The future of the USMC: there’s a lot of ‘crushing’ coming

USMC EGA eagle globe and anchorWe’re not Marines so we will not have the take on this that other Marines past and present will.   These are the briefing slides the Commandant of the Marine Corps, James Amos, used recently at the Marine General Officers School. This is, then, the boss’s guidance to the next level of bosses.

We created this PDF from an original PPTX that we believe to be authentic. The PowerPoint was created by fast-tracked Harvard-grad-poster-child Marine Maj. Brandon Gregoire, currently at HQ, and last saved by a senior field grade officer that we have confirmed works in HQ Marine Corps Public Affairs.

The bottom line: a transformation from wartime Corps to peacetime Corps is coming; show is going to be elevated over go; examples are going to start being made.

The term Amos (or Gregoire and his other PR flacks) use is “reawakening.” Some variant of that appears several times in the presentation — in contrasting bold red type.

The reason? On Amos’s first substantive slide, he lays it out:

our institutional fabric is fraying…we need to take action today to fix it.

We have a behavioral problem within the Corps – a small, but not insignificant, number of our Marines are not living up to our ethos and core values.

Why, some of those no-goodniks are even reporting unlawful command influence to the IG! Burn ’em! The word “standards” in various forms comes up a half a dozen times, and the command emphasis is clear: you will meet the standards, or you will be, to use one of Gen. Amos’s favorite words, “crushed.”

The specific examples he cites are a mixed bag; some clearly refer to the courts martial he’s tried to prejudge, others respond to his civilian leaders’ bêtes noires, and others are just the metrics always used to bedevil peacetime officers: DUIs and personal appearance and grooming. On these metrics, which Amos proposes to elevate to the level of combat readiness as foci of command concern, “…we are faltering… we need immediate attention…” if the Corps is going to become a peacetime-focused force.

One is reminded of the Army’s recent crackdown on that threat to good order and discipline, the tattoo.

The means of so doing is a top-down reemphasis on discipline, using NCOs as the delivery vehicle.  In the “Immediate Changes” section of the presentation, a great focus in on tightening up conditions in Marine barracks. Those include:

  • single NCOs are going to be re-installed in barracks as enforcers of zero-tolerance this and that, which is essentially a large pay cut and duties increase for single servicemembers alone;
  • this will be counterbalanced somewhat by increasing the staff duty burden on officers and staff NCOs.
  • Two NCOs on duty in every barracks, in Class B or C uniform, with no TVs or other distractions.
  • A “firewatch” on every floor of every barracks. This is traditionally used as a hazing ritual in boot camp.
  • Surveillance cameras everywhere in the barracks. Who will monitor these eyes is not stated.

Marines, tell us. Are the barracks such a Roman holiday that all this is needed? How long has it been like that?

And, coming from an officer whose reputation is not having his subordinates’ backs, it looks like a lot of “catch-me, &%$-me” rules.

Some other requirements are less, well, Orwellian. For example, his demand that all officers and NCOs read two documents (Leading Marines [.pdf] and Sustaining the Transformation [.pdf]) is well in keeping with the service’s tradition of reading lists and general enthusiasm for books. If the MCRP 6-11 and 6-11d we’ve linked to are indeed the ones the Commandant means, they’re nothing new.

He wants units to be in a single barracks long-term, not the shuffle that has characterized the wars. This is what the units want, too.

And his hordes of duty officer and NCOs are going to be armed. In the light of the Navy Yard and Fort Hood massacres, somebody needed to do this. Very surprising it was Amos.

It does look like it’s going to suck to be a sergeant or company grade officer for the next few years. These things do run in cycles, and you are about to enter the peacetime, zero-defects, worry-wart cycle. This is self-correcting in that it produces decision-shy, paper-obsessed, combat-dysfunctional leaders who will have to be winnowed out next time the wheel turns back to war.

Anyway, here’s Commandant Amos’s presentation. Make of it what you will.

CMC opening at GOS – 23Sep13.pptx

5 thoughts on “The future of the USMC: there’s a lot of ‘crushing’ coming

  1. Aesop

    I can’t speak to current conditions, but I can state that this isn’t particularly earth-shattering from where I sit. By the numbers:

    single NCOs are going to be re-installed in barracks as enforcers of zero-tolerance this and that, which is essentially a large pay cut and duties increase for single servicemembers alone;
    I’d be curious to know when this ever stopped. I was both single and an NCO for virtually all of my terms of enlistment, and lived in squadbay-style barracks over 2/3s of that time. Even in the laid back 4-(3-,2-)man rooms, depending on rank, there were numerous single NCOs on hand. What there weren’t, were staff NCOs or officers, after hours, besides the OD at Bn. and occasionally making nightly rounds.
    this will be counterbalanced somewhat by increasing the staff duty burden on officers and staff NCOs.
    As chief enforcers of chickenshit since 1775, that’s their lot, along with their regular duties.
    Unless HQMC starts issuing “burn” quotas for NJPs and courts martial, in which case the self-evident counter-productivity of generating statistics of ill discipline in order to show improved discipline will dawn, probably after someone hits Amos in the head with a brick and not before. (Which they probably ought to do anyways, but i digress.)

    Two NCOs on duty in every barracks, in Class B or C uniform, with no TVs or other distractions.
    There had been Duty NCOs as the Co CO’s representative on every post throughout the Corps, in all probability back to 1775. The only change is making them wear service B or C uniforms, which is a PITA, esp. since frequently those personnel are expected to play in cammies during duty hours, and now will have to change into Charlies for turn and turn about watches with their Asst Duty NCO from 1600-0800, and all weekend. Like I said, simple chickenshit PITA, but not egregiously so.
    (For sport we used to put on serice Charlies and stand by the main roads with a hair dryer and piece of tinfoil over the pocket – looking suspiciouslybut wholly coincidentally like the Base MPs with radar guns!- to get speeders to slow down and/or scare the crap out of passersby, on really slow weekends between paydays.) And hey, they still pay some pittance of a uniform allowance, so it isn’t like they can’t tell you to wear your uniform, right?

