Friday, January 20, 2012
PME for Peace?
Like many readers of this blog, I joined the Marine Corps after September 11th and have no operational experience with that murky concept called “peacetime.” You would be hard-pressed to find a captain or sergeant, even staff-sergeant, who experienced the peacetime Marine Corps. Almost our entire cadre of company-level leadership is used to a wartime footing. Beyond stories of the Officer Clubs, which apparently were not always a dying institution, and golf, I am not sure what to even think of the peacetime military.
Like many things, the Marine Corps has been at this crossroads before. However, there seems to be little institutional knowledge of how we transition to peace. Marines are familiar with our past exploits from 1775 forward, but who knows how the Marine Corps handled the transition to the All-Volunteer Force (AVF) in the 1970s? How did we handle racial integration, the incredible budget cuts of the Eisenhower Administration, or even the brief peace after Desert Storm?
The Commandant’s Reading List is intended to help Marines study warfare. We need a list of books to help us study peace with an eye towards future conflict. This means identifying peacetime training programs that produced a true force in readiness and did not devolve into activities with no bearing on battlefield victory. All readers of this blog have some activity they consider pointless, or worse, that we devote valuable training times towards.
Personally, I’m only familiar with a few books that touch on peacetime experiences. These tend to be memoirs that briefly mention the inter-war years before delving into the war stories. Pages devoted to the peacetime military bemoan the lack of operating funds or the general poor state of readiness.
We need a proper study of garrison to avoid the worst complacencies of peace. We must continue to train like we fight while repairing our damaged equipment, minds, bodies, and families. This will be an extraordinarily difficult task because while training to defeat our nation’s enemies, we will be training to fight our own weaker tendencies.
We owe our Marines, both our current veterans and the future Marines who will join during peace, the same level of determined professionalism towards peacetime training as we devoted towards counterinsurgency. An opportunity exists for us to ready ourselves for a seamless transition to peacetime training and mindset. A mindset that is not characterized by aimlessness and a toxic zero-defect mentality, but one that is focused on integrating the lessons written in blood and mentoring future Marines for our next war.
Fellow readers, I await your suggestions.