The organization in which the problem I will be presenting is the United States Marine Corps and my role in it is a Corporal. The location would be Camp Lejeune, NC which is where my unit was stationed. The business line would be the military. The unit is 2nd Marine Division, 6th Marine Regiment, Headquarters Company, S-4, and Supply Section. The unit’s size is 400 Marines of which 11 Marines are assigned to the supply section. A Marine is service member within the United States Marine Corps which is a branch of the Navy and is under the Department of Defense. To become a Marine, a person goes to boot camp for three months, after that they go to Marine Combat training for three weeks, after that non-infantry Marines attend their respective schools based upon their job field. Once a Marine is done with school they are assigned a duty station, at the point the Marine arrives at their first duty station are usually at the rank of Private First Class. The way the enlisted rank structure in the Marine Corps works is as follows.
The ranks of Private, Private First Class and Lance Corporal are considered junior Marines. The ranks of Corporal and Sergeant are considered Non-Commissioned Officers or NCO’s. The ranks of Staff Sergeant, Gunnery Sergeant, Master Sergeant, Master Gunnery Sergeant, and Sergeant Major, are considered Staff NCO’s. An NCO is required is responsible for training junior Marines, disciplining them, and their general welfare. Even though an NCO might only outrank the Marine under them by one or two ranks they have a major effect on their lives. A junior Marine takes their orders directly from the Marine to the closest rank senior to them, it is called the chain of command. Marines aren’t allowed to skip the chain of command and could actually get in trouble for it.
Because of the control that an NCO has over their junior Marine, it is very important that the NCO is capable of leading those Marines in the way that the Marine Corps expects them to. The role of an NCO might sound like something that takes years to reach but the reality about it is that many NCO’s are just teenagers. Even though they have an enormous amount of responsibility put on their shoulders, many NCO’s aren’t afforded the opportunity to attend NCO course which is the basic leadership skills that are needed for them to do their job are taught. The length of time that a Marine spends as a junior Marine is shorter than ever, nowadays it is possible for a Marine to become an NCO in less than a year. Problem Statement
The problem that I see today is that Marines are being promoted younger than ever before, this means that they are assuming leadership roles as young as their teenage years. Can a Marine with little experience as a follower be prepared to be a leader? The promoting system that the Marine Corps has in place doesn’t promote Marines equally; instead they are promoted based on the score (cutting score) that is set for their job position. For example, if more Corporals are needed in one job position the score is lowered so that more Lance Corporals can be promoted to Corporals. This means that the newly promoted Corporals weren’t necessarily the most qualified or even ready for that matter to be Corporals. This method of promoting also creates conflicts with the Marines that were passed over for promotion as most of them see it as unfair. Ever since boot camp it is instilled into a Marine’s head that rank is earned and not given, this method makes it seem that the rank is being ‘given’ to Marines based on a need for a certain rank. It wasn’t unlikely for newly promoted Marines to lack basic Marine NCO skills such as knowing how to march Marines, performing room and uniform inspections, or simply holding a training session. Usually a senior Marine would have to step in and help the young NCO in performing some of these tasks.
We would always hear from older Marines that nowadays the Marine Corps doesn’t invest in training young Marines as much as they did, and that ‘back in the day’ Corporals would do the job that Sergeants do today and Lance Corporals would do the jobs Corporals do today. The average age of a Marines recruit is 19 years old; most of the Marines that I was in charge of were still teenagers. They were fresh out of high school, have lived with their parents their whole life, and most of them never had a job. I embraced my time as a junior Marine, as I saw it as a time to learn from the experienced NCO’s appointed over me. Even after I picked up the rank of Corporal, I would still come to my former NCO’s for advice on things since they will always have more experience that I do. I was fortunate to have NCO’s that took their role seriously and strived to train the Marines under them to the best of their effort. I was a junior Marine for a relatively short amount of time, I was promoted to Corporal at 19 years old and at the time I felt that I was nowhere near ready to assume the role of an NCO. I can honestly say I don’t think any of the junior Marines under my charge that were promoted felt the same way as I did, I didn’t feel that they understood the gravity of the responsibilities that they were being given.
