And a merry Semper Fidelis to you, too.

In our discussion about “Do you trust your co-workers?”, I made reference to the fact that I spent five years in the mighty, motivated Marine Corps. 'Tis true, I was an enlisted man (not officer), and got a couple of kudos from the gallery.

Thanks for that. I appreciate it sincerely. However, to those who wonder if they should have joined up, let me direct you to a quote from Herman Wouk in The Caine Mutiny. (Wouk specifically references the Navy, but in my experience, this can be equally applied to the Army, the Air Force, and certainly the Marines.)

The Navy is a master plan designed by geniuses for execution by idiots. If you are not an idiot, but find yourself in the Navy, you can only operate well by pretending to be one. All the shortcuts and economies and common-sense changes that your native intelligence suggests to you are mistakes. Learn to quash them. Constantly ask yourself, “How would I do this if I were a fool?” Throttle down your mind to a crawl. Then you will never go wrong.

And again, I was a mere enlisted folk–can’t speak to whether this applies to the officer corps or not. But I can say with certainty–anybody who has a quarter of a brain does not belong in the military. If you have even an ounce of initiative, you should refrain from enlisting. The military does not want brains, and they do not want initiative, they want people who do what they’re told–immediately and without discussion.

Even though it’s a dramatization of the truth, the movie “A Few Good Men” paints the picture very well–you’re not allowed to question orders. It doesn’t matter if the orders are good, bad, immoral, illegal, or just downright stupid. You’re not allowed to question orders, even if they are idiotic and come from a true idiot. (And trust me–there is no shortage true idiots in the military who like to give idiotic orders.)

CvM, you did the right thing. You would not have lasted long in the military. You’re smart and an independent thinker. This is a good thing in the real world. In the military, it will get you in a lot of trouble.

There is at least one other who shares my opinion. John T. Reed, who is probably most well known for his broiling attack on Robert Kiyosaki, shares his opinion on the military.

Mr. Reed certainly has a unique perspective. He joined West Point right out of high school, finished his mandatory officer tour, then got the hell outta dodge as quick as he could. Then he went to Harvard Business School, and seems to have led a very successful life since.

Mr. Reed and I have very similar views on the military. I won’t claim to be West Point, HBS, Airborne Ranger, and the like, but I spent enough time to know that he is more right than he is wrong.

Hmmm…5 years? That seems to be an odd number of years. I am a former Army man myself, E-5. I wonder if Greenman got out early in a way that made him feel so strongly about the military. Not that he is wrong.

My step-brother was an enlisted guy in the Navy. He doesn’t have anything particularly bad to say about his military experience, but clearly his brains were not hihgly valued (my step brother isn’t dumb, but he’s not unusually smart either - he’s fairly average). He was about to be deployed to Iraq in Gulf War I but was saved by the war ending quickly. Next time his enlistment was up for renewal, he got out as fast as he could.

The Marines tried to recruit me after high school. I must admit that those full dress uniforms look awfully spiffy and tempted me a bit. I wonder how many potential recruits fall for those uniforms. Fortunately, I was a chubby kid and knew I wouldn’t last the physical rigors of boot camp, plus the thought of possibly being sent into action was not appealing. But maybe the uniform might help a chubby kid like me get some girls?? Presumably I was being recruited for officer corps, since I was clearly going to college, but to be honest, I didn’t really understand the difference between what it meant to be enlisted or an officer. I just figured an O-1 was an E-1 that had proved themselves. I wasn’t dumb, but I was pretty ignorant.

Later, I had a quasi-uncle (a non-blood aunt’s second husband after my uncle separated from her) who was a Marine Colonel, and he was telling me a lot about how the Marines are organized and some of the policy issues that he was working on when he came visiting. He was a trained lawyer for the Marines. I’ve since forgotten the specifics, but it was fascinating stuff, and not at all like the stereotypes that my California liberal friends would have about military types.

In fact, most of my interactions with officer corps have been very enlightening. I gave a talk on South Korean deveopment for the Asia-Pacific Command in Honolulu (I forget the name of the center) at one time and was very impressed with the quality of the discussion, analysis, etc… Afterwards, I mentioned that I had grown up in an area that had anti-military stereotypes left over from the Vietnam era, and they said “it’s true that the military is a lot more diverse than those stereotypes, you still have the ‘warfighters,’ whose jobs are to crush the enemy and take away their capacity or willingness to resist, and that work by its nature needs to be fairly aggressive, but there’s a lot of other stuff that has to go on, and a lot of what we do is work to avoid having to engage those guys unless the situation requires it.”

