Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Commandant's Career-Level Education Board - A Step In The Right Direction?

BGen Craig Crenshaw, commanding general, 3d Marine Logistics Group,
III Marine Expeditionary Force, center, sits with servicemembers after
receiving their diplomas for graduating from the Command and Staff
College at the Butler Officers’ Club on Plaza Housing, June 1, 2011.
Crenshaw was invited as the guest of honor for the graduation.
(Photo by LCpl Matheus Hernandez.)
Earlier this month, results from the Commandant’s Career-Level Education Board (CCLEB) were released. The stated purpose of the MARADMIN was “to select the best and fully-qualified officers for career-level professional military education (PME), graduate-level education, and select special duty assignments.” As the title of this post suggests, I generally agree with the purpose and intent of the message. It seems logical that the Marine Corps wants to screen as many officers as possible such that the “best” be given additional educational opportunities. However, I disagree with how the FY12 board was conducted and I do not believe the Marine Corps is pushing educational opportunities far enough.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Low Standards?

Pfc. Rushi K. Bhatt prepares his Service A uniform,
Nov. 15, to be ready for the battalion commander
inspection. The inspection is used to evaluate
if the new Marines are ready to graduate by
inspecting their uniforms and appearance
while being asked questions that test if
the Marine has retained the knowledge
they were taught in training. Bhatt is
with Platoon 3261, Company M,
3d Recruit Training Battalion.
(Photo by LCpl Eric Quintinilla.)
I received my January Gazette in the mail today to see a letter to the editor from SgtMaj Johnnie Orris (Ret).  Titled "Low Standards," the letter bemoans Marines that don't know how to wear uniforms, walk and park on grass, etc.; ceremonies and the like held in utilities; spaces that look like locker rooms (?); and more.  He accuses us of having low standards and states that the CGIP should be brought back (it never left), to include junk-on-the-bunk inspections.  Commanders who don't uphold his high standards should be relieved, he says.  I was at Cherry Point and in a squadron in MAG-14 when SgtMaj Orris was there in 2001-2002.  I really do not see the glaring change in standards between then and now.  Perhaps I am too focused on trivia like combat readiness and professionalism.  I sent off a letter in response, as I am insulted by some "old timers" episodic suggestions that we just aren't living up to their expectations.  I note that SgtMaj Orris served in long peacetime period of our Corps' history.  Does this explain the difference in mentality?

Really, even though everyone has their pet peeves, can one truly say that the Marine Corps today is any less professional than it has been at any time in its past?  Maybe there is less focus on uniform issues, but when has the force been more combat experienced, better equipped, etc?  Are we really to believe that the Marines who served solely to go to war during WWII or Vietnam were any more spit and polished?  I find SgtMaj Orris's letter insulting.  I wonder what other views are out there.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The COIN Shouting Match

Sgt Jason T. Mathews, a member of Embedded Partnering Team
1-1-215, cleans the bore of an Afghanistan National Army soldier’s
rifle at Range Juarez near Forward Operating Base Geronimo May 25.
Mathews, from Roberta, Ga., has been working with the 1st Kandak for
two months and said he enjoys it. “The work is challenging but rewarding,”
he said. “Hopefully the ANA will be able to take over their own battle
space when we leave and they’ll make Helmand a better place.”
(Photo by Sgt Mark Fayloga)
I originally posted this at my blog, but it has spurred some debate and should be of interest to the Marine audience.

A debate rages at the Small Wars Journal, Foreign Policy's Af-Pak Channel, Tom Ricks' blog, and Carl Prine's Line of Departure over the postmortem our recent counterinsurgency (COIN) adventures and the prospect for future applications.  My contribution to this debate, a refined version of this post at LoD, will be posted at the Af-Pak Channel after the holidays.  In short, I think they are missing the broader point, which is that we are predisposed to screw these small wars up.  No matter how many lessons we learn, our national security decision-making apparatus will churn out suboptimal policies.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Amphibiosity: My View

After my last post highlighting some of the debates and trends in amphibious warfare thought, I’d now like to share some of my own thoughts.

