The Best Defense

A Marine general takes on our LT: I spent a career thinking and being heard

By Lt. Gen. Bernard Trainor (USMC, ret.)

Best Defense voice of experience

Of course any hierarchical and conservative institution can be resistant to change and unwelcoming of out-of-lane independent thought. But I believe the Marine Corps has a pretty good record of being an exception, i.e. many officers in the chain encourage that sort of thinking and help get a subordinate's message a hearing at a higher level.

I was the recipient of such support from the time I was a new lieutenant and over the years came to expect it. And I don't think I was an exception. Let me cite some milestones in my career:

1952 -- Korea -- 2d Lt. Rifle Platoon Leader -- We were taking unwarranted patrol casualties following prescribed techniques. I proposed some changes to the Bn. CO during a visit to my platoon. He rejected them out of hand, but the S-3, Maj. J.K. Hogan, accompanying him, saw merit in my ideas and successfully went to bat for me and overcame the CO's resistance.

1953 -- 8th Marines -- 1st Lt. At an Officers Call I argued that the USMC triangular organization was less effective than a square formation in the embryonic days of helicopters. The Regt. CO Col. DeWolf Schatzel (one of the notorious "Chowder Society" members in the Unification fight) encouraged me to put my arguments in writing and submit it to the Marine Corps Gazette. It was published as "The Triangle and the Square." It was a voice crying in the wilderness, but I was encouraged, not discouraged by my seniors.

1960 -- 1st Recon Bn Capt. Company Commander -- Upon returning from exchange duty with the Royal Marines, I argued for the adoption of some of the deep penetration recon techniques the Brits were using against the EOKA insurgency in Cyprus as being ideal for Vietnam, which was looming on the horizon. My proposals were opposed by some within the Recon community, but supported by Lt. Col. Hank Woessner, Bn CO and subsequently by the CG, Maj. Gen. Jim Masters. The techniques were expanded, improved, and served as the precursor for the successful Sting Ray operations in Vietnam.

1968 -- MC Command & Staff College -- Maj. Instructor -- I recommended and sold a series of out-of- the-box "creative thinking" initiatives as part of a curriculum change to the senior instructor, who supported it and passed it to Maj. Mike Ryan, the director, who then carried the ball and won over the director of the ED Center and the hated school solution "Yellow" was minimized (I hope it has remained so).

1970 -- Vietnam -- Lt. Col. CO 1/5, Quick Reaction Force -- Over the vehement opposition of the ADC, the CG, Maj. Gen. Chuck Widdecke (a tough SOB if there ever was one) overruled him and supported a new attack SOP/technique that I proposed to introduce.

Needless to say, the more senior I became, the easier it became to have my voice heard. But the point is that throughout my career senior Marine Corps leaders welcomed and were open to new ideas -- and along the way, most of the officers between me and the decision-makers were a help, not a hindrance.

To repeat, I think my experience is more representative than those who have been frustrated by what they categorize as a closed-minded Marine Corps bureaucracy. 

Lt. Gen. Bernard "Mick" Trainor (USMC, ret.) is a veteran of combat in Korea and Vietnam, a former military correspondent for the New York Times, and co-author of several books on the military, most recently Endgame.

DVIDS/Lance Cpl. Tyler Main

The Best Defense


By "Soldier's Diary"

Best Defense department of domestic violence and national security

Yesterday, Tom commented: "But generally I am avoiding the subject of the Newtown slaughter because it just enrages and saddens me."

My thought was, that is exactly why we need to discuss this. We should be disgusted, we should be enraged, we should be saddened, but we must turn those emotions to the debate. What happened in Newtown, what happened in Oregon, what happened in Colorado, what happened in Columbine, has as much to do with national security as what is happening in Pakistan. You have seen the numbers of people killed over the past decade due to gun violence in America, and yes, anytime our citizens are being killed it's a matter of national security, but I have a little bit of a different outlook on the impacts to our national security as we move forward.

In a global economy of vastly increased mobility and interdependence, our own prosperity and leader­ship depends increasingly on our ability to provide our citizens with the education that they need to succeed, while attracting the premier human capital for our workforce...America's long-term leader­ship depends on educating and producing future scientists and innovators. We will invest more in STEM education so students can learn to think critically in science, math, engineering, and technology; improve the quality of math and science teaching so American students are no longer outperformed by those in other nations.

The above quote comes directly out of our 2011 National Security Strategy. Investment in our future is key to advancing the prosperity of our nation. How the U.S. government will move forward in its allocation of resources, to include money and people, will be an outcome of this tragic event. The spate of shootings over the past few years has now grown to the point that politicians will do something. What that something is may vary, at the federal level it may be stricter gun control laws, at the local level it may be additional security at schools and other places where you find large gatherings of otherwise defenseless people (malls, movie theaters, and schools, for example).

Federal, state and local officials will have a series of stark decisions to make. Hire security guards or hire teachers. Invest in security cameras or purchase new books. You want to arm teachers? Wonderful, purchase them all guns, ammo, and send them to a week of training on how to handle the weapons. Personally, I would rather they purchase new supplies for our teachers and students, then spend a week at a teaching seminar.

As we move forward we can use the model followed after 9/11, and turn on the fire hose of money to increase security in our schools based on the 1 percent doctrine. Our children deserve the best education and the right to attend school without the fear of being gunned down by an evil madman, but how those two objectives are achieved must be balanced vis-à-vis our financial resources. We all see what travel at our airports has become, how antiquated our immigration policies have become, and the brain-drain that has infected our nation. Once we get past the necessary gun control debate, all citizens will need to stay engaged to assure that our nation properly prioritizes its resources for the security of the nation.

"Soldier's Diary" is an active duty soldier with multiple combat tours over the past 11 years and is a longtime follower of The Best Defense. The views expressed are his own.