US Marines Talk Vaping, Pockets, Transgenders, and other Controversies

Update: It seems the US Marine Corps had some thoughts on these unusually frank articles.  While they are still posted at their links below, each has been edited to indicate it is an “editorial,” and all are now preceded by official disclaimers.

In an unusual media burst, the US Marines released six articles written by young enlisted troops on rather unusual topics — and generally critical of their own Marine Corps in unusually frank tones. Three of the six articles were uncredited, though they were all published through AFN-IJ (Iwakuni), and the three that had by-lines were all written by AFN-IJ staff members.

In the first, Corporal David Bickel wrote in favor of “Vaping in Government Facilities,” in which he criticized the ban on using nicotine vaporizers in government buildings, saying

The reasoning behind the rules against vaping in the barracks have [sic] little to no ground to stand on as well as little relevancy to the topic of tobacco smoking, which the government classifies as regular cigarettes, smokeless tobacco and vaporizers.

In the second, an uncredited troop sarcastically bragged that he picked the easiest skills test he could and essentially used “Ctrl + F” to obtain a promotion by word-searching his way through training PDFs (a very common technique):

These “tests” are mockeries, because they’re incredibly difficult and no one in the military takes them seriously…

The few pieces of information that I had “learned” early on during practice quiz exercises [were by] “Ctrl + F’ing” …Test complete, now the Marine Corps thinks I am ready to pick up the rank of sergeant. I’m not complaining about advancing. I am complaining about the general waste of attempted education that is an [Marine Corps Test]. ..

If we rethink the idea of MCI’s as a whole and supply Marines with the actual tools to learn rather than slapping them with a massive PDF, we could make “Ctrl + F” a thing of the past.

The third, and similarly uncredited, Marine Corps article entitled “Good Order, Discipline,” used thick and undisguised sarcasm and cynicism to take on the ban on Marines having their hands in their pockets — and it managed to bag on high level Marine Corps leaders in the process [emphasis added]:

A rogue lance corporal in the United States Marine Corps can cause the breakdown of society leading to chaos, disorder and mayhem by committing one…heinous [act]…What world-altering power does a lance corporal have that could cause such destruction? Stand by to cry: hands in pockets.

So, how do mitts in pants pouches destroy the Corps? I am about to find out. I am going to put my hands in my pockets…

Oh my goodness I think I almost died…Interestingly, I did not lose my Marine Corps values or discipline. I simply warmed my hands. What conclusion should I draw from that? …Common sense is like air, it spreads thin the higher it goes. I wonder how this all applies to the Marine Corps in general?

In the fourth, Corporal Jennifer Rocha criticized the US Marine Corps’ “Broken Promotion System” and then made an important connection to retention in a world where lower-ranking Marines get discharged first when a drawdown occurs:

This system does not promote the best; it promotes those who manage to get the most points…

So who gets to stay in and who gets the short end of the stick? That’s simple; rank has its privileges, right? The higher a Marine’s rank, the longer he can stay in the Marine Corps…

What sense does it make deciding who gets to stay and who has to leave based on a system that doesn’t focus on retaining leaders and technical experts in their respective job fields? Before you know it, you have staff noncommissioned officers who don’t have the technical skills to perform basic tasks trying to lead non-commissioned officers, who don’t know their left from their right. Let alone know how to lead. It’s a never ending cycle.

In the fifth article, an anonymous presumable Marine spoke in the first person when they wrote a piece on “Why Females Belong on the Front Lines.” The article advocates for women in combat by saying the Marine physical fitness test is essentially irrelevant, because desire is more important than physical ability [emphasis added]:

Think what you want, but I believe while females may not be as physically strong as males, a woman with strong will, determination and perseverance can surpass the physical limitations of her body and accomplish the mission at the end of the day…

[Cpl Lilia Ponce De Leon said “Whether] you can run a 21-minute three-mile or an 18-minute three-mile doesn’t determine whether or not you can make it through hikes or shoot an M-16. It all depends on if you want it.”

Finally, in the sixth article Corporal Cheyenne Newman wrote “Equality For All,” advocating for open service by transgenders. Awkwardly, Newman makes the argument that if someone is serving in violation of regulations, the angst they feel could undermine the mission, therefore the regulations should be changed:

What hurts unit camaraderie is a lack of self-confidence, trust and respect. If someone in the unit is transgender, they have to hide who they are for fear of the wrong person finding out. If they have to fear the people who are supposed to be taking care of them in combat, it detracts from mission accomplishment, which should be their primary focus…

Newman also unilaterally solves a complex problem by declaring it “simple.” Where should transgenders bunk, and to what physical standards should they be held? “Simple.”  It depends on what private parts they have in their pants:

The answer is quite simple, actually…If the said person was a female and now has male parts, you should room them with a male. But then how would physical standards work?..If a person is a male who used to be a female, should they be help to a higher physical standard than they were previously? The answer is yes, because now they are male. What if you identify as a male, but are still female? The answer is you should be held to female standards…

It’s clear that allowing the transgender community to serve in the United States military is the direction in which we should move.

Together, the release of these articles is rather unusual, and even a bit brazen, in terms of the critique by low level Marines of their service, as well as their declaration of their personal opinions of controversial — and unsettled — issues of military policy.  After all, what would the reception be of articles that took on the opposite advocacy roles on these topics — particularly regarding women in combat or transgender service?