Saturday, May 26, 2012

USMC Memorial Day Message from a Retired Marine

As this Memorial Day, honoring our veterans of every uniform, approaches, I want to share some thoughts and concerns about my Marine Corps today.  Yes, "my" Marine Corps, for like many I invested my life in it, and friends of mine died in that uniform so I, and others, would have a right to our say.
The point of my concern this day is Marine Corps leadership.
A news story dated May 24, 2012, and headlined "General restricts war zone photography," carried this information: "Rank-and-file personnel assigned to Regional Command Southwest, headquartered here in Helmand province, have been ordered to take photographs only for official purposes while outside the wire, said Maj. Gen. Charles Gurganus, head of I Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward). Recreational souvenir photographs — “happy snaps,” as Gurganus called them — should only be taken on bases in-between missions, he said.
My point of concern, about this issue, is that I believe Marine Corps leadership has missed a step.  The time to nip in the bud those unauthorized and embarrassing photographs and videotapes is before Marines get on the field of battle.  United commanding officers, Sergeants Major, and First Sergeants, right on down to the lowly Corporal commanding a Fire Team, are all quite capable of saying, "If you take photos or videos that embarrass the command or the Marine Corps or yourself, I'll have your ass!", and making it stick.  Leadership in the Marine Corps has never been about rules and regulations.  It's about getting Marines to do what you want them to do, from the point of leadership.
Along those lines, this is all leading up sharing the words of a retired Marine Corps Colonel, whose permission to share I have not asked, so he will remain nameless. Writing about our current leadership miscues in the Marine Corps, the Colonel addresses, specifically, an ALMAR (message from CMC, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, to all Marines) relative to the issue of homosexuality in the military and the absence of the previous "Don't Ask Don't Tell" dictum.  He writes:
" I read the CMC's comments with stunned disbelief. As a platoon commander the problems he outlines (the SS emblem with the Snipers and the urinating on the dead Taliban) would have made for an easy day. Marine Snipers have used the SS emblem for over 40 years. The SS had it for less than 10 and had no copyright on it. We won, we took it, and we made it our own. End of message. As for the dumbshits who photgraphed themselves pissing on the
 Taliban. CMC comment should have been: "I am aware, and we don't condone this behavior. Their chain of command will deal with their lack of judgment. This incident not withstanding, I want to reinforce that Marine behavior on a very tough battlefield has been uniformly remarkable fortheir honor and compassion. It is not something I can say for the foul deeds our
 enemies perpetrate every single day. Frankly there is no comparison byany rational measure. Next question."
The phrase once familiar to all Marines was "Shape up or ship out," a command level way of saying what was commanded in the ranks: "Do your duty or I'll have your ass!"
I echo the Colonel's words.  Wish I had said them.
I don't understand why, but leadership, the hallmark of Marine Corps discipline, seems to have taken a backseat to CYA in some quarters.  I say I don't understand it because it was alive and well when I retired in 1986. Marines took care of one another, but a Corporal on duty still had no friends. The Corps will bounce back.  America still breeds fighting men.  But those who would harm our nation know full well they must cut the ground out from under fighting Marines, and that effort seem to be coming from some strange quarters.  The Corps' ace in the hole are the Marines like those who have already served, and are now threaded throughout nation.  Neither America nor the Corps' older Marines will see the Corps destroyed, because so long as there is a Marine Corps, there will be an America. 
May God richly bless, on this Memorial Day weekend, all those who have served in the uniform of their nation, and all those within their military families. 
For they also serve who stand and wait.  So yes, God bless our United States Military Forces, and God bless America.
-- Ed Evans, MGySgt. of Marines, USMC (Ret.)