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 Lt. Grose,

I just visited your site, and had a couple of questions for you (that you didn't already cover).  Since you have both served as an enlisted man and an officer, I wanted to know what the difference in lifestyle is like.  Is being an officer like, in the civilian world, being upper management, or what?  Are officers more regimented, are there more rules to follow?  And last, how is the pay and benefits? Decent? I'm asking because I'm going to graduate from my university here in Florida in less than two years, and have given the Marines a serious look.  They seem to be the only branch who will recruit college grads (The local Army Recruiter actually tried to get me to quit school, in my Junior year).  Thanks for your help,

Marshall Hood

Thanks for writing and since you asked, I will cover your questions as best I can. What is the difference between being enlisted and being an officer?

It is a lot more cerebral and less physical at times. I mean as an enlisted man, I was told what to do and had to basically follow the directions of others and answer to them. I was working for my superiors and job satisfaction came by completing assigned tasks.

As an officer, I work for my juniors. Yes, I still get guidance from above but basically, and I find this a constant source of amazement, I decide what will happen every single day. I make the calls and dole out both praise and punishment. At first, this was a strange situation since I was on the other side for so long. But now that a little time has passed and the novelty of the situation has worn off, I can concentrate on making things better for my Marines and my unit while honing my leadership skills. My bottom line when I deal with my Marines is to constantly ask myself: “How would I have wanted to be treated when I was wearing their boots?”

Now things always look greener on the other side and the enlisted side sees these things:

An officer is treated with a lot of respect.
An officer is never questioned by a junior
An officer gets more money to do less physical activities
An officer lives in better housing, wears better clothes, and eats better food
An officer can get out of a lot more required events
An officer never has to wait in line
An officer gets waited on first wherever he goes no matter how many enlisted are waiting

I will admit that these things are true and they are nice perks but there is also another side to it:

An officer always has to make the big decision and answer for it
An officer is expected never to make a mistake
An officer is expected to have more stamina, courage, intelligence, and motivation
An officer must be a mentor, tutor, counselor, symbol of excellence, father-figure, moral pillar, psychologist, intellectual, tactician, motivator, judge, jury, executioner, praiser, awarder, protocol expert, teacher, scholar, philosopher, historian, and perfectionist.
An officer must always be able to answer the question, “What do we do now, Sir?”

That might sound like a good deal but the pressure and consistency of the expectations is enormous!

Another justification for the royal treatment mentioned above, as it was explained to me in a great book called The Armed Forces Officer, is that an officer’s time is more important that an enlisted man’s. This might seem a little highbrow but the logic goes that if a troop is stuck in a line for an hour, you have lost a worker for that time period. If an officer has to wait, you have lost the driving force behind all of the workers. With a ratio of 1 to 10 (officers to enlisted), you can see why it is important for an officer to quickly get through a line so that he can get back to the more important task at hand...leading the troops.

I think that the best summation of what is expected of an officer also comes from the Armed Forces Officer when it explains the inflated paycheck over the enlisted rates. It says that the reason for the extra money is not because we are that much better than the enlisted men but because they want to give us enough money so that we can live comfortably and not have to worry about finances. That way we can devote that much more of our mental effort to the Corps rather than having to worry about how we are going to pay our bills. With such a small officer corps and due to the importance they place on the officers, they can accomplish this. By the way, I got a 73% raise the day I was commissioned. But I will also add that I get direct deposit and therefore do not see the money. After setting up an account for my childrens’ future, the rest of the money is not mine. It belongs to my family. My paycheck is my work and to tell you the truth, I rarely think about the amount of money I make. My wife takes care of the bills and I am content to get $5 a week for a haircut and the Sunday paper. If you are in it for the money, keep looking.

I feel that I work twice as hard as an officer as I did as a sergeant. I also get twice the satisfaction and the difference is because I wake up every day not to satisfy a senior but to accomplish a mission while making life better for those under me. It is the difference between the being mindful of the ramifications of screwing up (answering to my senior enlisted Marines, some of which could get quite nasty) and answering to myself (who can get even nastier as a result of a mistake). I put pressure on myself and that self-motivation is so much stronger than the fear factor from before. I subscribe to the motto “Forgive everything of others but nothing of yourself.”

Lastly, to answer your “regiment” question, I have to be honest. This depends on the person. Officers are expected to be more spit-and-polish that the average Marine but are rarely corrected if this is not the case. After all, they are officers, or as the belief goes. So it is up to that internal motivation/expectation that I described above. Personally, I feel a large weight on my shoulders to uphold that expectation but I have seen too many that have not...and get away with it. For this, I use my saying: “I cannot change the entire Marine Corps but I can change the little corner of it that they give me.” Leading by example can be a powerful method.

Officers are not known for close order drill because that has always been an enlisted area. Because the officers are not forced to adhere to the standards they are supposed to embody, laziness sometimes sets in and a few slip by and bump along. This is unfortunate and eventually, they are either forced out or just fulfill their destiny to jump ship at the first opportunity. Either way, you end up with a pretty good crowd at the end that only have to fight the urge to slacken as their ever-increasing rank shields them more and more from scrutiny. By then, it is even more important to have internalized the standards because no one, and I mean no one, will ever hold their feet to the fire unless it gets way out of hand. It is true that absolute power corrupts absolutely but with effort, a good Marine officer will stay humble and remember what he represents.

I hope I have answered your questions. I enjoy sharing my beliefs and hope that all of this was not more than what you asked for. It is just a bit difficult to taper down an answer to a question that covers such a broad spectrum.

-- Lt Grose

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