Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

A Marine’s Afghan AAR (XV): The need for better discipline

Here CWO2/Gunner Keith Marine gets medieval on the issue of discipline in the field. I think he makes sense. Discipline matters: Marines make a lot of comfort-based decisions like patrolling on roads because walking through the farm fields is a pain in the ass. If you are a squad leader and get a kid killed ...

milliped/flickr
milliped/flickr
milliped/flickr

Here CWO2/Gunner Keith Marine gets medieval on the issue of discipline in the field. I think he makes sense.

Discipline matters: Marines make a lot of comfort-based decisions like patrolling on roads because walking through the farm fields is a pain in the ass. If you are a squad leader and get a kid killed on a road because you made a comfort based decision, you are at fault. There are times when you need to clear the roads and you use a metal detector and V-sweep for that. During routine patrols, you stay off danger areas, not walk along them for easy traveling. Marines know this, it isn't a training problem, it is a discipline problem. Same goes with weapons handling. 

Some things we aren't good at because we are not trained well in it or have lost that perishable skill but many of the failures we have are solely a lack of discipline. You should have seen it day two after the assault. Hard to find a Marine that didn't have his sleeves rolled to the elbow or were wearing eye protection or gloves. Luckily company commanders immediately corrected the problem but unfortunately; it was at the company commander level. I hate to say it but our push to equivocate squad leader school and platoon sergeants course with the sergeants' and career course is costing us. What's the difference between when we were NCOs and today's group? They have more combat experience than we did, so they should be better. So why are they so lacking when it comes to self and unit discipline? Yep, we have some truly talented guys out there that are very disciplined and have some tremendous squads but the norm is not as disciplined as I remember it. The norm is poor weapons handling, taking shortcuts, and dirty patrol bases. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, you don't get punished for making mistakes every time. You can walk that road ten or twenty times and it just turns out it is easier to walk but man you pay a fucking steep price on that twenty-first jaunt down that motherfucker. 

Here CWO2/Gunner Keith Marine gets medieval on the issue of discipline in the field. I think he makes sense.

Discipline matters: Marines make a lot of comfort-based decisions like patrolling on roads because walking through the farm fields is a pain in the ass. If you are a squad leader and get a kid killed on a road because you made a comfort based decision, you are at fault. There are times when you need to clear the roads and you use a metal detector and V-sweep for that. During routine patrols, you stay off danger areas, not walk along them for easy traveling. Marines know this, it isn’t a training problem, it is a discipline problem. Same goes with weapons handling. 

Some things we aren’t good at because we are not trained well in it or have lost that perishable skill but many of the failures we have are solely a lack of discipline. You should have seen it day two after the assault. Hard to find a Marine that didn’t have his sleeves rolled to the elbow or were wearing eye protection or gloves. Luckily company commanders immediately corrected the problem but unfortunately; it was at the company commander level. I hate to say it but our push to equivocate squad leader school and platoon sergeants course with the sergeants’ and career course is costing us. What’s the difference between when we were NCOs and today’s group? They have more combat experience than we did, so they should be better. So why are they so lacking when it comes to self and unit discipline? Yep, we have some truly talented guys out there that are very disciplined and have some tremendous squads but the norm is not as disciplined as I remember it. The norm is poor weapons handling, taking shortcuts, and dirty patrol bases. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, you don’t get punished for making mistakes every time. You can walk that road ten or twenty times and it just turns out it is easier to walk but man you pay a fucking steep price on that twenty-first jaunt down that motherfucker. 

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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