Generals Say “Time To Fix the Marine Corps” And I Couldn’t Agree More… Sort Of… (Part 1)

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I really need to be a meme…

In a pair of recent article in the Marine Corps Times (“Commandant calls for new crackdown”“Generals say it’s time to fix the Marine Corps”) General Amos noted that “we are now seeing signs that are our institutional fabric is fraying.” and he, several other Generals, and Sgt Maj Barrett lay out their plans to “fix the Marine Corps” (esp. problems with “sexual assault, hazing, drunken driving, fraternization and failure to maintain personal appearance standards”).

I’d like to take a moment to reiterate some of the lowlights of the proposed solutions to this “moral stagnation” before moving on:

  • All Marines on duty will be required to wear service uniforms, either “Bravos” or “Charlies,” depending on which uniform is in season.
  • Two NCOs will be on duty per barracks, and a firewatch will be conducted on each floor of each building. Brig. Gen. Paul Kennedy goes on to ask: “Are people really coming back and complaining about [the extra duty]? Their duty is a privilege, really. It’s to watch over the flock.”
  • Marines will no longer be promoted to corporal or sergeant in groups. “Each promotion to these ranks will be personal and meaningful,” [Amos says].
  • Other “near-term” changes [include] the installation of security cameras in every barracks.
  • When the issue of “Service Charlie Fridays” came up Brig. Gen. Kennedy simply responds “But that has all been done before.” and Sgt Maj Barrett relates that, when he was a PFC/LCpl (in 1981-83) “every single Friday… you were in Chucks… You’d walk and step in front of the first sergeant, and he would pull open your personal financial record to make sure everything was right… You’d then sidestep in front of the commanding officer next and do a couple facing movements. And then you’d salute and get your pay and walk away.”

While I agree with the top brass that sexual assault, hazing and the like are huge problems that need to be addressed, I suspect that they are really only symptoms of a larger problem. To wit – the Marine Corps is run by Generals and Sgts Maj who are so far removed from every day life in the Marine Corps that, for all intents and purposes, they don’t even qualify as Marines anymore. Now let me be clear: I’m not saying that the rank of “General” or “Sgt Maj” is itself the problem. The problem is that these positions are occupied by people who are so far removed – both by their billets, and by their time in the military – that they barely comprehend the problem, and can’t even begin to imagine the solution. That’s why we have the Commandant over in Quantico saying “We have this huge problem with sexual assault and hazing, so we’re going to give Marines more Duty, make sure they’re in those fancy-dancy service uniforms as often as possible, and we’re going to have more ceremonies, and make those ceremonies even longer! I’m confident that somehow this will manage to solve our problems.” What this really amounts to is little more than a tacit admission by the Commandant that the only tool that the top brass has is a hammer so they’re going to try to make every problem look like a nail.

 

Now, far be it from me to disparage the top brass’ plans without offering some better ideas for how to fix what’s really wrong with the Marine Corps. So without further ado, allow me to offer my improvements on the General’s “brilliant” plans:

Firstly, I’d like to address the uniform policy for Duty. Maj. Gen. Nicholson states that “The best guy you’ll ever have on duty is the one who is out stopping problems before they start… He’s taking a Marine who has really had too much to drink and putting his arm around him and getting him up to his room and putting him to bed before that guy has a chance to do something.” I absolutely, 100%, agree with this statement. I’ll even go so far as to say that I’d support having two Duty NCOs and two A-Duty’s so there will always be two people on post: one at the desk, and one wandering around looking for potential trouble. That being said, I have two concerns that I think need to be addressed here:

  1. How likely is a Marine on Duty going to be to help a drunken Marine get up the stairs to his room, when he has to be concerned about getting his Corfam’s scuffed, or maybe even getting vomit on his shirt?
  2. How likely is a Marine on Duty going to be to try to put down a drunken brawl, when he’s reasonably certain that he will be berated by his SNCOs for getting his shoes scuffed, or getting the ribbons ripped off his shirt and soiled, or getting a stain on his pants?

In both cases (and I could go on with additional examples) the Marine on Duty might act to help the other Marines, but in any event he will definitely be hesitant, not wanting to have to spend extra money replacing expensive uniform items. In many instances, the Marine on Duty might simply choose to walk away and let them fight it out; and then return five minutes later to find one of the brawling Marines gone, and the other lying unconscious on the pavement. For this reason, I propose that Duty should only ever be carried out in the Utility uniform (cammis).

This concludes Part 1 of my series. Please comment below and let me know what you think. Check back next Monday (Oct 28, 2013) for Part 2!

