Archive for the 'Marine Corps' Category

3rd

The Frailty Myth

January 2014

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Pull-ups?A few weeks ago, I started writing a post that discussed a particularly relevant and compelling thesis written by a student at the Marine Corps’ Command and Staff College. The thesis in question was written by a fellow Marine, Major Misty Posey, and is creatively titled “Duped by the ‘Frailty Myth:’ USMC Gender Based Physical Fitness Standards.” Great title, although it is so descriptive that it might lead some to believe that they can dismiss it without reading it. Don’t be fooled; it’s worth every paragraph. Mid-way through my work on the post (I write slowly), it became even more relevant, because the Marine Corps announced that it was going to postpone the requirement for women to perform pull-ups instead of the flexed arm hang as part of the Physical Fitness Test (PFT).

My first reaction to this news was to slap my forehead again. My second was to work harder at carving out the time to write this post in light of the news. Grad school and the holidays intervened, life happened, and I woke up this week to find two separate newspaper articles (Washington Post and San Diego Union-Tribune) beating me to the punch.

I wrote about pull-ups last summer, when I first heard that the requirement might be delayed. My opinion has not changed. But Major Posey’s thesis says it bigger and better; she describes the Marine Corps as “institutionally constipated,” a phrase I can only hope to use myself in my writing one day. I sincerely hope some of our leaders read her work.

She explains in great detail how men and women develop physical expectations and how this affects actual capabilities, and it rings true. I wrote earlier that while many male friends had to do pull-ups in high school PE, I was only required to run/walk one mile after a year of “training.” I had to learn line dancing in PE another year. And a third year involved a semester of “Jake on the Beach” aerobics tapes—the low-impact version so as to not hurt us girls. That’s a far cry from doing pull-ups. And the gap between what we expect our men to do and what we expect our women to do only continues to grow and become entrenched after high school. Remember the President’s Physical Fitness Test? No wonder women show up at 18-22 years old and can’t do pull-ups. I couldn’t either. It no surprise that it’s taking some time for women to develop the upper body strength and mental confidence needed to do pull-ups.

The pull-up requirement delay is causing mass hysteria among those who think such an event signifies the end of the world is approaching, or at the least that dogs and cats are starting to live together. I beg our leaders to take a step back and focus on a few brief points: 1) these are just pull-ups. And women are often starting from a lower level of strength. Of course they will get there, it will just take time. It has only been a year, for crying out loud. 2) These are Marines we are talking about. Again, they will get there. Just takes time. 3) Keep it at a delay and no more. Don’t throw out the requirement.

We really should make this whole discussion a discussion about the PFT itself, while we’re at it. It is meant to measure individual fitness, thus the gender-normed and age-normed standards (any takers on the age-normed standards? I don’t hear much about them). Yet it fails at that task, and is systematically used and interpreted in a very different way anyway. What are we really trying to do here, measure overall fitness or ensure we are aware of strengths and weaknesses in our units? What would benefit leaders more?

Truth is, women can get plenty strong, strong enough for all the pull-ups we need. I’m not in love with pull-ups; make the test pushups instead. Or handstands. Bear crawls. Whatever. But we should set one standard for all Marines and stick with it, and make it high. Separate standards hurt women far more than they could possibly help them, and they hurt the Marine Corps. Delaying the change is not necessarily bad…as long as the change happens.

Here’s the thing: the flexed-arm-hang requirement, the postponement of the pull-up requirement, lower physical standards…these things simply limit Marines. They limit personal expectations, they limit expectations of others. They effectively pat our Marines on the head and say, “nice try, honey, but we don’t think you should bother with this.” Why do that? Why shoot ourselves in the foot and limit our future leaders and the future of the Marine Corps?

Who determines any individual’s physical baseline? Who sets those limits? By delaying the pull-ups and questioning women’s abilities to perform to that standard, we are imposing external limits. We’re saying that women should not be expected to have great strength, that pulling our own weight up to a bar 20 times, or even 3 times, is too much to ask. And that, right there, is what makes me worry. I believed it for years, and I was wrong. And now I’m older—I could have been doing these for years! Instead of limiting our Marines, we should ask more of them: set the bar high, and encourage them to fly right past it. We’re not doing that right now.

