Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

The Marines

I took a young man to an Armed Forces recruiting station yesterday to meet with an Air Force recruiter. He had made the appointment, and just wanted to hear the recruiter talk about the Air Force and why he should consider signing up. The young man, let’s call him John, has been thinking about joining up for a while, and--for reasons I can’t quite fathom--showed interest in the Air Force. The twenty minute conversation went like this. The recruiter began by saying that there are great educational benefits (it turns out that all the branches have the same educational benefits). And finally, when pressed as to why a young man should consider the Air Force over another branch of the military, the fellow said this (my paraphrase is close to a quote): "Being in the Air Force is least like being in the military. It feels more like a regular job, you come to work at eight, and you leave at five." I could see that John wasn’t exactly swayed by this reasoning, so he had no more questions. We left his office, passing the Marine recruiter’s office on our way out.

We were both disappointed by the meeting. I asked John if he thought the Marine recruiter would talk the same way. He said he hoped not. I said, why don’t we find out?
So we walked back inside into the Marine’s office. Clearly, we had interrupted him, but he saw us anyway. I asked him a simple question: "Why should a young man consider joining the Marines over another branch?" This was his response (again, a close paraphrase):

"All the branches offer the same tangible benefits. But we offer the intangibles. Pride, honor, patriotism. When your signing bonus runs out after joining another branch, you still have to look yourself in the mirror every morning. I do that. And I see that I am the tip of the spear. We go in first, and we have been doing this since 1775. We are always ready. We protect our embassies abroad, and all the other hard work. We are Marines."

The Lance Corporal kept talking, and our hearts were lifted. It was five o’clock exactly as the Air Force recruiter passed us in the hallway on his way home. Soon after that we had to put an end to the conversation--the Marine wanted to keep talking--and stepped out into the sunlight. Well, John, what do you think? That was more like it, said his faster beating heart. On our drive home, we heard a news report that over one hundred bad guys were killed in heavy fighting near the Syrian border, and three Marines met their maker. Good ratio, we said. My wet eyes made it hard to see the road ahead.

Discussions - 24 Comments

My husband was a Marine during the first Gulf War. The recruiter was right...the intangibles are worth so much more. The Marines took my husband, a poor boy with not much to work for in Central PA, and gave him dignity, honor and a devout sense of Patriotism. He is very proud and honored to be a Marine...once a Marine, always a Marine. The first night home with both of our girls he sang them the Marine Corp Anthem (maybe a bit wierd, but now they sing it with him as they garden in the yard). I always tell my students to pick the Marines. As my husband says, anyone can be in the Army, but only the few can be Marines!

My dad served 4 years in the Marine Corps during VietNam and to this day considers himself privileged to have served the Corps. There is still something to be said for pride & honor, and the Marine Corps instills that in the young men & women who join its ranks. I have seen a friend - a kid who was insecure, immature and a bully - come out of Marine Corps boot camp a self-confident, respectful, reverent young man - ready to face the world and to do whatever was asked of him by his country with a great sense of honor & worth. My dad still talks about the Corps (and he served an additional 16 years in the Air Force and could echo what Peter wrote) and the intangible effects of serving are seen in everything he does today.

I’ve been in the Army for around 3.5 years now and have been interacting with Marines for almost the same amount of time. To me, they come off as entitled, disagreeable fellows who believe that since they are Marines that they are much more important than the rest of us. It’s as if they are the only ones who possess those "pride, honor, and patriotism" traits that everyone has talked about. Some of the most honorable men I’ve ever met were soldiers in the Army, not Marines. The big difference between the Marines and other branches is that their drill instructors do the best job of deconstructing the recruits’ personalities and replacing it with one that knows one word: oooorah!

Also, how would the Marines get anywhere without they Air Force giving them rides?