In my time as a junior Marine I learned many things from my NCO’s, but one of the things that made the most impression on me was when I was venting to an NCO about a Staff NCO that was strict with us but was a messed up Marine himself (). My NCO passed along something to me that he learned while he was a junior Marine, which was that you should only worry about what you do and the Marines under you. If a Marine above you isn’t squared away it isn’t your position to correct him and that there is no point of getting upset about something you had no control over. This saved me a lot of complaining throughout the years because there were a lot of senior Marines that wouldn’t practice that they preached. In my time in the Marine Corps I tried to pass along as much as I learned onto the Marines that were under my charge.
I didn’t take it lightly that these Marines were my responsibility and I gave my best effort into trying to make sure that they were as prepared as I could help them to be. I always thought what a shame it would be if a Marine was unprepared for something because of a lack of training that they received from me, I don’t think I would be able to live with myself If I knew that a Marine died because of something that I failed to train them for. I hoped that every Marine felt the same way as I did about training new Marines and being the best leader they could be, but sadly many Marines did not take their leadership role seriously at all. The one thing I am proud of is that I am sure that I made a lasting influence on the Marines that were under my charge and I hope that they will also make a positive influence on the Marines under their charge. Literature Review
The article “Proficiency Without Professionalism Equals Mediocrity” talks about how Marines nowadays are being disrespectful and are putting too much emphasize on combat proficiency and not enough on professional development. The article mainly talks about that “The Marine Corps should reexamine its roots of professionalism, good order, and discipline via professional development and reshape its professional saw, which after years of war has been dulled and its focus shifted from professional development in favor of combat proficiency.” (Baker, N.D.) Many infantry Marines are started get think that because they are combat proficient that it can replace professionalism. The author goes on to talk about the importance of Marines going to NCO schools, and that a Marine with combat training but not enough professionalism and good order will fall short of their full potential. The article reinforces what I stated about the importance about sending Marines to NCO courses. “Marines, for example, who attend the Sergeants Course, learn how to conduct a personnel inspection, conduct squad-sized close order drill, and prepare and present periods of instruction.
They are instilled with the indoctrination emphasis in general traditions, courtesies, and customs; practice proper counseling techniques; and learn numerous other professional skills.” (Baker, N.D.). The article “What Color Are Your Socks? It’s time To Leash Your Dogma” talks about Marines needing to use more common sense when it comes to dealing with junior Marines. The author speaks about the Marine Corps leaning towards the drill instructor philosophy where everything is black and white, wrong or wrong, then gives examples where Marines should have thought before they corrected Marines on something they thought was wrong. The article talks about some Marines that aren’t in combat not having the knowledge or experience of combat Marines and that it takes maturity to know when to correct a Marine and to know when the Marine doesn’t need correcting even though they aren’t following guidelines. The author gave the example of a Marine wearing non-regulation colored socks because he was out fighting for months and the only socks he had left were white ones left from a care package.
The Marine corrected him should have realized the circumstances that the Marines at War are being put through and should have used some better leadership to handle the situation. Leadership is learned through time and experience in the Marine Corps and provides Marines better knowledge on how to handles situations like these. “If the only thing that runs through your mind when you run into a Marine is what you can do to him as opposed to what you should do for him then you are right; there is indeed a leadership problem. That leadership problem is you.” (Grice, N.D.). The article “Is maturity taking back seat in NCO ranks?” talks about the Marine Corps lowering the cutting store in certain job roles in order to increase the number of required Corporals. The controversy surrounding this is that the Marines that are being promoted aren’t ready for the leadership role and that the Marines that were promoted with a high cutting score are bitter about the new Marines being promoted by a much lower score. “If Marines are being promoted faster than normal, it would mean that the typical Marine in a particular grade (a sergeant, for example) now has less experience, than a typical sergeant in the past.” (Fuentes, 2007). The article talks about the main quality to becoming a good leader is not a cutting score or experience but instead maturity.
The author states that younger Marines don’t take their job as serious because they don’t fully understand the severity of it yet. “A lot of the new guys — when they’re new and they haven’t been in the fleet that long; they don’t have enough knowledge to be a corporal.” (Fuentes, 2007). The article “Promotion system broken, soldiers tell SMA” talks about the Army’s top enlisted soldier gave soldiers a chance to vent about the problems that they felt about promotions in the Army. The soldiers had a lot to say about how they thought the promotion system was unfair and how many Soldiers were too young to be promoted. “Too many soldiers are selected for advancement before they are ready by “box checking” such things as fitness, weapons qualification and correspondence courses.” (Tice, 2012). The soldiers spoke about the system not testing soldiers on their job position knowledge, and soldiers rehearsing what they need to know to pass the board but not actually knowing the knowledge.
