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.