Droning On

The biggest recent trend in warfare as a whole is the use of drones. Drones saw widespread use in Iraq and are currently being used to great effect in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. The Navy and the Marine Corps have already taken great steps to utilize drones in operations in both the air and under the sea. The development and use of unmanned systems will affect amphibious operations and how they are conducted. However, I do not believe that they will fundamentally change how we conduct amphibious operations as a whole.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

What Do Marines Have to Learn about Leadership and Management?

Marines with 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward) take notes during
the Lance Corporals Seminar at Camp Dwyer, Afghanistan, Jan. 26, 2011.
The 3-day seminar aimed to teach the junior Marines the fundamentals of
Marine Corps leadership in preparation for when they become
noncommissioned officers. (Photo by 1st Marine Logistics Group.)
It has been a while since I posted my two missives on leadership and management in the military.

Overall, they were well received, but could use some refinement.  I'll lay out some caveats, then talk about what I've learned from a cursory dive into the literature, then discuss how this impacts my recent commentary about the institution, the budget battle, and Goldwater-Nichols.  I'll break this up into two posts, the first covering the background, the second talking about the application.

First, some caveats.  This message is targeted at the battalion-level and above, though some of its lessons could be used at lower levels.  Overall, I think we do a decent job of leadership at the small unit level and real management is not required for the most part in smaller formations.  Second, my background is from aviation, which brings significant requirements for management at the squadron/battalion level.  We have our own maintenance in the Marine Corps, a significant budget/flight hour program to manage, plus the detailed training and qualification of hundreds of aircrew, for a C-130 squadron.  This perspective is different than a ground-based battalion, however I still think that the unit sizes require management and leadership.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

500 Words or Less

GENOCIDE: Killing the next Generation of War

Bill Lind has contributed great things to the intellectual culture of the Marine Corps.  He played the drum roll for the Marine Corps’ march into the world of Maneuver warfare.  He had a hand in the acquisition of the Light Armored Vehicle, and thus an impact on our reconnaissance tactics.  He continues to influence Marines through the recent addition of his “canon” to the Commandant’s reading list. 

There are many things we do as Marines that can be traced back to Lind.

However, one of the things we do as a result of his influence needs to end.  We must put our use of his generational model behind us, delivering it to the dustbin!  When Lind locks an army into a specific generation he encourages reductionist thinking.  When Lind places this army into his mildly Marxist model of warfare he risks leading his readers into that deadly intellectual vice, fatalism.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


The theme of this month’s Marine Corps Gazette is amphibious warfare. Included in the issue are articles on past amphibious operations such as the battle of Marathon (490 BC), the New Providence raid (1776), and Gallipoli (1915). (Additionally, there are four web exclusive articles on Fort Fisher, Inchon, Guantanamo Bay, and Guam) Articles that cover current operations include one on a return to our expeditionary mindset, amphibious embarkation planning, and the cancellation of the EFV. For future trends, MajGen Thomas Benes covers seabasing development and LtCol F.G. Hoffman wrote about 21st Century amphibious capabilities. There are a few trends in current amphibious operations that Marines should be aware of.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Growing Up

A friend of mine who is dead set at getting out of the Marine Corps at just a bit over the ten-year mark is wondering what his boss will say once he drops his papers.  In his "mind movie" of the encounter, my friend would tell his incredulous boss that he's ready to move on, "And frankly, sir, it is time to grow up."  Indeed it is, and this is a large part of the reason why he is getting out.  He wants to grow up, but the institution does not value that.

Now, my friend has made his share of sacrifices and has held positions of grave responsibility in combat.  He has filled very grown up roles.  Yet, the institution is not providing him or a great number of other high performers with the opportunity to operate in a grown up world.  This is not so trivial as my common gripes about safety stand-downs or HARP forms.  My friend and many others like him are disheartened by the lack of seriousness, the lack of opportunities, and the lack of grown-up respect that our institution affords them.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


I recently reread LtGen Robert B. Neller’s “An Open Letter to the “Young Turks” in the November 2011 issue of the Gazette. I want to highlight and expound on one item on which he is absolutely correct: that centralized training requirements do not indicate a lack of trust.

From the letter:
“Although I think “The Attritionist Letters” and the thoughts of the Maj Munsons of the world are a bit overstated, especially the inexplicable correlation between centralized, directed training executed in a decentralized manner equating to a lack of trust, it is done, I believe, for effect.”

