View Full Version : 10 mistakes that can get you the boot

01-22-04, 09:00 PM
Issue Date: January 26, 2004

10 mistakes that can get you the boot
The Corps tells you what NOT to do

By Gordon Lubold and C. Mark Brinkley
Times staff writers

Fewer Marines are making dumb mistakes, but that doesn’t make their mistakes any less dumb, Marine officials say.
A high operations tempo is leaving Marines with less time to get in trouble, and fewer than ever are being busted for the kind of shenanigans that usually get leathernecks booted from the Corps.

Among first-term Marines — those who get in the trouble most often — life-changing mistakes are at a record low, in fact.

“Attrition is a direct reflection of the fact that Marines were not in an environment where they could misbehave,” said Lt. Col. Jim Minick, who heads the enlisted plans section of Manpower and Reserve Affairs at Quantico, Va.

“They had a mission and they were doing what they joined the Marine Corps to do, and it did not afford the opportunity to do things that may have been available stateside.”

But commanders across the Corps want Marines to stay on track and keep their noses clean, and they’re urging junior leaders not to become complacent. Marine officials track the kinds of mistakes that get devil dogs kicked out, and that list serves as a reminder to Marines of what not to do.

There are five major categories of discharges among Marines on their first enlistment: overall misconduct, physical disability, unsatisfactory performance, convenience to the government and desertion. But it is misconduct, which includes alcohol and drug offenses, that most Marines can do something about, commanders say.

Of course, there’s a simpler way to look at it, said one Marine lawyer.

“The number one reason Marines get kicked out of the Corps? Stupidity.”

Among misconduct-related discharges of first-term Marines, here are the top 10 career killers:

1 Drugs. By far, drugs are the biggest career ender. Although drug use is down across the Corps, it always has topped the misconduct list. In 1998, there were 1,671 reported separations for drugs. But that year wasn’t even the highest. In fiscal 2001, 1,696 Marines were discharged for drug use, according to manpower officials who track discharges.

What kind of drugs? According to urinalysis results from fiscal 2001, marijuana is the No. 1 drug of choice. Of more than 43,800 Marines tested that year, there were 1,787 positive results for marijuana, more than any other drug. Of those, 626 were at Camp Lejeune, N.C. (compared with 489 at Camp Pendleton, Calif.).

That same year, there were a total of 681 positive samples for methamphetamine use and 607 for cocaine use.

First sergeants probably have the most awareness of the kinds of problems Marines encounter. As a company first sergeant, 1st Sgt. Robert Beltran, from Charlie Company, 8th Engineer Support Battalion, at Camp Lejeune, has seen his share.

The Corps is right to take a hard line on drugs, he says.

“Drugs are ‘zero tolerance’ for the most part, and it needs to be,” he said.

For marijuana use, the punishment often is battalion nonjudicial punishment, while cocaine use earns a special court-martial. Either way, the Marine usually receives an administrative separation. Those who don’t probably won’t get promoted for 18 months.

“Very, very, very few get to stay,” Beltran said. “If they did it once, they’re probably going to do it again.”

2 Patterns of misconduct. When a commander spots a Marine who screws up for either serious or minor reasons, sooner or later, he’s going to start counting. Make at least two mistakes and a Marine can get booted for the simplest things — even being late for formation.

This is one of the areas in which discharges continue at generally the same rates as they have over the last five years. During 2003, for example, 445 Marines were discharged for exhibiting habitual misconduct, according to manpower data.

You’ve know the type: uniform all askew, in desperate need of a shave and a haircut, failing to salute or stop for morning colors, unable to complete the most basic job without a babysitter. Senior leaders see them, too, usually over and over again. Some Marines, for whatever reason, simply can’t get with the program.

“To straighten out a Marine, you have to invest the time,” Beltran said. “The NCO has to be there, putting in the time, supervising.”

Repeat offenses can take a toll on your career. After two or three counseling sessions for the same offenses, Beltran logs the incident in the Marine’s service record book. The paper trail can set the stage for an administrative separation.

3 Court-martial, separation in lieu of court-martial or reduction discharges. Courts-martial are down significantly compared to the rate five years ago. While there were 1,511 such discharges in 1998, there were only 147 last year.

4 Homosexual conduct. If proven, this is an automatic discharge, but such separations have decreased significantly over the last several years. While there were 85 discharges for homosexual activity in 2000, there were just 40 in 2003.

Officials don’t know why the numbers have declined, but say it may be due to the high op tempo.

5 Alcohol-related discharges. This area accounted for 35 misconduct discharges in 2003, down from 107 separations in 1998. Drunken-driving incidents typically fall into other categories because of the civilian offenses or courts-martial that sometimes result. But commanders will kick Marines to the curb for drinking on duty, or if their drinking problem is so severe that they need more serious counseling than the Corps provides.

6 Minor disciplinary infractions. Marines can find themselves out of a job if they have racked up more than three minor disciplinary infractions. Although this category is similar to “pattern of misconduct,” the Marine who is habitually late, for example, or continually fails to conduct himself properly may end up with nonjudicial punishment. Taken individually, the infractions may not seem serious. But log a few too many mistakes in your record book and you just might find yourself with discharge papers in hand.

Sometimes these Marines find themselves making big rocks into small ones at the Correctional Custody Unit, yelling “CCU, it’s good for you!”

But such rehabilitative programs only work if the Marine takes responsibility for his actions, Beltran said.

