I don't want to be a POG.
December 22, 2010 2:52 PM   Subscribe

[USMC] I am going to enlist in the Marines, but I don't want to be a pogue/POG. What do I need to do?

Are grunts solely infantry? Does that mean that any non-infantry combat arms (artillery, armored, combat engineers, EOD?) are POGs? I recognize the value of every job in the Marine Corps, but that's not what I want to be. I want to come out without the stigma of being a POG, so I will do everything in my power to avoid this.

And good lord, please no lectures about going to college or not wasting my life.
posted by okaasan to Law & Government (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
From what I remember my (Vietnam-vet Marine) dad saying, pogues are anyone other than infantry, artillery, or armored - basically, combat arms as a whole.
posted by deadmessenger at 3:03 PM on December 22, 2010

Being a Marine, and certainly being a "grunt" has a certain connotation of being in the infantry, yes.
posted by Oktober at 3:07 PM on December 22, 2010

Talk to your recruiter. In fact, talk to multiple recruiters from multiple branches to compare/contrast. But one of the answers will be, "Be the best Marine in boot" and then you'll have a measure of flexibility.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:08 PM on December 22, 2010

I know very little about the Marines, but one of their catch phrases is "Every Marine a Rifleman." That should tell you something.

Every branch of the military has a bit of a complex about those who are "on the point of the spear." For example, it's hard to make General in the USAF unless you're a pilot (this is gradually easing up as space and technology become more important, but still a general rule). But my layman's perspective of the Marines is that they're pretty hardcore about this.

If you're not interested in the infantry or such like, why not enlist in another branch of service such as the Navy or the Air Force, both of which are more technology driven (as I see it) and broader in the scope of specialties they offer? (Somewhat true of the Army, even, but I mention the others first because of their particular emphasis.

I know the most about the Air Force, and they've got Airmen (equivalent to privates) doing tech stuff and being sent to tech schools, so... They also have a lot of enlisted who transition to officer if they stay in long enough and get the requisite education.
posted by randomkeystrike at 3:08 PM on December 22, 2010

If you're not interested in the infantry or such like,

My reading of the question is that okaasan wants to be a grunt. One of these?

Talk to your recruiter. They can't really guarantee anything, but they can give you information.
posted by rtha at 3:17 PM on December 22, 2010

you have to assume that your recruiter and any recruiter will say anything to get you to sign on the dotted line. usually they'll try to keep from making a firm commitment to give them weasel room, but they'll also outright lie. their job it to get recruits. your job in the military is to follow orders. you will be put in any position they feel you fit into. there's some things you can do to make yourself look more attractive to the jobs you want, but most of that is so far out of your hands. asking your recruiter this question is like asking marlboro if their product is safe.

some links:

top 10 lies some recruiters tell
military.com forums search for recruiter lie
posted by nadawi at 3:39 PM on December 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

On re-read, maybe I'm unclear:

- if okaasan WANTS to be in the Marines, but DOESN'T WANT anyone to call him a POG, ever, I think culturally he's going to have to go infantry. Whether he wants to be infantry or not is not clear from the question, to me. But just a casual google of the term indicates that this is an ongoing debate.

Not that I'd expect a straight answer from a recruiter or a senior officer. I'm sure you'd get the "every Marine is valuable" spiel, esp. if the recruiter needs more artillery, radio ops, etc.

POG means "Person Other than Grunt." (at least according to the def. I found). Grunts are infantry. QED. There is a debate raging, which looks like it's been raging for the life of the corps, about the value of POGs. Looks like some embrace the term in "Yankee Doodle" fashion, for some it's the first line in a fistfight, etc.

Also, to 2nd nadawi's comments, I had a buddy get suckered into the Army signal corps when what he wanted was to audition for the Army band (he was a professional musician). My buddy was an idiot. Most recruiters are liars, IMO.
posted by randomkeystrike at 3:44 PM on December 22, 2010

Mod note: comment removed - OP is not anonymous, if you're not answering the question feel free to email them privately, thank you.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:49 PM on December 22, 2010

Beware the never-ending ladder of macho. Yes, being in the infantry will be the first step in not being a pogue. In the Army, however, it goes like this:

You're in the Army? Great. How manly of you. What are you? Infantry? No? Well...

So, you're in the Infantry? That's awesome. Are you Airborne? No? Oh...

Wow, you're Airborne? Like Airborne-qualified or in an Airborne unit?

You're in an Airborne unit? Did you go to Ranger School? No? When are you going?

You went to Ranger school? You must be a stud. Are you in a Ranger Batt, or just Ranger qualified? Not in a Ranger batt? Why not?

