Thursday, March 22, 2012

In Loco Parentis or Bureaucratic Cowardice

"I was hard on you when you was growin' up.  I did things
that made you hate me.  Now you can see why."
Much digital ink has been spilled of late over the Secretary of the Navy's announcement that he would soon be requiring breathalyzers for Sailors and Marines reporting for duty.  There is no disputing that alcohol has caused its fair share of problems in the naval services and that cracking down would likely save some of our young servicemembers from themselves.  What is more, unlike when an 18-year old leaves his or her parents' house to go work at a garage somewhere and room with buddies, when parents send their kids off to the military, they expect a degree of in loco parentis.  They expect us to "make a man" (or woman) out of their son or daughter.  They do not expect us to socialize their children to become alcoholics, or even binge drinkers, although one wonders why they wouldn't expect this with the reputation we have.

In any case, we have an obligation to maintain our units at the highest readiness and to develop the skills and character of our young Marines and Sailors.  Like it or not, our services have adopted a culture and a reality of providing some degree of in loco parentis supervision to our juniors.  With that comes some "intrusive leadership."  The commentators above, however, cite the blow to the concept of "special trust and confidence" and to the likely effects on morale as servicemembers are increasingly treated as suspects.  This is all true, in my book.  But it is not so simple as it seems at first glance.  This is not a blow to trust and morale solely because it is an imposition.  It is seen that way because it is just one more policy doomed to fail because it is based on institutional moral cowardice, risk averse thinking, and is part of a policy portfolio that is reflective of a lack of priorities.  I'll delve into each of these, but the best summation came from an infantry officer friend of mine: "I get weighed once a month so I don't get fat.  I pee in a bottle once a month so I don't take drugs.  Now I'm going to to have to take a breathalyzer on a regular basis so I don't come to work drunk.  Yet, no one is checking to make sure that I'm competent at my job and am not going to get anyone killed."  There is a lot to discuss in this statement, but don't start sniping it yet.  We are going to take a somewhat circuitous route to get back to the breathalyzer issue, but it all ties together.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Softer Side

The Marine Corps’ new recruiting campaign, framing the Marine Corps as the Nation’s “911 force,” is just getting going. I’ve seen mixed reactions from Marines, with some pointing to it as a sign that the Marine Corps is going soft. In reality though, nothing new is depicted in the recruiting campaign. Marines have always stood ready to do whatever the Nation requires of us and to do it better than anyone else. Destroying the enemy in battle is, as General Mattis tells us, all in good fun. But that is only one part of the service we provide.

The idea that the Marine Corps is the “Nation’s 911 force” derives from the fact that the Marine Corps has a unique Title 10 responsibility. Section 5063 of Title 10 US Code outlines the responsibilities of the Marine Corps. The law states that the Marine Corps “shall perform such other duties as the President may direct.” Our purview, by law, is not solely to fight the nation’s enemies but is to be prepared for any contingency. As much as we Marines revel in our warfighting ability, we must remember that it is not our sole purpose.

A Marine in Vietnam carries children out of danger.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

PFT and CFT Scores Not Only For Promotion

PFT and CFT scores are an indicator of a Marines physical fitness. These scores can show where a Marine needs improvement such as in upper body strength (low pull ups or ammo can presses) or aerobic endurance (slow 3 mile run).

After collecting these scores unit leaders can design physical training programs to improve these deficiencies. During the physical training program Marines should run a PFT and CFT.

The unit leader can compare the before and after scores to see how his Marines are improving. The idea is to constantly be getting stronger and improving physical fitness.