29 July 2015


by Andy Weddington
Wednesday, 29 July 2015

"All faults may be forgiven of him who has perfect candor." 
Walt Whitman

Fictional non-fiction...

General, you are seated before the Senate Armed Services Committee today because the President of the United States has nominated you to be the next Commandant of the Marine Corps.

To carry out the business of this committee and the serious business of our country for the citizenry that elected us to office, each Senator has questions for you. 

We, General, are the politicians, not you. Thus we expect truthful and candid answers from you based on your wealth of military education and experience. 

Cautious, incomplete, and evasive answers with thoughts of assuring your confirmation will not be helpful to you nor us. 

So, do not speak as to what you think we want to hear rather what we must hear in the best interest of our country's national security. 

So we begin...

Senator: "General, what is your opinion of ISIS and what do we do about them?"

General: "ISIS is an enemy that must be destroyed. Beyond the death, destruction, and havoc they are causing to our interests in the Middle East, they vowed to come to the United States to kill our citizens - specifically, military personnel and their families. They have done that and we must assume there are more enemy likewise plotting. What to do about them? The Marine Corps is the world's premier fighting force. We have three MEFs (Marine Expeditionary Force). A MEF goes where it wants and does what it wants. In concert with warfighting capabilities from the other services (and allies), and provided unconstrained rules of engagement, we can resolve the ISIS problem. That is, we can destroy them and do so in terms of weeks not months and years." 

Senator: "General what is your feeling about women in ground combat?"

General: "I am fully aware of the efforts to integrate women into all ground combat MOSs. I think it's a mistake. And a mistake prime for disaster. We have been conducting extensive field testing and just completed a comprehensive 9 month exercise/experiment. Data is still being analyzed. However, I can still address the question. For example, over the course of more than two years 29 women Marine officers have attempted the Infantry Officer Course. They failed. But so did many men. Ground combat, especially the infantry, is physically demanding. It is mentally demanding. Those Marines who lead infantry platoons must be the absolute best. Yes, some enlisted women have completed basic infantry training. But let me be clear,  there is a difference between being a member of an infantry platoon and leading that infantry platoon. The requirements for that out-front leadership have been developed from and through battlefield experiences. Even still we cannot completely replicate the rigors and horrors of ground combat. As combat readiness is my foremost concern, I am not an advocate of women serving in ground combat and will ask for exemptions to the more demanding MOSs - infantry; artillery; tanks; tracks; engineers; etc."

Senator: "General, sexual harassment and sexual assaults continue. What plans do you have to continue addressing the problem?"

General: "First, the problem is not ever going to go away. So, how do we address it? Today we're on it. The topic (and let's be clear we are not just speaking of men assaulting women but women assaulting men; men assaulting men; and women assaulting women) is integrated into entry-level; formal; and annual training for all Marines. Further, leadership at all levels - from fire team to MEF commander to the commandant - are tuned in and intolerant so it's taken seriously and addressed immediately. As you know, we are moving to make all Marines look similar when in uniform. Uniform blouses and covers for women are more in line with the cut of males. But I do not think that is enough. We must have a single grooming standard for all Marines. Perhaps that entails one hair regulation; no cosmetics whatsoever; no perfumes nor colognes; limited jewelry (wedding bands and wristwatches); etc., while in uniform. These measures alone will not eliminate Nature's dynamics but they will indeed help focus on mutual respect between Marines."

Senator: "General, we still have a significant number of military personnel - currently serving and veterans - committing suicide. What plans do you have to help identify those who need help and get them that help before they act in haste and desperation?"

General: "My belief is engagement by the first line of leadership (whether that's a fire team leader; squad leader; platoon commander; or wing commander) is critical. It is imperative leaders know their people; know what is going on in their lives; that they (leaders) have the absolute trust and confidence of their subordinates to come to them with anything; and leaders must be trained on what signs to be alert to that one of their Marines is struggling. Immediately reporting even the slightest suspicions that something is not quite right up the chain of command so that prevention programs can engage I believe will save lives."

Senator: "General, four Marines and a Sailor were recently attacked and killed by an enemy (terrorist) at their place of duty - A Navy Operational Support Center/Marine Corps Reserve Center. What force protections measures failed? What force protection measures must be implemented? And do we arm these personnel?"

General: "Our Marines and Sailor were murdered because they were an easy target. I don't know that I can say there were any strong force protections measures in place and that is a failure of our senior leadership. What we will not do is cower before our enemy(s). What we can do now is harden physical structures with restricted visibility bulletproof glass, metal doors, and stronger locks. We can also make access to facilities more difficult - a manned (armed) gate, for example, at sites where that makes sense. Yes, we should arm - perhaps not every single Marine and Sailor at all sites but designated personnel daily who are armed and their primary mission that day is akin to carrying out the 11 General Orders and any special instructions of duty with authority to use deadly force while protecting life and government property."

Senator: "As to the size of the Marine Corps, how many Marines are needed to carry out today's missions?" 

General: "I am aware of sequestration etc., and do not concern myself with the politics. To your question, 190,000 Marines. And I can provide the committee a detailed force structure justifying every single Marine." 

And on should go the questions and answers. 

In conclusion...

Senator: "Thank you, General, for your decades of selfless service and sacrifices. And we thank your family, too. Finally, we appreciate your candor here today. You made yourself and positions perfectly clear. How refreshing." 

Semper Fidelis. 

Post Script

Were every Marine general officer nominated to be commandant so inclined to such directness, either the Marine Corps respected by all and feared by some would endure or be disbanded - with preservation preferred but disbandment tolerable. 

C'est la vie. 

Author's Endnote


Whom as 37th Commandant of the Marine Corps?

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