If you’re a veteran, in the military, related to someone in the military, or for some odd reason are interested in what happens in Congress, you’ve probably already heard what Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Michael Barrett stated before a Senate Armed Services Committee last Wednesday. However, if you haven’t read his testimony,
Which is really important because the media can misconstrue what is stated.
you need to read it. Read his testimony, read the open letter that he penned, watch the recorded committee meeting and then read the articles that are either telling you what to think, telling you what he said, or responding to what he said.
Including this one.....
Seriously read his testimony. But if that’s too long to read, go watch the video of the testimony and go to 1 hour and 55 minutes.
Now I get it. Look I wasn’t… or rather I’m not a Marine, I was an Army medic. Say what you want, but the mentality is different.
Don’t read that as Marines are better. Read that as the Marine Corps approaches problems in a different way than the Army.
However, let’s be honest, nobody in the military wants to make less money. Sure the country and mission come first for those in uniform, but there’s a limit. There’s a certain point at which supporting your family trumps serving your nation.
But let’s not mistake what the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps stated. When asked about modernization, compensation benefits, and the commissary reductions, he began with “I’m not going to belabor what Sergeant Major of the Army Chandler and MCPON stated.”
By this time you hopefully have read and heard what he said, so I don’t need to give a full recounting.
Now if he had stopped at that, you probably wouldn’t have heard about his testimony, because not belaboring a point means that you agree with what was stated. But because he continued, journalists, the media, and practically our entire community decided to pick up our hammers and nails, and begin to crucify him.
I have to admit, I began this article solely with the intention of doing just that.
But the three important ideals that I believe all veterans had ingrained in us are loyalty, integrity, and courage. After reading SgtMajMC Barrett's testimony and listening to his response to questioning, I couldn't vehemently go after him. So I decided to put away my hammer, throw down my nails, and like Atticus Finch stop (or try to) an angry mob.
So first, let’s all smile at the Marines, when they talk about how great they are living.
I’m especially looking at your Air Force.
Wanting the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps to harp on making living conditions better is like wanting the Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force to harp on an Airman’s need to crawl through more mud. It’s simply not in their DNA.
Don’t confuse this “let’s not crucify the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps” with “completely agreeing with what the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps said”.
You can tell that statement is important because it’s in bold and bigger than all the other outside thoughts.
Let’s also be very honest with ourselves. SgtMajMC Barrett is being very blunt with the Senators. He’s telling them the truth as he sees it. He’s telling them, “We both know that you are going to cut the budget. We both know that you are going to require us to still go and fight. We both know if Marines are going to maintain the same level of benefits that they have now, we either have to increase spending, decrease the force, or not have the same operational capabilities.”
Don’t get hung up on the term benefits and how it sounds too much like welfare. Think of them as corporate benefits.
Now don’t get angry with the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps because his main focus is on the purpose of the Marine Corps. Like most C-level executives in the private sector, he is primarily focused on meeting his mission by working under financial restraints. Rather be frustrated with him, because his line of thinking isn’t realistic in the real world.
SgtMajMC Barrett believes that if you pay service members less, that they are going to be more frugal. The concept of “because I have less money, I will not spend as much” sounds logical, but unfortunately human beings aren’t logical. Even if service members are trying to be frugal and save money, as prices go up and if their pay doesn’t go up at a similar rate, the percentage of what they will be able to save in comparison to what they make will diminish.
Like businesses, people have sunk costs.
A service member’s inability to save and the reduction in retirement benefits that are coming, only means that a service member will be worse off tomorrow than he or she is today. Regardless of how great the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps thinks the enlisted men and women under him are living, those of us who have gotten out of the military understand the financial obstacles that we had to endure to make new lives for ourselves.
It wasn’t easy.
What seems to have happened is that SgtMajMC Barrett has fallen into the same trap that many senior leaders fall into: the idea that they understand the problems of those on the lower ends of the totem pole. They believe that because I am going out there and talking with junior individuals, that I am hearing the truth. SgtMajMC Barrett seems to have forgotten that, unless these are completely unsurprised visits, Company Commanders, Battalion Commanders, etc. ensure that only the “best” junior Marines meet with him.
Do you really think that junior Marines are going to complain to the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps? More importantly, do you think that a 20 year old is going to first bring up compensation concerns, much less concerns related to discounted cash flow and the time value of money?
The reality is, neither SgtMajMC Barrett nor us can know what will entice future Marines and other service members to raise their right hand and then continue to serve. All we can agree on is that “The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive veterans of early wars were treated and appreciated by our nation.”
Unfortunately, in this former Army Staff Sergeant’s opinion, the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps’ beliefs will only harm the quality and capabilities of our nation’s military.