Leadership Starts at the Bottom

Please note that I had never been a squad leader, and was – very briefly – in charge of a fire team. As a corporal in charge of the Bn Safety Office for 8th ESB, the CO informed the companies that only a SSgt or higher was worthy of reporting to me on safety matters. Before long (WAY before long), I was promtoed to Sgt, and then made the Platoon Sgt in charge of the S-4. If this wasn’t a sign of madness, then I don’t know what is. But one thing can be discerned from all of it, and it’s that leadership starts at the bottom.

And now for a little story.

 

If this was a site about ethics in general I’d throw a good number of groups under the bus. But this is about the USMC, which has commercials about how in the heart of every marine is a promise kept (so sign up Evangelical Christians!), and this one where everything looks totally badass. I’m not kidding, either. Watch that commercial and tell me you don’t want to be a fucking marine blowing shit up, executing Port Arms, and even being one of those old vets just sitting around, likely because your knees don’t work so good after 11 years of carrying boxes around a warehouse when you were 19 to 30-years-old.

Opposite the amazing marketing machine the Corps is, is the day-to-day bullshit and outright lies you have to bear witness to when you’re a hard-working, dedicated patriot, or some kid just trying to earn a paycheck to give a good life to your wife and baby.

But enough with the generalities.

This is a story about

  • An out-of-standard Sgt who forged official orders for his married girlfriend, a Cpl, so she could change apartment complexes before her husband got home from Iraq, and
  • A thieving PFC who worked in the same office as that Sgt

And our adventure to see who should be accountable for the things they did.

PFC YoungAndStupid

PFC YoungAndStupid had the qualities a Plt Sgt looks for: He could PT and didn’t mouth off. I was in charge of the S-4 (meaning I had only 4 people directly above me, a SSgt, GySgt, Lt and Captain) when this and another PCF came in. Immediately, they told me that their previous unit’s NCO would call me to disparage them.

Now, it’s a sad fact that when the S-4 needs a body it often gets people who just failed a drug test, or someone who is unpopular. This is how people are deemed to end up on duty rosters more often than others, and it’s also how “the roster got messed up” when you want training. The S-4 is in charge of moving people and gear across whole oceans, so, obviously, send the worst people if you can help it.

I assured the PFCs that this was a clean slate.

“Besides,” I told them, “in about two weeks you’re going to reveal yourself for what you are, anyway.”

 

Well, weeks later PFC YoungAndStupid lifted a set of golf clubs from the bed of a marine’s pickup. This was found out when that marine went to a nearby pawn shop to replace the set, finding his own.

“Why did you steal those clubs?” I asked him one day, privately.

“Don’t know, Sarn’t. Wanted a set of golf clubs, I guess.”

“YoungAndStupid, you already have golf clubs. Plus, if you wanted them, you wouldn’t have pawned them off.”

“Oh yeah,” he said like he’d just realized that was a bad story.

As I said, things would be revealed. The PFC hardly ever said anything because he must have learned not to talk. Half of what he said was untrue; the other half was offensive, such as not believing a female could be President of the United States. The Base Commander was a woman as was the Co CO, but that was his belief, and, to date, it’s unproven, so maybe I’m the asshole here.

For his crime the PFC lost pay and was restricted to the barracks.

Sgt Terminal & Cpl CheaterPants

Cpl CheaterPants’ husband, Sgt DUI, was in Iraq when I arrived at the unit. Most details I have are secondhand so I’ll just say that she wanted very badly to change apartments before he got home, but you can’t break a lease without orders, so she presented a set to her landlord who followed up with the command, and it was found out that they were fake..…so where did she get them?

That evening, myself and the GySgt were kept at the office until 9:00PM. The fallout settled after she spoke to the Bn Chaplain for about 3 hours – a shrewd move if I ever saw one.

In the end Sgt Terminal took the rap he should have, suffering shame and worry, but no loss of pay or rank, and no barracks restriction. Cpl CheaterPants came out unscathed if not unblemished.

