Monday, November 26, 2007

Weakness of Enlisted Leadership (USMC) [long post]

It is the Non-Commissioned Officers(NCO) which are the backbone of the military.
When Marine officers and Staff Non-Commissioned Officers (SNCO) were all killed during the Battle of Chapultepec, it was the NCOs who led the charge getting the Marines to the Halls of Montezuma. It is the NCO who carries out the orders and makes sure that the Marines are capable of completing their mission. Yet how are these NCO's chosen; how are they promoted through the enlisted to move up in rank?

The U.S. Marines pride themselves in their physical attributions that stand out above the other branches of the United States military, but a major flaw within the Marines is their promotion system to become a NCO.

I will save you the trouble of reading the whole thing. I conclude that the promotion system promotes people who do not have leadership skills which does not ready the Marines for battle, but in fact depreciates the Marines ability to do their best.

The Marines are promoted through a point system. This is the Marine way of knowing when a Lance Corporal (LCPL) is ready to be promoted to Corporal. This is the method of creating a leader for the troops who is able to make a decision through tough times.
Naturally, we must assume that the points must be given by certain accomplishments which are:
  • Physical Fitness Test
  • Proficiency and Conduct Marks
  • Self Educated Bonus [Marine Corp Insititute (MCI's), College Classes, Etc]
  • Time in Grade as a LCPL, Time in Service
  • Rifle Marksman Score
  • Recruitment Bonuses
  • Drill Instructor, Recruiter, Marine Security Guard

The Command then has the duty of assigning a score to be met for different jobs or Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) due to the amount of enlisted in each rank.
The point system does not promote due to a Marine's leadership skills or for a Marine's productivity.

Throughout the private sector, individuals receive in an increase in their wage according to their productivity. Yet in the military, marines only receive a wage increase according to their grade, and wage level determined by time in service. At times, the government may increase the Marine's wages.

In the Marines, there is no incentive for a Marine to be a leader. To be promoted they want an individual who is fit. Physical Fitness does not dictate strong leadership otherwise why not have the Strongest Man as our President. Even in sports, the coaches lead while the individuals who are stronger physically are the players following the coaches instruction.
Rifle Marksmanship has a strong attachment to the Marines as Marines are first Riflemen, yet if a Marine has the best shot, wouldn't we wish to have him to where he is most useful; firing his weapon? A great shot does not dictate strong leadership skills.
Proficiency and Conduct marks are the closest that the military constructed to annotate a Marines productivity yet these Pros and Con marks are dictated by the NCO's above the Marines. Therefore the Marine's productivity is accountable to the perception of the NCO's above him, there is no system provided to show the impact of the Marine. This an important problem since it allows the NCO's to promote friends or Marines they like more than others easier without any penalty of not promoting the Marine who deserves it.
Recruitment points, well, this speaks for itself. Does an individual who can bring more individuals into the service prove he has the leadership skills needed to make decisions during a period of high stress?

What does this tell us? That the backbone of the Marine Corp is filled with many individuals who do not have the capability to lead the junior Marines through tough times. This is not to say that there are not great NCOs serving now in the Marine Corp, but rather the amount of poor NCO's is vastly greater than great NCOs.

A quick look for proof, while serving in Iraq I was a Corporal under a Sergeant. The desert allows one to see the weather coming from miles away. The Sergeant who was promoted meritoriously, meaning given rank for certain accomplishments (in this case, driving a Colonel and barracks manager), wanted to keep the sides of a tent rolled up rather than down during a sandstorm allowing for the Marines living in the tent to have their positions (weapons included) filled with sand. The Sergeant gives a great demonstration of the poor leadership skills of a Non Commissioned Officer who does not have the leadership capabilities to accomplish the mission under stress. Get back to driving Miss Daisy, Sergeant.


Anonymous said...

Not bad, but i can't say i agree. Although the composite score system is not the greatest, the leadership fundumentals are their, just not as visable. Fitness is not very important in it self, but a Marine with a high PFT score demonstrates a certain level of dedication and initiative because he put some time in geting that score. A high rifle score demonstrates a level of discipline, since you know you cant go out there and just fire your weapon like nothing. And the idea of PROs and CONs is not the greatest, but you need to be doing something very well if you get high marks since the NCO above you is not the only one that looks at them. Although you and i know that some non deserving Marines get promoted, this system is not all that bad. And it was not created to determine who is ready to lead Marines for combat, that is what Cpl's course, Sgt's course and the Mentorship program is for. It all depends of what type of unit you go to, and who your leadership is. Sometimes you do get that 10 percent, but you learn from their stupidity and move on. I've only been in for one term, but you do see who the good leaders are, and if your a good Marine, you imulate them.
Oh, by the way, I can't spell very well. I'm not a writer, but i can lead a squad to hell and back with no prisoners. Just sending my thoughts


Ian Dunois said...

