Generals Say “Time To Fix the Marine Corps” And I Couldn’t Agree More… Sort Of… (Part 2)

Grumpy amos

[This series is a response to 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”.]

 

My second suggestion to the top brass is once again concerns duty. Brig Gen Kennedy insists that “duty is a privilege, really. It’s to watch over the flock.” Now frankly, Kennedy was a 2nd LT in 1985. I think it’s safe to say that he hasn’t stood a day’s duty in at least the past 20 years. What’s more as an officer, I think it’s fair to say that he’s never been the new PFC who has to pull a 18+ hour shift at the duty desk, with no relief, because his Cpl decided that Duty was a good excuse to catch up on some much needed sleep. So in that respect at least, Kennedy’s ignorance of how Duty works in the Marine Corps can be excused.

That being said, I like Kennedy’s notion of Duty NCO’s being proactive. I absolutely think that Marines should take their duty seriously, and be proactive in preventing stupid incidents. The problem is that Kennedy doesn’t have the slightest clue how to make it happen. I have four major suggestions:

  1. As noted in my previous post: Utility Uniforms, only! No Marine is going to be proactive in preventing incidents when he’s too worried that he might get a spot on his shirt.
  2. Two NCOs on Duty at a time. In this case I agree with Amos, but probably for different reasons. If I had a nickel for every time a PFC or LCpl pulled the bulk of a shift because the NCO felt like playing xbox or sleeping instead, Forbes would be writing a story about me. That leaves junior Marines with the impression that Duty is unimportant and it’s a good way for NCO’s to screw with them. If there were two NCO’s on Duty together and one had to be at the desk at all times, they would be more likely to divide their shift evenly and fairly instead of trying to screw each other over.
  3. Despite my agreement with Amos on doubling up on Duty, his “firewatch on every floor” idea would be extremely counterproductive. Having been to bases in Okinawa, Lejeune, Pendleton, and Hawaii, I’ve never seen a barracks where it would take the Duty NCO longer than 5 minutes to perform a cursory tour (only checking for major problems) or longer than  10 minutes to perform an in-depth tour. That makes a “firewatch on every floor” effectively a useless post; and nothing makes Duty feel more like a punishment than sticking people on a useless post.
  4. Duty must NEVER be assigned as a punishment for anything. If you want Marines to view Duty as a “privilege” then making it a punishment is absolutely the worst thing that could possibly happen. I would go so far as to say that assigning Duty to any Marine, for any reason other than “It happened to be your turn in the rotation” should carry a Mandatory Battalion-Level NJP. Furthermore, attempting to circumvent this by – for example – assigning a Marine to stand at the door to the barracks and open the door for every marine who walks in or out, should be similarly punished.

Do I honestly believe that implementing these ideas will instantaneously change Marines’ ideas about duty? No, of course not. What I will say is that removing several of the negative aspects that make Duty feel like a punishment is bound to give Duty a less negative connotation over time. It may not fix anything over night, but I’ll almost guarantee it will be an improvement in the long-term.

I’d like to move on, very briefly, to Amos’ idea of installing security cameras in the barracks. In theory, this could be a decent idea as it could allow Marines who are being hazed in the barracks to have video evidence to support their claims. However, on the other hand, I could very easily see a command using security footage to NJP a Marine that they don’t particularly like, for such minor infractions as wearing “shower shoes” from their room to the laundry room, or not wearing a belt while walking around the barracks. All things considered, unless there are strict rules regarding how security footage can be used, I see security cameras as a zero sum game. Whatever is gained in security has the potential to be paid for in morale.

 

This concludes Part 2 of my series. Please comment below and let me know what you think. Check back next Monday (Nov 04, 2013) for Part 3!

Safety and Peace

NINJA_PUNCH

  • madmike1968

    I am opposed to how the maried pukes will NEVER pull duty during a weekend. At least thats how it was when I was in.

    • Married Puke

      Still is.

  • USMCFormer

    Ninja_Punch
    I won’t go over some of the points you have already made, but let me give you some perspective of a former Officer who joined in the 90’s, and has some longevity similar to a mid grade Officer.

    Amos does have very legitimate concerns about reducing some of the patterns of misconduct, but this misconduct is nothing new ( and will always be present given the nature of the people we attract in order to fight a war) and he is adopting a misguided ‘top down’ approach.

    Will listening to a DUI brief every 3 months completely stop drunk driving? No it won’t- there will always be individuals that do it, but why make commands sit through long winded power point presentations on subject they have already heard about?

    Some of the items presented on the list are justifiable and common place back in the 1990’s, but back then we weren’t fighting a long protracted war in two countries! In regard to duty, I’ve seen people from ALL of the ranks not take it very seriously, ranging from the Cpl who watched every single Jaws movie, to the female SSGT who brought her young kid along, to a Captain who left his LT in charge( ME!!) and went to his on base house for 12 hours! So all ranks need a serious kick in the ass in regard to how professional they act!

    Overall, Marines can suffer from ‘duty fatigue’- ie too much of it, for too long a shift. Having a dumb policy where each floor must have a duty only results in more Marines being screwed, and ends up becoming a counterproductive exercise. Trust me- not even the more senior Marines in charge of you practiced this themselves.

    Security cameras in the barracks? Not a bad idea, but only in the common areas. Since the Marine likes to take everything to the extreme, an intrusive security camera may capture two Marines having a meaningless friendly brawl in the hallway for example, them the “burn happy” command then charge the two for whatever they can find! It will just increase the number of “incidents” ( or exaggerated trivialities) and in the long run would not be worth it.

    In conclusion, I think it would be better that a command formulate a policy based on the input of all levels of the ranks with the common mission of making the barracks and living spaces harmonious and better places to live, while still accomplishing Marine Corps missions. A dictatorial top down micromanagement approach just does not work for all the varied USMC commands out there.

    • NINJA_PUNCH

      I couldn’t agree more.

      I didn’t think about it when I was writing this post, but your conclusion made me remember one time, when a gunny (that pretty much everyone respected) came around to each shop – one at a time – sat everybody down and said “Listen, I’ve been in long enough to know when morale is low, and morale is LOW. Now, I want you to all tell me what you think is wrong with this unit, and I’m going to write it down in this book. I won’t take any names, but I’m going to organize all of your complaints and ideas and present them to the CO.”

      That was probably the only time I ever saw a unit change for the better, even if those changes were minimal.

      All that aside, I definitely appreciate your perspective.

      Safety and Peace