(Fun Facts from the Marine Corps Times: the first female PFT, in 1969, required women to perform a 120’ shuttle run, vertical jump, knee pushups, situps, and a 600-yard run/walk. The PFT has only been altered two more times for women: in 1975, it changed to a 1.5 mile run, situps, and the dreaded flexed-arm hang, and in 1996 the 1.5 miles changed to 3 miles. Maybe it’s time for a reassessment?)



Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) addresses the attendees of Defense Forum Washington.



Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus speaks at Defense Forum Washington.



Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) speaks at Defense Forum Washington about the defense budget and the future of the sea services.



Congressman J. Randy Forbes (R-VA) addresses the attendees of Defense Forum Washington.



After nearly three decades of peace the U.S. Navy went to war again, this time with Mexico. This conflict was fought both on the Pacific coast and in the Gulf of Mexico, and marked the Navy’s first large-scale amphibious operations.



Please join us at 5 pm (Eastern U.S.) on 24 Nov 13 for Midrats Episode 203: Bob Work and Global Maritime Power:

When one hangs up the uniform after decades of service, but still wants to contribute to their nations national security needs, what paths can that take? How does one find a path forward, and what are the keys to success?

In a budgetary challenge not seen by the US military in two decades, what are the important “must haves” that need to be kept at full strength, and what “nice to haves” may have to be put in to the side?

What are the legacy ideas, concepts, and capabilities that the Navy and Marine Corps need to make sure they maintain mastery of, and what new things are either here or are soon on the way that we need to set conditions for success now?

Our guest for the full hour to discuss this and more will be Robert O. Work, Col. USMC (Ret), presently CEO of the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), and former Undersecretary of the Navy from 2009-2013.

After 27-years of active duty service in the Marine Corps, Work joined the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), where he focused on defense strategy and programs, revolutions in war, Department of Defense transformation, and maritime affairs. He also contributed to Department of Defense studies on global basing and emerging military missions; and provided support for the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review.

During this time, Work was also an adjunct professor at George Washington University, where he taught defense analysis and roles and missions of the armed forces.

In late 2008, Work served on President Barack Obama’s Department of Defense Transition Team.

He earned his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Illinois; and has Masters Degrees from the University of Southern California, the Naval Postgraduate School; and Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

Join us live (5pm EST) or pick the show up later by clicking here.



The inevitable fiscal crunch that is starting our Military down has the Pharisees of the defense industry, think tanks, and senior military leaders all rabble-rabbling about the need for change. Some of that change is strategic- Asia Pacific pivot anyone? Other bits of it reside in the acquisitions department, as we see with the pros and cons of developing “revolutionary” weapons systems to confront “new” threats. The most harrowing changes for military leaders are the all too well known cuts to manpower that will come in some fashion, no matter the logic, or lack thereof, which delineates how those cuts will happen. There is more change in the air than cordite after an end of fiscal year shooting range, but it is important to reflect on some history in order to avoid stepping on the same proverbial rakes that have smacked our national security establishment in the face during previous drawdowns.

Ideas like this one are an especially pervasive form of bad, and seem unable to die even when history proves them inadvisable. We saw the call for unification in President Eisenhower’s attempts to reevaluate our national security establishment in light of the massive technological, strategic, and social changes that occurred after World War Two. It was vital to acknowledge the necessity of change in that period, because much like Eisenhower’s dictum on planning, self-examination is vital even if most of the individual recommendations may turn out to be worthless. Reconsidering defense in light of nuclear weapons, ICBMS, and the bi-polar nature of security dilemmas when facing the Soviet Union was important. Trusting academic tea-leaf readers in their assessments and then proclaiming there would “never be another amphibious landing”, that ground forces would not be used in limited wars, and that tactical airpower was only needed to defend or shoot down strategic airpower looks downright foolhardy when viewed as historical record. What saved us from the march to a monolithic Star Fleet force that all wore the small uniforms and all died like red shirts landing on Klingon? The pluralistic competition of our service structure, which was inefficient and far from perfect, but possessed a flexibility that made it anti-fragile.

Separate services, even separate services that possess redundant capabilities, are a vital part of American national defense. The Army needs the Marine Corps to soak up public attention as a motivation for better performance as badly as the Marine Corps need the Army to keep its constant self worry about irrelevance and drive its performance. Those intangible reasons can be criticized as they are not measurable, but of direct consequence are the different service outlooks which spurn actual innovation.

