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October 24, 2013

Oh For Pete's Sake

The Blatherospheric rumor mill is running amok again:

A change to the Marine Corps’ uniform hats could take the hard-nosed Leathernecks from the Halls of Montezuma to the shops of Christopher Street.

Thanks to a plan by President Obama to create a “unisex” look for the Corps, officials are on the verge of swapping out the Marines’ iconic caps – known as “covers” — with a new version that some have derided as so “girly” that they would make the French blush.

“We don’t even have enough funding to buy bullets, and the DoD is pushing to spend $8 million on covers that look like women’s hats!” one senior Marine source fumed to The Post. “The Marines deserve better. It makes them look ridiculous.”

The thin new covers have a feminine line that some officials think would make them look just as good on female marines as on males — in keeping with the Obama directive.

“The Marine Corps is being ‘encouraged’ by DoD to standardize on a unisex/universal dress and service cap,” Marine brass noted in an internal memo obtained by The Post.

The idea that Barack Obama - a man who was hard put to spend a few rushed minutes on the tarmac conferring with his senior commander in Afghanistan and, by his own admission, finds out about major news stories involving his subordinates from the news media because he's too busy to actively oversee the rollout of his signature legislative achievement - is micromanaging the design of Marine headgear is borderline delusional deserves to be met with extreme skepticism.

A July 15th article in the Marine Corps Times suggests this idea came from the Commandant, NOT the White House:

Common dress blues uniforms for Marines, regardless of gender, could be on the horizon pending results of a multimonth wear test underway at Marine Barracks Washington, D.C.

Women stationed there have been wearing men’s white dress covers since the start of this year’s parade season. A select few also are wearing a modified version of the male dress blues jacket featuring its distinctive mandarin-style collar trimmed with the Corps’ gold eagle, globe and anchor insignia.

The experiment began quietly this spring, an initiative led by the commandant, Gen. Jim Amos, and the barracks commander, Col. Christian Cabaniss, said Capt. Jack Norton, a spokesman there.

A more recent article (also from the Marine Times) points out that this is hardly the first time unpopular uniform changes have been proposed:

The Marine Corps Uniform Board may recommend the adoption of a universal cover for men and women to be worn with dress and service uniforms.

The change could take one of two forms. Either women could begin wearing current male covers with slight modifications, or all Marines could begin wearing new “Dan Daly caps,” according to a Marine news release. Daly caps feature a smaller crown, similar to the cover worn by two-time Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. Maj. Dan Daly, known best for his World War I exploits at Belleau Wood.

To gather feedback from both active duty and Reserve Marines, the Uniform Board distributed a survey across the Corps via sergeant majorsthat will run through Friday. The board will convene Oct. 29 and take the survey results into consideration, although they are not binding.

In years past the Uniform Board has made recommendations counter to the desires of rank-and-file Marines who communicated their opinions via surveys. That includes the decision to wear utility uniform sleeves rolled down all year — even during the summer.

The movement to make female uniforms more similar to those worn by men comes as the Defense Department begins to open more roles in combat units to women. But, the Marine Corps has considered changes to female uniforms, particularly dress blue uniforms, several times over the years and has been met by resistance each time.

Most recently, women at Marine Barracks Washington conducted a field test in which they wore male covers and dress blue uniforms with Mandarin collars rather than lapels. The results of those tests were not immediately available, however Marine Corps Times readers — men and women — voiced strong opposition.

This country has far more serious things to worry about than whether arguably the most disengaged and disinterested Commander in Chief in modern history has been suddenly overcome with an inexplicable urge to design hats. Even if the (so far completely unsubstantiated) rumors were true, the Marines are perfectly capable of standing up for themselves.

While we're at it, can we also stop with this nonsense?

Nine senior commanding generals have been fired by the Obama administration this year, leading to speculation by active and retired members of the military that a purge of its commanders is underway.

Hint number one: Admirals are not "generals".

Hint number two: The military is a pyramid with many lower ranking folks at the bottom and a very small number of flag and/or general officers at the top who are at or near the end of their careers. Those at the top are SUPPOSED to be held to a higher standard than those at the bottom. We expect more from them than we do of PFCs, Ensigns, 2nd Lieutenants, and sailors right out of basic training.

