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Marine Security Guards

U.S. Marine Security Guards have worked closely with the State Department and DSS for more than six decades to protect and safeguard people, property, and sensitive information at U.S. embassies and consulates around the world.

The director of DSS oversees the MSG program, and DSS and MSGs work together to ensure the United States can conduct diplomacy safely and securely around the world.

The Mission

The primary mission of MSGs is to protect U.S. citizens and property and prevent the compromise of classified U.S. government information.

MSGs respond immediately to large and small crises, including demonstrations, bomb threats, fires, nuclear/biological/chemical threats, and facility intrusion attempts. In the event of an attack, MSGs deter aggressors to safeguard diplomatic personnel and classified information.

MSGs also control access within U.S. missions. They conduct inspections to ensure classified information is secure, and they monitor surveillance devices and fire alarms. They also serve as the focal point for all post emergency communications.

U.S. Marine Security Guard (MSG) watchstanders perform a drill outside of the Marine House near the U.S. Embassy, Bamako, Mali, Aug. 29, 2016. The MSG program, run by the Marine Corps Embassy Security Group, has 175 Marine Corps Detachments throughout the world, providing protection to mission personnel and to prevent the compromise of national security information and equipment at designated diplomatic and consular facilities. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Sarah R. Hickory)

The Program

More than 1,000 officers and enlisted U.S. Marines have been trained for MSG duty and are assigned to the Marine Corps Embassy Security Group at Quantico, Virginia and to the Marine Security Guard detachments located at U.S. embassies and consulates around the globe. Marine Security Augmentation Unit squads were created in 2013 to provide additional support, wherever and whenever needed.

The MSG program offers great opportunities for young Marines to travel, learn new languages, and experience new cultures.

Secretary of State Dean Rusk speaks to a graduating class of Marine Security Guards (MSG). During the 1950s, the Department and the Marine Corps made significant changes to the MSG training program, including the addition of an on-the-job component (at Main State) and the development of a Marine Security Guard Handbook. Source: Department of State Records, National Archives and Records Administration.

The History

Since the formal creation of the MSG program in December 1948, its unique partnership with the State Department has developed into one of the strongest in the history of U.S. civilian-military relations.

The State Department’s relationship with the U.S. Marine Corps dates back to 1798, and for more than 200 years, Marines have been engaged in some way with U.S. diplomacy. U.S. Marines have escorted diplomatic personnel, rescued and defended U.S. embassies and consulates, and provided notable support to U.S. diplomatic efforts throughout our nation’s history.

World Wars I and II: U.S. Marine Corps noncommissioned officers acted as diplomatic couriers safeguarding the delivery of diplomatic and confidential mail for the State Department throughout World War I, operating in hazardous locations, often with little protection other than their sidearms.

The origins of the present-day MSG program are rooted in World War II, when a 60-man Marine detachment was assigned to guard the U.S. embassy in war-torn London.

Post World War II: In December 1948, the U.S. Marine Corps agreed to provide a force to protect U.S. embassies and consulates throughout the world. The U.S. Marine Corps identified volunteers to fill these assignments, and the MSG program was formed in 1949. When the MSG program became operational in 1949 with the deployment of 83 Marines. Since then, the MSG program has become a prestigious assignment in the U.S. Marine Corps.

2013: President Barack Obama authorized the addition of 1,000 MSGs as part of the 2013 Defense Authorization Act, which increased the number of MSGs to approximately 2,450 at more than 150 diplomatic posts worldwide.

U.S. Department of State

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