5 Reasons to Say Yes to MSG Duty

One of my favorite parts of blogging about Marine Security Guard Detachment Commander life is perusing the search terms that bring strangers to this blog. Unsurprisingly, a lot of searches seem to be fellow spouses looking for more info about MSG Duty. While the MSG website is a trove of logistical knowledge, there’s a vacuum of personal and practical knowledge from those who’ve been there and done that. I know a number of Marines who went on the be recruiters or Drill Instructors simply because their spouses had misconceptions about MSG life and weren’t comfortable with taking the risk.

So, for anyone out there searching for “what is MSG duty like,” allow me to explain the positives:

5. Get out of the fleet. In the Marine Corps, there are only so places you can end up. They may be tried and true postings, but they’re tired. Don’t limit yourself to Oki or Iwakuni as the most exotic locale and don’t get too comfortable in your routine (because even PCSing every three years turns into a routine). Explore a new culture, enroll your children in rigorous international schools, and experience a better work-life balance. I see my husband far more now than I ever did in the fleet, and we have memories from more than twenty countries to look back on. Create a lovingly dysfunctional family with your detachment of young Marines, something that’s discouraged in the fleet but essential on the MSG program. Yes, there are low days on which you’ll absolutely hate everything, but the highs are incomparable. The fleet will always be there after MSG.

Another day in the neighborhood in Niamey, Niger, 2009

4. Build your resume. Living overseas promotes personal growth in ways you can’t imagine, but it’s also a huge professional boost. Learn a new language, volunteer in the local community, and if you’re lucky, work in an Embassy. These are unique, valuable experiences you could be adding to your resume, no matter your field. The employment situation facing spouses is tough, but it’s temporary. (This goes for your kids as well. They’ll stun you with how quickly they pick up the local language and learn to empathize with other cultures.)

Handing out toys during the Toys for Tots drive in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, 2017

3. See another side of public service. Learn what diplomats actually do! After all, they represent you and your country abroad. The inner workings of a U.S. Embassy are absolutely fascinating. Foreign Service Officers (as diplomats are officially known) spend most of their careers overseas acting as the face of America, issuing visas, helping stranded Americans, negotiating trade deals, hosting cultural events, securing educational and exchange opportunities for promising foreign students, campaigning for human rights, facilitating international adoptions, monitoring international security, and an entire spectrum of other responsibilities, the depth and breadth of which are astounding. You know how people often say you should thank your troops? After three years of MSG, you’ll want to thank your diplomats, too.

Hondurans holding vigil outside the American Embassy in Tegucigalpa following the night club attacks in Orlando, 2016.

2. Meet fascinating people. You may think you’ve met all kinds of kinds in the military. But those diplomats I mentioned, they’re a whole different breed. Meet some of the best-traveled people around from all walks of life: veterans, professors, executives, doctors, even a damn circus clown. It’s not just an American bubble, either. Meet other expats and of course befriend locals, from whom you will get an entirely different perspective on life. There is never a dull moment in the company of such diverse friends and the world becomes a whole lot smaller when you have loved ones in every corner of it.

J participating in a wreath-laying ceremony at an American WWII Cemetary in Luxembourg with visiting WWII veterans, 2010

1. Benefit your spouse’s career. This is the reason I’d go on MSG duty a thousand times over if they’d let us. Chances are your spouse will have to do one of the three Special Duty Assignments (MSG, DI, or recruiting) in order to get promoted again, but the other two don’t hold a candle to MSG in terms of career-building. Embassy duty is an unparalleled opportunity for networking, I’m not just talking about a quick handshake with the Vice President or Commandant. Thanks to VIP visits, planning the Marine Corps Ball, and the MSG chain of command, your spouse gets some serious exposure. It’s also great insight to post-Marine Corps opportunities. Many former MSGs and their spouses go on to join Diplomatic Security, the Foreign Service, the FBI, and beyond. It’s never too early to plant the seed.

Myself and the Ambassador pinning J on as a Gunny in the Embassy garden, 2016.

Before you wind up on the HSST List, evaluate your options. But don’t be scared off of MSG duty because of living in “the third world” or facing the hardships of moving abroad.

Still not sure? Ask me anything.


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