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thedrifter
10-24-06, 03:03 PM
Teach honorable loyalty
Editorial
The Marine Corps Times

Unit loyalty. Teamwork. Band of brothers.

They are binding ties that usually bestow pride, honor and comfort on troops in combat. They are psychological armor in a dangerous, chaotic world.

But for Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Melson J. Bacos, misguided loyalty to a Marine squad gone bad reaped horrific, deadly results.

Bacos, 21, blamed loyalty to his squad of infantry Marines for his willingness to participate in an alleged plot to kill a suspected Iraqi insurgent that ended in the execution of a Iraqi civilian.

He was court-martialed Oct. 6, pleading guilty to lesser charges of conspiracy and kidnapping in exchange for his testifying against his comrades, men who he now says hatched the scheme and pulled the triggers.

It would be easy to label Bacos a coward who did nothing to try to stop the killing. It's true, his crisis of conscience should have occurred the moment he knew what "his Marines" were allegedly planning. But as military sociologist David Segal notes, holding onto one's morals in combat is far from easy.

"It's harder to fight that urge to be part of that group when you're in a combat zone," Segal said. Troops in those positions wind up "between integrity and group pressure."

It's worse for sailors like Bacos - stepbrothers at best in a band of brothers - who are "absolutely dependent on others around them," Segal added. It is believable that Bacos feared that defying the group could have put him at the business end of an M16.

The Navy must use this tragedy as an opportunity to re-examine the tactics and procedures it uses to train sailors who embed with combat units. And it's not just corpsmen - more than 8,500 sailors serve as individual augmentees in war zones. Those numbers are expected to grow in coming months.

What lessons can be gleaned from Bacos? What strategies might sailors employ to avert future moral failings?

Bacos said he didn't stop the alleged killing because he wanted to be part of the team.

The Navy must do all it can to help such men and women achieve that laudable goal - honorably.