Published in the October 13, 2013 issue.
Most Marines first visit iHateTheUSMC.com after a bad day on the job.
In fact, said site founder S–, the majority of first-time visitors stumble upon the site simply by typing “I hate the USMC” into Google’s search bar. Once there, they can find other unhappy Marines to commiserate with or, perhaps, some help for whatever problem they’re facing.
“We have people coming on here who say they have issues with hazing, for example, and they want to know what they can do, or trouble where they aren’t getting paid correctly,” said site co-administrator Tyler Ewing. “They know there’s a way to get it fixed, but they don’t know how to get it fixed.”
S– and Ewing are both Marine Corps veterans who identify with the the active-duty guys who visit their site. S–, 25, started the site shortly after he was discharged in 2010 after one term of service. He intended for it to become a low-key discussion board where Marines could complain or vent frustrations to others like them.
Ewing, 23, who got out in July 2012, discovered the site the same way most do — by typing “I hate the USMC” into Google.
“I found it that way and started posting there, and S– eventually brought me into the fold,” he said.
The site remains unsophisticated; while there is a blog portion where S– and Ewing post submitted stories, a hosted Web comic, and a page of funny Marine-specific “memes,” the most popular section is an anonymous message board with thousands of nested comments: one long running conversation. But the site’s traffic has been steadily growing since its start, S– said, and it now receives 30,000-50,000 hits every month.
In a recent exchange, a user explained he was stuck in a lengthy tour on Okinawa, Japan, and wanted to know how to ask for a permanent change of assignment to another location on the island.
Ewing posted a response citing paragraphs and sections of a Marine Corps order specific to the Marine’s situation and advised him to approach his career planner, armed with the applicable rules.
‘I just want to fix it’ A combat engineer who left the Corps as a corporal, Ewing said he discovered his knack for navigating the complex Marine Corps system of orders and regulations while he was still on active duty. He frequently directs users back to Marine Corps source material: chapter and verse of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, location-specific orders, resources that the Marines offer but that troops may not know about. A drop-down “resources” menu on the website includes everything from a link to the Military OneSource counseling hotline to a step-by-step “how to” guide, compiled by Ewing and S–, for getting out of boot camp once you’ve already begun.
Other posters on iHateThe-USMC ask about processing VA claims or how to request mast. Occasionally, prospective Marines will ask for the no-frills truth about joining the Corps.
Sometimes, S– said, these would-be recruits read what users have to say and decide not to join.
“We don’t lie about the Marine Corps; we just don’t sugar-coat it,” he said. And for the record, he said, “I don’t hate the Marine Corps. I just want to fix it. That’s what I do.”
So far, the admins said, they aren’t aware of any official Marine Corps response to their site, though they’ve heard stories of senior enlisted leaders scrolling through anonymously submitted stories in efforts to incriminate subordinates.
Ewing and S– both cited specific moments in their own Marine Corps experience when they began to be disillusioned with the system. For Ewing, it was the day that he was chewed out by a superior for suggesting his unit use a 7-ton to haul a load of sandbags to build a bunker, rather than lugging them by hand. For S–, an artilleryman, it was a busywork exercise in Kuwait, involving lifting heavy weapons, that ended when one Marine was fatally injured. Regardless, S– says he would do his time in the Marines over again; Ewing would not.
The two share some common beliefs about the Corps after their respective tours of service: They believe many Marine units suffer under leaders who feel they’re above the law and let their emotions dictate their decision-making. And they are convinced the Marine Corps needs a cultural change that will make the ranks more accepting of others and de-emphasize the aggressive “macho” ideal.
“You can’t let masculinity be your leadership trait,” S– said.