These are some questions I recently answered from a young man
wanting to know the differences between OCS and Bootcamp.
I will now answer some of your questions. My responses will
be in all caps and in red within your email below.
Jason D. Grose
United States Marine Corps
Dear Lieutenant Grose,
I'm very interested in joining the Marines as an officer
because I feel they have discipline, honor and integrity.
Their sense of teamwork and esprit-de-corps is also very impressive.
I read the book "Making the corps" and found it to be most
illuminating. The recruiter I spoke to suggested that
to get to know what life in the Marines is like, I should speak
to actual Marines. I thought that speaking to you would be ideal
as you have been in the enlisted ranks and are now an officer
so you have see both aspects of Marine life ( I enjoyed reading
your accounts of boot camp).
I was wondering if you could tell me a bit more about the
Marines, from the point of view of someone who is in the corps.
For example, are the accounts of integrity and discipline (in
books and on the web) accurate or are they exaggerated?
WE SET OUT TO TEACH YOUNG MARINES
THE IDEALS THAT THEY ARE EXPECTED TO MAINTAIN. WE STRESS THAT
THEY ARE UPHOLDING THE REPUTATION PAID FOR OVER THE YEARS BY
MILLIONS OF MARINES BEFORE THEM. WE TRY TO INSTILL A SENSE
OF RESPONSIBILITY AND THEN HOLD THEM TO THIS. IT IS LITERALLY
PERSONALLY INSULTING TO US WHEN WE OBSERVE MARINES NOT LIVING
UP TO THIS CODE AND WE ARE QUICK TO CORRECT THEM. WHEN THEY
LET DOWN THE CORPS, THEY LET DOWN NOT ONLY EACH ONE OF US, BUT
ALL THE MARINES THAT EVER BORE THE EAGLE, GLOBE, AND ANCHOR.
Do most Marines live by these values and ideals or is it
just lip service?
THE MARINE CORPS DRAWS IN MEMBERS
FROM THE SOCIETY AT LARGE. THEREFORE, WE ARE MADE OF A CROSS-SECTION
OF SOCIETY AND CANNOT ENTIRELY UNDO THE ATTITUDES THAT HAVE
INFESTED SOME OF TODAY'S YOUTH. WE HAVE OUR "PROBLEM-CHILDREN"
JUST AS ANY ORGANIZATION HAS. WE JUST HAVE A BETTER SYSTEM IN
PLACE TO DEAL WITH THEM THAT MOST. BUT TO ANSWER YOUR QUESTION,
THE VAST MAJORITY STEP UP AND INTERNALIZE THOSE CORPS VALUES
WE TEACH THEM.
How are the black sheep who don't live by these principles
THERE IS A CLOSE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN
YOUNG TROOPS AND THEIR LEADERS. WHEN A MARINE IS PUT IN A LEADERSHIP
POSITION, WHICH COMES VERY FAST, THEY ARE EXPECTED TO GET ACTIVELY
INVOLVED WITH THOSE UNDER HIM. HE IS TO MAINTAIN TIGHT DISCIPLINE
AND SET THE EXAMPLE FOR THOSE UNDER HIM. IF THAT DOES NOT WORK,
THE NEXT LEVEL OF LEADERSHIP GETS INVOLVED. THIS KEEPS GOING
UNTIL THE PROBLEM IS SOLVED. YOU CAN PROVIDE COUNSELING INFORMALLY
OR FORMALLY. INFORMALLY, YOU JUST TALK TO HIM, CHEW HIM IF YOU
HAVE TO, AND LET IT GO AT THAT FOLLOWED BY CLOSER SUPERVISION.
IF YOU GO THE FORMAL ROUTE (ONLY AFTER THE INFORMAL METHOD FAILS
TO PRODUCE RESULTS) INVOLVES PUTTING COUNSELING ENTRIES IN HIS
RECORD. THE NEXT LEVEL WOULD BE NONJUDICIAL PUNISHMENT WHERE
THE COMPANY COMMANDER HOLDS A TYPE OF TRIAL AND THEN DISPENSES
PUNISHMENT. THE NEXT LEVEL IS THE SAME THING BUT AT THE NEXT
HIGHER LEVEL (THE BATTALION) FOR MORE SERIOUS OFFENSES. NEXT,
YOU HAVE COURTS MARTIAL.
The book I mentioned clearly illustrated people who finished
boot camp but didn't quite live up to the ideals of a Marine.
