The military culture is so vastly different from civilian life that there are actually classes held for civilians who marry into it that last two days. Every Marine spouse is highly encouraged to take a LINKS class (Lifestyles, Insights, Networking, Knowledge and Skills). It's so important to take this class that they provide free food and childcare. There is usually a class once a month on most bases, and once every other month on the smaller ones. Each section of the class is taught by a spouse who has already lived through the experience. For example, you can't talk about deployments unless you have already been through at least one or two.
I was so excited to go to my first class, and mind boggled by all the acronyms and completely overwhelmed by trying to remember the rank structure and symbols. They also recommend that every time you move, you attend a class on the new base because there are slight twists and new items at each base. I eventually became a LINKS volunteer and gave talks on different sections at the bases I lived on.
But through the class I made my first new friends on the base we were living on. I learned that although the MC (Marine Corps) is considered "the tip of the spearhead" because they are the first to the fight, and "expeditionary" because they are in convenient locations around the world with the skills to move quickly to get to where they need to go; they are only a department of the Navy and only receive (at least at the time of my class) 6% of the entire defense budget.
I learned that the other services have often promoted folding the MC into the bigger whole and doing away with it specifically as it was argued that the services the MC provides overlapped services longer established military structures provided. We were told that the US (United States) has a MC because the people wanted it. The Marine Corps has an odd badge of pride for being able to do more with less, and until very recently no Commandant of the Marine Corps ever went before a budget committee telling them they were out of money and needed more (which can't be said for the other branches of service). The Marine mentality is to make do.
When we were stationed at Quantico, I remember going to the Air Force base after only seeing the Marine base for months. I was shocked... their commissary was amazing, they had topiary everywhere, the E (enlisted) barracks was better than the O (officer) family housing on the Marine base, and most of all... their guards had air conditioned shacks with shaded porticos. And they were slouching with bad haircuts. I thought I had entered an alternate universe, and only then did I realize how much I had absorbed in the few short months I was married. I drove back home and felt sorry for the people living and working in the quonset huts on Quantico.
I've heard much is changed there now...there have been a lot of housing improvements in the last 3-4 years on the Marine bases, and as we were leaving Camp Lejeune, they had just finished building an air conditioned check point with a portico. We currently live in the nicest Marine Corps housing I have ever seen, unlike any other base I've been to in the past.
L.I.N.K.S. provides information on:
Marine Corps history, tradition and
Benefits and services
separation and deployments
Tips on moving