Generals Say “Time To Fix the Marine Corps” And I Couldn’t Agree More… Sort Of… (Part 3)


[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”.]


Continuing on, I’d like two issues that really go hand in hand: Uniforms, and Ceremonies:

In the past year we’ve seen the reintroduction of “Service Charlie Fridays”, and now there’s the idea of putting Marines on Duty in their Chucks. Apparently the Generals think that this is a good idea because it lets commanders see “at a glance” if their marines are squared away or not, and it reinforces a Marine’s “pride in their uniform”. There are a few problems with this idea:

  1. If – as a commander – you’re judging your Marines by how they look in their good uniforms you’re not going to have any clue who’s squared away and who’s not. The only thing you’re going to know for sure is which of your Marines are most likely to win a beauty pageant. Frankly, if your plan is to send your most beautiful Marines into combat in the hopes that they’ll awe the enemy with their masculine features… well as Generals that’s your prerogative. I’m just saying that I might suggest a different plan, such as making sure that your Marines are proficient in their MOS. Now, I know that any General who might happen to read this would say, “Well, as Maj. Gen. Nicholson already said, lax discipline in garrison leads to lax discipline in country.” Great! I absolutely agree that there should be discipline in garrison; however, there’s a difference between discipline, and rules for the sake of rules. A crackdown on drunken rowdiness is enforcing discipline. Requiring the Alpha Belt to extend 2 – 3/4 to 3 – 3/4 inches past the buckle is a rule for the sake of a rule that has no bearing on whether or not someone is a good Marine. If  we were to judge every Marine solely based upon his appearance in uniform, then we would have no choice but to declare Lt. Gen. Puller to be – without a doubt – the biggest disgrace to the uniform that the Marine Corps has ever seen. Yet for some reason during boot camp, Recruits are still taught to revere him as a great Marine. Perhaps that’s because he recognized that a beauty pageant was an exercise in futility instead of an exercise in discipline.
  2. I know this will be a shocker to many Marines (both officers and enlisted), but most Marines don’t take pride in their service uniforms. To be perfectly blunt, Marines love their Dress Blues; usually either because they joined in the hopes that they would get to kill a lava monster and then be miraculously transfigured into a Marine in Dress Blues, or because they know that nearly every time they wear them is a good occasion to get drunk. Regardless, the Blue uniform is fancy and Marines tend to like it. Similarly Marines tend to like the utility uniform. It’s reasonably comfortable, easy to maintain, and has the practical purpose of being useful for concealment in combat zones. The service uniforms, by contrast, have no real purpose. They’re not as fancy as the Blues, and they’re infinitely less functional than the utilities. Effectively they’re just another defunct relic of WWII. Perhaps it’s a bridge too far to suggest it, but to be completely honest the Marine Corps could do away with the service uniforms and have lost nothing in the way of combat effectiveness.


Next we come to the issue of ceremonies. Somehow throughout the entirety of the past decade (despite all of the wars and smaller conflicts that the U.S. has been involved in) the brass and senior SNCO’s have managed to ensure that change of command ceremonies, retirement ceremonies, promotion ceremonies, etc etc still remain a top priority. What’s more, General Amos has now unveiled his plan to have Cpls and Sgts promoted individually so that promotions to these ranks are “meaningful”. To be perfectly blunt, the last thing the Marine Corps needs is another reason to waste time that could be better spent training, repairing broken gear, or any number of other things. How many NCO’s or junior Officers move from one base to another on any given day with nothing more than a handshake or pat on the back from their peers or immediate command? Yet when a Sgt. Maj. or a senior officer leaves the whole unit has to effectively shutdown for a week so a lavish ceremony can be held in their honor.

Instead of continuing with this monumental waste of time, I propose that senior SNCO’s and Officers hold a simpler farewell that wouldn’t require so many enlisted Marines to be taken from their work for no purpose other than to march around for several hours. Perhaps Generals could have a simpler – perhaps even informal – ceremony involving his subordinate unit commanders and officers, and Sgts Maj. could similarly have a farewell ceremony involving only his fellow SNCO’s.

This would not only lead to increased mission accomplishment, and a decrease in wasted time, but also to increased morale in the lower enlisted Marines – who have always been taught that the obectives of the Marine Corps are “Mission accomplishment, and Troop welfare” only to watch ceremony take precedence time and time again.


This concludes Part 3 of my series. Please comment below and let me know what you think. Check back next Monday (Nov 11, 2013) for Part 4!


Safety and Peace


  • The “Count” of Monte Cristo

    Time spent standing in formation for ceremony: Two hours, four minutes.
    Number of retirees/newly promoted that I personally know: Zero.
    Number of miles ran to keep in tip-top shape: Zero.
    Number of rounds fired to hone my marksmanship: Zero.
    Number of technical manuals read to master job skills: Zero.
    Number of enemy killed: Zero.
    Number of days until EAS: 94.

    • S.

      It’s brilliant!

  • USMCFormer

    As usual, you make some valid and intelligent points, but just remember the people you are dealing with. Senior Officers may read this, but will also stubbornly refuse to make any changes “because I said so!!! Goddammit”-mostly because they are drunk with the power of their rank, or they are like most Marines and just too extreme or hot headed!!

    While I was on active duty we were taught to revere Chesty Puller, but Chesty Puller probably would have been kicked out of the Marine Corps of the late 1990’s /early 2000’s, or he would have rated very badly in the Personnel Evaluation Systems of the time ( Fitreps etc).

    The point is is that he was a WAR FIGHTER ( and I don’t think he would have liked the current Commandants superficial bulls*%t either), and warfighters do well in war but are terrible peacetime Marines ( or soldiers, since this can apply to any branch of the military).

    The simple rule is- in WAR, the bureaucrats hide and the war fighters come out. When PEACE is declared, the bureaucrats re emerge to degrade the military.

    As a junior LT in 1999, and having read books on leadership and war fighting written in the 80’s/90’s, any good general knows that soldiers “don’t win a battle with starched cammies”. In other words, the petty dress up games belong in their own world independent of true battlefield discipline and teamwork.

    Lastly, let me say that during my time in Infantry/ground combat, there was nothing more irritating than having an NCO who had come from 8th& I Barracks!! During down time in a field exercise at PTA on the big island of Hawaii, a former 8th&I Sgt decides to practice close order drill and ceremonial formation out in the middle OF THE DAMNED BUSH!! Had I been an LT at the time I would have given my platoon permission to beat the crap out of him! ( which all of us so wanted to do!)!

  • Hank

    As a Marine who was hazed for 3 years at ITB before getting the chop for being a day late to formation on top of several trumped up charges, after catching the married 1stsgt fucking a hot lcpl, while conducting gaurd duty, it’s fucked up such is the corps…anyway the whole point of having an immaculate uniform is it let’s the CO know the condition of ones morale and demonstrates attention to detail. In fact most of the bullshit we did like field day was to hone our attention to detail. I still am OCD over shit thanks to the corps.

    • Well, if the back of your collar ain’t stamped, you’re obviously not combat ready.