Best Defense

How to fix the Wounded Warrior program: A Marine’s perspective

Here is a note from a smart former Marine sergeant I know. Some people in the Army think the Marines are doing a better job of handling this problem than the poor old Army is, but this note indicates that the Corps is having pretty much the same problems.  By David Goldich Best Defense guest ...

U.S. Army
U.S. Army

Here is a note from a smart former Marine sergeant I know. Some people in the Army think the Marines are doing a better job of handling this problem than the poor old Army is, but this note indicates that the Corps is having pretty much the same problems. 

By David Goldich
Best Defense guest columnist

The USMC Wounded Warrior barracks were established a couple of years ago to great fanfare. Ostensibly, the idea was to provide combat wounded Marines and Sailors with specialized barracks housing that facilitated recuperation efforts. Less stress, better facilities closer to base hospitals, specialized equipment, etc. Many if not most of the residents at these barracks are neither wounded nor warriors, as the article states. The Wounded Warrior barracks at Lejeune has its share of drug addicts (there was a pretty big Oxy problem last year), mental health cases (many pre-existing and non-combat related), and general "misfits" that commanders dump rather than deploy with.

The solution is simple: dedicated specialized housing and care for WOUNDED WARRIORS. Take out the rest and put them elsewhere. Don’t debase those injured in defense of the nation by putting them in the same room as an Oxy junkie who couldn’t take the stress of serving Saturday duty stateside and said he was going to kill himself because his 3 week girlfriend dumped him.

The recruiting problem is real too. There should be a mechanism where recruiters are better rewarded for the quality and subsequent performance of recruits rather than sheer volume submitted. I don’t blame recruiters, many of whom are friends. It is a high stress position, but one which is volunteered for. The recruiter, the drill instructor, the MOS teacher, and the commander are all eyeing different things, and this creates the disconnect that allows problem recruits to become problem Marines. Perhaps one idea on the tail end of the spectrum is allowing Battalion Commander authority to separate Marines who are obviously not suited for the service. Getting a Marine separated for clear misconduct takes absolutely forever and becomes a GO-level legal nightmare. Make the separation process 60 days or less for drug pops and other misconduct that would warrant a Bad Conduct Discharge.

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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