Thursday, March 15, 2012

Softer Side

The Marine Corps’ new recruiting campaign, framing the Marine Corps as the Nation’s “911 force,” is just getting going. I’ve seen mixed reactions from Marines, with some pointing to it as a sign that the Marine Corps is going soft. In reality though, nothing new is depicted in the recruiting campaign. Marines have always stood ready to do whatever the Nation requires of us and to do it better than anyone else. Destroying the enemy in battle is, as General Mattis tells us, all in good fun. But that is only one part of the service we provide.

The idea that the Marine Corps is the “Nation’s 911 force” derives from the fact that the Marine Corps has a unique Title 10 responsibility. Section 5063 of Title 10 US Code outlines the responsibilities of the Marine Corps. The law states that the Marine Corps “shall perform such other duties as the President may direct.” Our purview, by law, is not solely to fight the nation’s enemies but is to be prepared for any contingency. As much as we Marines revel in our warfighting ability, we must remember that it is not our sole purpose.

A Marine in Vietnam carries children out of danger.
We do, in fact, perform a variety of missions that are not related to war at all. We should all be familiar with the Navy and Marine Corps’ ability to deliver humanitarian aid faster and better than any aid organization on the planet. We’ve also been detailed to carry sensitive diplomatic mail during both World Wars and even to guard domestic mail shipments. Since very early on in our Nation’s history, Marines have had a reputation of getting stuff done. Period. We should be just as proud of that legacy as we are of our battle streamers. Being the Nation’s “911 force” implies that we are the first responders for massive crises. But just like domestic first responders, the problem will not always be the most dire. Police are not always dispatched to shoot outs, but may be called on to unclog traffic caused by a vehicle collision. Firefighters are not always called to fight fires, but may be called to rescue a child trapped in a well. These missions are not less worthy because they are not the organization’s primary purpose, nor do they blunt the skills and traits required to be successful.  

Even beyond the law, the bottom line is that the President knows that whenever a crisis short of war occurs, all he has to do is point to the Marine Corps and the Navy and say “Go.” Presidents are usually steeped in analysis, debate, and long-term planning for complex efforts. It must be refreshing to be able, when confronted with a problem with an obvious solution like the Haiti earthquake or the tsunami in Japan, to have a global Quick Reaction Force that can handle it post haste. In these instances, we’re the President’s Easy button, the proverbial “cavalry”, his Up, Up, Down, Down,Left, Right, Left, Right, A, B, Select, Start.  

The new recruiting campaign is certainly not a sign that the Marine Corps is “going soft.” It’s not even us showing off our “softer side.” It reflects the Marine Corps getting back to work as the first on the scene, whether it is to take lives or to save them. 

The author with a group of kids in Diyala, Iraq in 2008.


  1. A smart PR move. Let's face it, these depict the stark contrast of what the public thinks we do, which is punt puppies and piss on the dead.

    A greater sign of us getting softer is when we disarm our Marines in a combat zone before the SecDef so as not to upset our Afghan counterparts...

  2. Wow, those guys are doing a dead sprint in boots and utes for what looks like a quarter to half mile or so from the beach to the photographer...hey, the CFT does have a useful purpose!

  3. They had to sprint that far because the old as dirt AAV's broke down after the landing and the LVS's were full of US AID boxes and not replacement parts for the tracks. Oh and then there is the trucks, could not use those either....full of US Aid boxes.