Safety and Peace

NINJA_PUNCH

  • 1171Marine

    awesome points…I agree 100%!

    • NINJA_PUNCH

      Thank you kindly! I’m planning on addressing the idea of “Duty being a privilege” in Part 2 next monday.

  • Emerald99

    “every single Friday… you were in Chucks… You’d walk and step in front of the first sergeant, and he would pull open your personal financial record to make sure everything was right… You’d then sidestep in front of the commanding officer next and do a couple facing movements. And then you’d salute and get your pay and walk away.”

    Then we’d storm the enemy’s emplacement, kill 75% and take the rest prisoner. We’d interrogate the prisoners by threatening them with Extra Duty, and Mandatory Fun. Every last prisoner sang like a canary.

    • NINJA_PUNCH

      You just won the internet.

  • USMCFormer

    I’ll give you the perspective of a former 1st LT on this issue, because as much as you enlisted like to bitch and complain about us, being in command and having to deal some of the stupid sh*%t that dumbass Marines did under my command did was not a fun experience either!!! ( and I write this as having spent time as enlisted, and at one point being in charge of over 100 Marines in Iraq, and 80 Marines at MCAS Miramar)

    1) I agree that making Marines on duty wear service uniforms is unnecessary, and more of a reflection of superficial leadership. You’ve already outlined the reasons why its bad idea.

    2) Brig. Gen. Paul Kennedy comment just reflects that he has his head up the Commandants ass, wanting another promotion I guess. He doesn’t remember his time at OCS and TBS where LTs hated weekend duty just as much as the enlisted did, and sometimes paid others to do it for them!!
    3) As a leader of Marines doing a mass promotion of NCOs is time effective. I don’t think the enlisted want to stand in any more formations than they have to, and as a leader I’ve got better things to do than hold a formation for every individual promotion!
    4) The “tradition” of service Charlie ( or Service uniform) Fridays was around in the 1990’s, but I was part of multiple infantry, SOTG and support units then and not one of them rigorously enforced this EVERY FRIDAY!! They tended to take the approach that a uniform inspection would be held every month, whether it would be Charlies or another class. This was to ensure that the enlisted uniforms were serviceable, and it made sense to do that way! If we had a special event coming up ( USMC Ball for example) I would hold a Dress Blue inspection at least two weeks prior to the event for obvious reasons.
    5) Since it is 2013 and not 1983, there is no need for me as a leader to review every single goddam Marines Pay & Leave statement every Friday!. The technology of pay and administration ( even when I left in 2005) had evolved enough to make old, time consuming, outdated “traditions” like that a relic of the history books. I can get to know my Marines in other ways!
    6) As a mustang LT I operated under the assumption that my junior enlisted, NCOs etc were intelligent human beings ( some were- some definitely were not) that could take care of certain admin and basic problems without always needing my damn permission or my signature to do something as simple as walking to admin to get your individual problem squared away!
    7) Whether you enlisted liked it or not somebody had to be your leader. When it was me, I will take care of you but I am not a goddam babysitter!! You are capable of eating breakfast on your own ( I don’t have to be there to hold your hand), nor do I like getting a call from a duty NCO at 2pm because some drunken idiot decided to jump from a three story barracks and end up breaking his legs! ( this did happen at MCBH Hawaii!) Now, on top of all the other paperwork I have to do to ensure our primary mission get accomplished ( maintain boats for a MEUSOC exercise, ensure aircraft are PMC, plan our next logistics pack up etc) I have to do extra admin to make sure this first class grade A moron has proper medical care, his next of kin is notified, do the JAG investigation etc etc!
    And from my LT perspective, it was very hard for me to resist the temptation to “boost my self esteem” by conducting a mass punishment of all the drunken junior enlisted idiots that encouraged this type of stupid behavior in the first place!! As a LT I tried to avoid mass punishment because I hated it when I was a PFC, but there were other times I yelled at screamed at ALL my enlisted ranks when they did stupid and unprofessional things that reflected their lack of common sense, and not me trying to go on a POWER TRIP!
    I’m a civilian now, so please feel free to disagree with me if you want to. I’m no more a fan of stupid, unnecessary, time consuming, petty regulations than the rest of you!

  • JP

    I doubt the majority of the MC will ever enforce or follow these solutions, it isn’t like these officers are around to check. I have seen countless time when the commandant would either try to start or stop something our higher ups didn’t like the decision they would pull the unit discretion card and ignore it.