NCO Antics Continue

As parents we know that consequences can create results. For example, PFC YoungAndStupid learned that stealing didn’t pay. The following year he also learned the importance of punctuality when he got a Page 11 after being written up about 6 times for being late. He did the crimes, and he did the time.

Cpl CheaterPants, on the other hand, would try to be in charge, telling marines that PT was cancelled when it wasn’t, and volunteering to man the phone, which was necessary in the S-4, but not her place to decide. It was causing confusion, so I finally just had to give her a verbal ass-handing about her place in the platoon.

Meanwhile, Sgt Terminal was in Iraq and had been ordered by Lt Citadel never to speak with Cpl CheaterPants again. So he set up a fake email account under the name Serial Killer (I’m not making this up), and then began emailing to CheaterPants’ military email account. I shit you not, this idiot created an account with the name Serial Killer, and began conversing with a federal military member.

His first email (I swear, I’m not making this up):

 

Dear Number 2:

This is Number 1. You are to write to Number 1 on only this account. All transmissions are to be destroyed after reading. Together Number 1 and Number 2 will work to take down Petty Officer and Afro Man…….

 

And it goes on from there.

Number 1 is Sgt Terminal, Number 2 is CheaterPants, Petty Officer is me, and Afro Man is the SSgt I shared an office with, who had shown open disdain for Sgt Terminal, and refused to suffer fools and morons as a general rule.

After about a month of nonsense that alternated between mild paranoia, daily updates about nothing, and complaints about Petty Officer and Afro Man, I read what I determined to be the end of the line.

 

Dear Number 2:

Number 1 wants Number 2 to know that Number 1 is very proud of Number 2. Number 2 is doing a fine job of taking down Afro Man and Petty Officer……..

 

The operation was over. These two brainiacs weren’t hurting anyone, but they had been given a direct order not to talk to each other. And, frankly, calling a black guy Afro Man when he wasn’t a cover artist for the rapper of the same name is racist, and calling me Petty Officer when I’d done 150 days outside the wire in Falluja is just laughable, and very bad for Cpl CheaterPants because she was actually starting to believe I was more like a sailor, and therefore stood in a lower regard.

I compiled the emails, and when Lt Citadel came to my office I gave them to her.

“How did you get this?” she asked.

“I stole it,” I told her, “over the course of about a month.”

“Okay,” she replied, looking to the SSgt I shared an office with, “you can’t do that.”

“You told him not to talk to her; they’re still talking.”

“I’ll address it,” she concluded. “Get rid of all this.”

She left.

“Close the door,” SSgt Afro Man said. I did. “Are you out of your mind?”

Honestly, I was. Due to my wife’s reserve activation I was a single parent on a Marine Corps schedule. Also, prior to this, I’d taken action against a line unit with some terrible leadership, and was simply done taking crap from anyone anymore.

“You can’t do that. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

I did.

“Good. Now I’m going home.” As he left I heard him from the hallway, “p-fff. Afro Man! Fucking idiots.”

Sgt Terminal’s Final Days

Upon coming home from a successful deployment Sgt Terminal was selected for SSgt, but where justice failed, karma prevailed. He was overweight. Despite it being 2008, the year that even Sgts Major were getting re-enlistment bonuses, marines still needed to be in standard.

He was awarded a NAM, thanked for his service, and summarily dismissed from duty.

Cpl CheaterPants’ Final Days

When CheaterPants couldn’t weasel out of training, she began refusing to do so. I was told that counseling her off the bat would look like I was singling her out, but that if I kept a PT log of everyone’s progress, then her deferments to training could be sent to the Co Office where they would handle it.

So I began keeping track. She must’ve gotten word, and went from trying to win a contest that didn’t exist to seeing what she could do to escape the punishment she was earning, successfully moving to the S-3.

Half my headaches were gone.

Later, 3 LCpls informed me that she’d gotten drunk at a party on base housing and told people that I was getting Court Martialed for being a coward in combat, that I had “abandoned my marines” while under fire. I asked them to put it in writing, but they wouldn’t, so I did nothing. She also spread a weak rumor that I wasn’t a 1371 (combat engineer) and some boot-ass LCpl took the bait, got smarmy with me, and I dressed him down in front his company and mine.

