The Cuerpo de Infantería de Marina (Naval Marine Corps) is the naval infantry force of the Mexican Navy. The main task of the Marine Corps is to guarantee the maritime security of the country’s ports and the external and internal defence of the country.
To fulfil these responsibilities, the corps is trained and equipped to take on all types of operations from sea, air and land.
Their motto is En la Tierra, en el aire y en el mar (On land, air and sea) and Todo por la Patria (All for the Fatherland).
Its coat of arms consists of a red anchor wrapped around a yellow rope. Superimposed over it are two crossed muskets in the centre. Above it is written Mexican Navy, and below Marine Corps.
Its flag consists of the unit’s emblem and its motto at the bottom. All this on a red background.
2.0 History of the Cuerpo de Infantería de Marina
The Corps is born at the beginning of the 19th century. The first units of this type were created in 1821, with the Declaration of Independence. Between 1821 and 1822, Don Agustín de Iturbide created the Secretariat of the Admiralty. He initially assigned Army units to it. Later he formed a Regiment composed of four Battalions. Two of them were for the requirements of the Navy, one in San Blas and the other in Veracruz.
On 16 October 1823, the government established military currencies for the Divisions, Battalions and Companies of the Marine Infantry Artillery Corps. The Marine Corps established its legal creation as a war corps on 12 February 1924.
On 7 February 1952, Raul Lopez Sanchez, upon assuming the post of Secretary of the Navy, restructured it with the designation of “Naval Infantry”. In 1957, the Marine Infantry career was established for the training of Officers at the Heroic Naval Military School. The first generation of officers graduated in January 1960, comprising 22 Second Lieutenants of the Marine Infantry, and 29 generations have graduated to date.
The names of the hierarchies that were previously similar to those of the Army were changed in the 1970s, unifying them with the names corresponding to the Mexican Navy.
3.0 The Mission of the Cuerpo de Infantería de Marina
The primary mission of the Marines is to ensure the internal security and external defence of the country. They are also responsible for port security, protection of the ten-kilometre coastal fringe, and patrolling major waterways.
This mission is carried out through amphibious, horizontal and vertical, surveillance, patrol and other operations.
The Naval Infantry execute the following tasks:
- Command and Control: Planning, preparation and conduct of operations.
- Amphibious assault: To execute amphibious operations as part of a Naval Force.
- Air Assault: To run infiltration operations in areas of difficult access.
- Amphibious command: To execute special operations such as reconnaissance, incursions, and urban combat and to support other regular operations.
- Combat Support: To execute operations in support of artillery in the development of amphibious and other regular forces operations.
- Reconnaissance: Operations to obtain information to support operational units.
- Immediate Response: To run operations in emergencies, to help the civilian population.
The Naval Infantry also is responsible for 23 National Service Training Units under the responsibility of the Navy Secretary.
4.0 The Organisation of the Cuerpo de Infantería de Marina
The Naval Corps depend on the SEMAR (Secretaria de Marina or Secretariat of the Navy). The SEMAR is a member of the cabinet of the federal executive. It is also the highest-ranking Mexican naval officer with the responsibility of commanding the Mexican Navy. The SEMAR is independent of the Secretariat of National Defence (SEDENA). SEDENA is the government department responsible for the management of the Mexican Army and Air Force.
4.1 Battalions and Groups
The Mexican Naval Infantry Corps was reorganized in 2007–2009 into 30 Naval Infantry Battalions (Batallones de Infantería de Marina – BIM). In addition, it also consists of several special battalions and SOF Groups.
Their organisation is as follows:
- Thirty Naval Infantry Battalions are organised as follows:
- 28 are organised into eight regional Brigades,
- one Presidential Guard Battalion (24th Batallón de Infantería de Marina de Guardias Presidenciales),
- one Parachute Fusilier Battalion (BIMFUSPAR: Batallón de Infantería de Marina de Fusileros Paracaidistas).
- Two Marine Amphibious Groups: One in the Gulf and one in the Pacific.
