Basics of a Warrior Ethos
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  1. #1

    Cool Basics of a Warrior Ethos

    Basics of a Warrior Ethos
    By Col. Roderick Smith, USMCR (Ret)
    Enthusiasm for the military life is a calling, not a job. It's based on the willingness to subordinate individual thoughts and concerns, including the concern to protect one's own life, for the good of the group and the mission. It's teamwork at its heart, and teamwork in its most complex form.

    Such enthusiasm is gained by experience, self-discipline and camaraderie. Recruits rarely have it, although must hold the potential for it. Military recruits join their service for three primary reasons: (1) Membership-the opportunity to belong to a prideful organization and to show off that membership, (2) Challenge-the ability to undergo, endure and conquer physical and mental circumstances well beyond ordinary, daily life, and (3) Adventure-consistent with numbers 1 and 2 above, the opportunity to participate directly or vicariously in exciting, demanding and potentially dangerous activities. Service in the more "safe" military occupations-cooks, accountants, and administrators-must be viewed as valuable parts of the overall combat team, or they become mere civilian employment.

    A military calling finds its core in the warrior's spirit…the desire to close with and kill your enemy; defeating his cause - all while operating under a code of honor and shared values. Any soldier, sailor, airman or Marine excelling in their occupation, but eschewing this warrior spirit, is merely a good, civil servant in uniform. Camaraderie, the ability to share this warrior's spirit with others undergoing substantially identical experiences and challenges, is the glue holding the system together.

    Military pay must be present and sufficient to support the consistency of the system, and to provide for an appropriate level of lifestyle for rank attained. So long as fundamental fairness and ability to support oneself is maintained, attraction of pay is not a prime motivator to a calling.

    How to weaken the Warrior ethos:

    1. Encourage individuality and personal diversity while simultaneously trying to build a fighting team. A psychologist would call this dysfunctional behavior. Today, we call it an "Army of one". (Caveat here: I do NOT mean to cast a bad light on our brother service - the U.S. Army by restating that phrase. It's more a comment on the mindset and NOT the institution.)

    2. Eliminate or denigrate physical training designed to enhance military performance and military "specific" activities, i.e. endurance marches, obstacle course maneuver, marksmanship, etc…

    3. Affirm the notion that military duties can be likened to mere civilian jobs with uniforms, benefits, worker's compensation and salaries commensurate with other civilians.

    4. Assure the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines that duty, pride and honor are passé. Our technology has made these so and technology is omnipotent and controlling.

    5. Destroy team integrity through a lack of discipline and with public displays of favoritism in special rules/duties assigned, responsibility and culpability, special pay allowances and awards. Exalt "show" over "substance", mediocrity over excellence, and self-fulfillment over the harsh realities of combat readiness.



  2. #2

    U.S. Marines: Warrior Culture

    Excerpt No. 1:
    From the chapter, "U.S. Marines, The American Samurai" (Copyright 2001 Marion F. Sturkey, All Rights Reserved)

    Marines have evolved into American Icons, the Warrior Elite. Why? What makes them tick? What is the Marine Corps? And, why does the individual Marine stand head and shoulders above all other Professional Warrior wannabes?

    The answers are complex. True, the Marine Corps is a military force, but it is much more. The Corps is an elite fraternity, a spiritual brotherhood. Entry is a calling. For most, earning the title is closely akin to becoming a priest. Yet, the ethos of the Warrior Culture of the Marines is simple: prowess in combat.

    Each U.S. Marine, past and present, has entered more than just the Brotherhood of Marines. He has become, and will always remain, part of a mystical fellowship of valor. He must comply with hallowed rituals. He must conform to an uncompromising code of honor, discipline, and personal integrity. Commitment to his Corps -- that's right, his Corps -- and moral strength become the norm. Throughout the history of the Corps, these virtues have sustained Marine Warriors during the chaos and perils of combat.

    Marines remain a breed apart. Each Marine draws strength from his Corps. In return, the strength and legacy of the Marine Corps lie in the collective will of each individual Marine. The Corps glories in a tradition of service and sacrifice. In their unique Corps, grown men speak openly of their brotherly love for fellow Marines whom they have never met. They share a bond, a love, a dedication and loyalty that no earthly circumstance can shatter. It is their Corps, their elite Brotherhood of Marines!

