by Andy Weddington
Wednesday, 08 June 2016
These recruits are entrusted to my care... opening of the DI Pledge
Less than 15 minutes ago and for the second day in a row an email came with news about another senior "leader" at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island being relieved of duty.
The regimental sergeant major, the senior enlisted Marine/Drill Instructor, in the Recruit Training Regiment is done.
Yesterday the news was the commanding officer of the regiment, a colonel, was relieved.
These reliefs coming post investigation of a recruit believed to have committed suicide less than two weeks after arriving aboard the depot.
To the sergeant major and colonel add two battalion commanders in the regiment relieved during the past year.
Who knows the number of junior officers and drill instructors relieved and disciplined or punished.
There's a problem at Parris Island.
A big problem.
And that problem is not complicated.
It is lack of supervision. (Marines instantly think BAMCIS and the all-important S(upervision))
And that supervision starts at the Depot Headquarters - with the commanding general.
Why has he not been relieved?
Will he be promoted?
Forty years ago, amidst intense Congressional hearings about recruit abuse, the commandant (General Louis H. Wilson, Jr., USMC) pledged increased officer supervision - from general officer to lieutenant - at the recruit depots. In short, he doubled the officers. Most important was two generals - a two-star (major general) in command and one-star (brigadier) deputy - with one ordered to always be aboard the depot.
Only General Wilson's strength of personality and credibility, and like traits in another general officer or two, saved the Marine Corps. Their compelling argument being without recruit training there could not be a Marine Corps.
To that (fact), no argument.
I lived those supervisory changes at Parris Island - for three years in the regiment. Through the years my respect for that model has only matured.
A few years ago I read every single word of transcription (two thick 3-ring binders of riveting non-fiction) of those 1976 hearings.
At times, it was difficult reading. Disheartening - for what had been done to recruits.
During the past decade I've returned to Parris Island several times for reunions. Though not much has changed as to how recruits are trained (improved in some respects), what caught my (and my Marine mates) attention was fewer officers at the company level and a brand new brigadier general (not a seasoned major general) in command.
Alarming was drill instructors carrying out supervisory duties entrusted only to officers (as vowed by General Wilson in his testimony) so done by me and my peers.
No matter how good the drill instructor (Marines I hold in high regard), he or she is a trainer who wears a hat and belt. They are not officers. Officers supervise drill instructors. And in the eyes of a recruit a drill instructor is a drill instructor (not a supervisor).
For some years now I've been writing about these observations and signaling, to anyone who'd listen, disaster looms. It's been like talking to a wall.
Well the disaster is here and such as times are the perfect storm for the antagonists to attack the Marine Corps.
Will Congress again take interest in what's going on in recruit training?
If a congressman, I'd be interested and inclined to not be so understanding - for the Marine Corps has brought this mess upon itself. General officers are responsible.
Should Congress convene hearings, the commandant better have a damn good case.
Frankly, I can't think of one and keep a poker face.
The author served in Second Recruit Training Battalion, Recruit Training Regiment, Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island 1983-1986 - F Company series commander and executive officer; Battalion operations officer; D Company Commanding Officer.
I recommend 'Pride And Discipline - The Hallmarks of a United States Marine' by Colonel Donald J. Myers, USMC
This superb little book about recruit training written by the late Colonel Myers - who commanded the Recruit Training Regiment at Parris Island during my days and later in life became a friend. He knew recruit training - having graduated in the early 50s and returned as a colonel. For his book he asked me and another Marine (who's history is close to those 1976 hearings) to write a Foreword. Honored, we did. Colonel Myers' book should be required reading for anyone assigned to work in recruit training.