The Marine Corps decided it would gladly incorporate vulnerable and unwieldy rotary aircraft that Army and Air Force leaders largely ignored during Korea, and in doing so enabled the much better resourced Army to perfect the techniques of vertical envelopment to a higher degree than it ever could in Vietnam. The Navy had to have an Air Force that threatened its budget in order to develop SSBNs, and not pursue the much less effective option of carrier borne strategic bombers. Our most recent wars have shown the truth that a market place of defense ideas is better than a command economy for strategy. While the Marine Corps stubbornly resisted SOCOM membership, the other services gladly perfected the techniques needed to combat global terrorism in the learning laboratories of Somalia, Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Those were bloody lessons, but proved that some enemies cannot be defeated by large MEUs waiting off shores, although the synergy created between such a force and SOCOM has proven to be vital, and continues to pay national security dividends. Service diversity even ensures we do not forget lessons learned in blood that may seem inefficient during peacetime arguments on Capitol Hill. Even the best planners can shortchange things that are easily forgotten as peace breaks out. Something as boring as oil platform protection is a skill the world’s preeminent Navy forgot, and had to relearn from the worlds 12th largest navy (the U.S. Coast Guard). There is known historical value and definite future value in keeping a diverse and flexible force, but to do so one must resist the urge to unify in the name of declining dollars. Cost savings are easy to evaluate in peacetime dollars, but take on a morbid tone when seen in defeat and death at the opening stages of a conflict.

Cleary such an arrangement has inefficiencies, and wasting taxpayer dollars in the worst economy in years should be viewed as criminal no matter if the DOD is committing the waste or not. Grenada, Desert One, and Vietnam all demonstrated the tragic human cost of pursuing service parochialism over higher interests. Such costs have been mitigated in part by the Goldwater-Nichols act of 1986. Goldwater-Nichols is far from perfect and could use an upgrade to incorporate recent lessons from the Long War. Jointness in our operations, communications, and interoperability is a good thing. Understanding perspective, knowing how the whole of the military functions instead of just one’s own slice, and talk the language of service peers are also good things. Making claims that bureaucratic restructuring to “align” and “combine” are fools errands, they repeat the mistakes that we almost made in trying to tear down an organic system. Our current force has grown through invaluable combat experience, to replace it with a theoretical framework that has never worked is a bad idea of immense magnitude.

There have been examples of “unified” militaries, look at Saddam’s Republican Guard, it clearly combined the best equipment, personnel, and training available to fulfill “civilian” leadership’s strategic wishes. Such a system is horribly fragile, and succumbs to the groupthink that all bureaucracies do. In this age of belt tightening, we should correctly become more efficient, but there are better ways than throwing out everything and starting from scratch. Reexamining our bloated personnel policies, taking a hard look at our compensation and retirement systems that resemble ticking fiscal bombs, and revamping our professional military education are all better places to start than tired and historically bankrupt calls for the “merger of …[U.S.]…ground forces”. The diversity of thought which comes from each service is one of the strongest weapons our joint force possesses, it would wise to avoid dulling such fine tool so we can save dollars only to spend lives unnecessarily in a future conflict.



It is relatively well-known that students at the Naval Academy are called midshipmen. But what is less-known is where that term comes from. How were officers prepared and trained prior to the founding of the Naval Academy and other, later commissioning programs like ROTC? For the month of May, we are looking at the midshipman training process at the Naval Academy, and we begin with a discussion of the origin of the term midshipman using today’s object, a dirk owned by Stephen Decatur.



1705 by Sean Lawler

1705 by Sean Lawler

Four years. It really doesn’t seem that long really; a tour at a land unit, maybe two afloat. However, in terms of loosing Shipmates, reality of time lost starts to set in the next day and thus any time afterwards is, well, forever.

It was four years ago today that the Coast Guard and the Marine Corps lost some of their Shipmates during a midair collision of Coast Guard Rescue 1705 and a Marine Corps helicopter off the coast of California.

On the night of 29 October 2009 I was standing watch within the LANT Area Command Center as the SAR Controller; I took the Critical Incident Communications (CIC) call as it came in from the West Coast via HQ. I can easily recall the near three hour long conference call and listening to the voice fluctuations of the Search and Rescue Controllers as they were getting the direct communications from those on scene.