Alas, Cpl CheaterPants being in the S-3 really was perfect for her, for in the S-3 you can input PFT results, raising your cutting score. She was going to be promoted to Sgt and get a re-enlistment bonus of $34,500. The night before her promotion she must have been feeling especially excellent, because she drank herself stupid – so stupid that her friend called for help. When she woke up at 10:00AM the morning of her promotion to Sgt it was in the OOD hut wearing a set of olive drab USMC sweats.

As the Bn Safety Manager I had to interview her, and it was determined (at her insistence) that it was not an accident. Her friend panicked; “that’s all,” she said. And that was all. Until she saw the Bn CO who non-rec’d her for promotion.

From what I heard she was told that if she stayed in it would be more than the non-rec Page 11 she was getting, and the very last I heard from her she was yelling in the hallway about how she had gotten fucked over.

Where Are They Now?

I tried to look up these NCOs who seemed like Teflon to formal punishment, but found nearly nothing. No LinkdIn page, no Facebook, no seat on corporate or charitable boards, or personal blogs. Cpl CheaterPants is no longer married to Sgt DUI, but that’s all I know about either of them.

As for me, it would be more than a year before the S-4 had a Sgt more junior than I. While I grew into the role that was required, I’d had more experience as the captain of my high school tennis team (10 weeks) than I had as even a fire team leader prior to being in charge of an entire platoon. Senior to me was Sgt Terminal with 12 years in, then Sgt SingleDad, who had just had back surgery, hence his time in the S-4, then Sgt B&E, who was soon sentenced to the brig for breaking and entering a USMC warehouse. In addition to them was a Sgt and SSgt in the armory, both of whom were technically under me.

And, as I mentioned in the beginning, on my first day as safety manager, LtCol Buffalo told all of 8th ESB that “a Staff Sergeant or higher in each company will report to Corporal Pascale.” It was the craziest shit anyone had ever heard.

Marine Road-Rages after fender bender. No better friend?

 

 

After watching this video, I was initially shocked at how this guy could’ve been so incredibly… inhospitable (among other things); however, after further review, this really seems like a perfect validation of the mindset that is fostered in the marine corps, and the military in general.

If there’s one motto that I’ve heard used to convey a marine’s sense of always being in the right more than any other, it’s the phrase “no better friend, no worse enemy”.  The phrase is usually used to assert that marines are utter gentlemen (or ladies, since many marines are female) around innocent civilians and fellow troops, but at the same time they’re absolute badasses who could kill every generic, “Hollywood bad-guy” in the world before breakfast and without breaking a sweat.

Ok, perhaps that’s a bit of a stretch, but the phrase does obviously imply that marines are harmless to innocent people, while being lethal to “evildoers”. The obvious implication of such a claim is that individual marines have the maturity and psychological wherewithal, both to identify who is a friend and who is a foe, and to turn their aggression on and off accordingly.

But with videos such as this one – depicting a marine threatening to beat two people, one of them a fellow marine, over a fender bender – becoming more and more common, is this really a justified belief? Can we really ask people who have been subjected to the kind of mental conditioning required to turn other human beings into a dehumanized “enemy” that must be utterly destroyed, to magically be able to turn that training off?

Can we realistically say that videos like this are the product of “a few bad apples”, or is it more likely that they’re the product of a “bad barrel”? Is this marine just a jackass who has always been prone to violent outbursts at the slightest provocation? Is he just a “bad apple” in an otherwise good “barrel” known as the military? Or is this a normal man, who was MADE this way by years of being desensitized to the thought of others being anything more than an anonymous “enemy”? Is he a normal “apple” that was placed into a “bad barrel” and was MADE into a “bad apple”?

Countless psychological studies – especially the Stanford Prison Experiment  – have shown the latter case to be more likely; it is far easier to be manipulated by the power of a situation than we would like to believe. It is very easy for a man to be made into a monster, or – as we see in this instance – for what was probably once a fairly calm and collected person to be made into a raving lunatic; especially when subjected to a culture that not only endorses the use of violence, but actively encourages killing other people to achieve its goals.