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Evans Carlson, Marine Innovator

BGen Evans Carlson
I wanted to highlight one of my favorite Marine innovators in the hope of getting a discussion going. Few Marines know who he was, but every Marine has utilized his ideas at some point in their careers. That innovator is Brigadier General Evans Carlson, one of the founders of the Marine Raiders. The Marine Raider Battalions were the first official American military organizations to be structured and designed purely for raiding and guerilla operations. Carlson put both his career and his life on the line to get his ideas implemented.

Although he had served in the Army from 1912-1919, reaching the rank of Captain, Evans Carlson enlisted in the Marines in 1922 as a Private. He was commissioned as a second Lieutenant less than a year later. Two experiences formed the ideas that Carlson would later instill in the Marine Corps through the Raiders.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Thought Of The Week: November 18, 2011

Both the young turks and the senior leadership have valid points. The good news is they have dialogue.

Agree or disagree? Leave your ideas as comments.

To learn more about the subject, please click here.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Reinforcing Fires

For my first post, I want to reiterate Maj Munson’s points about institutional agility and intellectual debate. As Colonel Robert Dobson pointed out in the November issue of the Marine Corps Gazette, the Marine Corps is entering a period of austerity. The Marine Corps is no stranger to fluctuations in our budget and end strength but, along with our Navy brethren, our work overseas does not stop when the guns of war go silent. The Marine Corps expanded during every major conflict of the 20th Century and then contracted afterwards. Despite the contractions, the lean years have seen some of our greatest successes. We have gained those successes through our intellectual vigor and our pursuit of new ideas.

The work of Pete Ellis is just one example of this. During the interwar period between World War I and World War II, it was the strength of LtCol Ellis’ ideas that provided a basis for the Pacific island-hopping campaign against Imperial Japan. The work and combined knowledge of Marines who fought in the Banana Wars produced the Small Wars Manual of 1940, a legendary document that continues to be relevant to Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan today. During the post-Cold War drawdown in the 1990s, the Marine Corps’ greatest strength was its warfighting philosophy captured in MCDP-1 in 1989. The strength of maneuver warfare ideas led directly to the blinding success of the Marine Corps during the march to Baghdad in 2003. Major Munson mentioned that our future successes on the battlefield may not compare to those of our past.

This may be true, but what is also true is that those successes were not just gained on the battlefield. Those successes began in the halls of Quantico, in the bars of Officer and SNCO clubs, and in the classrooms of the Naval War College where Marines create, think about, and debate the ideas that will find expression on future battlefields. After the cancellation of the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle program, the possible cancellation of the F-35B airframe, and the continued calls to cancel the MV-22 Osprey, it should be clear to us that in the future we cannot depend solely on advanced weapon systems to carry the day for us. Instead, we must depend on the intellectual and creative capacity of Marines of all ranks. Fortunately, creativity and thought are free.

If our history is any indication, Marines will carry on our tradition of intellectual excellence during times of lean budgets and ensure that future Marines are well prepared for the any challenge. Placing a bet on the minds of our Marines to adapt and overcome is the safest bet we could make.

I want to thank Colonel Keenan and Major Munson for this opportunity to contribute to that future success in my own small way, and I look forward to the many discussions that this forum will generate.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Ellis Reconstructed

Peter makes some excellent points. We hope this blog leads to frank and professional discussions about the issues that face the Corps. As a point I note the photo he posted of Pete Ellis.

When the Corps asked Col Avery Chenoweth to turn the iconic photo into an oil painting, they gave him an order to paint out the cigarette. I believe that Col Chenoweth gave them a not so cheery "Aye, aye" and reluctantly complied.

Let's leave the PC at the digital door.

