Requesting Mast is the junior Marine’s ultimate defense against abusive superiors as well as being an excellent resource for marines who have unique issues that are not being adequately addressed by your platoon or shop. Unfortunately, while marines are told from day one that they have the right to Request Mast, most marines are never given any instruction regarding the procedure for how to Request Mast. This article is designed to correct this egregious training deficiency.
The first thing that should be addressed is what Request Mast is. According to NAVMC Directive 1700.23F (pages 1-2)
“Request Mast includes both the right of the Marine to communicate with the commander, normally in person, and the requirement that the commander consider the matter and personally respond to the Marine requesting mast. Request Mast provides a Marine the opportunity to communicate not only with his or her immediate commanding officer, but also with any superior commander in the chain of command up to and including the Marine’s commanding general… To be effective, Request Mast must have the wholehearted support of those to whom the leadership of Marines is entrusted. Anyone who attempts to deprive a Marine of the right to Request Mast, through either acts of omission or commission, will be subject to punishment under [the UCMJ].”
To sum up, Request Mast is a right not a privilege; your Commander is required to personally respond to you (although he/she doesn’t necessarily have to fix your problem), and anyone who tries to prevent you from Requesting Mast can be punished under the UCMJ. Also, contrary to what some marines may tell you, there is no right to request mast to the Commandant. Except in very rare circumstances your right to request mast ends at your immediate Commanding General. If you wish to go higher than your immediate Commanding General, that person may choose to honor your Request Mast or may choose to deny it.
Note: For this article, the term “Commander” refers to Company/Battery Commander, or higher. Basically, anyone who has the authority to NJP you. Your Second Lieutenant does not count as a Commander for the purposes of this article.
Now that we have a basic idea of what Request Mast is, we can move on to the procedure of Requesting Mast.
Step 1: Fill out a copy of NAVMC 11296.
Note: You DO NOT have to fill this form out on your own if you are not confident in your abilities with paperwork. Per NAVMC Directive 1700.23F (page 21) your unit must have someone assigned to assist in preparing this form. Under normal circumstances this will be your unit Sergeant Major, First Sergeant, or Admin Chief; however, this does not necessarily have to be the case. Check your “Troop Information Board” (probably located near the Duty desk) for your unit’s hazing policy and who your unit has assigned to assist in preparation of NAVMC 11296.
For those of you who feel confident in filling out this form, it’s fairly straightforward, but there are a couple of points that should be reinforced:
- In Block 8a, provide the NAME and BILLET of the Commanding Officer that you’re Requesting Mast to. i.e. if you want to request mast to your Battalion Commander, block 8a should read “Battalion Commander, Colonel [what’s his name]”. I know it seems like an obvious thing and I don’t mean to insult anyone’s intelligence; but frankly, it is easy to overlook so be careful to fill out the form correctly.
- In Block 8b, PROVIDE DETAIL. Give names, dates, witnesses (preferably witnesses who will agree with you and not sell you out). Also, if you’ve brought up your issue to your Sgt, or SSgt or LT, write that down too. Assume that your Commander is an idiot (who knows, it might be true) and break it down Barney-style for him/her.
- In Block 8c, tell your Commander exactly what you would like for him/her to do to fix your problem. Don’t just say “I’d like my problem fixed”, or just list something that you’d like to have happen that wouldn’t actually fix your problem. Say (for example) “I’d like for there to be a Company-wide Crack-down on Hazing so my NCO’s are aware that their behavior will not go unpunished.” Again, assume that your Commander is an idiot, and break it down Barney-style.
- Block 9 is fairly straight forward, but be sure to fill in the blank in the second line (The second line begins: “on this page (page 1) and ends on page ___ .”). If you have typed up your entire complaint on the form, write “1” in the blank. If you had to add a page write “3” in the blank (Page 2 is where your Commander will make his/her remarks, so don’t put “2” in the blank.)
- Part II (on page 2) is for your Commander. Don’t write in it anywhere. Part III (also on page 2) is what you will initial and sign after you’ve spoken to your Commander. Don’t write in it anywhere, until AFTER you’ve spoken to your Commander.
- (Optional) If you’re concerned about other Marines in your unit reading your Request Mast form, you can place it in an envelope marked “To be opened by Commanding Officer [Rank, Name] only”.
Note: You can type directly onto this form, and then print a completed copy. I would highly recommend this as it will make your Request Mast easier for your Commander to read, will let you make use of a spellchecker, and will let you go back and make corrections to make sure that your Request Mast says exactly what you want it to say.
Step 2: Make Your Immediate Superior Aware of Your Request.