This knowledge does not exonerate this man for flying off the handle, but what it does show us is that the blame for such instances extends far beyond the individual committing it, to the military institution as a whole. It becomes the fault of not only the individual, but of the superiors who encourage this sort of behavior and help to create an environment that allows this sort of behavior to flourish.

The Military Police may have arrested this man, and he may be punished for his actions, but until the environment of the military institution is fundamentally altered, these individual punishments can never have the desired effect.

Safety and Peace

NINJA_PUNCH

MARINE MARRIAGE SCAM PAYS $31,200 IN YEARLY SALARY BUMP

Hope Hodge of Marine Times, seems to have uncovered a bit of juicy news that illustrates another incredible consequence of the governments insistence on social engineering. But this time, instead of giant credits being given to tax payers for electrical cars (much of which resulted in the purchasing of brand new golf carts) this time it’s marines taking advantage of the benefits given to them when they get married. The story is behind a paywall and most of you, I imagine, don’t subscribe to this well-respected, but largely unknown publication. So I’ll give you a little insight into what is in her 2500 word story.

She outlines the story of Lance Corp. Donald A. Mitchem. Mitchem who got married for to an illegal from Ghana in exchange for a few thousand dollars, a significant bump in pay, and his dignity. After their courthouse wedding, they went to their separate cars, and drove off, never to see one another again. Romantic right?

How much do Marines make when they get married?

Well, their base pay increase is between aroudn $1100 per month and $2,000 per month depending on where they are stationed. They are (or at least Mitchem was) eligible for a $350 stipend earmarked for food and such, and since the marriage was a sham and Mitchem did not live near his beautiful wife, he was given $250 in exchange for the hardship that the separation caused. That brings the total to somewhere between a $1700 and $2600 bump in pay EACH MONTH. That’s right, taxpayers are paying marines who are working the system between 20,400 and 31,200 each year in extra take-home pay.

Isn’t it great when government creates incentives?

Source: Bredred.com

Ramblings of a motivator.

Hmmm lets see have you lost family a friend a loved one to the attack on 911 orr the beheadings or countless other things the taliban has done to civilians out along the entire UNITED STATES OF AMERICA an all the armed forces you goin to moan an groan about the MARINES urinateing on dead taliban if it was me soldier or civilian i would done more then urinate on them SORRY I AM A PROUD AMERICAN an stand behind our soldiers without them we wouldnt be free only stupidity f people who would open a site like this where were the peace lovers when the towers f where they when our civilans were over there tryin tto help rebuild an got beheaded hmmmmm seems to me to see that versus a lil urination say people who back a page like this either are not AMERICANS or have no respect for the soldiers there or it may been your family or lovedd one that got urinated on in which case welcome to the world many of us PROUD AMERICANS LIVE IN with lost family friends an loved ones shameless disgraced by stupidity i know with in 5 min this message will be deleleted or bashed or crititised or grammer or something other stupid crap but either way none of you were there before i go i must say this loud an proud SEMPERI FI

Submitted by: non judgemental

This site is a joke!

What a joke. The site, the members, the
moderators, and all contributors. This is nothing more than another internet
black hole for the pathetic youth of our nation to spew their one sided lie.
I’m sick of reading and hearing self centered snowflakes whine and complain
about how everything in life wasn’t handed to them. ~>Anonymous<~ of
course it is. Because liars, cheats, lazy, dirty, and pathetic incompetents
NEED ~>Anonymous<~ zero accountability for actions is what feeds this
generation of losers. So munch on my
drainers of the economy, and keep your arms extended for all the freebies you
feel no need to earn. Go ahead and plaster your stories and so called experiences
all over the web, because we all know that they’re the only ones you will
really remember.

The United States Marine Corps has forever
impacted your life, both during and after. You will remember.

Submitted by: Anyonomous <– Haha

 

THE RESPONSE!

Yeah, some youth, and some guys who’ve been in for 18+ years. But yeah mostly youth, I guess that’s what happens when you let people join at 17 with parental consent (woah, that makes sense! Amazing right!)

