WHAT IN TARNATION IS THE COMMANDANT OF THE MARINE CORPS THINKING?
By Andy Weddington
Saturday, 12 September 2020
Integrity is telling myself the truth. And honesty is telling the truth to other people. Spencer Johnson
Marines - some brilliant, some brawny, some both - made me (ever questioning own brains and brawn) a better Marine.
Whether realized or not, I think of them every single day.
My god, how fortunate to serve alongside them - without peer!
I was especially fond of Marines who spoke their mind, because I was one of them.
Subordinate, peer, or senior mattered not - I was polite, always respectful, but blunt as to preclude any misunderstanding whatsoever to doing what was right; per integrity, courage, Semper Fidelis, too.
Undoubtedly, there were Marines, subordinate, peer, senior alike, who did not appreciate my candor but could not credibly argue against logic and, most importantly, right. Sometimes right is uncomfortable. Sometimes painful. Never harmful.
To any suffering (I) incurred, I do not know.
But sleep always came easy.
Now, to the matter at hand, the thinking of our commandant.
A polite, respectful, but blunt solicited (as noted in public articles on topic) comment.
I have read Force Design 2030 - the commandant's (General David Berger, USMC) force to defeat emerging aggressive threats. With digesting come headaches and heartaches.
Too, I have heard General Berger discuss and answer questions about Force Design 2030 during radio interview. He is passionate and eloquent. Salesmanship matters (ask any successful salesman closing a deal on train cars of new and improved snow to Eskimos in the dead of winter [snowflakes, not meant as ethnic slight]).
And I have read - from exceptionally thoughtful objective painstaking detailed analysis by Marines blessed intellectuals to emotionally charged colorful tirades from juniors to seniors that would make any salty Marine momentarily blush - Marines et al., response to Force Design 2030.
Last week another article and the author stated our commandant needed and was soliciting help from the field.
Still feeling sense of duty, despite being swamped with life and taxing family obligations atop everything else any Marine retiree enjoys, I started thinking more about it.
My macro understanding is Force Design 2030's objective is to remake the Marine Corps into a smaller, leaner, more lethal warfighting outfit. That is, less Marines; less heavy combat power (e.g., tanks already deactivated with some arty and aircraft to follow); dispersed, lighter, mobile units; and more females in ground combat arms (e.g., per a recent "recruiting" ALMAR) providing more lethality.
If that summary is incorrect Marines will set me straight.
And the last part of the summary, the females, is the 'what in tarnation is the commandant of the Marine Corps thinking?'
Commandants 26 and 27 - General Louis H. Wilson, Jr. and General Robert H. Barrow - veterans of multiple wars including hand-to-hand combat shared strong sentiments about women in combat.
General Barrow, during sworn testimony about women in combat before the Senate Armed Services Committee in June 1991 (8 years after he retired), said with a balance of disgust and sarcasm (though not insulting), "If you want to make a combat unit ineffective, assign some women to it."
And General Barrow went on, drawing from personal experiences, to make his compelling case.
Yesterday I started reading 'Archie Smallwood and the Marine Raiders' by Verle E. Ludwig.
Regrettably, Verle, a resident of 29 Palms, California died two years before I reported to the Combat Center for duty.
But I met and befriended his late widow, GeneCarolyn. Gene, 35+ years my senior, was a friend and my informal date (because my wife was deployed to Afghanistan) to the 2012 Marine Corps Birthday Ball aboard the Combat Center, 29 Palms. She was a lot of fun!
Verle was a Marine infantryman. He commanded rifle units in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. That is, he saw plenty of combat.
This morning a sentence on page 50 - germane to the present - stopped me cold.
The timeframe is post World War I, the Marines victorious at Belleau Wood, and Grandmother Smallwood, with young lad in tow, in Paris is schooling a foul-mouthed U. S. Army captain, readying to lead an artillery battery in a parade, for his gratuitous profanity and disparaging comments about Marines ...
" ... If there is a requirement, sir, to be a bear, then you had better be a grizzly. What the Marines said to the Germans sir - and with fearful loss of life and limb - was: 'Your attack stops here.' Only the infantry can't pass the buck, because there is no place else for it to go. The infantry always has to say: 'The buck stops here.' You'd do well to remember that captain."
I served with many a fine female Marine. Superb Marines. But nary a one a grizzly.
As General Berger came to Force Design 2030 in part by way of wargaming, has he not duty to reveal the wargaming (and whatever algorithms) that foretells how gender integrated entry-level training to the platoon level and more women in ground combat units, notably infantry, will strengthen combat effectiveness and efficiency in a smaller, leaner force?
Especially since a nearly year long field study (not quite exhaustive for not assessing all-female units) conducted a handful of years ago, proved degradation of combat capabilities.
To close, going back to being polite but blunt, and respectful, whatever politics be damned and moot, with integrity, courage, and Semper Fidelis weighing heavy on mind, for our Commandant ...
"General Berger, sir, truthfully, what in tarnation are you thinking?
Considering a combat unit ought to be the baddest thing roaming Mother Earth, respected by friends while terrifying to foes, for maximizing odds of mission success and survival ...
How do you suppose your sales pitch for Force Design 2030, that gender integrated training, and more women in ground combat units would go, face-to-face, with Major General George Barnett, 12th Commandant (World War I), and General Wilson and General Barrow, and Verle Ludwig and Grandmother Smallwood (mother of Archie, a Marine)?"
Of course, all said presumes the requirement for warfighting is still a bear - grizzly; not koala, panda, nor teddy.