- Three Special Forces Groups (FES): FESGO (Fuerzas Especiales del Golfo), FESPA (Fuerzas Especiales del Pacifico), FESCEN (Fuerzas Especiales del Centro).
- One Naval Police Battalion.
4.2 Naval Infantry Battalions
There are thirty Naval Infantry Battalions, of which 28 are organised into eight regional Brigades:
- 1ª Brigada de Infantería de Marina (Primera Región Naval).
- 2ª Brigada de Infantería de Marina (Segunda Región Naval).
- 3ª Brigada de Infantería de Marina (Tercera Región Naval).
- 4ª Brigada de Infantería de Marina (Cuarta Región Naval).
- 5ª Brigada de Infantería de Marina (Quinta Región Naval).
- 6ª Brigada de Infantería de Marina (Sexta Región Naval).
- 7ª Brigada de Infantería de Marina (Región Naval del Centro).
- 8ª Brigada de Infantería de Marina (Octava Región Naval).
The regional Brigades are deployed as follows:
- Three on the Gulf coast: 1st, 3rd, and 5th each with four battalions,
- Four on the Pacific coast: 2nd with one battalion, 4th with five battalions, 6th and 8th with four battalions each,
- One (the 7th) in Mexico City with two battalions.
The other two battalions are:
- Presidential Guard Battalion (24th Batallón de Infantería de Marina de Guardias Presidenciales). Created in 1983 and responsible for providing security for the President of the Republic. They are garrisoned in Mexico City.
- Parachute Fusilier Battalion (BIMFUSPAR: Batallón de Infantería de Marina de Fusileros Paracaidistas). Is an elite force, and strategic reserve of SEMAR’s high command for high-impact and emergency operations. They are garrisoned in Mexico City.
4.2.1 Organisation of the Battalions
Battalions are organised as follows:
- Each Marine Battalion consists of three Marine Infantry Companies, a Company of Support Weapons (mortars, rocket launchers and machine guns) and Services.
- Each Company has three Sections, and each section consists of three Platoons. These are themselves composed of thirteen elements in three Squads of four men under the command of a Third or Second Master.
Each Batallion has a strength of 628 elements per unit. This adds up to approximately 18,000 troops in the 30 infantry battalions.
4.3 Marine Amphibious Groups
There are two Marine Amphibious Groups (the Gulf and Pacific). These replaced two Reaction Amphibious Forces, and their mission is the defence of national coastlines against any conventional aggression. Each has a total manpower of 3,000 men.
Both are composed of two Amphibious Battalions of Marines, a Battalion of Marines Commandos, a Marine Artillery Battalion, an Amphibious Vehicles and Vessels Battalion, and a Service Battalion.
4.4 Special Forces Groups (FES)
There are 3 Marine Special Forces Groups. The FESGO (Special Forces Gulf) and the FESPA (Special Forces Pacific) are destined for missions in support of the new Amphibious Forces Reaction. In 2008, a new group was formed, the FESCEN (Special Forces Center), based in Mexico City. Its purpose is to provide the High Command Headquarters with a grouping of special forces mission critical.
While FESGO and FESPA have 220 marines each, the FESCEN has less than 160 personnel.
5.0 Training of the Cuerpo de Infantería de Marina
- Be Mexican by birth.
- Age between 18 and 29 years old with a secondary school certificate.
- A minimum average of 7.5 in high school.
- Be single and without descendants until graduation.
- Not be a defector.
- Minimum height of 1.58 m for women and 1.63 m for men. Body mass index must be greater than 18 and less than 25.
- Men without piercings, and women with only one ear piercing.
- In the case of having tattoos, they should not exceed 10×10 centimetres, without offensive images or those that advocate any crime.
- Be healthy.
There are two ways to become a Marine Officer:
- Join the Universidad Heroica Escuela Naval Militar (Heroic Naval Military School University). Here the candidate will study the career of the Marine Infantry, for ten semesters (five years). Once finished the course and receive the degree, the candidate will receive the rank of Corvette Lieutenant Marine.