One-sided lie… Alright, for the most part I’ll give you one sided, I try to be fair but I suppose sometimes even I fail. But which part of what’s been said here is the lie? I’d be rather surprised if you could pick out one lie on this site (other than someone saying how great the marine corps is).

“Liars, cheats, lazy, dirty, and pathetic incompetents NEED ~>Anonymous<~ zero accountability for actions is what feeds this generation of losers.” My, that’s an ironic condemnation… watch this: “Liars, cheats, lazy, dirty, and pathetic incompetents NEED Rockers, zero accountability for actions is what feeds this generation of losers.” You see that? Just like that I turned it into an accurate depiction of SNCO’s.

But you’re right, I will remember. Some things you don’t forgive, some things you don’t forget, and in the short time that I’ve been out I’ve already successfully stopped 2 people from joining and I’m working on preventing more.

Safety and Peace

P.S.
Ooohhhh OPSEC. Scary. I’ll tell you what, do whatever you like, oh and if you could get this site into the marine corps times, or even just an annual training brief, that be great!

– NINJA_PUNCH

 

RESPONSE 2

I too, challenge this individual to find a single lie on this website. And also, just the mere existence of this website has deterred many young men from wasting 4 precious years of doing absolutely nothing. People like you have been making threats against this site for years, and it is still up, and continues to grow. Over 200,000 people have visited this site, and that growth shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, iHateTheUSMC has been breaking traffic records monthly.

Good luck with whatever it is you try to do to harm this site.

– Stanimus

“Recruiters Don’t Lie” – SSGT3529

“You all need to get a life and stop blaming the Corps for your problems. Your recruiter didn’t lie to you and it’s not your 1stSgt or SgtMaj’s fault. Man the fuck up and look yourselves in the mirror. IT’S YOU THAT IS FUCKED UP! Whether you’re on BCP or have been NJP’d or just can’t hack it, that’s your problem not the Corps’s. All of the tools are there for you. You just have to use them and stop expecting everyone to hold your hand. But it’s ok, because mommy and daddy will take your side of the story and they’ll start blaming the Corps too. They’ll start telling their friends how the Corps messed you up and they’ll let you live in their house where you can eat hot pockets and tell everyone on the Internet that you were a stellar Marine. GO FUCK YOURSELF!” – SSGT3529

RESPONSE

“Your recruiter didn’t lie to you” Thank you, I needed that laugh. I’ll admit I had a pretty straight-forward recruiter, but even he lied and sugar-coated things. I remember some of the other recruiters at the station and they were so bad that some times on the ride home my recruiter would tell me things that the other recruiters were just out-right lying about, just because he felt bad for the other kids! So don’t try to tell yourself that recruiters wouldn’t lie to get someone to join because that’s just plain ignorance.

Now, to be fair, I do know a few people who were straight up worthless human beings, compulsive liars, took no responsibility for their actions, I even know one guy who was blaming the cop for his DUI, so I know those people exist. However, some of those people are SNCOs, like the 1st Sgt who decided that “setting the example” meant walking around outside the wire, with no gear, no guards, not even a rifle, just him and his pistol, outside the wire in Afghanistan, and then yelling at one of the guys on guard as he came back inside the wire, because one of them wasn’t wearing gloves.

Next, the whole reason I got out was the hand holding! I expected that after boot camp (Or at least SOI) that they would let you stand on your own two feet. Boy was I wrong, I’ve seen Gunnys and SSgts, holding the Sgts and Cpls hands because the SNCOs don’t trust the NCOs to be NCOs. Meanwhile the NCOs are holding the junior marines hands every step of the way because they don’t dare let the junior marines take responsibility for anything except their failures. Any success is the result of good leadership, any failure is the result of individual incompetence. That way it’s never the SNCOs fault, even if he’s the one who gave the order, and the order was followed to the letter.

Maybe if the so-called “leadership” would actually let junior marines take responsibility for their successes as well as their failures, and would let them stand on their own every once in a while there’d be fewer mishaps. Maybe if you TREATED them like men, they would ACT like men! Amazing huh?