The soldiers suggested that there should be some time of evaluation by the Staff NCO’s in the unit to find out if the soldier is truly ready to be promoted. “This is where the platoon sergeant, first sergeant and [command sergeant major] have to conduct an evaluation of the soldier and have the intestinal fortitude to tell a soldier they are not ready to lead.” (Tice, 2012). The main complaint was that the system tests the Soldier for things that don’t necessarily make them a good leader, which is essential to move up in rank. The article “Helping train Soldiers to take over NCOs future WLC classes” talks about a new mandatory online training program for soldiers which is required before they take the NCO course. The author talks about the benefits of the course and how it makes the soldier more ready for the course and to be a better leader in general. “SSD is a training module established for our brightest and up coming skilled noncommissioned officers.
It’s developing in the ranks, helps focus on the overall building on future promotions and the Soldiers’ leadership abilities for advancements.” ( Poulin, 2011). There are some controversies defined in the article such as soldiers on deployment not having the time to complete the online classes since most of them do not have access to a computer. The Army is making exceptions for soldiers on deployment and giving them 90 days from the time they get back to the states to take the courses. The article is mainly about giving soldiers some type of leadership education before they actually take the NCO course.
The article “Marines going to WLC” talks about a new Sergeants course in the Army that will bring your leadership abilities out, and will teach soldiers on resources for their Marines. Other courses simply teach soldiers how to be leaders but don’t teach them about all the resources they can share with their soldiers. “Simply put this course arms first sergeants and commanders with information that will allow them to do a better job of taking care of Soldiers.” (Coleman, 2012). The course will also teach soldiers about setting goals, establishing programs within your unit, and how to deal with soldiers that are having issues and wish to speak with you. The course is something new that is aimed at educating soldiers on more than just how to better themselves but also how to help the soldiers better themselves. “Maintaining mission readiness, while dealing with Soldier issues on a personal level, is a complex task.” (Coleman, 2012). This course will help teach them how to deal with these issues. Analysis
Marines that haven’t had the time to learn how to be leaders from senior Marines are unprepared to lead junior Marines. This leads to newly promoted Marines lacking the leadership qualities that are learned through time as a junior Marine. The maturity that it takes to be a senior Marine is acquired over the years following as a junior Marine this effects the quality of leadership that is received by future junior Marines that will be led by these prematurely promoted Marines. The reason for the change in promotion time in the Marine Corps is due to the fact that senior Marines have been leaving the Marine Corps after their first tour of duty in a rising rate. To balance the junior/senior ration, the Marine Corps decided to lower the promotion requirements so that junior Marines would be promoted earlier. I picked up the rank of Corporal after 1 year and 9 months, at the time the average Marine would pick up corporal after 3-5 years. Right after my promotion instead of the expected congratulations I would mostly receive envy from Lance Corporals that have been waiting to pick up Corporal for years. Even though my rank demanded respect which I did receive, I didn’t feel that the Marines under me truly respected me. I felt as if they thought I picked up Corporal not because I deserved it but because of a technicality.
To best explain the issue about Marines being promoted too young and the consequences that comes along with it such as lack of maturity and learning to follow before you lead I am going to provide an example of a Marine was under my charge that was promoted too young. After about a year of myself being a Corporal our supply section received a new Marine, he was a PFC fresh out of Supply School and didn’t speak much English seeing as how he was recruited out of Puerto Rico. It was hard for him to follow basic instructions because of the language barrier and so I would often translate the instructions given to him by others because I also spoke Spanish. The Marine Corps offers new Marines the opportunity to go on temporary recruiting duty as soon as they get to their first unit and if the Marine happens to refer a person and that person ends up enlisting, the Marine would be meritoriously promoted by one rank. After about 2 weeks from arriving at our supply section, the PFC went on recruiting duty for one month and received a meritorious promotion due to referring a civilian that ended up enlisting. While the average Marine is a PFC for a year, this particular Marine picked up the rank of Lance Corporal after only 2 months of being a PFC.