- The second option is to enter the active service of the Secretariat of the Navy as a Marine. In addition, the candidate must participate in different promotions for promotion to the next higher rank until reaching the rank of Officer.
In the Mexican Marines, there are different combat divisions, which are:
- Ground Combatant.
- Chosen Marksman.
- Machine Gunner.
- Combat Nurse.
- Tracker and Mortarman.
- Fluvial combatant.
- Grenade Launcher.
- Combat Nurse.
- Canine Guide.
Every infantry professional has to perform additional duties:
- Systems: Systems professionals who help conduct research and contribute to the maintenance of naval radars.
- Electricity: Specialists in the technical area of electricity support the maintenance of the navy’s electronic equipment.
- Drivers: Infantryman able to drive military vehicles and capable of performing manoeuvres to prevent the enemy from contacting their equipment.
- Dignitary protection: Escort or protect politicians as well as high-ranking military officials.
5.4 Additional Training
Once part of the Corps, its members can access different courses provided by various training centres. One example is the CCAEIM (Specialised Marine Infantry Training and Education Centre).
In 2018, SEMAR inaugurated the CADAVAM (Advanced Training Centre of the Mexican Navy). It provides training and education, from the basic to the most specialised levels (source). The training time in each course is variable, depending on the objective pursued by the trained troops. It can be from 15 days, one month or up to 45 days, in a schedule that starts early in the morning and ends in the afternoon. It consists of theoretical subjects and physical activities (source).
6.0 Equipment of the Cuerpo de Infantería de Marina
The Mexican Marines have mostly European and American equipment, as well as Russian. While much of the weaponry is modern and of high quality, there is also some old equipment.
The Corps uses, or has used until recently, the following weapons:
- Colt 1911.
- Glock 9.
- FN Five-seveN.
- Remington 1100
All 5.56mm calibre.
- SIG Sauer SIG516. New standard rifle.
- M16. Being replaced by SIG516
- Colt IAR / M4 Carbine (source).
- FX-05. For ships’ crews.
- CETME Ameli.
- FN Minimi.
- GAU-19. Used on board of MD902 Helicopter.
- CIS 40 AGL.
- Milkor MGL.
- Bofors 40mm.
- OTO Melara Mod 56 105mm.
- 51 mm FIROS (MLRS/Multiple Launch Rocket System).
- 60mm and 81mm mortars.
Amphibious armoured personnel Carrier
- APC-70. Modified BTR-60, has a diesel engine and a turret with a 14.5 mm machine gun. Used with a 40 mm Mk 19 grenade launcher or Machine Gun.
- AAV-7A1/AAV-7A1. It is diesel-engined and lacks the turret with the M-2 Browning machine gun. It is used with a Mk-19 40 mm grenade launcher.
- Wolverine APC.
Light Armoured Personnel Carrier
- Sherpa Light. Light Armored Vehicle armed with M2 Browning 12.7mm Heavy Machine Gun.
- Carat Wolverine Armored Car. Armoured Vehicle based on the Ford F-Series chassis. In Mexico, they are known as Scorpions (Alacranes). Armed with a single M2 Browning 12.7mm Heavy Machine Gun.
- Land Rover Defender 110. With an armoured cabin.
- Kawasaki Mule 4010 Trans 4×4. Reconnaissance vehicle.
- Jeep Cj7.
- Ford-150. Pick Up 4×4.
- Chevrolet Cheyenne. Pick Up 4×4.
- Ford-250. Pick Up 4×4.
- MiniComando Dodge. Pick Up 4×4.
- Mercedes-Benz G-Class. 4×4 cross-country vehicle.
- Chenoweth DPV.
- Dodge Ram.
- Chevrolet Cavalier.
Personnel transport truck
- Ural-4320. 6×6.
- UNIMOG U-4000.
- International 4700.
- Freightliner M2.
- M35 2-1/2 ton cargo truck.
