Why Are Marines Leaving The Corps?

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Why Are Marines Leaving The Corps?

We have the big 10 problems that I see, in no particular order:

#1. Funding
There can be an argument for both the Corps getting enough or not enough funding. But what the troops see is the Corps having to do more with less. This has always been a HUGE problem for the Corps, dating well before the time that I served. The Marine Corps gets approximately 25% of what the Navy receives for its annual budget. Case in point, in 2024, the Navy is going to get $202.5 Billion and the Corps will get $53 billion.

Yes, the Corps is the smallest of the military branches, after Space Force. But, the Corps is the first to be called when there is a problem, and the first to deploy, which means they are spending large sums of money just to deploy. This means that the state of readiness needs to be high at all times for the Corps. This also means that less money is spent on replacing or repairing things like deuce gear. You get issued a broke-ass ALICE pack, with a canteen with a hole in it. It was a problem 35 years ago and it is a problem still today, just change the name of the equipment.

The problem is that the Marines get some of the shittiest broke ass equipment that I have ever seen. And that starts to grind on you after a while.

#2. Toxic Leadership
The leadership in the Corps is the worse and the Corps seems to like it that way. As a leader, instead of telling the LCpl what he/she needs to do, the Corps wants you to micromanage the shit out of it. There are too many senior Marines, who wield their power around just because they can.

Restricting Marines from going off base for liberty or going home on leave, and not for reasons like operational readiness, but just because they can. I can’t tell you how many times in “A” school we were restricted from going off base, or from leaving the barracks except for the chow hall. And we would play this game night after night for weeks. Some of it I understand, but most of it is just bullshit and someone has a chip on their shoulder. The platoon Sgt would tell the squad leaders that the rooms better be spotless or else. The squad leaders, who were all LCpls, who don’t know how to lead, come up with a stupid plan, like, removing all the furniture from the rooms and putting it on the catwalk, or in the courtyard in front of the barracks. Since they don’t know how to lead, no consideration was given to any of the logistics and the result is eight hours of playing stupid games.

Of course, they would fail the entire barracks during room inspections because one room had dirt in the corner of their window or my favorite was water on the shower drain and dust in the air. And the games continue all over again. I remember when I was back at that command for “C” school, I asked the Company Commander if I could work with some of the Marines. She made me the barracks NCO because she knew that I wasn’t going to allow stupid games to continue. At this time, I had been in the Corps for 5 years or so and I was a Sgt. Instead of playing games, I got the squad leaders together and I told them exactly what I wanted done. I wanted the barracks clean so it would pass the inspection (that I gave along with the Company Commander). I explained that I didn’t want the furniture removed from the rooms and that I didn’t want the field day to last all night. I also explained that it would be best to give the other Marines enough rope, they should know how to clean a room. I just wanted to avoid all the high school games and make sure these Marines are taught how to do it. The high school games lead me to my next reason.

#3. High School/College all over again
The games were just silly, removing the furniture from the rooms, or lights out at a certain time. No alcohol in the rooms, no females in the rooms, no music in the rooms, no smoking in the rooms, not this, no that. We were treating them like children, all because someone messed up years ago. In the video above, the 19th SgtMaj of the Marine Corps, SgtMaj Black kept talking about growing a more mature force, and the key word there is ‘growing’. You can’t grow if you are giving everyone the boot after four years. We are talking about 18-19-year-olds, who are left without adult supervision for the first time, of course they are going to do stupid things. Hell, I challenge SgtMaj Black to tell me that he never did anything stupid as a boot in the Corps. The secret is not kicking them out right away when they do something stupid. Allow them to learn from it, and grow as a person and as a Marine. We are accustomed to giving them an NJP and a reduction in rank for something stupid. Giving them the ‘Big Green Weenie‘ all the time is bullshit.

I remember most of the mistakes that I made in my life, I rolled all those things into who Average Joe is today. When raising my kids, I told them that when they meet someone, they will take a trait from that person that they like and apply that trait to their daily life and make it part of them. But if we are busting these young Marines down, every time they mess up, we will never be able to “grow” or “mature” our force. I agree that some things require NJP, but I’m sure that if you come up with a punishment that fits the crime, the good Marine that is worth investing in, will adjust their path. I have known way too many good Marines, who messed up and got forced out of the Corps. In the late ’80s and ’90s, the Corps would not allow you to re-enlist if you have a page 11. This leads me to my next reason.

#4. Keeping good Marines who make a mistake
I have known several really good Marines, who messed up, got NJP’d and the Corps would not allow them to re-enlist. There was a period, that if you messed up at all, got a “page 11” then the Corps refused to allow you to re-enlist. This is not an isolated incident either, I have heard this story so many times. I know one Marine who got busted for having a female in his room. I knew one who was UA for 30 minutes (overslept for duty) and was restricted from re-enlisting. I have known a female who was caught cheating on her husband, she was not able to reenlist. I knew a Gunny who was not allowed to re-enlist because he had a DUI. All of these were good Marines and instead of trying to fix the problem, the Corps just gave them the boot.