The most vivid moment that’s still ground into my skull was hearing- through a radio over the phone- that those on scene had found a “huge tire” with a marking of “Sacto” on it… my heart sank; my stomach hurt. As I rushed to find out who was on that flight I remember going into a cold sweat; the Coast Guard isn’t that large of a service. The aviation community within is even smaller. I was, as many know, a prior Navigator aboard our C-130′s. While most of my time was spent in Kodiak, AK I have a deep appreciation of those who fly in the more traffic-heavy areas of the nation- it’s hard work.

In the end little to nothing was found from the downed aircraft, less immediate debris, nor any bodies recovered. Please take a moment today to remember those who were lost four years ago today;

  • Lt. Cmdr. Che J. Barnes was the commander of CG-1705, an HC-130 long-range surveillance aircraft based at Coast Guard Air Station Sacramento, Calif. A 1996 graduate of the Coast Guard Academy, Barnes was awarded the 2009 Cmdr. Elmer F. Stone Aviation Crew Rescue Award. During his 17-year Coast Guard career, Barnes also received the Coast Guard Commendation Medal, three Coast Guard Achievement Medals and two Coast Guard Letter of Commendation
    ribbons.

    A native of Capay, Calif., Barnes is survived by his father, Martin K. Barnes; twin brother, Noah L. Barnes, brothers; Thaddeus F.M. Barsotti, and Freeman O. Barsotti; and girlfriend, Carrie Reynolds. He is preceded in death by his mother, Kathleen F. Barsotti.

  • Lt. Adam W. Bryant was the co-pilot of CG-1705. Bryant was a 2003 graduate of the Coast Guard Academy and was a recipient of the Coast Guard Commandant’s Letter of Commendation ribbon.

    A native of Crewe, Va., Bryant is survived by his mother, Nina Bryant; father, Jerry Bryant; and brother, Benjamin Bryant.

  • Chief Petty Officer John F. Seidman was the flight engineer of CG-1705, an HC-130 long-range surveillance aircraft based at Coast Guard Air Station Sacramento, Calif. In his 23 years of service, Seidman was awarded the Coast Guard Commendation Medal, Coast Guard Achievement Medal, Coast Guard Commandant’s Letter of Commendation Ribbon, and
    seven Coast Guard Good Conduct Medals.

    A native of Stockton, Calif., Seidman is survived by his wife, Jennifer Seidman; parents, William (Bill) and Connie Seidman; and brother, Jeffery Seidman.

  • Petty Officer 2nd Class Carl P. Grigonis was the navigator of CG-1705. In his nine years of service, Grigonis was awarded the Coast Guard Achievement Medal, Coast Guard Commandant’s Letter of Commendation Ribbon, and three Coast Guard Good Conduct Medals.

    A native of Mayfield Heights, Ohio, Grigonis is survived by his wife, Kristen Grigonis; his son, Hayden; the upcoming arrival of their daughter, Kalina; his mother, Janina Grigonis; and brother, George Grigonis.

  • Petty Officer 2nd Class Monica L. Beacham was the radio operator of CG-1705. In her nine years of service, Beacham was awarded two Coast Guard good conduct medals.

    A native of Decaturville, Tenn., Beacham is survived by her husband, Seaman Travis Beacham; her daughter, Hailey; her mother, Shirl Jean Merrell; brother, Michael Gipson; and sister, Kelly Johnson.

  • Petty Officer 2nd Class Jason S. Moletzsky was air crew for CG-1705. In his seven years of service, Moletzky was awarded the Coast Guard Achievement Medal, two Coast Guard Commandant’s Letter of Commendation Ribbons, and two Coast Guard Good Conduct Medals.

    A native of Norristown, Pa., Moletzky is survived by his fiancé, Christiana Biscardi; parents, John and Lisa Moletzsky; and sisters, Amanda and Rebecca Moletzsky.

  • Petty Officer 3rd Class Danny R. Kreder II was drop master for CG-1705. In his four years of service, Kreder was awarded the Coast Guard Commandant’s Letter of Commendation Ribbon, and the Coast Guard Good Conduct Medal.

    A native of Elm Mott, Texas, Kreder is survived by his wife, Victoria (Sovey) Kreder; parents, Jeff and Jodi Woodruff; brothers, Brandon and Cory Kreder; grandmother, Pamela Sue Lyle; grandparents, Wayne and Shirley Sovey; and in-laws, Sam and Tracy Sovey.

Never forget, always remember.

(Cross post from ryanerickson.com)



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