What are your experiences in your years of service?
WHAT SOMETIMES HAPPENS IS THAT THEY
GET OUT OF BOOTCAMP AND THEN GO TO A UNIT WHO DOES NOT SUSTAIN
THAT LEVEL OF DISCIPLINE OR EXPECTATIONS. THEY ARE NOT TREATED
IN THE RIGHT MANNER AND SOMETIMES BECOME DISILLUSIONED. IF THERE
ARE IMPROPER ROLE MODELS, THEY THINK THE MARINE CORPS IS NOT
REALLY WHAT THEY THOUGHT IT WAS. AS THEIR ATTITUDE LAGS COMBINED
WITH POOR LEADERSHIP EXAMPLES, THEY GET INTO TROUBLE OR JUST
MARK TIME UNTIL THEY CAN GET OUT. THE BOTTOM LINE IS THAT THEY
NEED THAT INITIAL LEADERSHIP ROLE MODEL ONCE THEY ARE DONE WITH
BOOTCAMP TO SHOW THEM WHAT THEY SHOULD STRIVE FOR.
What are some typical problems that a Marine faces while
serving in the corps at different points of his career?
I TOUCHED ON A FEW BUT OTHERS INCLUDE
SLOW PROMOTION, LONG HOURS, AND BASICALLY HARD WORK. BUT THEY
HAVE TO REALIZE THAT IT WILL NOT ALWAYS BE THAT WAY. LONELINESS
ALSO PLAGUES MANY MARINES BUT THAT IS SO WITH ANY TYPICAL TEENAGER
WHEN THEY LEAVE HOME.
What are the typical reasons Marines leave the corps?
DISILLUSIONMENT WITH THE CORPS BUT
TO ADD TO THIS, I WILL TELL YOU THAT I HAVE HEARD LITERALLY
HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE TELL ME THAT THEY MISS THE CORPS AFTER THEY
LEFT AND THE CIVILIAN WORLD WAS A LOT WORSE THAN THEY THOUGHT
IT WOULD BE. THEY SAY THEY NEVER KNEW HOW GOOD IT WAS TO BE
A MARINE UNTIL THEY HAD TO DEAL WITH THE "REAL WORLD."
I would really appreciate what you could tell me since the
decision to join is obviously a very important one. Do
you have any suggestions how else I might be able to get a "feel"
of what life is like before I make the decision?
YOU ALREADY DID A GOOD THING BY READING
"MAKING A CORPS." ALSO, I WOULD SUGGEST READING "MARINE" BY
TOM CLANCY. YOU CAN TALK TO MARINES SUCH AS RECRUITERS OR ONES
AT THE LOCAL NROTC UNIT IF YOU LIVE NEAR A COLLEGE.
Could you tell me about life in OCS? I heard that
it's even tougher than bootcamp, which makes it all the more
challenging. The recruiter I spoke to mentioned that integrity
and leadership are very important considerations in OCS and
that an officer candidate will not be given a second chance
for a violation in these areas. Could you tell me about
THAT IS PRETTY MUCH TRUE. I DO NOT
THINK OCS AND BOOTCAMP ARE FAIR COMPARISONS BECAUSE THEY ARE
DIFFERENT, YES, THE ENVIRONMENT IS HARSH AND THEY ARE BOTH MENTALLY
AND PHYSICALLY DIFFICULT. BUT OCS, AS YOU POINTED OUT, IS ABOUT
LEADERSHIP AND INTEGRITY. IT IS A WEEDING OUT PROCESS TO SEE
IF YOU HAVE WHAT IT TAKES TO BE AN OFFICER. BOOTCAMP IS TEACHING
YOU MORE OF THE BASICS ABOUT BEING A FOLLOWER AND LEARNING ALL
THE BASICS ABOUT BEING AN ENLISTED MARINE. IN BOOTCAMP, IF YOU
GET TO THE END AND THE DI STILL CAN'T REMEMBER YOUR NAME, YOU
HAVE DONE WELL. YOU WANT TO BE A BRICK IN THE WALL. BUT THIS
CANNOT HAPPEN AT OCS BECAUSE YOU ARE CONSTANTLY BEING PUT IN
LEADERSHIP POSITIONS AND THEN EVALUATED ON HOW YOU LEAD.
Thank you very much, sir. Semper Fi!
LET ME KNOW IF YOU HAVE ANY MORE QUESTIONS.