At least among officers, it seems like there is room for discussion and differing opinions and consent, but once the commanding officer makes a decision, everyone else must commit to it. BTW, this attitude goes over well in the business world, so ex-military should play that up in interviews: “I’ll give you my best opinion and advice when you ask for it, but if you decide not to take it, I am able to run and work with whatever you decide.”

I would have gone military if my undergrad had NROTC, but they only had Army and I wasn’t interested in lugging a bunch of crap through forests and deserts so someone could shoot at me. I would have been perfectly happy sitting on a nice safe Navy ship watching the cruise missles fly away though.

Studies of WWII and Korea found that the Navy had the lowest overall casualty rate, but that it was mostly because the vast majority of time in the Navy was just cruising around looking. However, casualties per minute of combat were actually the worst in the Navy. I.e. if you were in the Navy, you were most likely to survive; however, if you were in the Navy and actually found someone shooting at you (or your ship), you had a bigger chance of dying than any other serviceman in action. I thought that was interesting.

I believe the safest combat service these days is the Air Force, that has something like 10 ground staff supporting every pilot.

My uncle also pointed out that most services are organized around equipment. The Navy around ships, the Army around armored divisions, the Air Force around planes (particularly the Strategic Air Command, which is key (along with submaries) to the US’s second strike nuclear capabilities). He pointed out that the Marines was the only corps primarily organized around “the infantryman with a rifle,” and this is one of the reasons that Marines are considered to be tougher - they know that they are the most expendable because - other things equal - there will be more efforts to save divisions with armor and ships and planes, and so they train to be tough-as-nails individuals. I don’t know how true that actually is - my uncle was a Marine and maybe this is just what Marines tell themselves - but I thought it was interesting.

My dad said that the marines were originally an armed corps that was posted on ships to protect officers from mutinies by sailors. Since they effectively had to be able to beat up sailors to be effective, they had to be extra strong and tough. That’s why they are called the Marine corps: they go on ships (maritime).

I read a more compelling argument, which simply pointed out that sailors are designed for running and fighting on ships, which is a very different skill set than fighting on land. So the US Marine corps were essentially designed to be armies that could be launched from a ship, and this is why they were separate from the Navy and the regular Army (which just stayed on land). One of the first deployments of the US Marines was when they were sent to fight the Barbary Pirates in Tripoli (now the capital of modern Tunisia). The US Navy sailed them there, and the Marines were the force that landed. This is why the Marines song starts as “From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli…” (The Halls of Montezuma referring to the invasion of Mexico in the Mexican-American war and the final conquest of the fortress of Chapultapec).


A few points, the Marine Corps is part of the Navy.

It’s an expeditionary force, capable of conducting offensive warefare (primarily based from sea) independently of other units. They have their own jets, helicopters, armored divisions, etc.

Thanks for sharing.

Coupla things.

  1. I don’t think I’m smart. I’m pretty damn average when it comes to intelligence. I simply outwork my competition.

  2. A wiseas$ friend of mine went into the armed forces thinking he’d be a bigshot (like he was on the bball court). When he came back, he was a new man. Very proper, humble, and polite. He told me the mean mufuggin drill sargent put him in his place often enough to make him learn some composure. He has since excelled well beyond what I would have ever expected. I am lead to believe the dedicated dicipline in the armed forces is to his credit.

  3. Honestly, I think the US would be a better place if there was a ‘mandatory’ boot camp at age 18 when they enlist for the draft. Teach kids how to work hard, face failure, and prepare for combat. There are far too many cake eaters in the world whom, if it were not for their brains, would not be able to fight their way out of wet paper bag.

  4. All in all if I were to get laid off, fired, or made redundant at my current job, a part of me is leaning on enlisting and offering my talents to the country. Not sure that will happen, but I’ve often thought of it.

Enough rambling. Cheers to my man Greenie. Beers, Brisket, and Babes on me whenever you’re up in NYC.

Some additional color for those not familiar…It’s actually kind of a confusing relationship. There’s the “Department of the Navy” and the “United States Navy.” The Dept of the Navy is pretty much a holding company, and under them are the Navy and the Marines which are two separate and distinct branches of the armed forces.

While technically the Marines are part of the Dept of the Navy, it’s an important distinction. Marines are prideful creatures that will likely hurt you if you try to tell them they’re in the Navy. As Keifer Sutherland says in A Few Good Men, “I like you Navy boys. Anytime there’s a war you take us to where we need to go.” That about sums up their relationship.

