Marines providing administrative, logistical, legal, training and education support. The remaining nine companies are commanded by a lieutenant colonel, and typically entail a number of detachments in several countries. The companies are as follows:

Region Headquarters AOR Detachments
1 Frankfurt, Germany Eastern Europe and Eurasia 20
2 Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates India and the Middle East 18
3 Bangkok, Thailand East Asia and Pacific 18
4 Fort Lauderdale, Florida South America 13
5 Frankfurt, Germany Western Europe and Scandinavia 16
6 Pretoria, South Africa East Africa 11
7 Frankfurt, Germany North Africa and West Africa 12
8 Frankfurt, Germany Central Europe
9 Fort Lauderdale, Florida North America and the Caribbean 14

Each Detachment is commanded by a Staff Non-Commissioned Officer, being one of the few instances where an enlisted Marine may hold the title of "commander". Generally between the ranks of Staff Sergeant and Master Gunnery Sergeant, Marine Detachment Commanders serve two tours which generally last 18 months each. Unlike their subordinates, however, Detachment Commanders may be married. The minimum detachment size is five MSGs (Marine Security Guards) and a single detachment commander. This allows for posts to be manned at all times while allowing each of the Marines to conduct other routine training, internal management of the detachment and have some time off. A Marine Security Guard usually serves three 12-month tours of duty. Marine Security Guard "watch standers" are enlisted Marines from the rank of Private First Class to Staff Sergeant.


Marine Corps Security Guard Ribbon

After every 24 months as a Marine Security Guard or Regional officer with the Marine Corps Embassy Security Group, a Marine is entitled to the Marine Corps Security Guard Ribbon or a subsequent service star.

Marines of any Military Occupational Specialty may volunteer for a three-year tour of duty;[8] however, non-Staff NCOs with dependants are not eligible, as well as Marines with potentially offensive tattoos, legal or security restrictions, non-United States citizenship, dual citizenship, significant financial indiscretions, and any other restriction that would prevent a top secret clearance.[9]

Before being assigned to a Foreign Service post, a Marine accepted into the MSG program must successfully complete a training program located at the Marine Corps Embassy Security Group (MCESG) which is located at Marine Corps Base Quantico, VA. Marine Security Guard duty is one of a few special duty assignments available to qualified Marines. Marine Security Guard duty can be dangerous; there have been instances where Marines have been killed during this duty (most recently, Cpl Steve Crowley in 1979, Cpl Robert V. McMaugh in 1983 and Sgt Jesse Aliganga in 1998).

See also


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Marine Corps.

  • Frampton, James Scott, The Influence of Attitudes and Morale on the Performance of Active-Duty United States Marine Corps Female Security Guards (2011)
  1. "Marine Security Guard Battalion". Retrieved 2009-03-17. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Moses, Lance Cpl. Meloney R. (2009-05-14). "Marine Corps Embassy Security Groups' new commander". Marine Corps Base Quantico: United States Marine Corps. Retrieved 2009-10-15. 
  3. "Marine Corps Embassy Security Group". Unit Profile: Marines Magazine. United States Marine Corps. March 23, 2010. Retrieved 1 April 2010. 
  4. "Expert: USMC embassy guard boost will be tough."
  5. Harkins, Gina; Lamothe, Dan (20 September 2013). "Infantry Marines deploy; fill gap in demand for embassy security.". Military Times Group. Retrieved 20 September 2013. 
  6. LCpl Travis J. Crewdson (November 30, 2006). "MSG classroom named after fallen Marine". United States Marine Corps. "Along with Navy Seabees assigned embassy duty, an MSG is a rare example of uniformed member of the U.S. armed forces under the operational command of a civilian, albeit law enforcement head." 
  7. "The mission of the Marine Corps Embassy Security Command". Marine Corps Embassy Security Group. United States Marine Corps. Retrieved 2009-03-17. 
  8. "Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's)". Marine Corps Embassy Security Group. United States Marine Corps. Retrieved 2009-03-17. 
  9. "Plan For Success". Marine Corps Embassy Security Group. United States Marine Corps. Retrieved 2009-03-17. 

External links

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