06 December 2015


by Andy Weddington
Sunday, 06 December 2015

"The real man smiles in trouble, gathers strength from distress, and grows brave by reflection." Thomas Paine

During the past week I've received notes from retired generals and flag officers about a recent MARADMIN (for the uninformed, a MARADMIN is written guidance to the force from Headquarters, Marine Corps, the commandant).

To that MARADMIN momentarily.

Now approaching 30 years ago I began duties as the Marine Officer Instructor (MOI) on the Naval ROTC staff at the University of Mississippi. My principle role was to help educate, train, and mold future Navy and Marine Corps officers. One aspect of the duties was teaching - courses included: The Evolution of Weapons and Warfare; The History of Amphibious Warfare; The Company Grade Officer; Leadership Lab (weekly); and Physical Training (three times weekly). And innumerable hours was spent on duty "counseling" and off-duty "mentoring" midshipmen - Navy option, Marine Option, and active duty Sailors and Marines working towards commission. 

Though fairly well versed in military history by no means an expert am I. Much of what I know through research and from teaching is now stored in deep recesses (brain cells and bookshelves) so oft times I have to again familiarize when writing about same.

After receiving the senior officer emails I revisited some of the books from which I taught. And did much reflecting, especially on my company grade days (that included those three years as the MOI at Ole Miss). In neither venue did I find anything germane to the content of the MARADMIN.

That MARADMIN - 598/15 dated 25 November 2015, issued in compliance with DoD guidance, addresses "Lean In Circles." 

What's a Lean In Circle? 

An extract from the MARADMIN...

"Lean In Circles are small peer groups who meet regularly to learn and grow together. Lean In Circles will enable both female and male Marines and civilian Marines to come together to share experiences and advice on overcoming challenges in the military and create a safe and confidential place to discuss gender issues. Female service members who participate in Lean In Circles report they feel more connected to the women and men in their units and are more comfortable talking openly about gender issues in the military."

In reply to one of the senior officers, I wrote...

"We already have Lean In Circles. Marines call them "fire teams" and "squads" and "platoons." They are led by corporals and sergeants and lieutenants and captains exercising our core values and leadership traits and principles. Staff NCOs and field grade officers offer guidance and sanity. General officers example - in thought, word, and deed (in theory). Chaplains complement. What do the pinheads in the White House and Pentagon not get about exemplary leadership?!" 

Another senior thought the MARADMIN was Duffelblog material (satire). I had to straighten that out. And in reply came remark it was so bizarre as to defy comment. 


As I reflect on being a young Marine, what was not accomplished as to training, team building, and camaraderie during formal classroom and rigorous physical training was tended to informally and sometimes at Happy Hour. Frankly, Happy Hour was the super glue. Yes we drank, and sometimes maybe one more adult beverage than necessary. But to dismiss what happened during those more light-hearted rallies of Marines who shared in and conquered hardship is foolishness.  

I am not one to discount the value of anything that strengthens the warrior bond. Lean In Circles, as described in the MARADMIN, sound more akin to what is going on today on college campuses and a compromise - to welcome women into what is a unique phenomenon in Nature; male bonding.  

No where in the history of what I researched nor taught was there mention of anything akin to Lean In Circles. Granted no where in that history was there inclusion of women in ground combat. That is another conversation (see Post Script). 

A reasonable person can only conclude that, contrary to goal, most probably these Lean In Circles are going to further complicate gender issues building relationships (but not of the healthy sort) between Marines.

My first thought after reading the MARADMIN?

So much for online dating websites and perfect for selling - Tupperware, Pampered Chef, and Snap-on Tools. (Pardon the cynicism but I too remember being in my late teens and twenties. And thirties and forties, for that matter.) 

And that first thought persists. 

So, back to the opening...

I smile. Continue to gather strength. And grow braver by the day.

Thank you, Thomas Paine, Sir! 

Post Script



Male bonding insight (and more)



Tom Hickinbotham said...

The following quote taken from the referenced MARADMIN should tell you all you need to know about this "new" concept:
"On 21 Sep 2015, Secretary of Defense (SECDEF) announced that the Department of Defense (DOD) is partnering with LeanIn.Org to launch Lean In Circles throughout the Department and all Military Branches. LeanIn.Org is a non-profit organization founded by Facebook Chief Operations Officer, Sheryl Sandberg."
1) It is top-down driven by SecDef. My guess is input from the Services was not solicited in advance of the decision.
2) The founder of this novel concept is the COO of Facebook. No doubt she has years of military experience/leadership to know such undertaking would be of great benefit to the Armed Forces (sarcasm intended).
As you say, Andy - Good Grief!!

Unknown said...

Good Lawd, and I had thought we had reached rock bottom when they started popping full birds for DUI and shoplifting. I see a disorganization not unlike the 1970's. I am not recommending any form of mutiny but I think some sort of push-back by all of the "stars" in the military would be in order. Obama is on his last legs. Why are the sycophants still in fear of this guy? Trump would have a field day with this. I hope it is widely publicized. I will be forwarding your article to everyone I know.