I think the Marines warrant vast admiration and gratitude from all Americans (and people of many other nations as well). Therefore I disappointed to see this report on the recent western Iraq fighting in the Washington Post, in which the correspondent appears to lionize a gang of terrorists and portrays our Marines as near-bumblers, easily surprised by what the Post reporterette breathelessly apostrophizes as these "fierce, determined, and lethal" fighters who nonetheless somehow manage to wind up 100% dead after inflicting what can only be described as very light casualties on the Marines who came to rout them out. What in the world is wrong with the "lamestream" media in this country?

The single house ambush described in the Post dispatch, btw, appears to have been the source of two of the three US fatalities reported so far in Operation Matador.


Good to see that a spirit of interservice rivalry is still alive and kicking.

I was arguing to someone the other day that if you ask yourself what single institution in the whole wide world has done the most to protect and advance the causes of democratic self-government and human liberty since probably 1775 and definitely 1861, there’s only one possible answer: The United States Army.

That Air Force recruiter might want to check his facts a little more closely. I just had a student--Air Guard--return from Iraq. He was assigned to run truck convoys in and out of Baghdad. There is a shortage of ground personnel and Air Force enlisted are being reassigned to ground protection-combat roles. In any event given the nature of the War on Terror no one in uniform, regardless of branch or rank, is safe while in the vicinity of a combat zone. For that matter, New York City was a combat zone on 9/11. Why hasn’t this fact of life sunk in yet?

Is this Kenneth J. Heineman of OU? I wanted you to know how much I’ve admired your look at modern America in your books.

Very rarely do we get "rides" from the Chair Force, typically the Navy will get us to the coast, amphib to shore, hump or ride to contact, and then fight the rest of the way to the objective. Since 1989 as a Marine Infantryman, I received one round trip ticket ride from the Air Force, to and from Honduras in 1990. Don’t believe the hype winger, take the leap and find out for yourself.

See the above linked to read my post about what one of our brave young Marines is facing this very moment at the hands of Canadians. Say a prayer for this young man, please. As an old jarhead to you others out there, I think he needs your support. Semper Fi!!!

The Air Force recruiter you spoke to should be fired. I spent 26 years in the Air Force, and enjoyed most of it. My nephew is about to retire after 24 years, and spent the last six in Recruiting.

There’s a basic core of duties that all the services share - mostly basic support duties such as finance, personnel, computers, base infrastructure, etc. Then there are specific duties each is tasked to perform. The Army is primarily a land warfare force; the Marines amphibious forces; the Navy seaborne warfare, and the Air Force air warfare and strategic interdiction. There are certain unique specialties needed by each Service. There are shared specialties that are better, career-wise, in one service over another. The United States posts military resources at some bases and operations that are more "livable" if you’re wearing a blue uniform over what you’d get in a green one. Promotion is faster in the Army, the Air Force treats its people better.

I worked in units during the majority of my military career that were staffed by Air Force, Army, and Marine members, working together. We treated each other with mutual respect because we all did the same job, and no one service did it better than any other. The major comment at every one of those installations was that the Air Force quarters, food, and support was always better than that provided by the other services. In the end, it boils down to what the person looking to join the military wants out of the next four (or 20+) years. Making the choice based on a recruiter’s pitch seems to me to be the silliest way of making that decision I’ve ever heard.

Yes, Tony, I’m me. Thanks for your kind words. Of interest to you, perhaps, my 1998 NYU Press book on contemporary conservative moral politics is coming out this fall in paperback with a new preface dealing with the 2004 election.

Yes, Prof Heineman, I read that book as soon as it came out and remember enjoying it quite a bit. I’ll look for the new edition!

If young John and (presumably his father) Peter Schramm found their "hearts were lifted" and their minds swayed at all by what, from the sound of it, was little more than a memorized-brochure, cliche-ridden PR spiel from the Marine recruiter, perhaps they might also be interested in some shares of Enron stock. Sure, I picked ’em up on Ebay for next to nothing and have been using them as placemats, but let me tell ya how this All-American company is really starting to go places!!

The Post reports today that the same squad which dealt with the house ambush lost more men to an IED yesterday. Terrible news. The USMC recruiting sergeant who spoke of Marines’ being "the tip of the spear" spoke truly.