Lastly, no I don’t tell everyone I was a stellar marine. I openly deny that I ever was a marine. When I meet someone I tell them I was in an engineering company that was contracted to do work on a marine base in Afghanistan. That way I can tell them what bottom of the barrel types the marine corps actually is, and how foolish it is for the military to even be over there, without having to admit to ever being a part of such a fucked up institution.

Safety and Peace

– NINJA_PUNCH

American Soldier Murders 16 Afghan Civilians – 9 Children

Between 2 – 3 AM on Sunday, March 11 an unknown Soldier left his outpost and went on a door to door rampage killing 9 children, 3 women and 4 men.

As of now there is no official statement explaining why this soldier murdered all of these people. The military has the man in custody and is currently investigating the situation.

The video below covers a lot of what is known so far. But is quite graphic, so beware.

Why do you think this man did what he did? Please leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

The Real Marine Corps – Marines Urinate on Dead Bodies

The Marine Corps thrives on it’s public image.  Sometimes I wonder what the Marine Corps and it’s Marines would become if that “good image” was taken away and replaced with the truth. But then I remembered, the Marine Corps spends a huge chunk of resources to constantly repair that image when it receives damage. The Marine Corps is really good at lying to everyone… When something like this urinating video pops up on the web, the Marine Corps has to find elsewhere to place blame and spends a FUCK TON of cash and resources scrambling to fix things..

In reality the Marine Corps has produced these people. These warriors of death have been taught everything they know by the Marine Corps. The Marine Corps made these men who they are.  And who knows how much is spent to train a single Scout Sniper, but I know it is over $200,000.00 per warrior, not including the overhead required. I have witnessed shit like this with my own experiences, I have worked with men who have been just as capable of urinating on a corpse or much much worse. It is because the Marine Corps and it’s community that motivated them to feel that way. In bootcamp I was forced to view dozens of videos of Marines killing people while Heavy Death Metal played in the background. We were hardly ever allowed to show signs of excitement or happiness in bootcamp, but we sure were allowed to cheer on Marine “Moto Videos” of people being killed in war. That is about the point in time where new Marines start joking about how fun it would be kill someone. At the time, I did it too. When I was in Iraq, all I wanted to do was kill someone, as did the rest of my unit. Fortunately, most of us did not get our chance.

The thing that really bothers me about this video, is that the only reason this has been brought up is because someone decided to capture it on camera and show the world.  Sadly, sometimes this is the only way to bring big issues into light. What scares me is that I know for a fact that more twisted shit is happening that no one will ever know about.  Man… The Marine Corps is fucking twisted… But technology is catching up with the Marine Corps, and they will not be able to hide it’s true face much longer.

– 3 can keep a secret if 2 are dead since 1775

Get rid of meaningless tasks and inefficiencies – Maj Peter J. Munson

Author:

Maj Peter J. Munson

“America is not at war. Marines are at war while America is at the mall.” This is the solemn refrain of Marines who have been in the thick of the fight for nearly 9 years. As an institution, however, the Marine Corps has no stones to cast. Despite this longest period of continuous warfare fought by an all-volunteer force, the Marine Corps as an institution stubbornly remains a peacetime garrison bureaucracy. Marines and Marine units have accomplished a litany of valiant feats and key innovations since 2001, yet the institution as a whole has refused to come to terms with the fact that war demands prioritization and that a decade of war demands a thorough clearing of the bureaucratic deadwood that has accumulated in the peacetime Marine Corps. The failure of the Marine Corps’ institutional leadership to streamline requirements and prioritize Marines’ efforts with an eye toward our sole reason for being (winning the Nation’s battles) detracts from combat readiness, negatively impacts safety, and drives combat-hardened Marines out of the Corps. As an institution, we have perverted our can-do culture and failed our Marines by imagining we can do more with less. As we near a decade of continuous combat operations, it is high time that we reevaluate our priorities, shed the load of inefficient and meaningless tasks, and shift our mindset from doing more with less, to doing what matters with less.

