Certainly things have changed in the Marines

Certainly things have changed in the Marines since I joined up in the middle 1970s, finishing a nearly 30-year career in 2002. But one thing that hasn’t changed? The Marines “do more with less” mentality.

Ya gotta love the Marine Corps for many reasons — and Americans do love their Marines — but the frugal nature of Marines, their Spartan character, and tendency toward self-flagellation is, at its core quaint, and broadly it’s a real benefit to our nation that gets a bigger slice of combat power per defense dollar spent on Marines than from any other service. “Best bang for the defense buck,” Marines say.

Sure, the Marine Corps has its share of problems like any large organization filled mostly with gun-toting, hormone-flowing, 20-somethings with a license to kill. But all-in-all, the Marines have it right.

They’re good for America. Simply, Marines do more with less. It’s in their blood. Innovation-shminovation. While Marines talk about innovation, they’re just as good — maybe even better ¬ at doing things the hard way. And liking it! They wear the challenges of doing things the hard way like a badge of honor. I know I did during my time as a Marine.

It’s like Marines are masochists that are “normalized.” Most people believe masochism is some kind of depraved behavior, but Marines seem to like self-induced pain and almost celebrate it.

“Semper Fidelis” or translated into English from the Latin, “Always faithful” is the Marines’ official motto. But other informal mottos are perverse, such as, “Improvise, adapt, overcome” (a call out to the stingy nature of Marines finding a way to make things work regardless of the difficulties) or “We’ve done so much with so little for so long that we’re now qualified to do anything with nothing.” Marines joke about “practicing to bleed.”

In fact, according to a study published in 2007 (Mortality of American Troops in the Iraq War by Emily Buzzell, and Samuel H. Preston) if you’re a Marine, you’re two times more likely to die compared to the Army, 10 times more likely to die when compared to the Navy, and 20 times more likely to die when compared to the Air Force.

And the Marines like it. Go ahead. Pit 300 of us Spartans against 10,000 Persians. “We’re used to it and work better under pressure anyway.”

But it’s no news flash to Marines that the Air Force has it better than them. Marines often joke about how the Air Force builds the officers’ club and PX for their bases and then says to Congress, “Oh, we’ve run out of money for the runway.” The Marines, on the other hand, build the runway first and then beg for money to build barracks, shelter halves (like pup tents) being more than acceptable sleeping quarters when required.

Here’s a great example of why Marines are “spot on” in their belief that airmen have it better than them. The U.S. Air Force has considered paying huge bonuses for their pilots to remain in the service. According to CNBC reporter Jeff Daniels last August, “The Air Force’s current annual bonus of $25,000 per year for pilots who decide to stay in the service has been in place since 1999 and was never adjusted for inflation. The president’s budget called for that bonus to nearly double to $48,000 per year, which would mean Air Force pilots who re-up for nine years could net over $400,000.” Can you imagine nearly a half a million dollars to remain as U.S. Air Force pilots? Marines can’t.

The Marines are experiencing similar pilot shortages. But the Marine Corps’ tightfisted response to the huge bonuses offered to USAF pilots? According to an “All Marine” (ALMAR) message released this past January, the Marines are offering aviator captains who have twice failed promotion to major the “opportunity” to stay flying in the Marine Corps at the lower captain rank. Normally twice passed over captains are released from active duty. In its glorious stinginess, the Marines tender not, “airforceesque,” a half a million dollars but instead the priceless honor of remaining a member of the “gun club” and retaining the title “Marine.”

Some would laugh at the gullibility. But that’s OK. Marines aren’t airmen. Marines thrive, mired in difficulty. They can take it. And they like it. They serve for a greater good beyond their own self-interests. That’s what Marines do.

For the future, Marines should think twice before changing their frugal, masochistic nature. Do more with less? Fine. Bring it on. “Pressure makes diamonds” as Gen. George S. Patton Jr. said.

Barry Fetzer is a columnist for the Havelock News. He can be reached at fetzerab@ec.rr.com.