    True, the Marine Corps doesn't fit in. The Army has soldiers. The Navy has sailors. The Air Force has airmen or zoomies or whatever. But only the combat oriented Marines have bestowed the name of their service upon each member of their brotherhood, regardless of rank. The Marine Corps has Marines. Each Marine is an integral part of his Corps. He is the Corps. Marines and their Corps are inseparable, they are one. The U.S. Marines . . . .

    Excerpt No. 2:
    From the chapter, "Marine Corps Legacy," which contains quotations about Marines, by admirers of the Corps (Copyright 2001 Marion F. Sturkey, All Rights Reserved)

    The safest place in Korea was right behind a platoon of Marines. Lord, how they could fight! [MGen. Frank E. Lowe, USA; Korea, 26 January 1952]

    Marines I see as two breeds, Rottweilers or Dobermans, because Marines come in two varieties, big and mean, or skinny and mean. They're aggressive on the attack and tenacious on defense. They've got really short hair, and they always go for the throat. [RAdm. Jay R. Stark, USN; 10 November 1995]

    Marines know how to use their bayonets. Army bayonets may as well be paper-weights. [Navy Times, November 1994]

    The United States Marine Corps, with its fiercely proud tradition of excellence in combat, its hallowed rituals, and its unbending code of honor, is part of the fabric of American myth. [Thomas E. Ricks, Making The Corps, 1997]

    They told us to open up the embassy, or "we'll blow you away." And then they looked up and saw the Marines on the roof with these really big guns, and they said in Somali, "Igaralli ahow," which means, "Excuse me, I didn't mean it, my mistake." [Karen Aquilar, in the U.S. Embassy; Mogadishu, Somalia, 1991]

    Excerpt No. 3:
    From the chapter, "Life in the Corps" (Copyright 2001 Marion F. Sturkey, All Rights Reserved)

    Thanks to the German Army, the U.S. Marine Corps has an unofficial mascot.

    During World War I, many official German reports had called the attacking Marines "teufel-hunden," meaning Devil-Dogs. These beasts were the ferocious mountain dogs of Bavarian folklore.

    Soon afterward a U.S. Marine Recruiting Poster depicted a snarling English Bulldog wearing a Marine Corps helmet (see the sub-chapter, "Marine Corps Recruiting Posters"). Because of the tenacity and demeanor of the breed, the image took root with both the Marines and the public. The Marines soon unofficially adopted the English Bulldog as their mascot.

    At their base at Quantico, Virginia, Marines obtained a registered English Bulldog, King Bulwark. In a formal ceremony on 14 October 1922, BGen. Smedley D. Butler signed documents which enlisted the bulldog, renamed Jiggs, for the "term of life." Pvt. Jiggs got an official USMC waiver and avoided boot camp. He immediately began his inspirational duties in the Corps.

    A gungy hard-charging canine Marine, Pvt. Jiggs did not remain a private for long. Within three months he sported corporal chevrons on his custom-made uniform. On New Years Day 1924, Cpl. Jiggs got promoted to sergeant. And in a meteoric rise, he got promoted again -- this time, all the way to sergeant major -- seven months later.

    SgtMaj. Jiggs' death on 9 January 1927 was mourned throughout the Corps. The four-footed USMC sergeant major, in a miniature satin-lined coffin, lay in state in a hangar at Quantico. Row upon row of floral sprays from non-canine admirers flanked the coffin. Amid much pomp and ceremony, the Corps interred SgtMaj. Jiggs with full military honors.

    A replacement mascot was soon on the way to Quantico. Former heavyweight boxing champion James J. "Gene" Tunney, a Marine veteran who had fought with the Corps in France, donated his English Bulldog. Renamed Jiggs II, the new mascot stepped into the role of his predecessor.

    Big problem! No discipline! Jiggs II loved to chase people, and he bit people, too. He showed a total lack . . .

    Excerpt No. 4:
    From the chapter, "Happy Hour Military Terms for U.S. Marines" (Copyright 2001 Marion F. Sturkey, All Rights Reserved)

    Straight Scoop: Factual information, as opposed to a new PFC saying, "I just got the word . . . ."

    Stuff: A nebulous term that can refer to (1) a tangible thing, or to (2) a situation, condition, or process, as exemplified below:

    A: This is rough stuff. Typical statement of an Air Force NCO while driving his air-conditioned sedan, from his air-conditioned office, to his air-conditioned quarters, in the rain.

    B: This is really rough stuff. Typical statement of an Army Ranger, weapon at sling arms and carrying a 30 pound pack, after jumping from an aircraft and marching eight miles to his rally point, in the rain.

