The few, the proud, the unisex
By Michael R. Shannon
web posted November 11, 2013
When Ronald Reagan was president he described members of the U.S. Marine Corps in a memorable phrase that is featured on the Marines' Heritage Museum website: "Some people wonder all their lives if they've made a difference. The Marines don't have that problem."
The generation of paper–pushers and PR–minded behind–kissers that inhabit the Pentagon and the Obama administration do not reflect that view of the Corps. In fact the levelers in the White House view the Marines' independence and combative nature as a problem. All that aggression and testosterone looks out of place in the elite circles where citizens of the world reside.
Modern military management (they don't deserve the term ‘leaders') has been taken over by the "everybody gets a trophy" crowd. That's why in the Army all soldiers now wear a beret, instead of just Rangers and Special Forces. Chelsea Manning's feelings were hurt when he couldn't wear a fashionable French–style chapeau. No need to recognize the additional motivation of troops that go the extra mile if it discriminates against those who don't or can't. Now it's Bless Them All the "big and the fat and the small."
But while other branches of the armed forces are marching in lockstep to the administration's tune of women on the front lines, the Marines are fighting a rear guard action. The Corps has been reluctant to lower physical standards for combat soldiers (in bureaucrat–speak this degradation of standards is called "gender norming," too bad wars are not also "gender normed").
In fact, every woman that has ever been allowed to attend the Marine's infantry school has washed out. In the long run, unless there is an outbreak of sanity, this means Marine commanders will have to justify why their standards are keeping women out of the front lines. The fact women have no business there is irrelevant to Pentagon sociologists who have never had a bullet whizz past their ear. It's inevitable that eventually women will fill combat slots in the Marines.
That's a long–term project though. In the short term the empire strikes back where it's been successful before. As the New York Post puts it, "Obama wants Marines to wear ‘girly' hats."
According to the Post, the Obama administration wants to "create a ‘unisex' look for the Corps." The plan is for the Corps to discontinue the current caps — known as "covers" and in use since 1922 — and go to a new cap that bears a remarkable resemblance to a Pullman Porter's cap.
This is not to disparage Pullman Porters. They set a standard for service and dedication, but they didn't do in under fire.
This similarity between hats could be an unexpected advantage for the taxpayer. Since changing to the new headgear will cost $8 million, its possible some of the expense could be covered by civilians who mistakenly tip Marines after asking for help with their luggage.
As poster Carol Robinson on the Post site commented, "Now the Marines look like WACS [WWII Women's Army Corps]. This is stupid and a waste of money."
This imperial hat edict is actually the second time the Marines have been asked to alter their appearance so they would appear less warlike to outsiders.
Marine Corps lore has it that during the early weeks of the Korean War, Communist troops received the following command: "Do not attack the First Marine Division. Leave the yellowlegs alone. Strike the American Army."
Immediately Marines were ordered to no longer wear their khaki leggings, which was the cause of the "yellowlegs" description, so the Army would not have to bear the brunt of the fighting alone. The Korean War proceeded with the Marines getting their fair share of attacks.
It must be comforting for America's enemies to know how worried the Obama Administration is about the difference in appearance between male and female Marines. I fear Obama may also start agitating for the Marines to remove the ‘blood stripe' from their uniform pants, since it may have unfortunate associations for him due to his own "red line" problem.
But who knows, maybe it's time for the tradition–bound Corps to embrace change and become a softer, gentler Marine Corps.
In a spirit of cooperation (or fighting withdrawal, if you will) the Corps could even alter the lyrics of the Marine Hymn to something like:
From the halls of Montezuma,
To Barack's haberdashery.
We will fight our country's battles,
In this cute accessory.
First to fight for right and freedom,
We will keep this cover clean.
Even though it's true Obama,
Could have never made Marine.
Michael R. Shannon is a public relations and advertising consultant with corporate, government and political experience around the globe. He is a dynamic and entertaining keynote speaker. He can be reached at mandate.mmpr (at) gmail.com. He is also the author of the forthcoming book: "Funny Conservative" Is Not an Oxymoron. (Or any other type of moron).