Small Wars Journal

An Open Letter to All Marines: A Response to Lieutenant General Robert B. Neller

An Open Letter to All Marines: A Response to Lieutenant General Robert B. Neller by Major Gregory A. Thiele, Marine Corps Gazette.

… In the 23 years with which I have been associated with the Marine Corps, however, I have perceived an alarming trend toward ever greater centralization, occurring in virtually every conceivable field. I also believe that anyone who has eyes can see it. I doubt that LtGen Neller would deny this. Where LtGen Neller and I almost certainly disagree is in regard to whether or not this trend toward centralization is beneficial. I believe that too much centralization is potentially disastrous, while he likely sees it as a sign of progress. It is certain that many decisions to centralize training, administration, supply, etc., have been made with the best of intentions and for good reasons (to ameliorate the impacts of faster promotions and make use of improved communications, shorter training times, diminished resources, etc.). My concern is that, when taken as a whole, these developments constitute a long-term threat to the health and effectiveness of our Corps. I can only respond to LtGen Neller that, similar to the British at Jutland, there seems to be “something wrong with our bloody” system. It is more than the predeployment training plan. There are a number of other examples one could cite that illustrate the danger that is slowly sapping the vitality of our Corps…


Peter J. Munson

Mon, 10/31/2011 - 5:56am

In reply to by bumperplate

I don't think that everyone should post under their own name, but I think that if you want to engage on these issues and actually get someone influential to respond, like Neller, you have to publish in the professional forum and that has to be done on your own name. Once you're doing that, it doesn't make much sense to use an alias elsewhere. My point was not so much that everyone should post with their own name as airing my sore spot over being called a whiner, I guess.

As far as anonymity, I am fine with it most of the time, but sometimes when people attack other commenters or come out against positions with what seems to me to be thin or ideological reasoning, I really wish I could see what their background is.


Mon, 10/31/2011 - 1:04am

In reply to by Peter J. Munson

"I stand up and engage under my own, real name, to try to make things better."

This is an issue I struggle with. Should we all be using our real names, ranks, positions, service affiliations, etc?

Or, should we adopt nicknames, fake names, user numbers and the like?

On one hand, I like the anonymity because it forces me to read every comment on equal footing. I survey the comments based on merit alone. I've adopted a practice of reading the comment before the name and deliberately do this.

On the other hand, we should stand by our comments.

However, some people don't just post their own thoughts, but they post a representation of what's going on within their units - because they are trying to make things better by publishing representative statements, not isolated thoughts.

Then again, can a PVT come on here and say "you suck" to someone that outranks him, just because it's the internet and real names may or may not be used?

Tricky deal. In the end, unless some rigorous controls are put into place, no one really knows the true identity of each poster.

When I first started following this and similar sites I didn't post. Then I posted with my name. Then I thought about OPSEC. I decided to use a nickname. What's kept me with using a nickname is that I like anonymity forcing me to evaluate each comment on its own merit and I hope others do the same. Additionally, if I find a common sentiment within my cohort I express it, so the idea isn't exactly my own but it's nice to see if it's isolated to my work environment or broad across the force. I enjoy the dialog and have really learned a lot from the vast diversity of opinions and knowledge bases.

The expression of opinion in the military has always been tricky. I'm not sure what the right answer is with this issue. But, I'm glad people are doing it. Some times we get kool aid, some times we get bitterness, but I think we get honesty from people that really want to see the military be the best organization it can be.

Peter J. Munson

Sun, 10/30/2011 - 5:17pm

There was also an article in the print/subscriber only journal from LtGen Neller, currently Director of Ops, JCS J-3, on the same topic. The article stemmed from a letter to the editor in which I accused the GOs of the Marines of not reading the Gazette because they weren't listening to what we were saying there, he answered on the attack, which led to a email and phone conversation between the two of us. His thoughts on that and other conversations with the "young Turks" or "middle management" are published in this month's Gazette. The bottom line is that he restates our gripes, fairly accurately, and says that the leadership has to address these gripes rather than just going back to the way things were before 9/11. I don't know if it will really change much, but at least it seems like it may open more of a dialogue than a set of one-sided diatribes. I've been accused more than once of penning whiney diatribes, but I'm not just a whiner, I stand up and engage under my own, real name, to try to make things better.


Sun, 10/30/2011 - 4:26pm

Come on can you fight and win wars if you're not in the correct uniform? How do you communicate and determine friend from foe if you don't all look the same?

Look, you are all going to do Design, you're going to think outside the box, creatively, and critically - just as long as you understand the centralized message, intent, and end state. Don't go out there trying to re-create the wheel, higher has already done it for you. How can we possibly win those battles unless you're totally nested with higher's planning? Higher knows best, higher knows all that is going on within your AO.

When you get through the ticker-tape parade and resume garrison operations, immediately purge your combat mindset and your aggression. Right after that, go get your motorcycle safety training and the monthly sexual harassment briefing. Press those uniforms we told you not to ever place an iron on and by God, look like you're in the military!

Last thing, go meet with the family readiness group, plan a bunch of events. It's gotta look first class, just do what those spouses tell you to do, especially the LTC's wife.

Go out there and make us proud!

Ken White

Sun, 10/30/2011 - 3:28pm

As a former Marine, long ago and far away, I recall the M1941 pattern Utility Jacket designed with its two patch pockets at belt level to be worn outside the trousers. We in Korea were ordered to tuck them in our trousers -- but not to cut off the lower pockets (?) -- and that was, to say the least uncomfortable. It also made fat Marines (and there were those back then, mostly pretty competent folks, too...) look even fatter. It also insured that cartridge or pistol belts could never seem to find a comfortable place to settle..

I digress. My Platoon Sergeant at the time said "Mark my words, The Corps is going to pick up all the Army's bad habits and none of its good ones." My perception over the years has been that he was correct. As the Army has over-centralized and taken to massive micro management, it seems to this observer the Corps has not been far behind. Sad -- for both organizations.

That is, as Major Thiele states, not at all conducive to competent war fighting...