This is possibly the least formal part of the entire process. Simply go up to your Fire Team Leader (or if your unit doesn’t work in Fire Teams, go to your Cpl, Sgt, or whoever is the next man up the totem pole from you) and inform them “I would like to Request Mast to [Insert your commander’s name here].” If your Fire Team Leader is the person you’re having an issue with, go to the next person higher, and inform them that you’d like to Request Mast.
At this point your Fire Team Leader will likely say something to the effect of “Well what’s your problem?” or “Don’t Request Mast! Let’s solve this in-house!” This is actually a violation of a direct order. NAVMC Directive 1700.23F Chapter 2, Paragraph 2 (page 7) reads:
“Once a Marine expresses a desire to request mast, all efforts thereafter should be directed toward getting the Marine before the commanding officer to whom the petition is addressed. NCO’s, SNCO’s and Officers subordinate to the Commanding Officer shall not delay the Request Mast process in order to solve the problem themselves, but rather will focus their effort on making the Marine available to the commander.”
In short, you don’t have to tell anyone why you’re requesting mast (“I respectfully refuse to answer” is a good way to phrase it without being accused of being belligerent). You may also want to inform your Fire Team Leader that attempting to solve your issue “in-house” is actually a violation of the Request Mast order.
NAVMC Directive 1700.23F Chapter 5, Paragraph 1 Section c. (page 15) states that “In general, there should be no more than one working day delay from when the request is presented to when the Marine sees his/her commander.” While this isn’t an absolute guarantee, it is very likely that – if you Request Mast on Monday, you should be in front of your Commanding Officer before close of business on Tuesday.
Note: If you DID NOT fill out NAVMC 11296 by yourself, use that 24 hours to get in front of the whichever senior enlisted Marine your unit has assigned to help you get that form filled out.
Step 3: Meeting with your Commander.
Depending on your unit, you’ll likely be told to “report in” (The whole, “Good morning sir, [Rank, Name] reporting as ordered, sir.”). I’d recommend rehearsing that a couple of times just so you make a good first impression on your CO.
According to NAVMC Directive 1700.23F Chapter 3, Paragraph 4 (page 11) your commander’s roll in Request Mast is as follows:
“When considering Request Mast, commanders should focus their attention on the subject of the Request Mast and not necessarily on the requested remedy/outcome, as is too often the case. Often the two do not match, or the requested remedy in itself has no impact on solving the issue of the Request Mast. The onus on the commander is to seek clarification in such cases in which subject and outcome are not aligned, and to direct corrective actions accordingly to resolve the problem.”
Basically, if you haven’t done a good job filling out Block 8c of your NAVMC 11296 form, you may not get the desired result, because your commander will think that your suggestion won’t actually solve the problem. That’s why it’s important to think your problem through and make sure you come up with a solution that will actually fix your problem. Also, if you’re concerned about your superiors taking reprisals against you, make sure you bring that up to your Commander at the time and ask what action you should take if there are reprisals against you.
At the end of the meeting you’ll need to initial, sign and date the appropriate lines in Part III of NAVMC 11296.
Step 4: After the Fact.
After your Request Mast
If you’re issues have been resolved and you’re having no further problems, congratulations! You don’t need to read any further!
If you’re unsatisfied with the results of your Request Mast, and feel that your issue hasn’t been resolved, you have the option to repeat this process with your battalion/squadron commander, regiment commander, and/or commanding general. Persistence is the key!
If you’re issue has been resolved, but other superiors are taking reprisals against you, I’d recommend that you keep a pen and pad of paper handy so you can write down when, where, and who was involved with any reprisals that occur, and then Request Mast again to report them.
Some things to take note of are:
- Superiors that you previously had no issues with, who are suddenly giving you hell.
- Suddenly being in every working party (being on a working party isn’t enough to be considered retaliation, but if you’re constantly getting put on substantially more working parties than before, you should take note).
- Suddenly finding yourself pulling Duty more often.
- You find that your pros/cons are substantially lower than before.
- Other ways where you are blatantly being singled out/humiliated.
Note: If you’re especially concerned about retaliation you could always buy a Voice Recorder and keep it in your breast pocket so you can record what your superiors say, and use their own words against them.
Step 5: Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures.
If you’ve tried all of Step 4, and you’re still having issues (either your issue still isn’t fixed, or reprisals are still being taken against you) it may be time for drastic measures. Drastic measures include:
- Submit an Inspector General Complaint
- Write letters to your congress members
- Make videos and put them on Youtube
The name of the game is perseverance. If you keep at it long enough, you’ll eventually win.
Safety and Peace