OK, So Here's The Deal...

A Marine Major, Running Fool, and All-Around Smart-Ass.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Leading Marines

This is in response from a future officer worrying about his relationship with enlisted Staff NCOs.

The relationship between Officer and Enlisted is a tricky one for sure. You nailed it on the head when you assume that the staff NCOs take care of the daily needs of the lower ranks. So where do you fit in?

OK, first, when you are new, you develop an understanding with your staff NCOs. You are new and know next to nothing. Admit that. If they are good, they will respectfully take you under their wing and show you how to be a leader. If you assume you are their master by virtue of metal on your collar, they will decimate you… respectfully and within the rules.

This is not to say that you totally roll over. They will understand that you are in charge and make the decisions but the relationship you want is this: get the advice from them, weigh the options, and make the decision. If it is a wrong one, they will respectfully point out the flaws. If you know you are right, stick to your guns and they will carry it out. If it succeeds, you don’t make mention of it and give the public credit to the them. If it fails, take the blame publicly and then go to the staff NCOs, admit your mistake, and discuss what went wrong and why.

There is not a good officer out there that didn’t have a good staff NCO show him how to do it.

Part of your job is to fight the battles upstream for them, allowing them to get done what they have to without interference from above. All the good officers fight for materials, missions, etc. so that their Marines have the best chance of success. This might mean putting your bars on the line one day and if you NEVER find yourself in that very scary situation, you will not rate the bars you never gambled on.

It happened to me when I was at 7th Marines and I had to hammer one of my Corporals against the judgment of a full-bird Navy Chaplain and a LtCol who happened to write my fitness report. It was just before I applied for NPS and knew that a bad fit rep would sink my chances of going and I’d be damned to a life of administration work for the rest of my life in the Corps.

I stood by my guns and punished the Corporal. My boss took me in his office and had a very high-volume counseling, throwing things, etc. I thought for sure my fit rep would be dismal, especially since he was a known hardass.

To my amazement, he gave me a glowing report and the rest is history.

I tell you that story because sometimes, taking care of your people involves tough love. No one likes the weak officer who goes too easy on his Marines. And it would not have been fair to my other Marines if this particular one would have gotten away with what he did. So I hammered him for his own good and the good of my men.

He recovered and served out his time in the Corps, even got offered a full ride to the Naval Academy which, to my eternal disappointment, he turned down. I tried everything I could to get him to accept but he didn’t. I fully expect an email of gratitude some day when he realizes I did what I had to do to him and that he made a big mistake by turning down that appointment.

This is a lot to take in and if one email could teach you everything there is to know about leading Marines, well, that’s just no possible.

But do these things:

Know that there will be Marines to teach you along the way, especially SNCOs. Learn from them.

Remember the Golden Rule: I am the kind of officer that I would have wanted when I was enlisted.

Read this: http://www.grose.us/books/Armed%20Forces%20Officer.pdf

-- Capt G

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  • At 8:22 PM, Anonymous Raymond said…

    A slight variation here:
    When I was serving as a Deck Ape on the USS Guadalcanal, I went WAY BEYOND THE REDLINE with a Navy Chief Petty Offier. Simply put, if I were to die this instant, be cremated, have my ashes poured into concrete and dropped to the bottom of the ocean, the item that arrived at the bottom of the ocean would be smarter than I was on that day. Rightfully the CPO in question could have made minced meat out of me. Instead he interrupted in the punishment process by pointing out a minor detail that had bearing on EVERYTHING ELSE in the situation. When it was all said and done, I was still punished, however without the the help of the Staff NCO that I actually offended, I probably would have served the remainder of my service hating the Navy, instead of being a supporter.
    With the view of hindsight, I realize he wasn't being easy on me, he was just doing what was necessary to insure that I was treated "justly" within the system. I don't remember for sure, but I believe his name was Yoeman Chief Petty Offier Young. He did me right when he had EVERY reason to screw me. I thank him every day for that, he saved my life.

  • At 4:16 PM, Blogger O! said…

    I think it's cool that one of the themes of this blog was the theme of my pro-life club meeting today. I rambled about "love versus etiquette" which apparently went well...I tell you about it later.

    Anyway, nice entry. Only criticism: don't desire recognition.

    I saved the Armed Forces Officer PDF and WILL read it.


  • At 7:14 PM, Blogger Cathy said…

    Excellent post and one that can be transferred to the business world... Always give credit for a job well done to your subordinates... except for the whiney a$$e$...

  • At 11:23 AM, Blogger Viper said…

    Ray, I think we all have examples of good nad bad leadership and it was always my goal to learn from each; what to do and what NOT to do.

    O!: That Armed Forces Officer book is the best I've ever read on the subject.

    Cathy: good to hear this translates to the civilian world since I'll be rolling into that in a couple of years.


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