Superior Supermen – The Marine Corps Mentality

I’d like to address a few issues that may seem a bit “out there;” but they’re still important to highlight because it reveals the USMC endorsement of an interesting ideal. Beneath the veneer of what most would call a fairly simple philosophy exists an almost sacramental worldview that has, unfortunately, dismantled almost everything to which the Corps aspires. It is these lapses that should serve as a warning to young people that envision a USMC of reason, moderation, and logic. To begin, I’m a firm believer that “frustration is part of the process.” Frustration is good! Frustration while fixing your car, learning a new trade, reading a difficult book or dealing with an idiosyncratic person is part and parcel to becoming better at life. Frustration builds character. Frustration makes you stronger. Marines love to attach this fact to the rigors of daily life in the Corps by listing the existing challenges and insisting that it’s all good for you. But I beg to differ. In real life, frustration is part of the process. In the USMC, frustration seems to be the goal with no substantial payoff in the end.

In the eyes of the Corps:
– a pt session that begins before the sun rises isn’t sufficient. You need to be yelling at the top of your lungs to demonstrate to your superiors that you’re motivated. Why?
– on Monday morning, your neat and tidy low regulation haircut is an indicator to the SNCOs that you’re not as motivated as you should be. You’re wrong. Why?
– projecting your voice in a manner that allows everyone concerned to hear you is not good enough. You must be louder, even if it’s overkill. Why?
– long and tedious room inspections are somehow analogous to success on the battlefield. Why?
And the list goes on. The main point is that Marines believe everything can be improved upon, even if the subsequent measures make no sense. It’s part of their mentality to be a superior breed of men, even if this brand of superiority is sustained on an intangible and unseen dimension. This reminds me of someone.
Ah, yes- Nietzsche. For you philosophy buffs out there, don’t get the wrong idea about where I’m going with this. I’m not suggesting Marines believe God is dead (far from it), nor am I saying they endorse collectivism. But there are some stark similarities between the man and this institution. Nietzsche created two theories that resonate strongly with the Marines; 1. the Overman, or Superman mentality, which shatters the limitations society has placed on people with extraordinary potential, and 2. tapping into man’s basest instincts. The first theory need not be explained- most everyone will agree that a real Marine pursues his goals with maniacal zeal, and in many respects that should be admired. But there is a backlash, and that comes by way of tapping into the deepest recesses of man’s primal desires in an unrestrained fashion.
The reason why the USMC is now a two-steps-forward-one-step back institution is that they have not yet married the concepts of reason and zeal within the enlisted ranks. Moderation. Marines have a reputation for being the best fighters, runners, lovers and workers due to their love for the Corps. Even though this really isn’t true, it’s a theme they’ve embraced. I’m going to drop another bomb here, and again, it’s not what you might think. Adolf Hitler believed that if you’re going to endorse an ideology, you need to abandon any and all “contemplation” on the issue and embrace it entirely. Balls-to-the- wall energy and passion is the order of the day. What does this rhetoric remind you of? But he also celebrated the lapses his adversaries suffered from by not taking the time to THINK. I suppose I should explain that I’m not calling Marines Nazis, nor am I an adherent to any kind of racial superiority. If you’re going to attack this argument, at least be fair about it.
There is a disconnect running rampant in the Corps, and it’s found most acutely in POG Land. Some of you may be wondering why POGs are some of the most infamous motards. It’s because they’re operating under a distorted view of what it means to be a Marine on the universal level, regardless of how they view it individually. I was an enlisted POG. There is a greater balance between Motivation and Diligence being advocated among the commissioned ranks; so what kind of indictment does this bring down on the enlisted ranks, particularly the POGs? In POG Land, reasonable and mature behavior eclipses college fraternity antics by an unacceptable margin. That 10% is more like 20%, and frankly I think the 10% theory is a cop-out. Conversely, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, who has most likely gone to War College and is classically educated doesn’t tell his commanders to execute a battle plan without a sound strategy. The motivation is effective because he’s attached it to a repertoire of skills his men already possess. In the enlisted ranks, in my experience, it was the opposite: “motivation” was given as a prerequisite in order to accomplish whatever menial task that was assigned for the day.
So I am tempted to say the commissioned ranks are part Nietzsche/part Plato, which is an almost perfect marriage of existence. Nietzsche accused his fellow Germans of thinking too much while Plato encouraged deconstruction and logic. The enlisted ranks are mostly Nietzsche, if you’ll follow the analogy in its proper context (in this sense I’m labeling many enlisted POGs as reactionary and purely instinctual). The Corps is doing its job at the “tip of the tip of the spear” in an effective manner, where the execution of the combat mission is most crucial. But it’s doing something wrong at the lower levels, which is an injustice to many enlisted Marines who are absolutely brilliant at their respective jobs and deserve a reprieve from the childishness of “motivation.” We’re not talking about intellectualism here, where a butter bar who has majored in English literature is pretending to be superior to a LCPL on his third deployment. The issue here is fusing the berserker-like persona of a PFC with the maturity and knowledge of an officer. THAT is the definition of a real Marine, but so few exist.
So to whom am I assigning responsibility for this? If you track down the epidemiology of this “disease” of motardedness, it lies squarely on the shoulders of the SNCOs and the lower recruiting standards. It’s a combination of their lack of combat experience, a lot of overcompensation by way of their self-styled motard antics, and the disillusionment of just waiting for retirement. For a lot of SNCOs, it’s just not fun anymore. As for the latter issue, the standard for the enlistment quotas have gone down the toilet. How can you expect a depraved pedophile, ex con, or juvenile delinquent to learn anything when his superior could be a depraved pedophile, ex con, or juvenile delinquent? You can’t expect optimum results when one cross-eyed nitwit is leading a gaggle of cross-eyed nitwits.