I have a sneaky feeling that John is Johnny Schramm. If true, I can’t believe he is old enough to enlist. If he does join the marines and he is sent to Camp Lejeune, maybe he can look up an old football coach of his.

If it is true, good luck John.

Winger writes, "how would the Marines get anywhere without they Air Force giving them rides?" Have you ever heard of the United States Navy? The Marines started as are the ground forces of the Navy. In the British military, they Marines are the guys wearing red-coats aboard British Naval vessels. During ship-to-ship fighting both sailors and marines boarded and fought the enemy hand to hand. However, when they landed, security was generally the responsibility of the Marines, while the sailors gathered whatever stores the ship required. During the Revolutionary War, American Patriots fought British Marines, aka, red-coats.

Marines do have an attitude, one that I think is well deserved. They have the hardest, longest boot-camp, and, as the recruiter stated, they are the tip of the spear.

And I say all this as a former Navy man, who served as a spotter for Marines, stationed aboard our ship. It was the duty of these Marines to protect our ship by manning shoulder launched Stinger Missiles watches when the ship was at general quarters, during the Gulf War’s opening phases, back in 1991.

For full disclosure, my brother served 4 years in the Marines.

This was a pretty silly post. The comments of the Air Force recruiter may not have glamorized and exalted service in his branch of the military, but they were probably more honest and straightforward than the pompous blather from the Marine recruiter. Most 18-year olds I know, frankly, can detect that pseudo-profundity from a mile away. I hardly think that anyone who serves in any non-USMC branch is doing anything less than honorable. And the mention that "It was five o’clock exactly as the Air Force recruiter passed us in the hallway on his way home" is pointless. If there are no prospects visiting his office, what do you expect him to do, start digging a foxhole, do some target practice, or fill some sandbags?? (Is this what you think the USMC recruiter does when his office isn’t filled with likely recruits? I mean, no matter how well he can do a Patton imitation, he’s still got a desk job.) He’s a RECRUITER in Ashland, Ohio - be realistic! As far as that goes, how do you know he WASN’T going to target practice, or to meet a prospect privately at a school or restaurant or someplace?? And if he was going home, good for him. If he has a wife and kids, I bet they were glad to see him home - better than being on the wrong end of the "ratio" in Iraq.

Perhaps a lot of good, smart kids are hearing from their military buddies in Iraq, and then when they compare what they hear from that source with the gushy talk from some recruiters, they smell b.s., and this might explain part of the current recruitment difficulties the services are having right now...

FWIW, at the doctor’s office today I saw an article in a recent issue of Esquire by a young milblogger named Colby Buzzell.

Buzzell says that as a young slacker drifting from job to job in his native Pacific Northwest, he conceived an interest in joining the Marines (the strong denunciations of his Army-vet father may have helped) but found his local Marine recruiter strangely unmoved by Buzzell’s insistence that he didn’t care about educational benefits, etc., but just wanted to be a combat infantryman.

Buzzell felt that he got a better response to this ambition of his from the Army recruiter, and so into the Army he went. He did indeed join a combat arm. Now he’s out, and in between he spent some time on the sharp end in Iraq.

Maybe it’s just tough to generalize from the interaction of an individual recruiter and an individual recruit.

I am really disappointed, but not surprised by the Air Force recruiter. We too offer intangibles. I’ve been an Air Force officer for 18 years. I am well blued and I take great pride when I see my uniform in the mirror. I once served in an office where the duties were pretty much eight-hour days, but that by far was the exception. I’ve worked over 48-hours straight during exercises and combat operations and gone days without seeing my regular bed. I’ve worked in offices where 12 hour days and six or seven day work weeks were the norm.

I am not serving in a combat specialty, but even I’ve lived in tents in combat zones, landed under in an aircraft under threat of hostile fire and breathed more than my share of sand and dust.