Senior leaders can and have been relieved with no more explanation than, "I've lost confidence in your judgment". If you really want to destroy the military, start whining about senior leaders being held to the same standards they get paid to enforce upon subordinates.

A long history of holding leaders accountable is what makes (or used to make) the military categorically different from most of America:

On the sea there is a tradition older even than the traditions of the country itself and wiser in its age than this new custom. It is the tradition that with responsibility goes authority and with them both goes accountability."

"This accountability is not for the intentions but for the deed. The captain of a ship, like the captain of a state, is given honor and privileges and trust beyond other men. But let him set the wrong course, let him touch ground, let him bring disaster to his ship or to his men, and he must answer for what he has done. He cannot escape...."

"It is cruel, this accountability of good and well-intentioned men. But the choice is that or an end of responsibility and finally as the cruel scene has taught, an end to the confidence and trust in the men who lead, for men will not long trust leaders who feel themselves beyond accountability for what they do."

"And when men lose confidence and trust in those who lead, order disintegrates into chaos and purposeful ships into uncontrollable derelicts."

Sorry for the display of spleen, but this sort of thing just frosts our cornflakes (and not in a good way).

UPDATE: When I'm right, I'm right:

As a Marine veteran who knows how these changes actually happen, I can tell you the story is 100% B.S. The bottom line: The President doesn't involve himself in what troops happen to be wearing.

But just to make sure, I called Headquarters Marine Corps and a spokesperson confirmed that the process for making changes to Marine uniforms hasn't changed since I last left the service in 2010.

Every year, a board (made up of senior enlisted Marines) meets and goes over things that they may want to change with uniforms. In 2007 for example, the board made a change that outlawed "sleeve" tattoos — and I don't remember thinking that was all President George W. Bush's fault.

"The President in no way, shape, or form directed the Marine Corps to change our uniform cover," said Capt. Maureen Krebs, a spokesperson for the Marine Corps. "We're looking for a new cover for our female Marines for the primary reason that the former manufacturer went out of business. The Marine Corps has zero intention of changing the male cover."

If there's someone to blame about a change in a uniform, the buck would stop at Marine Commandant Gen. James Amos, who has the final say.

Once again I am reminded of my favorite comedy routine of all time. The punch line was,

"These people need your money. To buy hats."

Posted by Cassandra at October 24, 2013 02:00 PM

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There will always be conspiracy theorists to peddle such things. The fact that once in a blue moon one of them gets it right just encourages the others. Your quote is spot on about command, and as i recall it ends up with "..He is the Captain, he is the ship". In context, true enough.

Posted by: CAPT Mongo at October 24, 2013 04:24 PM

It's kind of funny - a few weeks ago I mentioned the swirling rumors about "purges" in the senior leadership to my spouse.

The particular article I read was speculating, not about firings but about retirements. The spousal unit, who spent the last 5-6 years of his career working for 2 and 3 stars, got this puzzled look and said, "What on earth do these folks think is supposed to happen at this point in their careers? Where are these guys supposed to go next?"

It's not as though there are a ton of jobs at that level. Up or out, and after a while there isn't a whole lot of "up" left (plus a lot of these guys have lived apart from their wives for literally years, and that takes a toll on a marriage if it goes on too long).

Aye chihuahua :p

Posted by: Cassandra at October 24, 2013 04:46 PM

I'd like to see him fiddling with hats, keep him out of trouble. Give him a special room to work on it in.

Posted by: Texan99 at October 24, 2013 05:00 PM


Posted by: Cass at October 24, 2013 05:16 PM

Let him work on Chair Force hats, then. They don't seem to mind the "rep".

Posted by: DL Sly at October 25, 2013 01:16 AM

Upon further review, it appears as if DOD has emitted a diktat that the services should pursue unisex uniforms. Could that be at the root of the truly stupid Navy Cammies and this silly hat? Why would DOD do this?

Posted by: CAPT Mongo at October 26, 2013 09:14 AM