During the era of the Roman empire, the naval forces included legionaries for boarding actions. These were troops primarily trained in land warfare, and did not need to be skilled at handling a ship. Much later during the age of sail, a component of marines served a similar role, being ship-borne soldiers who were used either during boarding actions, as sharp-shooters, or in raids along the shore.

The Spanish Infantería de Marina was formed in 1537, making it the oldest current marine corps in the world. The British Royal Marines combine both being a ship-based force and also being specially trained in commando-style operations and tactics, operating in some cases completely separate from the rest of the Naval Service. The Royal Marines also have their own special forces, the SBS (Special Boat Service); similar to the US Navy SEALs and the Boat Troops of the SAS. The United States Marine Corps has taken this concept of independence further and the USMC has become a separate arm in the United States military, with their own equipment.

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