Air Force aircrews risk their lives each and every time they fire up the engine and contrary to the lance corporal’s assertion, airpower, joint airpower, is the tip of the spear. In most conflicts airpower delivers the first blows. We soften the target up for the ground troops. It is the aircrews of the F-16 CJs, the F-117s, the EA-6s and other aircraft that are knocking out the enemy defenses and taking the initial risks before the invasion begins. Even the much praised ground invasion of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM began with the underappreciated, but highly dangerous, Operation SOUTHERN WATCH. SOUTHERN WATCH was truly air war, an air war fought by US and UK forces, Navy, Marine and Air Force air assets.

As a general rule the difference between the branches of service lies in the nature of the work that new recruits do. A recruit can take pride in the uniform of any service. For the Air Force and for the most part the Navy, recruits are an investment in the future. We need highly trained technicians to keep aircraft flying, radar running, etc. Marines and the Army need infantrymen and that means they need highly dedicated professional soldiers in massive numbers, but they also have a smaller need for the more senior technicians. This difference in need results in a different style of treatment of our personnel. Marines and soldiers lead a harder life than the average airman – more field time, rougher accommodations and greater risk of death in combat operations. They need privates and we need junior NCOs within the relatively safe perimeter of bases or even outside the combat zone.

That said the Air Force has a lot of combat opportunities for young men who meet the requirements and earn the responsibility. We have for example, combat communications personnel, forward air controllers and pararescue journeymen. I believe that our PJs stand shoulder to shoulder with the best any service can offer and more than one marine has greeted the incoming PJ with joy.

In any event, Simper Fi to that lance corporal for selling his service and selling it well. God bless all of our uniformed combat specialists and their dedication to duty that makes the American military the most formidable fighting force in the world.

As a new Air Force officer, I have to take some umbrage at the characterization of the Air Force as some kind of social club. We have thousands of personnel serving in Iraq, we have hundreds of pilots flying combat air patrols, recon missions, and global mobility and support missions. Without the Air Force the Marines would not even be able to get to Iraq in the first place. The fact that we have brave pilots and aircrews flying the most advanced weapons systems in the world keep our country safe- we don’t work 9-5 when on a 16 refueling mission.

Dr. Schramm,
Thanks once again for your high praise. As you know, over 40% of the Lima Co. were killed or wounded in a matter of days, mostly by an ied. At moments like this every military member must ask himself why he will give up his life. The Marines are far more than an organization dedicated to fierce fighting. As you stated so eloquently, the Marines are based in the strong intangibles of honor, courage and commitment. One cannot, in good conscience, fight without a true understanding of ideas, especially in a situation in which we are not fighting for simple survival. The terrorists represent a worldview that is utterly base and evil. However simple weapons cannot destroy their ideas; we must combat them with truth. I have seen both Army and Airforce training, and they differ from that of the Marines in that they do not inculcate the American way of life. Not only are all Marines taught the best of American values and principles, they are also inculcated with a knowledge and desire to defend them with their lives. The Marines will not have doubts or second thoughts in combat because they have understood and embraced that which is right. As President Ronald Regan stated, "Many go through life wondering if they have made a difference, the Marines don’t have that problem." It is the discipline and dedication to honor and country that separate the Marines from any military organization in the world.
Semper Fi.


The difference in Marines is shown by the comments on this page. Take a look at comment three. This person obviously has no idea what it's about. There is no doubt in my mind that there are a lot of exseptional people to come from all the services and many that were never in the service. The fact of the matter is exactly what the recruiter told you. You can Lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way. The Marine Corps Leads the way into battle. In the Marine Corps you will find out that there is no excuse for failer. Which in your life you will find that this kind of training makes you capable of acomplishing ANYTHING!! Just like anything though there are always people who don't learn anything. To address the issue of how the Marine Corps would get anywhere without the other services is easy. Without those services the Marine Corps would have a much larger budget and be able to transport them selves and the Marines would easily without a doubt be self sufficient. Don't think for a second that a marine needs something from someone else. Especially from crap talking cowards.

That is perfect that people can get the loans and that opens completely new opportunities.

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