Generals Say “Time To Fix the Marine Corps” And I Couldn’t Agree More… Sort Of… (Part 2)

Grumpy amos

[This series is a response to 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”.]


My second suggestion to the top brass is once again concerns duty. Brig Gen Kennedy insists that “duty is a privilege, really. It’s to watch over the flock.” Now frankly, Kennedy was a 2nd LT in 1985. I think it’s safe to say that he hasn’t stood a day’s duty in at least the past 20 years. What’s more as an officer, I think it’s fair to say that he’s never been the new PFC who has to pull a 18+ hour shift at the duty desk, with no relief, because his Cpl decided that Duty was a good excuse to catch up on some much needed sleep. So in that respect at least, Kennedy’s ignorance of how Duty works in the Marine Corps can be excused.

That being said, I like Kennedy’s notion of Duty NCO’s being proactive. I absolutely think that Marines should take their duty seriously, and be proactive in preventing stupid incidents. The problem is that Kennedy doesn’t have the slightest clue how to make it happen. I have four major suggestions:

  1. As noted in my previous post: Utility Uniforms, only! No Marine is going to be proactive in preventing incidents when he’s too worried that he might get a spot on his shirt.
  2. Two NCOs on Duty at a time. In this case I agree with Amos, but probably for different reasons. If I had a nickel for every time a PFC or LCpl pulled the bulk of a shift because the NCO felt like playing xbox or sleeping instead, Forbes would be writing a story about me. That leaves junior Marines with the impression that Duty is unimportant and it’s a good way for NCO’s to screw with them. If there were two NCO’s on Duty together and one had to be at the desk at all times, they would be more likely to divide their shift evenly and fairly instead of trying to screw each other over.
  3. Despite my agreement with Amos on doubling up on Duty, his “firewatch on every floor” idea would be extremely counterproductive. Having been to bases in Okinawa, Lejeune, Pendleton, and Hawaii, I’ve never seen a barracks where it would take the Duty NCO longer than 5 minutes to perform a cursory tour (only checking for major problems) or longer than  10 minutes to perform an in-depth tour. That makes a “firewatch on every floor” effectively a useless post; and nothing makes Duty feel more like a punishment than sticking people on a useless post.
  4. Duty must NEVER be assigned as a punishment for anything. If you want Marines to view Duty as a “privilege” then making it a punishment is absolutely the worst thing that could possibly happen. I would go so far as to say that assigning Duty to any Marine, for any reason other than “It happened to be your turn in the rotation” should carry a Mandatory Battalion-Level NJP. Furthermore, attempting to circumvent this by – for example – assigning a Marine to stand at the door to the barracks and open the door for every marine who walks in or out, should be similarly punished.

Do I honestly believe that implementing these ideas will instantaneously change Marines’ ideas about duty? No, of course not. What I will say is that removing several of the negative aspects that make Duty feel like a punishment is bound to give Duty a less negative connotation over time. It may not fix anything over night, but I’ll almost guarantee it will be an improvement in the long-term.

I’d like to move on, very briefly, to Amos’ idea of installing security cameras in the barracks. In theory, this could be a decent idea as it could allow Marines who are being hazed in the barracks to have video evidence to support their claims. However, on the other hand, I could very easily see a command using security footage to NJP a Marine that they don’t particularly like, for such minor infractions as wearing “shower shoes” from their room to the laundry room, or not wearing a belt while walking around the barracks. All things considered, unless there are strict rules regarding how security footage can be used, I see security cameras as a zero sum game. Whatever is gained in security has the potential to be paid for in morale.


This concludes Part 2 of my series. Please comment below and let me know what you think. Check back next Monday (Nov 04, 2013) for Part 3!

Safety and Peace