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Five things Marines should know about the commandant and sergeant major's letter to NCOs

Oct. 19, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
Commandant Gen. Jim Amos, left, and Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps Mike Barrett ask corporals and sergeants to lead the battle against 'an insurgency of wrongdoing.'
Commandant Gen. Jim Amos, left, and Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps Mike Barrett ask corporals and sergeants to lead the battle against 'an insurgency of wrongdoing.' (Sgt. Ben J. Flores/Marine Corps)
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In an open letter to corporals and sergeants, the commandant and sergeant major of the Marine Corps warn of an “insurgency of wrongdoing” that is “invading our homes and destroying our credibility.” They implore noncommissioned officers to help them “reawaken the soul of our Corps against an enemy emerging from within our ranks.”

The Oct. 16 letter, titled “The Reawakening,” from Commandant Gen. Jim Amos and Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Mike Barrett, comes hard on the heels of the announcement of the commandant’s plan to “fight and win the barracks,” which he presented at the General Officer Symposium Sept. 23-27. Lax standards, Amos and Barrett say, are eroding the Corps’ reputation and threatening mission readiness.

Here is what every Marine should know about the letter:

1 Frayed values. The letter identifies a number of problems plaguing the Corps after more than a decade at war, including substance abuse, sexual assault, hazing, self-destructive behavior, failure to maintain personal fitness and appearance standards, and general disregard for standards and regulations.

“The commandant and Sgt. Maj. Barrett are concerned that our institutional fabric is fraying, as evidenced by a number of behavioral problems,” Lt. Col. David Nevers, Amos’ spokesman, told Marine Corps Times. “A small but significant number of Marines are not living up to our high standards. They are hurting themselves and their fellow Marines and are damaging our reputation.”

2 The backbone of the Corps. Amos and Barrett write that they need NCOs “to once again advance to the decisive points in battle.” Of the more than 174,000 enlisted Marines in the active component, 144,570 are sergeants and below, the letter states.

More than 83 percent of the enlisted force is led by NCOs, and Amos and Barrett write that they need every one of them “in this fight.”

3 Staying engaged. All leaders must stay engaged, whether in the war zone or at home, to guard against trouble in the ranks, Amos has said.


hen units return stateside, leaders often lessen their level of supervision over young Marines.

“There is no ‘off the job’ time for Marine leaders. It is a 24/7 occupation,” Nevers said.

4 Barracks overhaul. “This effort is inextricably linked to other recent changes, including those affecting our barracks,” Nevers said.

Senior officers, staff NCOs and NCOs will now regularly visit barracks, especially between 8 p.m. and 4 a.m. All Marines on duty will wear service uniforms, either “Bravos” or “Charlies.” Two NCOs will be on duty per barracks, and a fire watch will be conducted on each floor.

5 Achieving victory. Marines don’t lose battles because “we have always prided ourselves on our devotion to self-discipline and combat excellence,” Amos and Barrett write.

Discipline in garrison will lead to victory on the battlefield, they write.

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