And a 2021 change that allows a small number of married Marines to serve on Marine security guard duty has been wildly popular, with available slots filling up quickly.
As a longtime advocate of the Marine security guard program, Col. Kelly Frushour, the newly established commanding officer of Marine Corps Embassy Security Group, said she was thrilled to see the change, as she believed it would expand the pool of high-quality Marines that the group can recruit from.
“A number of times with Marines, I’ve tried to tell them about the MSG program, only to find out that they were married or engaged,” she said. “So I thought it was great.”
Due to the position’s high visibility and diplomatic sensitivities, Marine security guard duty is subject to some of the most stringent requirements anywhere in the Marine Corps.
Guards must be U.S. citizens; display “a high level of maturity, sound judgment and moral character;” demonstrate financial stability; and display a professional appearance including above-average physical fitness and even good teeth.
The policy change allowed married Marines with dependents in the rank of sergeant only to volunteer for a 36-month assignment to the Marine Security Augmentation Unit.
“While MSAU is based in Quantico, Marines assigned to MSAU can expect numerous, short-duration [temporary additional duty] deployments to augment security at embassies and consulates and to provide security support during senior level U.S. official visits overseas,” the policy change states.
The change, which allowed the Marine Corps to expand eligibility for embassy security, also bypasses the potential challenge of co-locating Marines’ families at far-flung embassy and consulate postings.
In 2022, 20 MSAU spots were opened to married Marines, Frushour said; 23 already have entered training. Frushour said it likely is the overage is due to calculations about troops who have to drop from one of the five annual training courses for various reasons.
“The number one question when [MCESG recruiters] conduct road shows and briefs is about the married MSAU program,” Frushour said. “So it looks like it’s been working out really, really well.”
Another change that affects all Marine security guards concerns the tattoo policy: The special duty long has had even more stringent ink regulations than the regular Marine Corps, including limitations on size and placement of tattoos.
But when the service changed policy in 2021 to permit sleeve tattoos in a much-hailed move, security group Marines were included in the change.
“Sleeve tattoos will not automatically disqualify Marines from being assigned to the Marine Corps Embassy Security Group (MCESG),” Corps spokesman Capt. Ryan Bruce, told Marine Corps Times in December 2021. “However, the MCESG will continue to screen current and contemplated tattoos for all applicants and Marines currently serving as Marine Security Guards.”
However, tattoo content may still disqualify a Marine from security guard duty, Bruce added at the time, noting that country cultural sensitivities would be taken into account.
Frushour said that the screening process is twofold: ink gets evaluated by recruiting teams and then again when prospective embassy security guards arrive at the schoolhouse in Quantico, Virginia.
While Marines are just beginning to make it through the processing pipeline following the tattoo policy change, Frushour said a few sleeve-sporting troops already have begun embassy security duty.
“So far, we have had a small handful [of Marines] with sleeves that have been accepted,” she said.
One of those Marines, she said, is now on the Marine Corps Embassy Security Group recruiting and assessment team.