I mean oversleeping for 30 minutes is something we all have done once in our life, and yes, this Marine was supposed to be somewhere for official duty, but making it so he can’t re-enlist and this was his first offense and was a Cpl. The female in the room I get it, but how many of us have snuck around as a teenager just to get laid? The female Marine, received evidence that her husband was sleeping with a friend of hers, while she was deployed. So she sent him papers and found a boyfriend. So it wasn’t like she was the barracks bunny. The Gunny needed help, not a NJP, period. We are talking about an E-7 who had nearly 15 years of service and a clean record. Something happened and he started to drink way too much all the time. Yep, the Corps found out and said, we don’t want you in the Corps, you know the damn military organization that was founded in a fucking bar of all places.

The Corps has a high turnover and that is expected. Recently SgtMaj Black said that 75% of the first term Marines do not re-enlist. Some of the turnover is surely a young Marine getting disillusioned about what the Corps is. There is also a portion of the Marines, who just grew up and grew out of being a Marine. That was me, though I re-enlisted twice. For me, it was time to grow up. I wanted to be a better father and husband. But the Marine Corps wants a large amount of young Marines, as they are the trigger pullers and bullet catchers. The more NCOs, SNCOs, and Officers are there to guide the junior Marines. I see the need for a high turnover, but isn’t 75% a little much?

#5. Not listening to the Marine
When I talk about not listening to the Marine, I’m talking about the career planner and the monitor. Many of my friends got out for the very same reason, as did I. In my case, I was an SSgt and I was at a deployable unit before being an instructor. This deployable unit was deployed for 6 months at a time and when we were back home, we were going 2 weeks here, a month there, type of deployments. I got home from Japan and I left for 2-months of training two weeks later.

Then as an instructor, I was working 10-12 hour days, 6-7 days a week and when it came time to re-enlist, the monitor said that they needed SSgts in the 2nd Radio Battalion at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, and I needed to go back to the fleet. Well hell, Radio Battalion is a deployable unit. I have nothing wrong with deploying, but I need a break from being away from home so much. As an instructor, I would teach all day, PT in the evening with a class that wasn’t mine, but they needed SNCOs to help, and then I would go and stand duty either at the SCIF, the barracks, or the quarterdeck. There were about 20-30 Marine Corps instructors for the various courses, some had several instructors, and courses like mine, had a single instructor. So we were always busy doing something.

The two courses that I was teaching were new, so I also had to write all the course material, when I didn’t have a class onboard.

Since the monitor, didn’t give me any options besides Radio Battalion, I passed and I did not re-enlist. There were no efforts to try and keep me, no hail Mary’s, nothing. I was a good Marine, SNCO, 10 years active duty time, with a clean record, three good Conduct Medals, three Navy Achievement Medals, and a handful of Letters of Appreciation and the Corps said, see ya, bye and don’t let the door hit you on the way out. You can’t convince me that they didn’t have any other open billets.

And then I almost had to stay on Legal Hold, which is where you can’t transfer or EAS because of a legal action pending that you are involved in. In my case, it was the Cavalese Cable car crash. They wanted me to process the ELINT data and then testify since I was supposedly the SME for this (I guess since I worked it for 3.5 years and taught it for another 3.5 years). The good thing is the person who was taking my place volunteered for it, so I didn’t get placed on hold.

#6. Hurry Up and Wait
This goes hand and hand with Toxic Leadership. For those that are not in the know, “Hurry Up and Wait” is where you are told to be somewhere at a certain time, and then you wait a long time for whatever it is. It is all too common in the Marine Corps. Here is an example:

  • The Company Commander wants to have an all-hands formation at 0800
  • The Company SgtMaj tells the Platoon Commanders that he wants everyone formed up at 0745
  • The The Platoon Sergeant tells the Squad Leaders that he wants everyone formed up at 0730
  • The Squad Leaders tell their squad that they need to be formed at 0715

Now everyone is standing around for 45 minutes waiting for the Company Commander to show up. And in most cases, the Company Commander and the SgtMaj have no idea this bullshit is going on. We had a great SgtMaj once who told everyone that the report time is 0745, no one needs to be waiting any earlier than that, period. That is how it should be, I get it, but these types of games start to take their toll after a while.

#7. Quality of Life
In the Corps, the quality of life often sucks, but they are indeed finally modernizing, as much of the crappy gear we had issued to us was Vietnam-era gear. The barracks were shit, nasty, everything was broken, old furniture, old mattresses too. We would watch the Air Force barracks get brand new carpet and furniture, with quality mattresses and linen. Then you go back to your room, and sit on your lumpy ass bed, as the metal rack creaks and groans as the springs are all rusty and about to break. The chow hall and quality of food are better at installations operated by the other branches of the military. Hell, some of the Air Force chow halls are comparable to a quality restaurant, complete with bussing your table service. It’s not just the chow hall service and facilities, but the food is usually far better on some bases. And here you are in the Marine Corps chow hall getting ready to eat burgers that were boiled instead of grilled, on a cold soggy bun and your tray is about to split completely in half due to the large crack running through it. You go sit in a booth that only has one bench seat as the other is broken and has been for years.

