In 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”) General Amos noted that “we are now seeing signs that are our institutional fabric is fraying.” and he, several other Generals, and Sgt Maj Barrett lay out their plans to “fix the Marine Corps” (esp. problems with “sexual assault, hazing, drunken driving, fraternization and failure to maintain personal appearance standards”).
I’d like to take a moment to reiterate some of the lowlights of the proposed solutions to this “moral stagnation” before moving on:
- All Marines on duty will be required to wear service uniforms, either “Bravos” or “Charlies,” depending on which uniform is in season.
- Two NCOs will be on duty per barracks, and a firewatch will be conducted on each floor of each building. Brig. Gen. Paul Kennedy goes on to ask: “Are people really coming back and complaining about [the extra duty]? Their duty is a privilege, really. It’s to watch over the flock.”
- Marines will no longer be promoted to corporal or sergeant in groups. “Each promotion to these ranks will be personal and meaningful,” [Amos says].
- Other “near-term” changes [include] the installation of security cameras in every barracks.
- When the issue of “Service Charlie Fridays” came up Brig. Gen. Kennedy simply responds “But that has all been done before.” and Sgt Maj Barrett relates that, when he was a PFC/LCpl (in 1981-83) “every single Friday… you were in Chucks… You’d walk and step in front of the first sergeant, and he would pull open your personal financial record to make sure everything was right… You’d then sidestep in front of the commanding officer next and do a couple facing movements. And then you’d salute and get your pay and walk away.”
While I agree with the top brass that sexual assault, hazing and the like are huge problems that need to be addressed, I suspect that they are really only symptoms of a larger problem. To wit – the Marine Corps is run by Generals and Sgts Maj who are so far removed from every day life in the Marine Corps that, for all intents and purposes, they don’t even qualify as Marines anymore. Now let me be clear: I’m not saying that the rank of “General” or “Sgt Maj” is itself the problem. The problem is that these positions are occupied by people who are so far removed – both by their billets, and by their time in the military – that they barely comprehend the problem, and can’t even begin to imagine the solution. That’s why we have the Commandant over in Quantico saying “We have this huge problem with sexual assault and hazing, so we’re going to give Marines more Duty, make sure they’re in those fancy-dancy service uniforms as often as possible, and we’re going to have more ceremonies, and make those ceremonies even longer! I’m confident that somehow this will manage to solve our problems.” What this really amounts to is little more than a tacit admission by the Commandant that the only tool that the top brass has is a hammer so they’re going to try to make every problem look like a nail.
Now, far be it from me to disparage the top brass’ plans without offering some better ideas for how to fix what’s really wrong with the Marine Corps. So without further ado, allow me to offer my improvements on the General’s “brilliant” plans:
Firstly, I’d like to address the uniform policy for Duty. Maj. Gen. Nicholson states that “The best guy you’ll ever have on duty is the one who is out stopping problems before they start… He’s taking a Marine who has really had too much to drink and putting his arm around him and getting him up to his room and putting him to bed before that guy has a chance to do something.” I absolutely, 100%, agree with this statement. I’ll even go so far as to say that I’d support having two Duty NCOs and two A-Duty’s so there will always be two people on post: one at the desk, and one wandering around looking for potential trouble. That being said, I have two concerns that I think need to be addressed here:
- How likely is a Marine on Duty going to be to help a drunken Marine get up the stairs to his room, when he has to be concerned about getting his Corfam’s scuffed, or maybe even getting vomit on his shirt?
- How likely is a Marine on Duty going to be to try to put down a drunken brawl, when he’s reasonably certain that he will be berated by his SNCOs for getting his shoes scuffed, or getting the ribbons ripped off his shirt and soiled, or getting a stain on his pants?
In both cases (and I could go on with additional examples) the Marine on Duty might act to help the other Marines, but in any event he will definitely be hesitant, not wanting to have to spend extra money replacing expensive uniform items. In many instances, the Marine on Duty might simply choose to walk away and let them fight it out; and then return five minutes later to find one of the brawling Marines gone, and the other lying unconscious on the pavement. For this reason, I propose that Duty should only ever be carried out in the Utility uniform (cammis).
This concludes Part 1 of my series. Please comment below and let me know what you think. Check back next Monday (Oct 28, 2013) for Part 2!
Safety and Peace