6.3 Individual Campaign Equipment.
A. Individual Sleeping bag.
B. Ballistic Helmet.
D. Harness Backpack. It can hold a change of uniform, underwear and toiletries, as well as the following equipment:
- Sleeve to cover from water.
- Sets of field cutlery.
- Camp plate and frying pan.
- Sleeping bag.
- Sleeping bag (Military foam pad).
- Peak shovel.
E. Combat Rations Bag.
F. Ammunition Belt. They exist in different models. Their purpose is to transport the magazines with ammunition, as well as:
- The canteens.
- “L” type hand lamps.
- Magazine carriers.
- G. Military foam pad.
- H. Boots.
7.0 Notable Operations
Since the beginning of the war against drug cartels, the role of the Marines has shifted from maritime and port security to land-based operations. The Marines are focused on the fight against organised crime and drug trafficking.
7.1 War against Drugs
The Navy has been conducting intensive counter-narcotics operations on an ongoing basis. One of its biggest seizures was in late October 2007, when Navy personnel seized 23 tons of cocaine in Manzanillo, Colima (source). In 2023, the Mexican Navy found 18 clandestine laboratories for the production of synthetic drugs. They also destroyed 60 marijuana plantations in the states of Sinaloa and Michoacán (source).
7.1.2 Narco Submarine Interception
Drug interdiction at sea is also part of the Navy’s strategy to combat drug trafficking. On 16 July 2008, the navy intercepted a narco submarine southwest of the state of Oaxaca. The Navy apprehended four smugglers and discovered 5.8 tons of cocaine (source).
7.2 War against Organised Crime
During the summer of 2011, the Zetas became more active in Veracruz. SEMAR deployed 1,500 troops to reinforce the existing forces, dismantling Zetas’ communication network.
On 4 October 2011, the federal government launched “Operation Veracruz Seguro”. Marine Infantry arrested CJNG members, including the head of the Zetas cartel in Veracruz, “El Lucky,”. It also resulted in the capture of hitmen and the seizure of drugs, weapons, and ammunition.
On September 26, the Marines captured Iván Velázquez Caballero, also known as El Talibán, who was in charge of drug transportation from plazas in the north of Mexico to the United States.
On October 7, 2012, the Navy achieved a significant milestone by eliminating Zetas leader Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano, alias El Lazca or Z-3. He was a former Mexican military officer and co-founder of the Zetas, who had previously worked for the Gulf Cartel.
7.2.1 FES-AM Operations
In 2010 they also eliminated Antonio Cárdenas Guillen, alias “Tony Tormenta”, leader of the CDG (Gulf Cartel). In this operation, they also neutralised several members of his personal security team, known as the “Scorpion Group” (Grupo Escorpión) (source). They also carried out an operation in Puebla in the same year, where they captured the drug lord Sergio Villarreal Barragán (source).
7.2.2 FES Operations
The FES were also involved in “Operation Black Swan”. This resulted in the capture of the notorious Sinaloa Cartel leader Joaquín Guzmán Loera “El Chapo” (source). They also carried out “Operation Barcina”, where they eliminated Francisco Patrón Sánchez “El H2” (source).
In July 2022, they carried out the successful “Operation Legend II” in which they captured the notorious drug lord Rafael Caro Quintero (source).
7.3 Humanitarian Aid
Mexico sent marines to the United States in 2005 to assist in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Its mission was to provide aid and assistance in the area (source). This was the first operational deployment of Mexican troops to the US in 159 years (source).
The history of the Mexican Marines demonstrates that they are a highly trained, efficient and reliable unit. Their training, and arsenal, make them the spearhead of the Navy. In addition, the Marines have one of the best special forces in America, the Special Forces (FES). This unit is a very dangerous adversary for the Mexican cartels.
The Marines, with their different groups and specialised units, are therefore well suited to the war against drug trafficking and organised crime in Mexico. Given the importance attached to them by the Mexican government, the Marines will remain an integral part of SEMAR’s plans for the foreseeable future.