Multiple factors collude to pile our Marines high with an ever-increasing “soldier’s load” of tasks. These range from meaningful administrative and predeployment training to bureaucratic busy work to outright time wasting. Because we have not had the moral courage to acknowledge that even Marines can’t do everything, we are breaking our Marines’ backs under the weight of countless, unprioritized commitments. The rhythm of prolonged combat forces a grinding cycle of training and deployment, while hard-won battlefield lessons have demanded additional training and education for all Marines. These commitments have been layered on top of an already busy peacetime routine, while information technology and a bureaucracy that rewards “good ideas” and preventatives that can be summarized in fitness report bullets have peppered Marines with even more requirements from all levels of the institution. New tasks come down via email or Marine administrative messages weekly, each an emergency. In this environment where everything is a priority, nothing is a priority, and life becomes a constant juggle of dropping one task to complete another. While we say we are not a zero-defect Service, the ease with which the term “failure of leadership” is tossed about means that Marines prioritize not on lines of combat readiness, mission accomplishment, or safety but by focusing on those tasks that are most likely to draw higher headquarters’ attention if not quickly completed.

Institutionally, every incident is answered with new levels of centrally directed and provided training, usually accompanied by tracking and reporting requirements. If not computer-based, training is all too often provided in mass briefings. Both venues are utter failures. Computer-based training is generally clicked through with the volume muted while busy Marines complete other work. Mass briefings are received by sullen audiences resentful of having their time wasted on topics they already know by rote. Recently, when an O-6 briefing an audience of over 1,000 Marines accidentally closed his Microsoft PowerPoint presentation, he was met with universal applause in an open (and perhaps deserved) show of disrespect. Marines are hostile to endless training requirements, but more importantly, they disrespect the centralized and impersonal approach to issues that should fundamentally be handled by small unit leadership. There is no personal approach to training and thus no buy-in when Marines are individually huddled in front of computers or passively sitting through a mass brief.

Small unit leaders, who are positioned to make a much greater impact, are unable to ply their trade as time and opportunities for them to lead, mentor, and counsel their Marines are whittled away. What senior leaders do not consider is how their failure to properly prioritize their requirements has handed small unit leaders the impossible mission of doing everything with less. This state of affairs has come about because structurally the Marine Corps has no incentive for efficient use of manpower. As a government institution, it has no profit motive driving efficiencies. The military is unique among government institutions in being an almost wholly salaried Service of individuals who can be ordered to work any hours a commander desires. There is no payroll penalty to inefficient use of manpower. Among the Services, the Marine Corps is unique in having a culture that exalts doing the impossible on minimal resources and penalizes negative feedback signals on the rare occasion when they are pushed up the chain of command, further compounding the problem. Over the past decade we have become extremely meticulous about tracking and optimizing the efficiency of equipment utilization, yet while we pay lip service to the toll of high operational tempo, we have done virtually nothing to optimize the utilization of our most precious resource—our Marines.

The growing accumulation of tasks owes itself to two key phenomena. First, information technology has made it far too easy for disconnected staff sections at echelons above reality to levy training and other requirements. “Good ideas” are quickly packaged electronically and rained down on thousands of Marines below with little thought given to the accumulated man-hour cost and the other priorities with which they compete. With the profusion of special staff sections and their alternate chains of tasking and reporting, commanders easily lose track of the requirements levied in their names. These requirements all too often come with a demand for rapid action and “by name” reporting of completion that can be tracked back up at the stratosphere. The ease with which such requirements are levied means that little cost-benefit analysis is done, and there is no appetite suppressant mechanism to prevent overtasking.

Second, at lower levels of the chain of command, the Marine Corps’ culture and promotion system prevent the sort of feedback that is needed to signal the absurdity of the situation. Can-do culture, a near-zero-defects promotion system, and a dangerous trend of groupthink, reinforced by the echo chamber that Marines live in, all prevent Marine leaders from saying “enough is enough.” At the lower levels of the chain of command, the absurdity of the current climate is clear, yet leaders show a lack of the moral courage required to demand a better way.

