07 January 2017


by Andy Weddington 
Saturday, 07 January 2017

A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.  John C. Maxwell

This week the public learned more particulars still about recruit abuse at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island (South Carolina).

What I read, sickening. 

Come July, it will be five years since I wrote, based on troubling observations during visits to Parris Island, the following ...

"In closing ...

To address all particulars of the incidents cited and issues, including philosophical, regarding recruit abuse in general, and corrective actions taken, in brief commentary is impossible. But the essence is here with the conclusion it's a bit puzzling why supervision in recruit training has seemingly taken a step backward. If that perception is reality, and any argument to the contrary would sure be interesting, then follows the thought is the environment ripe for another ugly incident of recruit abuse? And might Generals Wilson and Barrow, though at eternal rest, be troubled and disappointed their Corps did not remain true to their efforts and commitments?

That said, Marines, keeping with tradition, continue to perform admirably on battlefields and elsewhere so there's no question all that's going right with recruit training easily trumps the times things go awry. Dedicated drill instructors and officers deserve the credit. Yet, let's not forget Ribbon Creek and recruits McClure and Hiscock and others are embarrassing institutional facial scars. Like it or not, they are resistant to makeup and will endure. They are reminders. Necessary reminders. And so are reminders the men who handled those problems and implemented measures to preclude them from happening again. 

As such, today's leaders must not be absent-minded nor off-handed to dismiss practices implemented to address the not-so-long-ago unflattering past. For it'll take only one terrible incident to open all the old scars. And if generals ever again have to face Congress regarding a horrible case of recruit abuse, their explanations, whatever the extenuating and mitigating circumstances, and remedies proffered, however compelling and passionate, may not again fall upon sympathetic ears. The outcome could very well be fatal. I know many Marines, me included, who hope to not bear witness."
Full commentary: http://acoloneloftruth.blogspot.com/2012/07/marine-corps-recruit-training-and.html

Well, it - terrible incident(s) - happened again! 

And surprised me not.

For many months now, Marine Corps leadership has been taking measures to correct what should not have required correcting in the first place.

So it is. 

One of those measures, a key one, is increasing officer supervision of drill instructors. 

Specifically, sending more company grade officers, lieutenants, to both recruit depots for duty at the series/company level.

Simply, the needs of the Marine Corps trumps all else. It's always been that way. Personal desires, of any Marine, for plum assignment subordinate.

A few days ago a retired Marine pal (who did not serve in recruit training) asked if I'd offer some perspective about duty in recruit training to a young officer he knows amidst considering orders to Parris Island.

I wrote the lieutenant a short note enthusiastically endorsing the duty.  

He wrote a shorter note, of thanks, back. 

But a comment bothered me. 

Aware, of course, of the recent troubles in recruit training, he wrote, "... peers are skeptical about volunteering."

For a couple days now I've been mulling that over.

To that lieutenant, to every Marine Corps officer, I say ...

There's not a better time to be part of making Marines. That it has, yet again, taken ugliness (malicious recruit abuse) and tragedy (senseless death) to get the attention of general officers is bewildering. But such as things are correction is underway.

Why would you not want to be part of making, supervising the making of, the very men and women you lead?

To not, to even hesitate, makes no sense to me. 

When any team, outfit, or organization struggles, they look to and for their best - to selflessly step forward. That's the way it works in Marine units - operating forces or not. Fear of unknowns a given. You face and conquer them. That's what Marines do. That's what Marines who lead Marines do. 

Two questions ...

1) If not willing to confidently and boldly take that step forward - volunteer - then can you consider yourself the best?
2) Following, does the Marine Corps need your services any longer?

Why there's not reports of the commandant being overrun with volunteers for duty at the recruit depots bothers me every bit as much, if not more so, as the incidents of abuse. And that should be bothering the commandant, too.

Perhaps there's a bigger problem. 

Needs of the Marine Corps. 

Where are the best?

In closing,

A second cousin graduates from Parris Island in less than three weeks. One day I will ask (probing) questions about his depot experiences - that only someone intimately familiar with recruit training would know how to pose. 

Good or not, generals will hear about it.  

Semper Fidelis.

Post Script

Three consecutive commanding generals at Parris Island could not find a few minutes on their schedule to afford a fellow Marine (with recruit training experience) and me time to offer some observations and concerns. That, too, an indicator of a problematic culture the commandant must address. The current commanding general a breath of fresh air - he made time and listened. And has turned to straightening out what went awry.  

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