30 January 2014


by Andy Weddington
Thursday, 30 January 2014

Hazing has no place in Marine Corps recruit training. 

Last week several readers sent along an article about "arrogant" drill instructors (DIs) at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, South Carolina. I've been mulling it over. 

An incident cited - a sergeant DI not satisfied with performance herded the platoon into the showers for incentive physical training and poured bleach down drains to enhance the punishment. The DI's "training" method violated the letter and spirit of standard operating procedures (recruit training SOP). 

What I, and others (DIs and officers) with whom I served alongside in the Parris Island training regiment, saw during a reunion visit July, 2012 was bothersome thus the incident does not come as a surprise. 

As I wrote those readers (who sent the article) recently, NCOs and SNCOs - the best in the Corps screened and selected to attend DI School and who successfully graduate for follow-on assignment to a training platoon - do not arrive with a mindset of arrogance. To the contrary, they report for duty - if anything confident but somewhat humble (not all will make the cut). They learn their trade in a demanding school - young men and women, Marines, soon to hold practically absolute power over (their) recruits. 

So it is in the training arena where the virus of arrogance ever lives. Its nemesis is supervision - strong SNCO (first sergeant and sergeant major) and most assuredly officer supervision.

Supervision, especially by officers - lieutenant through general, has a proven history in Marine Corps recruit training as a necessary and successful, albeit not perfect, deterrent to recruit abuse. 

Fact is officer supervision has been minimized. DIs, rank and experience notwithstanding, charged with assuming the supervisory role of officers is not the same as officer supervision. In the eyes of a recruit, a DI is a DI. 

One DI (at one depot) herding recruits into the head as punishment - hazing it is and it's counterproductive to tough training; building trust and confidence in subordinates (and leaders); teamwork; and Semper Fidelis - is not an isolated incident. Rather it's an indicator something is amiss in the arena. And arrogance breeds arrogance.

But it's arrogance of a higher level - upon the shoulders of senior Marines - that's the greater problem. For failing to understand the problem and orchestrate the culture that gives rise to arrogance there will be no remedy. 

(My question is) where are the generals, still on active duty, that were series officers and company commanders 30+ years ago that know better? Where are they? Have any spoken up expressing concern about the lack of officer supervision? And advocated the known answer - officer leadership and supervision?

The acronym BAMCIS applies - the 'S' being supervision.

Remember that one, Marines?!

In closing, 

Plenty good is happening at Marine Corps recruit depots and at Officer Candidates School. But such is not the scope for today.

Today's focus is the preventable and comment intentionally short to encourage reading of the following link (long but necessarily so to address Corps history and the important Post Script) - written late July, 2012 following that reunion visit to Parris Island - that addresses similar concerns and expected incidents. 

Disaster looms. And when disaster occurs Congress will look back to the 1976 hearings of recruit abuse and promises made - mostly, increased officer supervision - by the commandant (and carried out by a future commandant). They, Congress, will not be amused nor understanding. Count on it. 

Post Script 

Looking back on a three-year assignment (series commander; company executive officer; battalion operations officer; training company commander) in Second Recruit Training Battalion (Parris Island) beginning 31 years ago, an "arrogant" DI does not come to mind. Never mind intolerant officers, the company first sergeants and sergeants major preempted such an attitude (much less actions).

Author's Endnote

B - Begin planning
A - Arrange recon
M - Make recon
C - Complete plan
I - Issue order
S - Supervise

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