  • Spook

    I was a reservist, so I didn’t have to deal with things like chucks on fridays or a number of other things for most of my career. But even when we were doing workups or on Active Duty or even an AT, the ratio of garrison activities to combat training activities was mind numbing and the same thing in a weirdly compressed way. That’s what this looks like, making that ratio 90-10.

    Granted, I’m told by Marines more Mariney than me that garrison life is what makes Marines Marines. FUBIJAR though, not my lane I guess.

    And no matter how much some people want to tell you, close order drill and q-tipping the seal on the broken mini fridge in your barracks room is not as effective combat training as combat training.

    Why (I know, but humour me) aren’t the solutions focused on finding ways to skew that ratio into the numbers the general public always thinks it is? (The shareholder’s expectations? The USMC is a failing company that I would never invest in. Ever.)

    How about instead of reporting to a formation on the grinder or in the barracks parking lot, Marines report to, say, a COP on base, from their off base apartment. Because recruiting standards are raised to acquire people responsible enough to do so! And then when a unit needs to go the the field it is… well, already in the field. Then we have Marines practicing real things, like running a real CoC, instead of whatever the fuck it is we do in the rear. Which is usually nothing or worse.

    (I got the COP on base thing from http://www.combatreform.org/ has anyone ever heard of it?)

    • NINJA_PUNCH

      I’ve never heard of that site before, but I must say it’s a fascinating read. I’ll have to look into it more fully in the future.

      Safety and Peace

      • Spook

        hooyut: Yeah, it’s pretty terrible, but that seems to be the message.

        NINJA_PUNCH: It has some absolutely fantastic ideas on it. He also hates the USMC (I believe the propretor was a Marine at one point) but there is some… crazy. I’m excited to hear what you think about it though. I used to kill a bottle of Scotch and read that website the night before my terminal drills to convince myself I was going to do something innovative and creative with violence over the weekend. Alas, it was almost never so…

    • hooyut

      I laughed when you said that bit about garrison life making marines marines. LOL only a fuckin marine could come up with such a stupid and baseless statement. It is because of garrison life I have new fuel every day for my hatred of this crumbling corporation. I just hope I live long enough to see it die.

  • Joe

    I agree with a lot of the above. I really think the commandant and the SgtMaj have very little clue on what’s really going on out here. I am a senior SNCO and I must say I’ve have never been impressed with Marine Corps leadership. One part of this sight talked about junior Marines who get married or are looking for job security and move up through the ranks for the security. We don’t promote the cream of the crop. The Marine Corps idea of cream of the crop is high PFT/CFT, looking good in uniform and having a big mouth. Thats not what I concider cream of the crop. I’ve known Marines that don’t have a high PFT score, aren’t so sexy in uniform however they make weight or tape but they have enough common sense to do a job efficiently and effectively while inspiring their Marines.

    You’ve got Officers who don’t have the balls to sit down with a Marine whom they’ve written a bad fit rep on because they are afraid to tell them to their face. And it’s because they are too scared that that Marine might take it up the chain. Even though senior leader can’t make that officer change the fit rep, they don’t want to look stupid I front of their boss!

    I can go on and on and on. I’ve been in this game long enough to see the flaws in this organization and I’ve come to one of many conclusions. The Marne Corps is more of a dog and pony show than anything else. It doesn’t train leaders how to lead good and take care of Marines. All the academies teach are dog and pony shows and continuity of the Corps. While I don’t agree with everything on this sight, most of it is accurate. We are the only organization that has a web sight fully dedicated to bashing the Corps. That should throw up flags at these so called leaders but they are so narrow minded and they will find every excuse to blame many others, including those on this sight for what’s wrong with the Corps!

    Wake up commandant and SgtMaj you have very little clue about what’s really going on out here. You have nothing more than yes men working for you telling you what you want to hear rather than the truth! FIND THE TRUTH DAMN IT……DIG!

  • Brass Neck

    Fortunately at my MOS school, the duties both NCO and Marines assigned are usually in cammies for the duration. Yes……sometimes we have to wear the Chucks even in the humid weather but luckily they still have some common sense to wear cammies on Friday’s.

    The way I see it, the more General Asshole (I mean Amos….) adds rules and regulations to the book, the more trouble seems to come from them. It’s like being more reactive then being proactive when they think they are proactive.

    Plus I find it extremely infuriating when they have long change of command ceremonies and the whatnot. Why waste time at a ceremony for a guy who had no friends in the Corps (because he was a douchebag to begin with)?

    Another thing that makes me furious is that we get treated like kids: why make us show up 15 minutes before an assigned time, make us sign out each time we want to head out to town, or just to go to chow? It’s like being in prison now for goodness sake!