    C: This is horrible stuff. Typical statement of a Navy SEAL, lying in the mud with his 40 pound pack, weapon in hand, after jumping from an aircraft, swimming a mile to shore, and crawling past enemy positions to his objective, in the rain.

    D: I love this stuff. Typical statement of a camouflaged U.S. Marine Recon, up to his eyeballs in a vermin-infested swamp, with his 60 pound pack, a weapon in each hand; after jumping from an aircraft, swimming five miles to shore, killing several alligators while negotiating the swamp, assaulting the enemy camp and slaying all occupants; and after slithering back into the slime of the swamp with plans to kill all enemy soldiers who wander past his undetectable vantage point, in the rain.

    Sucking Chest Wound: Nature's way of telling you to slow down.

    Supporting Fire: An excellent thing to witness, if it's yours.

    Surrender: A technique that Army soldiers often attempt to use, especially if they are into (1) masochism or (2) cold rice balls.

    Excerpt No. 5:
    From the chapter, "Happy Hour Laws of Combat for U.S. Marines" (Copyright 2001 Marion F. Sturkey, All Rights Reserved)

    Laws of combat never change! Marine Warriors must learn from the fatal mistakes of others. Otherwise, in combat they will not survive long enough to learn how to survive permanently.

    Although laws of combat do not change, weapons do. In the beginning, combatants used their fists and teeth. Later, they graduated to clubs and rocks. Pretty soon a sharpened club evolved into a spear. Then a sharpened rock, strapped to a stick, became a sophisticated war ax. High-tech stuff! . . . . . . . your keys to staying alive and winning in battle:

    Sooner or later, everyone has to die. The trick is to die young as late as possible.

    If you are allergic to lead, you would be wise to avoid combat.

    In combat, any Marine who does not openly consider himself the best in the game is in the wrong game.

    It is true that, in combat, more aircraft are downed by a shortage of spare parts than by enemy fire. The difference is that few Marines die because of a shortage of spare parts.

    On patrol and ambush, (1) never stand when you can sit, (2) never sit when you can lie down, (3) never stay awake when you can sleep, and (4) get in a good bowel movement whenever you can.

    You may be able to win without fighting, and that is preferable. But, it is harder, and the enemy may not cooperate.

    If you can avoid it, never get into a fair fight.

    Once you are in the fight, it is too late to ponder whether or not it was a good idea.

    Hot garrison chow flown to the field is best. Hot field rations are better than cold field rations. Cold field rations are better than no food at all. Nonetheless, no food at all is still better than a cold rice ball a day, even though it may have little pieces of fish-head in it. Never surrender!

  3. #3
    Corps Values: (excerpt from Warrior Culture of the U.S. Marines, copyright 2001 Marion F. Sturkey)

    Why are U.S. Marines considered the world's premier warriors? Why? What puts the Marine Corps above the rest? Other military services have rigorous training and weapons of equal or greater lethality. So, why do U.S. Marines stand head and shoulders above the crowd?

    The truth lies in the individual Marine. He (or she) did not join the Marines. Roughly 40,000 try each year. Those who survive the crucible of Marine basic training have been sculpted in mind and body. They have become Marines.

    Once he has earned the title and entered the Brotherhood of Marines, a new warrior must draw upon the legacy of his Corps. Therein lies his strength. In return, the strength of the Corps lies in the individual Marine. The character (often defined as "what you are in the dark") of these warriors is defined by the three constant Corps Values: honor, courage, and commitment.

    Honor: Honor requires each Marine to exemplify the ultimate standard in ethical and moral conduct. Honor is many things; honor requires many things. A U.S. Marine must never lie, never cheat, never steal, but that is not enough. Much more is required. Each Marine must cling to an uncompromising code of personal integrity, accountable for his actions and holding others accountable for theirs. And, above all, honor mandates that a Marine never sully the reputation of his Corps.

    Courage: Simply stated, courage is honor in action -- and more. Courage is moral strength, the will to heed the inner voice of conscience, the will to do what is right regardless of the conduct of others. It is mental discipline, an adherence to a higher standard. Courage means willingness to take a stand for what is right in spite of adverse consequences. This courage, throughout the history of the Corps, has sustained Marines during the chaos, perils, and hardships of combat. And each day, it enables each Marine to look in the mirror -- and smile.

