Monday, November 8, 2010


The Marine Corps is great at Hype. The Few, The Proud, The Marines.

The commercials and recruiting posters are all designed to create and reinforce the belief that the Marines are special and separate from the other armed services - a cut above the rest. We climb cliffs without support gear, march in Dress Blues with WWII rifles, and fight Lava Monsters with swords.

We are separate and different from the other services, I know that and so do my fellow Marines and the other services.

We are in that time of year, The Birthday Ball, where Marines around the world come together to celebrate our creation in a tavern. For Iwakuni, we hold our Ball in the gym. It is a far cry from the Gaylord Hotel just south of DC where the Commandant's Birthday Ball has been held. We make due. In fact the front entrance of the gym has been fitted with a faux Tun Tavern. Other Marines are in Afghanistan with MREs and dust.

I think what is most important are the preparations within the gym. Every community board has been covered with some quote someone has said about the Marine Corps throughout history. Each quote is a reinforcement of our initial indoctrination.

"The Marine Corps is special. It is better. It is unique. We are Marines!"

All of our history lessons are Marine successes and how the Marine Corps saved this or that battle. We create a mythological Corps that has never done any wrong. This itself is a problem. We are oppressed by our history, sometimes. We rarely allow room for mistake, of any kind, from our officers or our enlisted. Some of this, too, is from the general shift in society--a non-military civilian populace looking to control the perceived excesses of the military probably based in large part on Vietnam.

I think another problem that our Hype creates is an attraction to a certain of person. A person attracted to Action - the unthinking desire to just Do. This is probably part of why we have the highest court-martial rate of the five services and one of the higher vehicle/motorcycle/drinking death rates. Thrill-seekers and adrenaline junkies are our bread and butter, and not overly inclined to rigid discipline. Most work through this phase in their first tour and either become Marine leaders or productive members of civilian society.

The Marine Corps spends plenty of time trying, almost in vain it seems, to negate this unthinking desire to just act. We give countless briefs on drinking, driving, abuse, and generally "don't be a jackass". I probably sit through at least one a month. It is part of the Modern Day Marine Society - the Safety Stand-down Brief. On top of that, a large percent of Marine Corps training goes to being a thinking Marine.

I do not think it is a bad thing to attract such people drawn to Action. We need them. They are the men and women we want on that wall, we need them on that wall. And, Yes, I'm paraphrasing Jack Nicholson. They are the ones that will shoot back at our enemies before thinking.

We need to make sure that the Hype reinforces itself by highlighting the men and women that stood up in a hail of fire and took that hill. We need to reinforce the Hype to make sure that the current men and women know that others have done it and, perhaps, each of us can do it - that each of us can be a cut above the rest, that we are United States Marines.

Our Hype is a double-edged sword - both publicity and discipline. We attract people drawn to danger and we discipline them when they act recklessly.