Monday, January 14, 2013

New Year's Resolutions for Marines: A Postscript

Thanks to all who checked out my blog entry entitled, “New Year’s Resolutions for Marines.” I especially want to thank Marine Sergeant Stan Mitchell of Alpha 1/8 circa 1999, who provided some great feedback and insight on training Marines with some specific recommendations on things to do and just as importantly things not to do while in the field. I do have to say I was more than a little disappointed that Sgt Mitchell was the only one to come back on the blog. Not that I thought what I wrote was good or even worthy of response . . . though I did think the piece did have some clever and “pithy” commentary on ‘Marineisms,’ and some of our shortfalls, as both individuals and an institution. Now I am aware, from my large and capable editorial staff, that there some “cyber sidebars” on Twitter and other forums used by our more technologically endowed Marines who had some strong views on what I had presented, particularly in the area of training. Upon hearing this I offered up to an intermediary to provide my personal email for those who wanted to discuss off line their thoughts. One Officer, an Army Officer, did contact me and we had a good exchange of thoughts on training tasks, higher taskings and finding “white space.” But sadly, no Marines.

So what does this all mean, other than what I “blogged” was of marginal value and not worthy of a response? Should I have made one of the resolutions, “To do all I can as a leader to foster a spirit of discussion and learning among all Marines, regardless of rank, did better our Corps?” Look, I know that many/most are not going to take me on if they disagree out of deference to rank/seniority. I find that troubling since if I am willing to put myself out on to the “blogosphere” then I knowingly accept the “wrath of the crowd.” If I didn’t want push back, I wouldn’t have engaged. My goal is, I believe, the same as all who write: to challenge, discuss, and work to solve the issues of the day. To make this Corps better and to hold all accountable to their responsibilities as leaders of Marines. If we as an institution ever lose that willingness to take on a “bad idea” or to “stand up to or push back on an incompetent or illegal act” then we will not be the organization I know we are capable of being. Like all other qualities in Marines, we cannot expect this willingness to pop up out of thin air the moment it is needed. It needs to be fostered and encouraged by leaders and honed in discourse. So, Marines, do not be afraid to engage intelligently and tactfully. And leaders, never discourage your Marines from speaking their minds in a professional forum.

Again Marines, thanks for being whom and what you are. Keep the faith.

One last resolution . . . I resolve that when traveling TAD—on the King’s nickel so to speak—that I will dress in the civilian equivalent of Summer Service “C” . . . this means that I will wear a collared shirt, trousers with a belt and shoes and socks. Know that will be tough for some as too many seem to think shorts, t-shirts, and flip flops are appropriate travel attire. It is NOT. Press on.


  1. Sir,

    I apologize for not commenting on your post earlier, my own personal white space has been scarce. In one of the Twitter "cyber sidebars" I mentioned that your initial post assumes that white space exists. Last year, the Advanced Warfighting Seminar group at EWS examined the yearly training schedule of a typical battalion. They found that the annual training requirements levied on a unit exceeds the number of hours available to train in a year. This not only shows that units are not able to delegate white space to subordinate leaders, but that the Marine Corps puts its commanders in a dilemma when it comes to meeting annual training requirements. Commanders are forced to assume risk when it comes to which annual training requirements will actually be enforced by higher headquarters. Obviously, in practice, the time is found to train. However, we are placing undo strain on our deploying units. Of course, training should induce strain and stress, but it should be in the course of simulating the act of fighting a thinking enemy rather than the act of fighting our own bureaucracy and mismanagement. I was fortunate enough as a Lieutenant to be given the freedom to assess my own unit, design a training plan to address shortcomings, and execute it on my own, but the same cannot be said for many Marines.

    In short, I had no substantive critic with your recommendations. Rather, I believe that in practice the Marine Corps is far better at preaching such necessary steps than it is at executing them. I am going to ask the staff here at EWS if I can post last year's AWS report here on the blog.

    Semper fi, sir, and thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.

  2. General,

    Great point about pushing back, and I appreciate the public thanks for making the comments. I think given how nervous I was in responding (and I'm not even in the Corps any longer) proves that most subordinates are overly cautious and slow to decide to speak up too much. It's risky and a superior could hold a grudge that could affect your career.

    Anyway, thanks again, and I wrote a humorous post about all this that hopefully provided a greater lesson, as well, here:

    Semper Fi,
    Stan R. Mitchell
    Oak Ridge, Tenn.
    Honorably discharged as a Sgt. from A/1/8 in 1999

  3. Sir, you clearly answered your rhetorical question about your blog posting designed to challenge, discuss, and work to solve the issues of the day. It sounded like "drive on!" I'd say that such blog posts - on Twitter, Facebook, continue on the right track pushing these ideas out (any which way) and even more so when our leaders take the time to respond to different opinions on some of the prescriptive resolutions to seemingly intractable problems (white space being just one). Sir, we're Marines, we have a lot to live up to...yours is but one list of many well-intentioned and experience informed lists that bear our attention in so many ways. I think I have several by worthy leaders from years gone by. Also, a couple of institutional lists are also worthy our very own oath, leadership traits/principles, the UCMJ and the litany of MCOs and regulations make for a daunting enough task. Nonetheless, we should never stop the cyclic professional discourse of the things that make us better or simply consider a different opinion. So, maybe it’s a slow week...but it's more than likely to pick up. Semper Fidelis.

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