    Commitment: Total dedication to Corps and Country. Gung-ho Marine teamwork. All for one, one for all. By whatever name or cliche, commitment is a combination of (1) selfless determination and (2) a relentless dedication to excellence. Marines never give up, never give in, never willingly accept second best. Excellence is always the goal. And, when their active duty days are over, Marines remain reserve Marines, retired Marines, or Marine veterans. There is no such thing as an ex-Marine or former-Marine. Once a Marine, always a Marine. Commitment never dies.

    The three Corps Values: honor, courage, commitment. They make up the bedrock of the character of each individual Marine. They are the foundation of his Corps. These three values, handed down from generation to generation, have made U.S. Marines the Warrior Elite. The U.S. Marine Corps: the most respected and revered fighting force on earth.

  4. #4

    General Hagee: 6th June 2003

    As I assume the duties as the thirty-third Commandant, I want all Marines—active, Reserve, civilian, retired, former and their families—to know my broad objectives and intent. I will provide more detailed guidance on specific programs and timelines in the near future.

    Up front, let there be no doubt that we are fundamentally on course. Our Corps remains a physically, materially, and most importantly a mentally-ready combat force. Marine contributions to the Global War on Terrorism over the last year have more than demonstrated this fact. Further, documents like Naval Power 21, Marine Corps Strategy 21, and Expeditionary Maneuver Warfare provide the vital intellectual preparation of the battlefield that will carry us well into the future.

    An intellectual giant and one of our greatest leaders, General John A. Lejeune, was instrumental in leading the Marine Corps from its role as colonial infantry of the nineteenth century to the combined-arms expeditionary force needed for America's increased global responsibilities of the twentieth century. I have made use of the thirteenth Commandant's timeless insights about our legacy as warfighters throughout this guidance because they provide important guidelines for our current transformation at the dawn of the twenty-first century.

    Warrior Legacy
    The warrior ethos is the Corps' hallmark. It is the product of long service to the Nation in peace and in war by many generations of Marines. Through that service, in the words of General John A. Lejeune, the term "Marine has come to signify all that is highest in military efficiency and soldierly virtue."

    For those of us who are privileged to wear the eagle, globe, and anchor today, the rich legacy embodied in those words is the standard that governs our service. Our challenge is to conduct ourselves in such a manner that we are judged "worthy successors of that long line" that has gone before.

    Naval Heritage
    Our naval heritage is integral to who we are as Marines. Since our founding, the sailors of the United States Navy have stood courageously beside us. Time and again, our partnership has proven compelling in peace and unbeatable in war. The powerful capability that the Naval Services bring to our joint forces on the battlefield is a central element of our Nation's successes.

    As the Naval Services have long known, many of the Nation's most menacing security challenges lurk in the world's littorals and are characterized by multiple threats, growing instability, and an increased requirement for robust global power-projection capabilities. Based on recent events, others are now discovering the potent solution found in the sustained expeditionary culture that is shared by the Navy-Marine Corps team. Sustainable naval power-projection is critical to the security of our great maritime Nation. We, therefore, will remain "soldiers of the sea."

    Our Main Effort—Excellence in Warfighting
    Perceptions of our Corps vary. To most of our countrymen we are faithful, selfless servants. Our families and friends see us as dedicated and loyal defenders of our Nation. Our sister Services know us to be true professionals. And to those who would do harm to America and its interests, we are a dreaded adversary. Even the word "Marine" brings with it fear to our enemies, hope to those in need, and trust to our allies. All are in agreement, however, that we succeed due to our continued dedication to warfighting excellence and an unfailing determination to win.

    This dedication must remain firm but not blinding. We must remember that we are part of the team that makes up the Nation's joint warfighting establishment. Due to our expeditionary culture, we have always been responsive and immediately employable with our sister Services, special operations forces, as well as our coalition partners. We will leverage these institutional strengths to assist in achieving a victory in today's Global War on Terrorism and other threats to our security. As we transform our Corps for this century, we must carefully preserve the strengths of our past while not losing the flexibility to contribute to tomorrow's unique national security needs. All our actions will focus on enhancing our warfighting excellence at each level of war, at home and abroad. Every member of our Corps must remain focused on our main effort, the warfighting excellence of the individual Marine and our combined arms Marine Air-Ground Task Forces, in order to ensure that we "will be found equal to every emergency." As a part of this effort, I intend to attend and participate in all After-Action Reviews of exercises conducted at the Marine Expeditionary Force level by the staff from the MAGTF Staff Training Program.