Thanks for your thoughts...
There are always a few good men (to use the term).

The best Marines I had met were part of I MEF. The command seemed to actually care for the marines unlike in other groups and squadrons I had worked with. I would have stayed in the Corp if they had been willing to give me a few things, but that is a different story.

In the end, I found that Gersham's Law applies in the service as well as in money. Gersham's Law simply states that the bad pushes out the good. It seems the best Marines end up leaving. Think of the story of Gunny Hatchcock, told to be the greatest Marine sniper, yet he was forced to retire due to medical disability falling him short by a few months of the 20 year retirement mark.

Love the Marine Corp, but for it to get better I think a lot of changing needs to be done. For one, privatize it so Marines have the gear they need. How will privatizing the Corp help get more gear? Private military would be paid for their services which would then allow for them to afford a certain amount towards paying Marines and their equipment. Can't have a large Marine Corp, but then the Corp is the smallest of the branches.
Sad to say but I drove into Iraq with a vehicle that would die every ten minutes. We would have to slave it(jump it). Makes for a good story now, but for Marines entering into war it is something that should not have to be dealt with.

Glad to know someone can lead a squad though. Keep up the good work Sgt! Stay alert and stay alive. And above all, Tu no cedes malis (NEVER GIVE INTO EVIL)

Anonymous said...


I read through this. While I agree with SGT/USMC that fitness and rifle marksmanship demonstrate discipline, one thing that never seemed to be taken into account when I was enlisted is IMPROVEMENT. Sure, maybe I'm only a marksman, but maybe I've shown improvement in my score. Maybe I'm not a perfect PFT, but maybe I've maintained a decent first class PFT for my whole career -- that consistency shows commitment. Also take for example a Marine who improves 25 points or a Marine with a 300 who helps others improve vs. a guy who always gets a 300 and hasn't shown any leadership by helping anyone else work toward a perfect score.

Additionally, my experience has been that PFT and rifle score get rated twice in the composite score calculation -- one in the score, and one in the PRO/CON section when the NCO rating the Marine looks at the rifle/PFT scores and includes them into PRO/CONs.

Your point about productivity and leadership is well taken. Some Marines show leadership in their work, but if they're not cocky about it or boasting, or if their good work is unnoticed, it doesn't get rated. It's easier to boast about rifle scores, PFT scores, ribbons, recruitment, etc., but there doesn't seem to be a measure of job skill or discipline in an MOS. The other services have proficiency tests for the MOS and for their knowledge of the history of their service -- we had this in boot camp, but never since!

Some of the frustration I had and I think you also have is that some of the data points for promotions and composite scores are valid -- but they're not all and some NCOs treat them like they're the only data points. If you don't have college credit, but Joe does, you're rated lesser than Joe. Nevermind that Joe may be slacking at work to do his college work while you're working off duty to provide for your wife and kids.

NCOs should attempt to look at the whole Marine and consider his leadership in light of his past performance. The only way you can measure something is against a standard and the only way you can measure growth is by gauging something against itself. The rifle score and PFT score are measurements against a standard, which makes it easy to use as a rating. But if you don't put that rating into the context of history for THAT Marine, it's meaningless. The rest of the stuff is hard to measure if you don't accept a STANDARD for Marine behavior. A lot of NCOs don't have any standards other than "he's visible, I like him, he gets face time, and he's got good rifle/PFT scores". It would be good for the Marine Corps to develop an objective job proficiency test. As a linguist, I had this in the yearly re-test in language proficiency. But getting a perfect score was never factored much by the non-linguist NCO who rated me.

Ian Dunois said...

anon 4-18: Great comment. The Marine Corp needs to revamp its style completely. What is interesting is that in time of war, the rank system appeared to not matter as much as it did while in garrison.

thanks for your comment with the info I am glad I am not the only one who is upset by the promotion system.