There has been a fair amount of talk lately about Gen Amos’ “Reawakening” initiative, and how it impacts the Marine Corps. The blow to morale as well as the apparent concerted effort to force good Marines out in favor of poster-boy “yes men” have been extensively discussed elsewhere. But there is a facet of the problem that hasn’t been discussed.
Anyone who has been an NCO (Non Commissioned Officer) in the last few years has noticed that discipline has slipped somewhat. It’s not the “Lord of the Flies” scenario that Gen Amos seems to think it is, but then, most combat-arms NCOs don’t consider tattoo sleeves to be the ultimate mark of a lack of discipline.
Gen Amos thinks that it’s combat, and the “combat hardened” mindset that are responsible for the lack of leadership he blames for slippage in discipline. If he wants to know the source of the lack of leadership and the loss of discipline, he’d best look in the mirror.
The officer corps (barring many excellent company-grade officers) has long ago turned into not a group of leaders of warriors, but of managers and politicians. This is why the Marine Corps has had more and more restrictions placed on Marine NCOs as to how they can enforce discipline. More and more measures have been labeled “hazing” by people with no experience in the ranks and no understanding of the value of physical correction in a combat-oriented service. MCO 1700.28B, the Marine Corps Order on Hazing includes in its definition “requiring excessive physical exercise beyond what is necessary to meet standards.” Your boot screwed up and you’d rather give him pushups or eight-counts to make sure he learns his lesson? Sorry. Hazing. You’re now in trouble. Hate to tell you this, folks, but the threat of paperwork doesn’t have the immediacy of owing your team leader five hundred eight-counts. A certain Company Commander once said to me, “As men, we learn through pain and repetition.” I couldn’t agree more.
Where are these horribly damaged Marines who had to thrash for their NCOs when they screwed up? What weakness led a service that has loudly prided itself on its focus on combat (“Every Marine A Rifleman!”) to think that somehow pushing for a half an hour (or longer) is wrong? I hate to think of how these “leaders” would have handled the China Marines or the hard bastards who fought their way up the islands to Japan. Hand-wringing and threats of paperwork doesn’t make tough men who will endure in the face of the enemy. You want to know what happened to discipline, Gen Amos? YOU and your ilk took the tools away from the NCOs you expect to enforce it.
In his “Reawakening” document, Amos uses “combat hardened” as a sneer. What, then, is the purpose of a service that is supposed to be entirely made up of Riflemen? If “winning battles” (as has been the Marine Corps ethos for over two centuries now) is supposed to take a back seat, what is the purpose of even having a Marine Corps? Gen Amos’ defenders will no doubt leap to say that isn’t what the Commandant is saying, but the last four years have seen a steady increase in demands of “garrison discipline” while combat training has become more and more difficult to conduct. Training time is increasingly taken up with online “annual training” check-boxes, and the bureaucracy involved to actually lock on training areas for use in actual training has gotten steadily more and more opaque. Staff NCOs have told me how it takes more time to arrange the training than is actually available to conduct it. “Annual Training” classes have come to dominate almost 50% of training time. So, tell me again how the Marine Corps isn’t turning away from building actual combat readiness.
I was told the story a couple of years ago, about an MEU (Marine Expeditionary Unit) commander who had just picked up Brigadier General, who addressed the MEU BLT, to include the Recon Platoon the teller was a part of. In the course of his speech, he is reported to have said, “We are coming to the time where we have to tell you combat guys, you outside the box types, ”thank you for your service, now you have to go away.” That is the mindset behind “Reawakening.” It is the expectation of “single men in barricks” to “turn into plaster saints.”
Chesty is rolling over in his grave.