    A “firewatch” on every floor of every barracks. This is traditionally used as a hazing ritual in boot camp.
    Actually, that was par for the course in the Fleet at large as well, in units billeted in open squadbays, as well as in all field exercises, and on ship, but it generally went away in garrison upon the transition to Motel 6-style 4-man rooms as unnecessarily stupid. Apparently, Amos has decided that no horizon of stupidity is unnecessarily crossed.

    Surveillance cameras everywhere in the barracks. Who will monitor these eyes is not stated.
    Like such cameras in Italian cities, they will be broken or stolen within weeks. Expect technical units to simply bridge the feeds with looped recordings of nothing going on.

    The disciplinary problems endemic to any peacetime force rarely, if ever, occur in the barracks area. They happen at the E-club, O-club, and in town, in about 99% of all cases going back to the French and Indian Wars, if not Caesar’s legions.

    So, like all good little Nazis Napoleons and lazy beat cops, Amos has clearly decided to look for problems under the streetlights rather than in dark alleys, not because he’s serious about rooting it out, but simply because the light there is better for looking. Inside every HQ @$$hle like Amos is a Clkipboard Weenie dying to get out, and the lack of interest in actually fighting what’s left of the war is allowing him the luxury to indulge his petty tyranny.

    If anyone from Bn to HQ levels wants to see if, and where, the serious problems are, they never look to 8th & I, they round up the SgtMajs over beers at the SNCO club, and get to the meat and potatoes in about 4 seconds. And the answer is never “increase the chickenshit”, it usually comes out as “NCOs and SNCOs, start leading your Marines and doing your effing jobs, or they’ll be serving your balls for breakfast at Captain’s Mast.”

    Other than a minor increase in the BS Factor, not much to see here.
    Except to confirm that Amos is still a tool, and has started to believe he’s Moses, if not Chesty Puller.

    But Arming the Duty NCOs? Well, what a concept.
    And only 30 years after the Beirut Barracks Bombing, too.

    One hopes the $#!^-for-brains folks in the chain of command will also issue ammunition, with further orders that it be chambered at all times.
    Ask the kid on picket duty at the Beirut gate one balmy night with the 22d MAU how much good that 30-round magazine did him in his cartridge belt.

    A Marine on duty has no friends, and there’s nothing quite like being locked and loaded to bring that point home to those who might have forgotten the finer points of which lines not to cross.

  2. Andy

    This to me sounds like some of it comes from the Boobama administration,maybe a little payback from the media calling him out for not saluting the Marine guard when he stepped off the chopper awhile back!It could also be a way for the administration to have an excuse to weed out Marines that they think would not go along with a government takeover,or Marines that won’t fire on citizens if ordered to!Be prepared and ready.Keep your powder dry.

  3. Semper Fi, 0321

    I got out of the Corps on Oct 5, 1976, having spent the last 30 days on Bn. guard duty as Sgt of the Guard with 2nd Recon Bn.
    I wore utilities every day I was on shift, armed with a .45 1911A1, and 3 loaded magazines. My duties were to see that all guards were posted and relieved every 4 hrs and midrats were served when needed. Posted colors, drove jeep and served as assistant to the OD, when we inspected posts during the night. We also walked thru the barracks and insured the Duty NCO’s were awake and performing their duties.
    I don’t know how they’re doing it today, but a ‘firewatch’ is the Duty NCO in every barracks, there is no need for 2 of them either. Utilities with Duty belt is enough.
    Surveillance cameras? NO! Big Brother is already too big into spying, we don’t need more. Where does it stop, a camera in every shitter too?
    TV room was a section of the barracks with couches where the off duty Marines could watch, quietly, until lights out at 10pm. That should not change, then they’ll go look for trouble, and as a means of revenge for not being trusted as adults. Many Marines are still juvenile bullies, and will react as such, it’s up to the units to weed out this kind of behavior. But, it’s also still the Corps, and tolerated by most.
    Make sure the NCO’s perform their duty, if not, give them a new set of L/CPL stripes and a broom.

    1. Hognose Post author

      So in some ways, Gen. Amos’s proposals (which he expects will be modified by the advice of the other USMC GO’s) represent a return to Old Corps — or at least an oldER Corps — standards. Interesting. That’s why we axed for Marine opinion.

      ETA: I don’t think he envisions taking TV and games out of the day room (army term) or TV room. Only out of the duty station of the firewatch or duty NCO. And he made it clear he doesn’t expect them to be sitting at a desk.

      I never cared much for staff duty, but it was usually a quiet night and a chance to get college classes or training subcourses knocked out. OF course, in SF we had few junior enlisted and so we tended to have few DUI/MP/outraged citizen incidents. (What happened to an NCO, or God help him, an officer, when we did, usually had a profound deterrent effect). The one thing our guys got a pass on was sleeping with the chicks from the MI school. Their command would throw the book at the poor gals, and be furious that we’d shrug it off.

  4. GunnyG

    Some of this is simply a return to the old days, like standing DNCO in a room with NO TV (although in cammies), armed with a .45, and making rounds every two hours and NO SLEEPING. If you had a decent Gunny, you got a half day the next day. I lived in the barracks until I was married, a Sgt in a room with another Sgt, Cpls were 3-4 to a room, and non-rates 4 to a room. No one bitched much as we always had buds to hang out with. Firewatch? Had to do it in every open squad bay I lived in. I draw the lines at surveillance cameras. That comes from Obama and his Big Brother complex.

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