Even though the now Lance Corporal still didn’t speak much English and still wasn’t very good at following instructions, he performed very well in physical fitness tests. When the Commanding Officer asked each section to submit a candidate for meritorious promotion, our Supply Chief submitted the Lance Corporal even though there were other Lance Corporals that were senior to him and were far more qualified. When the Commanding Officer saw our Lance Corporals physical fitness scores he quickly promoted him to the rank of Corporal without even meeting him in person. Unlike junior Marine promotions, there are requirements that a Marine must meet before they are promoted to the rank of Corporal. They must take and pass MCI’s which Marine Corps online classes are. At the point that the Commanding Officer had decided to promote the Lance Corporal he had not completed any MCI courses and so myself and another NCO had to sit down with him and help him complete the courses in the two days prior to his promotion. At the time of new Corporal’s promotion, he had been in the Marine Corps for a total of 10 months. This new Corporal had little to no experience as a junior Marine at his duty station, he had no deployments, and couldn’t instruct his junior Marines because he could not speak English to a high enough capacity.
To top it off, the Marine had a bad temper, did not work well with others, and had a problem with authority. As soon as we came back from a 9 month deployment from Iraq, I had only 2 months left before my enlistment was up and so was put into a temporary job position working in the warehouse so that I wouldn’t have too much responsibility as I would be busy half of the day checking out of the Marine Corps. One day I had an appointment to check out with the admin department and the Corporal which was now the warehouse chief asked me to pick something up from another military base and bring it to the warehouse. I told him that I had an appointment that day and that I wouldn’t be able to pick it up and he responded with if I don’t pick it up I would see what would happen, and we left it at that. I went to my appointment and the package wasn’t picked up, the Corporal proceeded to charge me for disobeying a lawful order.
Two weeks before the end of my enlistment, after two Iraq deployments and never so much as a counseling session, the Marine that I helped get promoted, the Marine that I translated for when he couldn’t understand basic instructions, proceeded to charge me. This situation talked me a lot, it showed me the loyalty and respect that is learned through years of being a junior Marine, was unfortunately not learned by this Marine. I didn’t see it as the Marines fault but as the fault of the organization and Marines above him that allowed a Marine to skip the necessary time as a follower that makes a Marine a leader. Being an NCO is something that should be coveted; a Marine needs to be evaluated for an NCO position. An NCO is responsible for the lives of the Marines under him, they are responsible for training and forming future leaders and so they themselves need to have the experience and knowledge to do this. Solutions
The Marine Corps offers NCO courses but they don’t make them mandatory, these courses teach Marines the fundamentals of Marine Corps leadership. It teaches them how to discipline junior Marines, how to march Marines, and how to perform uniform inspections just to name a few. If the Marine Corps required junior Marines to attend the Senior Marine leadership course before they were promoted then that would teach the junior Marines how to be leaders and better prepare them for their duties as leaders. This would also benefit the junior Marines under them because they would receive better quality leadership from their trained NCO. I was promoted to the rank of Corporal without going to Corporals Course; it wasn’t until two years later that I got the opportunity to attend the course. After I graduated from the course I realized that it is essential for prospective NCO’s and newly promoted NCO’s to attend the course. You are able to learn many things directly from your NCO’s but the course definitely presents situations where you can take what you’ve learned and apply it to a real situation such as marching a unit, or performing an inspection. Marines that don’t attend the course, no matter how excellent their NCO’s are, in my opinion are lacking training that they need in order effectively lead their junior Marines.
The course takes what you’ve learned from on the job training and advances your skills into a professional leader. Using the cutting score method of to promote Marines doesn’t promote the most qualified Marines. As the cutting scores can vary by hundreds of points from one job specialty to the next, it isn’t unlikely for one Marine to be promoted to Corporal in two years and another to never be promoted. The irony about this is that the Marines that are considered ‘true Marines’ are the ones that are in the infantry, and they are the Marines that have to achieve the highest cutting score making it very difficult for them to be promoted to an NCO. This creates a sort of hostility between the different job specialties because of envy and jealousy. When infantry Marines that have been in the Marine Corps longer and have more deployments than non-infantry Marines aren’t promoted they see it as unfair and they don’t respect senior Marines that are non-infantry because of this. A meritorious promotion is a promotion in which a Marine is promoted before their usual appointed time.