You're a Ranger? That's impressive. Hey, have you thought of SF?

You're SF? Wow. Hey, I've got a buddy in Delta.

Oh, you're in Delta? Hey, I hear it's easy to go from Delta to OGA. Is that true?

This is no shit, and at each level there's sort of the implication that you must have just put your purse down to answer the question.

There's probably some CJSOTF-Codeword- Knife-in-my-teeth job that goes up beyond this point but I don't know about it, and I don't know if the Earth can sustain the swollen egos that must be involved. I'm sure the Marines have something similar.

Here's the bottom line: There will always be someone who considers you a pogue.
posted by atchafalaya at 4:22 PM on December 22, 2010 [33 favorites]

The term is used as a pejorative , randomkeystrike. My reading of this is that the poster wishes to serve in the armed forces, specifically the Marine Corps, and wants to avoid the stigma within the branch of being seen as only serving in a supporting role. This is an impossible wish. Firstly it is slang term, and its use can vary, based on circumstance. This is especially true in time of war, which each level of increased risk being seen as more warrior-like, with the more exposed personnel looking down somewhat at those the level behind them.

Signing up for the military means that they make the decisions regarding your training, disposition, military occupational specialty, posting, etc. Despite what some recruiters might tell you, there are no guarantees, ever. I believe that you may request certain specialties, but there is nothing that you can do to ensure that this actually happens. That is not how the military works. When you make the decision to join, you are willingly placing your destiny in the hands a massive and sometimes seemingly illogical bureaucracy.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 4:23 PM on December 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

The value of not being called a POG is not higher than the value of having a job you actually like.

Like atchafalaya wrote, there's always going to be someone around to talk shit. For what it's worth, my ex was Marine infantry and he and his buddies considered anyone other than infantry a POG. But I'm sure Recon Marines think they're even tougher, and MARSOC special operators even more, and on and on.

Regardless, if you want a specific job in the military, do not let your recruiter talk you into signing an open contract. Period. As far as I'm aware, only the Army will guarantee a specific MOS, but I believe the Marine Corps will guarantee an MOS field. (So they could guarantee you infantry, but not specifically 0311 or 0331 or what have you.) If that is not in your contract, you are more liable than usual to get screwed.
posted by lullaby at 5:09 PM on December 22, 2010 [3 favorites]

pogue or POG — Marine not of the combat arms (infantry, armor, and artillery), etymology is disputed: possibly "pogue" derived from the Tagalog word meaning "prostitute" or the Erse Gaelic word meaning "to kiss [my ass]", while "POG" could be from the acronym Persons Other than Grunt, but could be a backronym.

Future Devil Dog, hear this: you can do whatever you want in the Marines with motivation and dedication.

Before you go to your recruiter, do some research on your own. Find out about combat oriented career paths and MOSes/rates. Know what you want to do...infantry, sniper, recon? Get familiar with the different combat oriented jobs. Feel free to contact current and former Marines to get some scoop...find them on the web. Know your shit and only sign on the dotted line when you get EXACTLY what you want.

Another thing about being a non-POG is being willing to and seeking out various qualifications, badges, just like the boy scouts. Airborne, diver, recon etc. Know those things and want to do them.

Whether you do 20 years or 4, once a Marine, you're always a Marine, so make the most of it. Put some effort into research now and shove it down your recruiter's neck. Settle for nothing less. Not kidding.

(Full disclosure: I'm former Army, but have quite a few Devil Dog buddies here in San Diego, some of whom are Force Recon and whatnot and are pretty constantly deployed to places like Afghanistan.)

Go Kick Some Ass! Feel free to contact me as your career progresses or if you find yourself down here at MCRD, San Diego.
posted by snsranch at 6:12 PM on December 22, 2010

Best answer: The word "grunt" does mean infantry in the Marine Corps. If you are sufficiently determined, you can probably get a recruiter to give you an enlistment contract that says the word infantry on it, and that is as close to a guarantee that you will get of being in the infantry. Although some number of enlistees join the Marines to be in the infantry, I wouldn't say that there are enough so that getting an infantry contract is impossible. I'm not sure recruiting is like these days, but when I was an active duty Marine (2005-2008) it was certainly possible for a potential recruit to get the MOS they wanted as long as ASVAB/ physical fitness was halfway decent.

If you know that you want to be an infantry Marine and you won't enjoy being in the Marines unless you get in that MOS, don't let anyone give you a line of shit saying that you can always get it after boot camp. That leads to you being a cook for the next four years. Get the contract before you go, and if you have to wait for a recruiter to get an infantry quota for you, then wait. People who don't have an MOS guaranteed when they enlist are taking a risk on non-trivial life event that I just don't get.


