Thursday, November 29, 2007

Commandant's White Letter No. 05-07

Click to enlarge and ignore that DEMOVERSION stuff, I was conducting an experiment that went awry.

What is it with Marine Corps generalship lately? The Commandant Gen Hagee gets briefed about Haditha and assumes the worse about Marines he has been around his whole life. He then runs around telling Marines not to be war criminals even though the "knows" we are under a ton of pressure and likely to crack any time. He was a Commandant only Jack Murtha could love. Good riddance to that perfumed prince.

Now we have Gen Conway, who wants to make his mark on the Marine Corps by foolishly buying hundreds of millions of dollars of equipment that we don’t need, notably the Mine Resistant Armored Personnel Carrier and the Osprey while shortchanging the things we do need, like a lethal pistol and good radios. Then, while the Marine Corps is currently short 1900 officers and is trying to plus up to 202,000 Marines total, the Commandant enacts a policy that will make it easy for commanders to cashier Marines who “present an unsuitable military appearance.” Sounds like a kind of a subjective reason to get rid of someone. Here is the kicker…he is not talking about a sloppy Marine, or one who is over weight, or one who can’t do his pull-ups…this is a separate measure. This allows a commander who looks at a Marine and doesn’t like the cut of his jib to give that Marine a discharge. So if a commander doesn’t like the way a Marine looks in uniform, chest too big, legs too skinny, too many tattoos, skin too dark…all are fit reasons to get rid of an otherwise objectively qualified Marine.

Have a Purple Heart? Bronze star? Commendable combat record? Not good enough if you run askance of the Commandant’s fashion police. Left an arm or eye in Falluja? All the other Marines in your unit have a full complement of those Marine, time for you to get out so you don’t spoil the uniformity of our ranks!

Does this sound like a policy that General concerned about the combat effectiveness of his Corps would enact? Or does it sound like the feeble policies of a perfumed prince more concerned about how his marionettes look than how his Corps fights?

James Webb, a man for whom I had a lot of respect until recently, wrote a searing novel, “Fields of Fire” about his time as a combat platoon commander. There is a passage where Webb describes a new platoon sergeant who comes on deck to assume his post with the platoon. This Staff Sergeant is more concerned with the appearance of the platoon than with their proficiency and Webb, though his alter ego, Lt Hodges, lets the Staff Sergeant have it.

'The Staff Sergeant said, “I’ve heard you’re a damn good Lieutenant, that you know your tactics and your supporting arms. And I intend to make this a platoon you can be proud of.”

“I’m already proud of it, Sarge. Hey.” Hodges shrugged helplessly, smiling in mild bewilderment. “I can handle all that.” The Staff Sergeant squinted at the heresy. “I’m just a damned civilian playing Marine for a couple of years because there’s a war. Know what I mean?” Hodges gestured out towards the lines. “So are they, a bunch of kids who got caught up in all this bullshit. They don’t know a request mast from a walk in the woods. The only dress parade they’ll be in was when they graduated boot camp.” Hodges grinned, pondering the Staff Sergeant’s overstuffed rucksack. “Don’t get me wrong. They know the bush, and they can buckle for your dust [to fight furiously – Ed.], Sarge. But don’t turn them all around with that stateside shit.”'

Hey Commandant, don’t turn them all around with your stateside shit.