Sometimes they have Regiment level meritorious promotions, sometimes it’s a Company level, or sometimes a high ranking officer such as a General or Colonel promotes a Marine for a job well done. Meritorious promotions that are held by a unit are usually more scrutinized than regular promotions, a Marine goes through a series of tests and if they pass, the remaining Marines go in front of board and are further examined with series of questions. This way the most qualified Marine is rightfully chosen from the group of potentials. Regular promotions that are based on the job positions cutting score are a lot easier, the Marine is notified that they have reached the score in a particular month and is promoted in a formation along with other Marines in the unit that have also reached the score. There are no examinations and the Marine is not reviewed by a board.
If the Marine Corps solely promoted based on tests and competitions like they do with meritorious promotions then the promotions would go only to Marines that are ready to be leaders, instead of the Marines that were promoted by a promotion score based on their job identification number. My preferred solution would be that the Marine Corps makes it mandatory for all junior Marines to attend the NCO course before they are promoted. This way, junior Marines will get educated on the duties and responsibilities of an NCO before they assume those responsibilities. I have seen many newly promoted Marines that don’t know the basics such as assembling a formation or how to march a platoon. It seems kind of backwards that a Marine is to be promoted and then go to a course for his current position; it is like getting your driver’s license and then learning how to drive. Reflection
This assignment influenced my personal, academic, and professional leadership and managerial development because now that I have had the opportunity to put what I’ve been feeling in writing I’ve realized that I know what it takes to be a leader, and I can point out steps that an organization can take to create better leaders amongst their employees. Natural leaders may very well be born, but an organization can’t trust that all of their employees will already have the leadership skills required to assume a manager position. The organization has to have some sort of system in place to train their employees. A leader has to be evaluated on several different factors not just their work output but also how they deal with people, their attitude and ethics. There are people that are great at their job but would make terrible supervisors. In the military not only does a Marine have to learn how to do their job position but they also have to learn how to handle and train their Marines. If a NCO sees that a Marine isn’t ready to pick up rank then that Marine should not be allowed to be promoted, if they are promoted it can not only negatively affect the Marines around them but also the Marines under their charge.
If the Marine Corps want to look out for the welfare of junior Marines they wouldn’t allow a Marine that doesn’t know how to be a leader to take charge of a handful of Marines. In my paper I used the Marine Corps as the organization that I spoke about because it is the only organization that I have experience with. It felt good to reflect on issues that I felt strongly about, I have spoken about these issues in the past but not the extent that I wrote in this paper. I am glad that I am not the only one that feels like there is an issue in the Marine Corps NCO leadership capabilities. The references I found because of this paper made me realize that there are many people who do know how important it is to prepare NCO’s and I hope something is changed farther down the line to improve the quality of leadership young Marines receive.
Baker, D. (N.D.). Proficiency Without Professionalism Equals Mediocrity. MCA-MARINES. Retrieved from http://www.mca-marines.org/gazette/article/proficiency-without-professionalism-equals-mediocrity
Grice, M. (N.D.). What Color Are Your Socks?: It’s time To Leash Your Dogma. MCA-MARINES. Retrieved from http://www.mca-marines.org/gazette/article/what-color-are-your-socks-it%E2%80%99s-time-leash-your-dogma
Fuentes, G. (Nov, 2007). Is maturity taking back seat in NCO ranks? Marinecorpstimes. Retrieved from http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/news/2007/11/marine_baby_ncos_071124/
Tice, J. (Jun, 2012). Promotion system broken, soldiers tell SMA. ArmyTimes. Retrieved from http://www.armytimes.com/news/2012/06/army-soldiers-say-promotion-is-broken-061712w/
Poulin, B (Apr, 2011). Web-based, self-paced training helps Soldiers to become NCOs, needed for WLC. FortHoodSentinel. Retrieved from http://www.forthoodsentinel.com/story.php?id=6486
Coleman, A (Aug, 2012). Commander/1SGT’s course will make you a better leader. FortHoodSentinel. Retrieved from http://www.forthoodsentinel.com/story.php?id=9758