'Not infantry' does not mean 'stigmatized POG'. If, for instance, you call an EOD Marine a POG, you are going to get punched in the throat. In general, the whole POG thing something that you read about in books about the military and from some 20 year old infantry guy who's having the first beer of his life and is about to get his ass kicked by an admin guy. If you enlist in the Marines in any MOS, you are going to get some basic level of infantry training and will probably deploy. I certainly wouldn't want to be, say, a logistics guy if I were you, but I know several of these who ended up doing infantry work for seven months in Iraq. Especially these days, there are a lot of Marines with other MOS designations doing patrol in a war zone. In theory (with personal biases speaking here), infantry Marines are distinguished from everyone else because every Marine is trained to do the job of the infantryman, but an infantryman can't do anyone else's job.

Stick with artillery, military police, infantry, and the other combat arms if you're focused on getting in the experience as a rifleman and deploying. I leave engineering out because it's more difficult to get this MOS and there are a lot of engineering jobs that probably wouldn't suit your tastes based on this question--like heavy equipment work or plumbing. Regardless, as an engineer no one ever called me a POG.

tl;dr: Not being in the infantry does not stigmatize you as a Marine (especially if you've deployed). Memail any questions.
posted by _cave at 7:41 PM on December 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

I would suggest the following:

1. Have a high school diploma. Sure, you can get in with a GED, but there is a hell of a lot more paperwork.

2. Get a half decent score on the ASVAB. I don't know what the minimum required is to be a grunt, but do your best. You should be able to find ASVAB prep books at your local library, and your recruiter should be able to let you take a practice test or two.

3. Specify that you want to enlist in the 03xx field. N.B. - 03xx is the occupational field for infantry, it includes such things as 0311 - Rifleman, 0313 - LAV crewman, 0331 - Machine gunner, 0341 - mortarman, and some others I can't remember off hand.

4. Be advised that the recruiter may try to get you to sign for a different MOS if you have the ASVAB scores for it. Applicants with a good enough GT score to go to Comm school are fairly rare, so if you blow the top off the ASVAB, expect to get steered in that direction. Applicants with a good enough overall score to get into 03xx are a dime a dozen.

5. Be advised that the recruiter may try to get you to sign for a different MOS based on what parts of his quota he needs to fill. You have a better shot at getting what you want at the beginning of the month, and also at the beginning of the fiscal year each October.

6. Don't have tattoos that are visible if you're wearing PT gear. Sleeves, facial tattoos, etc., are all non-waiverable.

7. If you have a close friend or family member who is a current or former Marine, take them with you when you visit the recruiter. They'll be able to call bullshit on the recruiter if he tries to mislead you.

8. If you do pot, coke, x, or anything else, stop now. You can probably get a waiver for small amounts of past use of pot (takes more paperwork), but you'll probably catch flak for it later on. In MOS school, one of my classmates who listed 10 times of smoking pot on his application got called a pot smoking hippie by the Gunny. I strongly doubt that anything harder than pot is waiverable. You'll have to pass a piss test to get in, and you'll get piss tested pretty regularly while you're in.

9. Piercings - if you have stretched lobes, shitloads of cartilage piercings, a PA, etc., that may present problems when trying to enlist.

10. When you enlist for active duty, you only get to specify the Occupational field (e.g. 03xx Infantry, 08xx Artillery, 21xx Ground Ordnance Maintenance, 35xx Motor T). You'll find out which specific MOS in the Occ field you got when you get to SOI after you finish at the MCRD. When you enlist for reserves, you get to specify the actual MOS (e.g. 0311 Infantry Rifleman, 2146 Tank Mechanic, 3531 Motor T operator, etc.) but what's available is based solely on the openings in reserve units close to your home of record.

I realize this is getting kinda long. Memail me if you want to ask anything further.

/Six years USMC reserves
/Two tours in Iraq
/Not a recruiter
posted by AMSBoethius at 7:41 PM on December 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Also, ditto what _cave said.
posted by AMSBoethius at 7:42 PM on December 22, 2010

In Matterhorn, the author, a retired Marine officer who served in Vietnam, writes in a footnote that a poag is a, "Overweight, rear-area do-nothing. The term is derived from the time when the Marines were in China before WW II. They were issued candy (Baby Ruth, Tootsie Rools, etc.) to supplement their rations. Sugar and other sweets were rare commodities in China, so the troops found the candy useful for barter in towns. The Chinese word for prostitute sounded something like 'pogey'. Thus, the candy became 'pogey bait' and the expression eventually became Marine slang for junk food and candy bars in general."
posted by mlis at 10:01 PM on December 23, 2010

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