Nope. I signed a five-year enlistment. My MOS school was really long (cryptologic intelligence) that the Marines require you to sign up for five years instead of the normal four.

Word, my friend. The next time I get up to the NYC, I’ll let you guys know. I’m always interested in seeing new places through the eyes of the locals. I figure that I can do the touristy stuff with the wife and kids, when they’re old enough.

And CvM, if you’re a CFA Charterholder, I would submit that you are in the top 10% of the entire population. You may only be “average” for a Charterholder, but every population has its own distribution and standard dev. (I heard once that if you have merely taken the GMAT or GRE, then you are probabloy in the top 10% of the population.)

This is true, but they also share certain facilities and interactions such as the marine jets often being carrier based and allowing Marine Officers to train at the Naval Academy.

Marines were originally intended to be a highly mobile Naval Infantry, but have basically become a mini army+navy+airforce in its own right. Frankly, bloated and redundant.

Are you saying the armed services in general are bloated and redundant, or the Marines in particular are making the armed services bloated and redundant? One statement is true and the other is wildly insane.

Both of you are right, as is Palantir. The Marines are part of the Department of the Navy (the Men’s department, we like to say). They generally use Navy hospitals, Navy chaplains, Navy corpsmen (a.k.a. combat medics), etc. When stationed at a non-Navy or Marine base, the Marines and Navy generally are “attached” to each other. (They may share barracks, office space, etc.) All midshipmen (students at the Naval Academy) are Naval Officers by default, but at some point they may elect the “Marine option”. (I have no idea what the difference is between a “regular” midshipman and a “Marine Option” midshipman.)

However, the Marine Corps is an distinctly different branch of the military, and incorrectly calling a Marine a “sailor” or saying “you’re in the Navy” is likely to quickly be corrected.

Couldn’t be more wrong.

The Marines have the highest ratio of combat troops to support troops of any branch.

The Marines were designed as a mobile expiditionary force. That’s what they still are. This allows them to perform assault functions independently in situations where a more mobile offensive force is required. This is why Marines are typically replaced by the army once the initial invasion has been conducted. It wasn’t redundant when the Marines were assigned the Pacific island hopping campaign while the Army took Europe during WWII. It was a perfect example of their effectiveness. Marines are trained for maneuver warfare versus the slower paced mechanical warefare the army is designed to conduct. Simply put, the Army is too logistics intensive whereas the Marines are optimized for sea based invasions or expeditionary movement. It’s a skillset that our military frequently makes use of.

The logic for a marine air wing is pretty straight forward, it amazes me how many people can’t grasp the concept. Air force aircraft are designed to operate from land bases, and are thus not as effective until a local foothold has been established for a secure base (long midair refueling routes are no way to conduct a campaign). Naval aircraft are great, until pressure is put on the fleet and the commanders utilize them for fleet defense. In any large scale war, a well matched opponent would know this and attempt to pressure the fleet while troops were being hit, in an effort to draw away air support and create conflicting goals. This is why the Marines have a dedicated carrier based air wing. When a conflict does arise, they can have control over the assignment of a portion of the carrier craft. Not to mention, the navy has little use for choppers, so it makes sense to put them under the marines.

Bottom line, the marines are a smaller, more specialized infantry unit, much like the Commando structure in many other militaries. You could argue it should be within the Army’s umbrella, but it makes no effective difference from a cost standpoint, and would ignore the close relationship this role has with the Navy.

And there’s nothing more embarrasing than getting your sternum broken by a “sailor.”

Marines are not similar to “Commando”. Commandos are special forces units closer to Navy SEAL, USA-SF, or British SAS. Other nations use amphibious infantry for things like this.

I never said the role of the Marines is redundant, there is need for an expeditionary infantry capability, so I’m going to ignore that straw man and your point about WWII.

Your notion of “In a war, Naval a/c will be engaged in fleet defense and we’ll have nothing to use for expeditionary operations” makes no sense. Naval aircraft are fully capable of providing air support to any amphibious operations, by putting them under a “Marine” umbrella gives them no advantages. All of these naval air warfare functions can be deployed with assets from the Navy. Finally, as people seem to forget, the current structure of the military is a cross-service integrated force, many of the heavy land warfare equipment (tanks, howitzers etc) can be Army assets. The Navy can take the Army where the action is just as well.

US Marines = military of the US military

You may be taking that term a bit too literally. The Marines are, without question, the most badass branch of the military.