The Best Defense

A Marine officer: I’m leaving the Corps because it doesn’t much value ideas

By Anonymous

Best Defense department of junior officer retention

I'm an infantry officer in the Marine Corps. I deployed last year to Helmand Province on an embedded training team with the Afghan National Army. It was an incredible experience, and I'm proud of what we accomplished together, but now I'm in my last month of active duty and I'll be getting out as a first lieutenant. I decided to leave the Marines a few months ago. (I was career designated, which I say not to brag, but so you don't think I'm some disgruntled jarhead.)

I've been closely following the discussion that you kicked off with your book, your piece in The Atlantic, and on Best Defense. I want to weigh in on one point about which I feel strongly -- it is that firing certain generals will send a message to junior officers about the value of adaptability and critical thinking. I don't know that it will, but you are absolutely correct that such a message is necessary.

The conclusions you fear people may draw regarding Petraeus's departure -- "critical thinking and ideas are overrated" -- were particularly poignant. I know you're talking Army. Sadly, it applies to the Marine Corps, too. 

An example: As the wars draw to a close, the Marine Corps is preaching a return to its roots. This is all well and good. But it seems as if everyone is holding up the 1990s as an idyllic time in the Marine Corps's history, as if the past decade with all of its lessons and changes was an aberration. My fear is we will learn very little from it. 

In my battalion's after action report from the deployment, there are more than fifty topics discussed. Just three of them relate to partnering, the main effort in Helmand and our primary mission. The rest are tactical prescriptions with a few operational suggestions thrown in -- not the sort of analysis you want from a battalion staff.

If you've read Rajiv Chandrasekaran's new book, you know how General Larry Nicholson is portrayed. He isn't perfect, but he at least "gets it." My impression, having endured dozens of empty speeches from generals these past few years, is that men like him are few and far between. What concerns me much more, though, is that among my peers, the ones with ideas are the ones getting out, because they just don't feel the organization values them.

During the summer of 2011, the author served in Helmand Province as a Tolai Advisor to the Afghan National Army's 215th Corps. The views presented here are his own.


The Best Defense

Rebecca’s War Dog of the Week: Ft. Leonard Wood honors fallen dog, Tygo

By Rebecca Frankel

Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent

On November 10, Tygo, a Specialized Search Dog on deployment in Afghanistan, was killed by an IED. On December 4, Fort Leonard Wood kennels held a memorial service for their fallen comrade that included "a ceremonial rifle volley and the playing of taps," as well as the customary sharing of memories to honor the dog's service.

Though his career was cut short, Tygo had a solid reputation for detection work. Earlier this year, he and his handler, Spc. Seth Rodenberger, won first and second place for endurance and explosive detection challenges during the 2012 Hawaiian Islands Working Dog Competition.

Tygo was known for his laid back temperament and was a dog who, according to a base press release, possessed a "fierce tenacity for detection" and was "always steadfast and ready." Even during Tygo's brief three months of his deployment, the four-year-old Irish setter earned a formidable reputation among the Special Operations teams.

In his closing remarks at the Specker Chapel service at Fort Leonard Wood, Rodenberger (who seems not to have been injured in the attack that killed Tygo) thanked his former partner for "keeping the team and especially me out of harm's way. You're my battle buddy, my friend and my hero."

As one other sergeant remarked while they will all miss Tygo, "his loss will only make us more determined to succeed in our mission."

Tygo's recent death is hopefully the last in a year that has claimed a relatively high number of lives from the MWD community -- both canine and handler. As we near the close of 2012, it's perhaps a sad ending note but I think one worth dwelling on, especially considering the pointed remarks of Engineer Canine Company Commander Capt. Patrick McLain, who eulogized Tygo on December 4.

When it was McLain's turn to speak, he talked first of Tygo's role in keeping soldiers working outside the wire safe. But then he asked those gathered to view the dog's death not only as a tragic loss but also "as a very hard and sad reminder that the Engineer Canine Company currently has 43 soldiers in harms way." Of those 43, McLain continued, 18 are in combat arms. Those "military working dogs [and their handlers] have the most dangerous job that the military has to offer," he said. And that job is "finding casualty producing devices that cause so much damage in today's operational environment."