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.