A Forum for Professional Marine Dialogue

Marines, we live at what may be looked back upon as a critical junction of history.  While we have collectively spent the last decade locked in combat in two theaters, our experiences may not seem quite as historic as those epic battles we have read and heard about since the first day we thought about becoming a Marine.  But not all history is made on the battlefield.  In fact, what happens on the battlefield is only a product of much deeper historical trends.  Often, we go to battle because political and institutional structures have been unable to keep pace with the forces of social, economic, technological, and ideational change.  We fight because the system has failed.
While our world system has not failed, it is surely undergoing momentous change.  The United States faces significant fiscal challenges, while our European allies face a much deeper crisis of their welfare state.  Meanwhile, developing nations are on the rise, some with ambitions to regional and even global power.  In short, we can expect this to be a transformative period on many fronts.  A Marine Corps facing such a time of change, while facing the budget axe and the drift that can be expected at the end of a period of extended conflict, must be agile.  As the Nation’s Force in Readiness, we must be most ready when others are least prepared.  In acting as our Nation’s second land army during a decade of conflict ashore, we have picked up great experience and many bad habits.  The worst of these is the rigidity, centralization, and unimaginative thought processes of a large bureaucracy.  This cannot stand.  In this era, organizations that are not agile enough to move with the tide will be swept away.  Institutional agility is built on professional dialogue.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Overview of Marine Corps Gazette FAQs

Have any questions about Marine Corps Gazette? View our FAQ page and leave a comment regarding any unanswered questions.
  1. How do I go about getting back issues of the Marine Corps Gazette? The last 10 years of back issues are available through the Marine Corps Gazette editorial office. You may request back issues by mail at Marine Corps Gazette, Box 1775, Quantico, VA 22134; by e-mail at gazette(at); or by telephone at 703–640–6161, ext. 144. There is a per issue charge for back copies of $5.95 per copy, including domestic postage and handling.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Overreliance On SatCom

Overreliance on SatCom should be considered a
critical vulnerability. (Photo by MSgt Peter Walz)
We could be fighting completely blind

Over the past decade the Marine Corps has experienced a transformation in the way it enables command and control (C2) with tactical communications systems. More specifically, we have dramatically increased our use of beyond-line-of-sight (BLOS) satellite communications (SatCom) for MAGTF operations. Thus our reliance on spacebased assets for providing the necessary communications links has grown exponentially as a result of distributed operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. For the most part this has been a positive step for the Marine Corps and will continue to develop as time moves on.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

After Leading Two Wars, Petraeus Retires From Army

Listen to the NPR story.

The most famous man in the U.S. Army left the military on Wednesday.

Gen. David Petraeus retired from the Army after 37 years in uniform. A couple of hundred people gathered on a sun-splashed day at Fort Myer, Va., just across the Potomac River from Washington, to pay tribute to the general. And like most of his career, the ceremony was well-scripted.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

8th Engineer Support Battalion: OEF 10.2

By LtCol Christopher Downs
On 25 November 2010, 8th Engineer Support Battalion (8th ESB) (Minus) assumed responsibility of the general engineering support mission for Regional Command-Southwest (RC(SW)) as part of the Operation ENDURING FREEDOM 10.2 (OEF 10.2) campaign. The battalion (minus) was organized and employed as an independent formation within the Marine logistics group (MLG).

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Carlson's Raid On Makin Island

By Col David W Haughey, USMC(Ret)
Originally published in August 2001 Marine Corps Gazette
The Marine Corps Gazette gratefully acknowledges PRIMEDIA Enthusiast Publications' permission to reprint this article which originally appeared in American History Illustrated, October 1983. 

The war news in America in 1942 was bleak. Our navy had lost the bulk of its striking power, with the exception of the carriers, at Pearl Harbor. German U-Boats prowled the Atlantic and exacted a terrible toll on United States shipping. American outposts such as Guam and Wake Island had already fallen to overwhelming Japanese forces in December 1941, and other U.S. forces in the Philippines surrendered in early May 1942. Although the U.S. Navy won the most important naval battle of the war off Midway Island from 4-6 June, the full impact of the victory, which put the Japanese Navy on the strategic defensive, was not yet fully appreciated by the Pacific Fleet staff. Most Americans thought the Pacific Ocean was rapidly becoming a Japanese "lake."

British Royal Marine Heads OCS Training

By Cpl Jahn R. Kuiper
The Quantico Sentry

As the sun rises on Officer Candidates School, the physical training instructors have the candidates sweating it out on the PT field.  Standing out amongst the growling voices of the instructors is a sometimes cheeky, always motivating British accent that urges the candidates to push themselves and ensures the future officers are conducting training safely.

Colour Sergeant Richy Asson, a British Royal Marine physical training instructor, serves as OCS’ physical training advisor. Asson works directly with the commanding officer to decide the most effective and safest way for candidates to train, and oversees the U.S. Marine physical training instructors.