    Leadership is, as General Lejeune states, "the eternal spirit which has animated our Corps from generation to generation." It is our leaders—from our most junior, especially our noncommissioned officers, through the entire chain of command—who have kept the Corps successful and victorious. Their sense of responsibility is the cornerstone of our hard-earned successes. We will continue to develop leaders who, given mission-type orders and commander's intent, can think on their feet, act independently, and succeed. In the future, as today, leaders will continue to instill stamina and toughness in each individual while simultaneously reinforcing character that values honor, integrity and taking care of our fellow Marines, including treating each other with dignity and respect. We will reward action that is guided by informed boldness and audacity. And, we will kindle a preference for responsive decision-making with room for errors and mistakes, while countering any institutional prejudices that punish initiative and undermine our warfighting capacity.

    Aggressive and informed leadership demands education, training, and mentoring. The importance of these key elements cannot be over-emphasized, and we must attend to each at every opportunity. Formal education, well-developed and realistic training exercises, focused independent study, and informal weekly social events all contribute to the growth of leadership and victory in war. In order to increase the depth of our professional education, we will re-invigorate the professional reading program. It will evolve beyond a reading list to become a valuable study and discussion forum that assists in our goal of achieving excellence in warfighting based on competence and comradeship.

    Capabilities and Organization
    Throughout the varied conflicts of the twentieth century, the Marine Corps demonstrated a true ability to adapt to the ever-changing face of battle. Today, we face new threats and scarce resources, yet at the same time, we must shape the Corps for the challenges of a new century. Along with the U.S. Navy, we provide the Nation its essential power-projection capability from the sea. In this regard, we have an immediate and critical tasking to define for our civilian leadership, the joint community, and the other Services how we intend to project naval power ashore in the 2015-2025 timeframe. This effort will require the intellectual rigor and participation of all five elements of the MAGTF. It will impact the entire Marine Corps—from how we are structured and train in peacetime to how we will fight on future battlefields.

    As we prepare for the future, we will continue to be ready today to accomplish any assigned mission. As globalization shrinks the world before us, our principal contribution to national security will continue to be providing forward deployed presence and projecting naval power "in every corner of the seven seas so that our country and its citizens might enjoy peace and security." Commanders at all levels are entrusted with ensuring we are ready to carry out this crucial responsibility.


  5. #5
    Innovation and Agility
    The speed of technological change at once facilitates and hinders our ability to adapt. However, by effectively melding the unique qualities of the technologically sophisticated "new breed" with the wisdom of our "old breed," we will harness technology to our advantage. The historical constants of the battlefield—uncertainty, fog and friction, and an independent, thinking adversary—as well as the demand for the careful integration of innovative thinking and accomplished warfighting skills necessitates that we heed the wisdom of our thirteenth Commandant that the relationship among Marines "should in no sense be that of superior and inferior nor that of master and servant, but rather that of teacher and scholar."

    This relationship will allow us to keep pace with technological change and exploit the opportunities it presents. An important first step we will take is to leverage technologies that allow us to more effectively share and expedite the flow of useful information. The increase in situational awareness through integrated command and control systems and a common operating picture, both for peacetime functions and on the battlefield, will dramatically increase our effectiveness and enhance the flexibility and responsiveness that are signature characteristics of our Corps.

    Success will not be defined by a specific operational "End State," but rather in the cultivation of an ethos that prizes both continual evolution and innovation as means to meet the challenges of the future. We will continue to use agile readiness as a measure of our effectiveness, and we will use familiar touchstones to guide and support our progress. We will ensure that the Corps:

    • Sustains its unique culture and core values;
    • Takes care of its families and the individual Marine;
    • Remains relevant to the threats of today and the future;
    • Establishes processes that facilitate adaptation to a changing, dynamic world; and,
    • Above all, keeps as its main effort excellence in warfighting.

    I charge each and every Marine to join me in this challenging journey into the twenty-first century. Our tasks are before us—we will win the current battles and be ready to defeat our Nation's future foes. Let us proceed with boldness, intellect, and confidence in each other, as we continue to forge the legacy of our great Corps and strive to take our rightful place in that "long line" of Marines that "have acquitted themselves with greatest distinction, winning new honors on each occasion."

    Semper Fi and Keep Attacking,

    M.W. Hagee
    General, U.S. Marine Corps
    33rd Commandant of the Marine Corps

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