By Thomas B. Hunter
This section has been created to give very basic
answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about
U.S. Navy Special Warfare and USMC special mission
units. Of course this will will not provide
a comprehensive, all-inclusive answer, as that can
only be found through your own research on this site
and everyone always has questions even after the questions
have been answered. Links are provided where
appropriate to assist you in your search. The
number of questions and comparisons between units
that could be provided here are infinite, so only
those most popular questions are answered here.
Members of the units described below are welcome to
provide their input by emailing
What is the difference between USMC
Force Recon and the Navy's SEAL
The primary difference is that the bread-and-butter
mission of Force Recon is deep reconnaissance (usually
farther inland than the SEALs). Their mission
is to get 'eyes-on' a given target, transmit photos
and/or video of the target to command, then get out
undetected. If they end up shooting their way
out, something has gone wrong. FR is certainly
capable of slugging it out, but like any small recon
team, they are not equipped for a prolonged stand
up fight (neither is a SEAL recon team).
The SEALs, on the other hand, are more direct action-oriented.
Their mission is to get to a target and destroy it,
or to an individual and snatch him. If they
are able to set their delayed explosives and make
it back to the water before anyone is the wiser, then
they have done their job. If the shooting starts,
again, something has likely gone wrong. In the
latter case of 'snatching' an individual, the effort
is always made to make sure their hostage (or rescued
fellow sailor/Marine/solider/airman) gets back to
the water with them, without a shot being fired.
Now, it should be noted that both units are trained
in many of the same skills and missions. They
can do hostage rescue, assaults on oil platforms,
and more. Both are also highly trained in amphibious
reconnaissance, and this is where they find mission
overlap to be the greatest problem. So how do
they settle it? Well, usually whoever is closest
gets the mission. Another factor is the commanding
officer - if he is Navy, he may request the SEALs.
If he is the CO of a Marine Air Ground Task Force
(MAGTF), then he will almost certainly ask his Force
Recon Marines to perform the mission. This is
where politics can enter into the decision making
process. As both units are superb at such a
mission, however, the end result is that the job gets
done regardless - and gets done in a professional
One retired SEAL officer had this to say:
"Personally, I like the FR folks. They go into
the Force Recon game with a great attitude, 'every
Marine is a rifleman'. Very basic... and very essential.
All are cut from that very same cloth. Their standards
are high. And what I like most about them is that
they keep their mouths quiet. Notice how much the
Agency uses them over SOF. Cause the boys believe
they can count on 'em for,... more than just the ops.
They're part of the team. They train as hard and school
as much as we do. Man-for-man, pound-for-pound they're
good troops and I wouldn't mind at all them backing'
me up. I'd give our guys the overall edge physical
fitness-wise, however. Where we have another edge,
what I consider,... the real edge,... is how we SEAL
people fight. "Unrelenting, violent aggression in
the face of adversity." It's how you get through it,
to live live through it. And each time something like
that happens, your own life undergoes another quickening
of sorts. Once it's over, one thinks, 'Great the breathing
bags still work and the pulse is a-racin'. If one
fights with his spirit, the sword inevitably follows.
The spirit of a man can well be either white or black,
for both are strong, and always competing. Shows self
control. FR guys are right up there. On a parallel
track,...We have the phrase in SOF, "Shoot-Move-Think-Communicate
& Survive. " Well, it's one thing to know the
phrase, another to believe, that practiced diligently,
does really work. One of my own axioms, (something
I used to say to myself before battle) "Only the most
committed wins. Winning in this business... means
Another senior retired SEAL officer:
Tom: I wouldn't begin to say that either unit is
"better" than the other. FR is better at what they
do than we are, and the SEALs are better at what they
do. Missions are comparable, except FR go farther
inland than SEALs and don't use the airborne entry
method as much as SEALs do (or plan to do). SEALs
are better in the water (naturally), and FR are probably
better at conducting ops over long distances over
the ground. Also, SEALs have a significantly better
waterborne capability for the simple reason that they
have more and bigger boats.
I know a lot of Recon guys, and I'll hoist a beer
with them any day!
What is the difference between Battalion Recon
and 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
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
Basic training paths for Marines in both 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.
The answers to more Marine Recon/Force Recon questions
can be found here.
The above question and answer was derived directly
from that page.