In a world where everything is a priority, nothing is a priority. Worse, Marines begin to make up their own priorities in the absence of guidance. Key personnel, the busiest Marines in the unit, strive to juggle all balls, accomplishing the requirements expected of their Marines, then comforting themselves with the thought, “If we can find time to do it, then so can our Marines.” Yet our Marines may not be able to juggle tasks as swiftly and efficiently. They also may have other tasks, layered on by subordinate leaders, adding to their load. Unable to do all things well, Marines make up their own priorities. The commander knows what is important and what is not, but the signals the institution is sending to his Marines are ambiguous at best. Often the most trivial of tasks in the grand scheme of our true mission are tracked by “hit lists,” yet the institutional leadership does not get a list of what Marines forgo in order to get these trivial tasks done. They don’t get the list of the Marines who skip lunch, put off medical appointments, cut corners on maintenance or training practices, fail to thoroughly inspect the work of others, or spend extra time at work rather than with their families. This list seems benign, but these things, among others, are the real and direct results of misguided leadership, and each of them is impacting the lives of our Marines. Together they directly contribute to decreased personnel and material readiness at best and suicides, motor vehicle accidents, and ground and aviation mishaps at worst. Marine leaders soul searching for ways to reduce these misfortunes should start with deep introspection as to whether they have lived up to their moral obligations to care for their Marines, even if that means telling superiors far removed from the realities of daily life at the unit level that they simply cannot accomplish all of their tasks and must drop some to focus on what matters. Senior leadership must embrace a new ethos of doing what matters with less.

The Marine Corps speaks to the promotion of moral courage, but beyond the shallow willingness to criticize uniform infractions and haircuts, moral cowardice is the way to avoid negative recognition and climb the ranks while those who truly care about doing what matters begin to look for the exit. If the Marine Corps is serious about operational excellence and improving safety, it must return to the true tenets of its institutional culture. This is no small matter and requires the involvement of institutional leadership at all levels. First, “doing more with less” is short for “doing more than others would with less.” In reality, it means doing what matters to the Marine Corps in its role as the Nation’s expeditionary force with less. To excel at doing what matters, we must acknowledge what does not matter, or at least does not matter as much. Second, in doing what matters with less, the Corps must return to its professed tenets by trusting and empowering junior leaders.

Redundant reports should be eliminated, inefficient training streamlined, and wasteful administrative burdens reduced. Could information assurance training be conducted in a less gratingly wasteful way? Once we have our nuclear, biological, and chemical and rifle range briefs memorized, can we test out and proceed directly to the practical application perhaps? Better yet, can we use that time for more advanced training? How many hours are wasted annually shuffling paperwork through 10 wickets to get a signature that should not be required on a naval format letter that required three revisions to ensure the format was correct and the signature block was positioned perfectly? The opportunities are legion, but a shift must occur in mindset for them to become apparent.

In many cases, load shedding of unnecessary tasks will involve culling superficialities for which the Corps has a deep institutional fondness. There is an element of institutional pride and unit cohesion in the appearance issue, but the focus on superficialities often comes at an expense to substance. Consider the over 800 man-hours invested in preparation for a battalion-level change of command. A unit may be thought to be unprofessional if it forewent the “troop and stomp” for a simpler ceremony, but would it not be much more substantively professional if it spent that 800 man-hours training for its primary mission? Although the thought is certainly a bridge too far, would Marines be better off if they spent less time at the barber shop and more time in professional study, combat conditioning, or with their families? Did anyone tell Chesty Puller he was not a motivated Marine because he did not have a high and tight? In another instance, consider the time wasting that goes on around the Corps during the weekly field day. How many clean windows are dutifully wiped down? How many floors could be buffed monthly instead of weekly? Beyond the time issue, undue focus on superficialities erodes Marines’ confidence that the institution cares about what truly matters.

Finally, we must entrust our junior leaders to do those things that do matter. If there is training to be done, provide small unit leaders with training aids and let them run it. Let these leaders lead. They cannot do any worse in motivating their Marines to succeed than a computer or the speaker at the front of the auditorium. Given properly prioritized missions and the time to accomplish them, these Marines will need no hit lists to make it happen.

 

Source: http://www.mca-marines.org/gazette/article/doing-what-matters-less