From: Commanding Officer
Subj: LEADING OUR MARINES
1. Purpose. To publish the Commanding Officer's philosophy and policy with regard to the Squadron leadership effort.
2. Application. This letter applies to all Aviation Maintenance Squadron 1 (AMS-1) personnel. The Administrative Section maintains copies of this letter and issues a personal copy to each staff member.
3. General. A look at the AMS-1 Table of Organization (T/O) reveals that the primary focus of the organizational structure is for providing instructors and support staff for NATTC schools. However, AMS-1 has, at most times, in excess of 600 Marine students and staff members, most of them students, recent graduates of Boot Camp and MCT that require structured leadership not specifically addressed in the T/O. The Squadron SOP, SqdnO 3000.1, describes structure in the form of collateral duties that specifically addresses this need.
4. Mentoring. The mentoring concept is not new to the Marine Corps. It is nothing more than leaders taking a personal interest in the welfare and development of each of their Marines. It speaks to the relationship between senior and subordinate that is oriented more toward that of teacher and scholar than it is of parent and child. The act of mentoring is not a substitute for leadership, but is an element of leadership.
5. Core Values. Many of us have heard it said that the Core Values of Honor, Courage, and Commitment are really the fourteen leadership traits turned into three. It is important that we understand that our Core Values define our Corps' culture or our nature. Leadership traits and principles are directly and inextricably linked to those values, but are not a substitute for them any more than mentoring is a substitute for leadership.
6. The Basics. The fact of the matter is that many of us need to know more about mentoring, our Core Values, and good old basic leadership. We're sometimes eager to criticize ideas like mentoring and TQL (Total Quality Leadership) and other initiatives because we think they threaten our traditional view of "Marine Corps leadership." However, they not only don't threaten those traditional views, but actually tend to refocus our attention on them.
It's interesting to learn how many of those who criticize our "abandonment" of traditional Marine Corps leadership can't discuss the leadership traits and principles that have been with us for more than twenty years in personal and meaningful terms. We expect our meritorious promotion candidates to memorize their leadership traits, but how many of us can honestly say that we have a personal strategy and philosophy for putting them into play? We all have to keep our feet rooted in the basics without becoming cynical about whether we're babying anyone, or whether we had it rougher when we were coming up, or whatever. The bottom line is that we have young Marines assigned to us here who have already been through the "I'm a roll call number" stage of their development, and now we need to show them how Marines take care of Marines. We need to keep them moving along that developmental continuum from recruit training, through MCT, and on to the Fleet. Our standards need to prepare them for Fleet life without betraying any delusions we might entertain about a need to put them through some contrived paces. Our mission is to mold Marines and with the development of Class Advisors and Section Leaders in our structure, we have the mechanism for doing so.
7. Student Data Forms. Our small unit leaders have Student Data Forms (SDF) to assist them in counseling their Marines, learning more about them, and identifying potential problems that need attention. For years, we have kept this type of information in our platoon leader or squad leader's notebook; we are reviving that effort here. When a Marine is transferred from the barracks to the schoolhouse, his SDF should go with him.
8. Counseling. Aside from what we normally do as a part of our welcome aboard effort, every Marine needs to be counseled by his immediate superior within three days of assignment to him. Every leader needs to have a record in which he notes the counseling he gives his Marines, and while experienced Marines can get by with counseling once a month, our new Marines need to be counseled personally once a week.
9. All the Marine does and fails to do. Our Class Advisors and Section Leaders will be responsible for all that their Marines do and fail to do, just like the rest of us. They will conduct regular counselings, including that important counseling when the Marines first arrive in the barracks or in school. Section Leaders will maintain Student Data Forms on each Marine and keep a Leader's notebook. Section Leaders will see their Marines at the beginning and end of every day so they can look them in the eye to see how they're doing and help them with professional military development. When a Marine is sick or depressed, the Section Leader will be tuned in, just like he would be in the fleet. When our Marines are in trouble, their Section Leaders should be right there in the thick of it to take care of it or help account for it. The Section Leader should know when his Marine is considering getting married, buying a car, struggling in class, not bathing, not eating morning or noon chow, and more. He'll check his BEQ room, the fit and serviceability of his uniforms, the safety of his car, and all of that other stuff that leaders do. When possible, I'll see the Section Leader at his Marine's NJP and his Marine will see him at his graduation. He'll give advice for snapping into a new MOS and duty station and attempt to send our Marines on their way ready to make things happen in their new billets. Section Leaders can't get the job done through casual acquaintance or vague familiarity. There must be an unmistakable "buck stops here" air about us as leaders. We have to be engaged -- to do otherwise invites crisis management.
10. Passing the word. One of the beauties of what the Marine Corps has known as "the rule of threes" is that when one Marine is responsible for three, it makes passing the word -- the straight scoop -- very easy. Let's make sure it's happening. No Marine should leave your control for the day unless he's checked with you to make sure he has the latest and greatest.
11. Standards. When a Marine fails to measure up he shouldn't be worried about irritating me, or his MLO, or his NCOIC... he should be worried about disappointing his Section Leader or Class Advisor. If we can't readily sense that our Marines don't have that feeling of obligation toward their small unit leaders, then they're not doing enough with and for their Marines. Let's set the standards and make sure they meet them. Let's check their rooms and their personal appearance every single day. Let's check to see how their eating at the mess hall. Are the common areas in the barracks useable? How are the club and the gym? We have to know these things.
12. Anonymity. We look at the big issues on our plate and wonder why, in spite of all the words we spill on issues like rape, suicide prevention, sexual harassment, etc., we still have problems. A lot of the problem is a prevailing sense of anonymity, particularly with our newer Marines -- the sense that no one will be the wiser or that a machine so immense that it can't reach them on a personal level won't feel the ripples of one Marine's behavior. Marines who know someone is personally engaged in their leadership and development are more likely to be concerned about letting that person down than the relatively anonymous Marine is.
With our newer Marines it's the perpetuation of what I call the "roll call number syndrome." In boot camp we used to have a roll call number based on where we fell in the alphabet, and we did nearly everything in roll call order. It wasn't important for us to have any other identity because we weren't entitled to it. That roll call number was both a management necessity for our DIs and a convenient way to rid us of that slimy civilian persona. However, lacking the tight controls here that our young Marines had in boot camp, it is not illogical for them to link their sense of anonymity with a perception about accountability. We tend to deal with the accountability when we discover a problem, but that's considerably reactive.
Aside from the anonymity-accountability linkage, there's also some linkage between that sense of anonymity and feelings about just how accessible and engaged the chain of command is in their problems and personal issues. Too many of them find their counsel among the sea lawyers and rumor control rather than through an accessible, engaged chain of command. Military training, mentoring, basic skills, and core values are essential to the development of our young talent, but this attention needs to happen as a part of the leadership equation and not apart from it.
13. This scheme incorporates a traditional approach to the leadership of our Marines, and it puts us on the right track with small unit leadership on issues like mentoring, the core values, military discipline, and the like without creating superficial programs to deal with these things only in their off-duty time outside of the chain of command. To the extent that we've been evolving to this, the outcome has been positive. The instructors have been meeting their students at the barracks, checking on their chow hall, checking their rooms, and getting involved when there are problems. We're moving this to a new level, so let's complete the circuit.
R. A. DOSS