Letter To The Army Colonel Who Said Marine Standards Are Unrealistic

first published on October 15, 2016 by

In a recent editorial piece published by the Marine Corps Times, Army Colonel Ellen Haring weighs in on Marine Corps Infantry Officer Standards.

Hi Ellen! I hope you are reading this. This is an open letter that I am publishing to our entire audience, in the hopes that their shares, likes, and comments will some how find their way to you. I don’t know you, and frankly I don’t want to know you, but I will take the time out of my busy day to write you this letter in blog format. I’m sure you are an outstanding officer for the U.S. Army, and people take your opinion very serious every time you speak or write, but I as an individual, also have some opinions with weight because I have lived and walked the path of a Marine Corps Infantryman, and served under some of the finest officers the Corps ever produced.

First and foremost, stay in your lane. This is an easy enough rule to follow, and you’ve probably bashed it into the skulls of every soldier you have ever had in your charge. Since you are A. Not in the Marine Corps, and B. Not ever going to attempt to join the Marine Corps infantry, the entire situation at Marine Corps Infantry Officer Course has absolutely nothing to do with you, and your thoughts on the subject really do not matter to the Marines.

Second, I would like to address the Infantry Officers you have quoted, or probably mis-quoted, in your editorial at the Marine Corps Times. Specifically, I’d like to address the full quote of

“I’m trying to imagine the type of fighting and tactical task that requires you to move around administratively in an AO with 150-plus pounds on your back… Nothing is impossible, but trying to come up with a situation, mission and METT-T where this would be required is… a unicorn in my opinion,”

that you used from a Weapons Company Commander to leverage your opinion.

You see, a Weapons Company during the Global War on Terror generally turns into what the Marines like to call a Truck Company, comprised of several platoons of Combined Anti-Armor Teams. Their primary role in this fight is to act as a vanguard for the Battalion. Moving around the battle space with speed, surprise, and violence of action in order to destroy armored threats before they can do any real damage to the Marine Battalion’s line platoons. Since the Weapons Company has trucks, they generally don’t do a lot of administrative hiking in any AO, they truck up and move on. What this Weapons Company Commander seems to be forgetting however, is the purpose of his company in a more traditional sense.

Not all Marines are created equal, and I’m thinking that this company commander is probably referred to by his Marines as “Captain America,” because he’s one of those select Marine Infantry Officers who don’t deserve to be where they are. In a conventional sense, the Weapons Company platoons are broken down, and attached out in order to support the line companies. We didn’t see this too often throughout the GWOT, but in instances like WWII, and Korea, this was common practice. Line companies need heavy machine gun and mortar assets, Weapons Company is where they get it. When those platoons are attached out, they are expected to carry those heavy loads for the line companies, but do I really need to get into the specifics of the weight involved with strapping a MK19 onto your back for a 9.3 mile movement?

Third, lets talk about why the Marine Corps Infantry Officer’s Course is so rough on young Second Lieutenants. The Marine Corps is quite different from the Army. This might not be something that is easy to see standing from the Gray and White ACU pattern of the U.S. Army’s 1.4 million person strong fighting force. In the Marines, we have roughly 200 thousand active duty personnel with a very specific job. The Infantry is the Marine Corps’ main element in -ALL- operations. When we say everything else is just support, that is well and truly meant, and understood at all levels of the Marine Corps. For this reason, and this reason alone, the Marine Corps Infantry Officer’s Course is the single toughest school in the Marine Corps.

Marine Corps Infantry Officers cannot have an ounce of weakness in them when they get to the operating forces. An infantry platoon in the Marine Corps is full of alpha type personalities that will spot that weakness and tear it apart, rendering the unit leader ineffective. Thus, incredible standards are put into place for these select individuals, because any of those young Lieutenants could be leading a platoon of 30 men down the rope to secure an embassy anywhere in the world, against a numerically superior force. Any of those young Lieutenants could be placed on a hillside with their platoons, and get told to hold the position or die trying. We need the best individuals for that job, and physically these individuals need to be animals by nature.

Fourth, lowering the standard in a course in order to simply allow women entrance into the program sets a slippery slope precedence. If the Marine Corps lowers the golden standard for their main element leadership on the battlefield, what is stopping them from further dropping the bar for all Marines in all job fields? Excellence comes at a price, and our nation’s enemies don’t give a damn about how politically correct and diverse our warrior class looks. All they care about is defeating our nation on the battlefield, and that is not something the institution of the United States Marine Corps will ever allow to happen as long as there is breath in the lungs of any U.S. Marine on this planet.

If a woman can meet the standards, as they are currently set, then they should be allowed to fight alongside their brothers who have met the exact same standards. There is no question about that. However, lowering any standards in order to present a more diverse and politically correct military to the world stage will result in only one thing. The failure of an institution that has stood at the tip of the spear since the inception of the United States of America.

Finally, until you plan to drop the birds off of your shoulders, and join the United States Marine Corps as a second Lieutenant trying to make entrance into the main effort of the Corps, do not think you can compare yourself or any other woman to those women who have tried out for Marine Corps Infantry Officer’s Course. Those women are cut from the same cloth as all Marines, and you can bet your cushion pillow sitting ass that they gave everything they had, and earned the respect of their brother Marines in the process of doing so. Marines don’t quit, but that doesn’t mean they can’t fail, and it certainly doesn’t mean we think less of any Marine who does fail after truly giving 125% of themselves to the challenge at hand. You can also bet that given another chance, those Whiskey Mikes would be chomping at the bit for another go at IOC, and they would want to pass at the same exact standard as their brother Marines.

Stay in your lane. Have an amphibious day.

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