“You look at who they’re blaming,” he said. “Are they blaming other people, making excuses? Or are they taking responsibility? That’s usually an indicator of whether they’re going to change.”

7 Unauthorized absences. The rate of Marines being discharged for going UA always is fairly low because most instances are addressed in other ways. Marines stay on UA status for up to 30 days before they become deserters.

In 2003, 11 Marines were discharged for going UA.

8 Civilian offenses. The Corps separates a handful of Marines each year who face charges in the civilian court system. Typically, it’s for serious offenses, like murder or rape, when the civilian authorities have the Marines in custody and plan to try them on those charges.

Marines convicted by civilian authorities in some states on charges stemming from domestic-violence incidents may be prevented from carrying a weapon and therefore earn themselves an immediate discharge from the Corps, Beltran said.

9 Deserter separations. This kind of separation has decreased tremendously during the last five years, although it is unclear why.

There were 210 Marines separated for being deserters in 1998, but only one deserter separation in 2003. Marine officials were not available to explain why there was such a dramatic change.

The Corps also tracks Marines put on “deserter status,” a different category for those Marines gone for more than 30 days but who have not yet been separated. In 2003, for example, there were 1,096 Marines in a deserter status, compared to a high of 1,627 in 2000.

Marines on deserter status may return to the Corps and be assimilated back into their command months later. Some are hunted down by the Corps’ cross-country chasers, who travel the country to pick up wayward Marines.

10 Sexual perversion. It’s No. 10 on the list, but there were no reported discharges in 2003 for this category, which includes sodomy, indecent exposure or indecent acts with a person younger than age 16.




01-22-04, 09:02 PM
Issue Date: January 26, 2004

Messed up? How to make a comeback

By Gordon Lubold
Times staff writer

So you messed up. Now what?
It’s possible for Marines to recover from a potentially career-ending mistake and avoid getting the boot.

But the key is hard work, manpower officials, career counselors, company first sergeants and other officials say. And if you want to re-enlist in the now ultra-competitive market, you’ll really have to get your motivation on.

Every year, thousands of Marines are discharged for mistakes many could have avoided: showing up late for formation one too many times, using drugs or exhibiting a drinking problem. But not every Marine who goes astray has to be kicked out or denied re-enlistment.

Many Marines continue to make corrections — and even re-enlist — after getting nonjudicial punishment on base or being busted on civilian charges in town.

Even Sgt. Maj. John Estrada, sergeant major of the Marine Corps, who takes a hard line on how Marines should conduct themselves, acknowledges there is some room to move.

There always will be some Marines who mess up at one point in their career, but it’s not always the end of the road. Rather, he said, it’s “a bump along the way.”

“Marines are going to make mistakes,” he said. “And we do not have a ‘zero-defect’ mentality. Some people seem to think we do.”

The trick to getting back on track, career counselors and other officials say, is to show that you’ve learned from your mistake. Show commanders — and peers — that you know you went wrong and you’re trying to fix it.

Time helps, officials say, in healing wounds. An incident three months ago and fresh in the mind of your commander may make it harder to persuade him to give you another chance. Three years ago might be another story, officials say.

That extra time translates to additional opportunity to go above and beyond. A Marine convicted of drunken driving, for example, might be able to redeem himself by establishing a unit drunken-driving awareness program, said Gunnery Sgt. Fernando Cabral. If that Marine can later show the number of alcohol-related incidents in the unit dropped as the result of what he did, he might have a chance to re-enlist.

“The whole unit benefited from that mistake,” said Cabral, a career counselor with Manpower and Reserve Affairs at Quantico, Va..

These days, it’s tougher to make up for your mistakes. Now, re-enlistment boards are meeting to review applications from Marines in fast-filling specialties and hundreds are being turned away come re-enlistment time. So it’s harder to look good if you’ve done bad.

But if you’re going to try, one of the most important things to remember is that you have to hustle.

“Get right back on your feet,” said Lt. Col. B.J. Fitzpatrick, head of the enlisted retention and career counseling section at Manpower and Reserve Affairs. “You can’t drop that pack.”




01-23-04, 02:51 AM
One "awe sh*t" can blot out a dozen "attaboys".

01-23-04, 04:44 AM
I think it depends on the rank also. In El Toro I saw a senior Sgt go from being on the next month's SSgt selectee list, to junior Cpl over a DUI.

I also saw two Cpls get their records expunged and rank reinstated after 6 months of b*ll breaking work. One of them actually went on to be a Mustang!

Both punishments were from the same BN CO. He was a fair but tough aviator. Though he was the HQ Squadron CO, he still had to do his flight hours. When a unit was doing particularly well, he'd invite any unit member to fly with him to Hawaii for the standard $10.

01-27-04, 07:34 PM
Personnally I think no one joins the Marine Corps to be a ****-bird. It just happens. Kids come in with stars in their eyes, thinking war stuff,going oorah oorah when reality of the fleet sits in, the big career killer for young Marines BOREDOM. I have seen these guys, heck I was these guys. I'll use one of my best bros for an example I'll call him Guido, that was his nickname. Out in the field you couldn't find a better Marine, expert rifleman, always there in the very end on the humps, with his load and someone elses. Snoop and Poop, this man was a killer!! On the other hand in the rear with the bull, inspections and such he couldn't handle it, and a three day pass forget it he had a taste for the mesican beauties, and tequillia. Which lead to a fair amount of NJP rounds for Guido. This kinda proves my point these young marines are going straight to combat and staying in high alert status alot of training going on, more field time less boredom. Less office hours.