Just about every barracks that I stayed at always had a lumpy-ass broken rack to sleep on, with two sheets and a single green wool blanket.

Just this past week (Feb 1, 2024) the Marine Corps started an investigation into the condition of all Marine Corps barracks, Marine Corps-wide.

#8. Mass Punishment
The Corps seems to think that if one person screws up, the entire squad, platoon, or unit needs to be punished. The idea here is that the Marine that screwed up will think about what happened and will not repeat that mistake. In reality, the Marine that screwed up gets hazed for weeks, the entire unit is pissed off, and if the Marine is a total fuck-up (which is usually the case), he/she will repeat his mistake again and again, never learning, because he/she just doesn’t care enough to try. It starts in boot camp and to be honest, it never ends once you are in the fleet. That shit needs to stop, period, it does not work, it never worked and never will. Again, if you want to “grow” a “more mature” Marine Corps, then this does nothing to promote that growth.

To be honest, boot camp allows too many shit-birds to skate on through, and once they are in the fleet, it is difficult to get them out of the Corps, so they spend their enlistment making everyone around them miserable.

#9. Family
The Marine Corps has always had the mindset that “if the Marine Corps wants you to have a spouse, they would issue you one”. If I heard that once, I heard it a hundred times. This means that they will give the illusion of caring for your family, but they have no problem sending you on deployment a week before your child is born. I mean, it isn’t like you can’t catch another plane in a week or two.

Some units do care, while others just give the illusion that they do. Often housing wasn’t available until after you had been on station for a few months, causing you to have to move again, into housing. At least for the junior ranks, the Corps didn’t seem to take into consideration your marital status when selecting your next duty station. Often you were offered unaccompanied tours, where your family stayed in the States, while you deployed overseas. Family pets were often overlooked as some overseas locations had lengthy (6-month) quarantine periods where your pet stayed in a quarantine facility for that period before joining the family.

The problem is just like Jamesons Travels states in the below video, in some other military services, you can homestead at a duty station, where you stay there longer than 3-4 years. In the Marine Corps, you are required to move to a new duty station every 3-4 years. On paper, it sounds good, but it sucks having to start all over again, new house, new friends, new schools, new neighbors, new problems, it is rough on the family as well.

#10. Not Listening To Those That Know
The Corps tends to put a junior officer with 4-6 years of experience in charge of a unit, where 50% of the unit has 10 years or more experience. And the junior officer is way too proud to ask for help or to listen to his SNCOs. The junior leader isn’t supposed to come up with how to get it done, he/she should tell the senior enlisted that we need to get XYZ done. And like a freaking adult, figure out with them, what resources are needed and how long they think it will take to get done. Instead, the junior officer tells the entire unit that they need to do XYZ by tomorrow which is an impossible deadline and there aren’t the correct resources available to accomplish the task. As an example, let’s say that the junior officer wants everything removed from the building and put out behind the building. The building is full of boxes, creates, and broken down/unserviceable vehicles. There is no heavy equipment available, you have 20 Marines, some of the boxes weigh in at 1,500 pounds or more and it is going to be freezing rain all day long.

What should have happened is the senior SCNOs talked with the junior officer about the problem and the end goal. Maybe it makes sense to wait a day, plus that will allow for several forklifts to be borrowed from motor transport. The weather will be better the following day, and most of the Marines will be back from leave. All this means that it could be cleaned out in a few hours without risking injury/illness to your Marines.

In Jamesons Travels video (above), he hits the nail on the head, that the Corps needs to talk to Marine Veterans who got out in the past five or so years and see what the Corps could have done differently to keep them in. In my case, it was easy, offer me something other than Radio Battalion. You can’t tell me that there were no other billets open for an SSgt in my MOS. Hell, they were having a difficult time finding a Sgt or SSgt replacement for me. There was plenty of talent and I knew some Marines that would have been great at it, but the monitor wasn’t offering my billet to those Marines. When you have small MOSs like mine, you have to be creative and you might need to move people early, but you always ask and make it worth their time and effort.

Normally, the monitor would offer up three or four available billets and you can choose one. It normally isn’t one-sided and it is more like you and the monitor and Career Planner working together.

One thing that SgtMaj Black is putting too much stock in is, “If you want to stay in the Marine Corps, you first have to want to be a Marine“. If you did everything correctly, they would want to stay a Marine, period.

Trell the Great - Why I Got Out of the Marine Corps
Trell the Great - This is Why the Marine Corps is FAILING | Why People are Getting Out of the Marine Corps
Jamesons Travels - Marine Corps Broke This Man: UNHINGED RANT About Leadership, Racism & Beards
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Average Joe

Welcome to the Average Joe Weekly blog. This is basically my place on the web where I can help spread some of the knowledge that I have accumulated over the years. I served 10+ years in the Marine Corps on Active Duty, but that was some 25 years ago.

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By Average Joe

Welcome to the Average Joe Weekly blog. This is basically my place on the web where I can help spread some of the knowledge that I have accumulated over the years. I served 10+ years in the Marine Corps on Active Duty, but that was some 25 years ago.

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