About the Marines
The United States Marine Corps is the nation’s mobility force in readiness. The tip of the spear. It’s ready to deploy anywhere, any time, on any mission.
The Marine Corps is also a leadership factory. It instills qualities of initiative, teamwork, and dedication to mission. It pushes accountability down to the bottom of the chain of command, even as it holds leaders at the very top of the chain accountable for their subordinates’ decisions. Marines follow orders, but not blindly. Commander’s intent is an essential part of an order. Understanding a commander’s intent is the responsibility of each Marine. And making that intent clear is the responsibility of each commander, of whatever rank.
And at whatever rank, every Marine is a rifleman. Regardless of any Marine’s current function, he or she is accomplished in the use of arms. Unlike in other armed services, the expectation is that every Marine, regardless of occupation (lawyer, pilot, public affairs officer, or auto mechanic) is proficient in infantry tactics and the effective use of firearms.
Every Marine is also a spokesman. I was present when the senior Marine public affairs officer—a brigadier general—described to the students of the Marine Corps Command and Staff College the Corps’ expectation of any Marine in the presence of the news media: “Make sure each of your Marines knows this: If you’re deployed to a war zone and there’s a reporter around, we expect you to do three things:
- Engage. Speak with the reporter.
- Tell the truth. Don’t lie, but also don’t reveal confidential, classified, or sensitive operational information.
- Stay in your lane. If you drive a tank, talk about your tank. If you fly a plane, talk about your plane. Don’t talk about anything that isn’t your direct responsibility.”
This is a courageous policy, and one most employers probably would not adopt. Most organizations try to centralize press communication. But making each Marine a spokesperson is typical of the Marines. They know that the Marines’ reputation can be won or lost through the actions of any single Marine. Not just an officer, but a private right out of Parris Island boot camp. So they hold each Marine accountable. But with accountability comes authority.