  • Cpl Oki

    Beautifully written, painfully true

    -Cpl from Oki, 1.5 years from EAS

  • MC Pest Control

    The Commandant doesn’t assign battle plans, strategies, or establish tactics, techniques or procedures, he’s simply a representative, a face for the Marine Corps. This is a good read, you should apply your skills where they will do some good.

  • Z

    This has to be the most well-articulated and painfully honest assessment of the frustrating undercurrents in the enlisted ranks that I’ve come across. And I have no doubt that the same problem plagues the officer ranks as well.

    From a personal standpoint, I think the problem stems from [but is not limited to] the following causes:
    1. People join the Marine Corps for the wrong reasons and fail to remember that they took an oath that mandated sacrifice for certain things and freedoms.
    2. They join the Corps with a misguided need to prove themselves as being superior in some capacity, even at the expense of the dignity and respect of fellow Marines. So they compensate for their shortcomings by motarding themselves.

    3. After spending some time in the Corps, disgruntled Marines decide that because they got shat on by peers and superiors, they are justified in doing the same thing to each other and their subordinates. A sort of misguided retribution, if you will, which we both know is common in human nature.

    The list goes on, but I think these are very fundamental problems that lead to Marines’ dissatisfaction with the Marine Corps and, worse yet, good Marines leaving the Marine Corps. It does this organization no good at all and provides a terrible contrast to the commercials which convey a very different image to the American public.

    In a perfect Marine Corps, I think mutual respect combined with efficiency, sincerity, and an earnest sense of humility and gentility [that conceals great aptitude and lethality] would be the prevalent themes by which we live our lives.

    This will not be so for a long time because we’re part of a human condition that involves misplaced aggression, stupidity, and a shit-ton of chest puffing.

    We need rightfully motivated [there’s the M-word again] individuals who are willing and clairvoyant enough to see these problems, see past them, and rise through the ranks to curtail, if not, eliminate these petty issues that keep us from getting our jobs done.

    From a young Lance Corporal just past his first year. Semper Fi.

  • Arthur

    This is incredible. Thank you for posting this. My personal opinion, and I know it’s a harsh one, is there just isn’t room in the combat oriented branches of the Armed Services for intellectuality. I think that most individuals who have a rational brain know well enough to avoid going into a combat zone. Furthermore, they also understand that there are alternatives to waging combat the way we currently do and, as a result, costing so many men in this country their lives. Some of the countries brightest minds usually go to college, and then grad school where they can apply their knowledge at working towards the common good (I know this isn’t always the case). Having an education can have a remarkable impact on social and military policy, and on a much bigger scale than any Gunny or First Sergeant can ever hope to have. Now I know this isn’t always true, and I have seen many exceptions to the that assumption, but I feel smart people in the Marine Corps are a small minority. What’s even more sad is that, usually, those few individuals are responsible for the success of a mission while their less intelligent superiors take credit for it.

  • USMCgunney

    All the “only goal in the end is frustration” thats the point ya idiot the Corps matto to the recruits is break u down so we can build you up, just because you wee too ninny to stay in and deal with the screaming and yelling and PT does not mean you should discourage future recruits

    • madmike1968

      But most of us here did deal with it and got out honorably. It’s just the dumb shit like hazing and spit and polish we can’t stand. Plus every reputable study done has shown that the higher ones I.Q. the more likely they arre to get out and the dumber you are the greater the chances of re-enlistment.

    • NINJA_PUNCH

      You did notice that he’s not talking about recruits right? He’s talking about every day in the marine corps. Making frustration the end-goal is extremely counter-productive. For an institution that prides itself on adaptability and efficiency, it’s strangely difficult to find an example of adaptability and/or efficiency in practice. I bet you’d be shocked how much better the marine corps (maybe even just your unit) would be, if you were to focus more on job proficiency, and less on bullshit.

      Safety and Peace

      • Thunderwood

        He’s just a cancer to common sense.

  • Capt

    I understand where you’re coming from I really do. I have been in the same kind of position and I think the same things each time. What you have to understand is that for the most part, and I mean like 75 percent of the time the frustration actually has a reason. And I know this is always said to you enlisted folks and it just makes you angry it’s why I try to inform my unit as much as I can. But honestly it does have a reason you are just to low on the pecking order to see it. You’re on the bottom ring so you don’t get to see what the higher ups are planning. I know that sounds harsh but its true and I know that some butter bars have a hard time planning which does also cause the frustration. But at least try to trust me when I say at least for the most part it does have a reason.

    • Quark

      We always know dude… You know how you have E-5s, and below always hanging out in the office for whatever reason? Well, they have ears, and usually, they report everything they hear to everyone else.

      We always know what you guys are up to before you tell us.

      • Thunderwood

        Yeah we can’t read books either. I love how higher ups think they are always being ground breaking. It’s all been done before.