Behind the Cover: Officers under fire


Marine Corps leadership has relieved six unit commanders and senior officers in the space of a few weeks, and the commandant, Gen. James Amos, is sending a clear message that COs will be held accountable for everything that happens in their unit.

The commandant has portrayed this initiative as a needed course correction following a wave of poor decisions by some and negative publicity that have harmed the Corps’ reputation. But some believe he’s gone too far in his zeal to get the service back on track. During his 2012 Heritage Brief tour promoting individual integrity within the Corps, Amos came under fire for comments that appeared to demonstrate undue command influence, calling for more convictions against sex offenders in the Corps. Now, some fear his call for greater accountability will cost good officers their careers — and that the ground rules are unfair.

We talked to some of the Marine Corps’ most famous and beloved commanders who saw their careers ended abruptly when they were relieved from their posts.

Retired Lt. Col. Asad “Genghis” Khan said he went from being a future contender for commandant to being “treated like roadkill” when he was relieved from command of Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 6th Marines in 2004. Now, he worries that the commandant’s campaign for heightened accountability will result in timid junior officers who are afraid to take risks and make tough decisions.

We also talked to two former commandants who spoke about the difficult decision process to remove a unit commander and how carefully that choice should be made.

Is the Marine Corps sacrificing its strongest leaders to get the service back on track? Or is this an important part of military discipline and a call for a stronger, more cohesive Corps?

Read the story here and let us know what you think in the comments.



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  1. Why does the Marine Corps make these reliefs public? Is this the new Marine Corps? Fire a commander and hold his carcass up for display? Shameful Marine Corps, shameful. And I find it amazing that the General Officers get a pass on this. Many have had the same types of incidents happen in their commands. And welcome to the new micromanagement of the Marine Corps. Commanders will be standing guard duty so nothing bad happens.

  2. I’m confused, how can military members think what the commandant is doing is wrong? Officers should be held to the same standard as our enlisted. There is no problem show casing the faults and failures of enlisted Marines when they go ary… what makes officers any better, this at least tells all members that you will not be held at a higher standard because of the rank on your collar. I applaud the Commandant and his work, and hopefully our officers can accept responsiblity for there actions and the actions that the Marines they are responsible for display.

  3. I’m not sure Officers and Enlisted will ever be treated the same. In that case, let us fire the senior enlisted advisors as well? Tbh, I don’t see this happening due to the commander (officer) being fully responsibile and accountable for what happens and fails to happen in their unit, not his/her enlisted advisor. The officer will always go first.

  4. Kevin Spacey on

    This is welcomed in the Marine Corps. The only component missing is that of senior enlisted SNCO’s. They need to be held responsible for the incredible amount of incompetence that has been taking place amongst the promoted ranks of the Marine Corps for some time now.

    Command Climate Surveys are well known through the Marine Corps as a joke. I remember when I was in 2D CI/HUMINT SUPP CO, 2D Intel BN on Camp Lejeune, we had a Command Climate Survey. The F****** Executive Officer actually read some of the statements to the Company, in a formation, in order to scold and belittle us for writing such “insubordinate” things about the SNCO’s and Officers. Oh, and don’t forget about those Gunny’s that will be the FIRST person to play games with you, if you are not in their “good ole boy” club. Meaning you don’t go around telling him/her how “awesome” they are today.

    Thank you Jim Amos for FINALLY being a Commandant who takes these things seriously. Now, please, take it one step further and hold the Senior SNCO’s that advise (and most of the time carry out) those orders of the Officers you are relieving.

  5. I hear you, SSgt. But as far as officers getting off easy, don’t overgeneralize, no pun intended.

    Marines love to talk tough about upholding standards and accountability, which is always great as long as it is happening to someone else. Sometimes officers are held to a much higher standard of punishment for offenses that enlisted Marines get away with, especially if there is a “good order and discipline” benefit to be gained from a very public court martial. Guess what? I speak from experience.

    I did the wrong thing, got caught, paid a huge price, and received no second chance, despite years of trying.

    I was a mustang captain with 16 years of service when I made a wrong choice…it was similar to what Bill Clinton did. It was my only lapse, and it cost me my career, my family, my retirement, any VA benefits or chance to use my experience in a government job. My CO at the time recommended NJP, but retention. The CG of the MEF where I was assigned saw it differently, overrode my CO, and wanted the “good order and discipline” benefit. That CG was one of those officers whose only leadership tool was a hammer; every problem looks like the same nail.

    That CG was also cited for “apparent unlawful command influence” for remarks he made at an officer’s call while discussing some cases within the MEF and another one similar to mine. The remarks were, shall we say, prejudicial against the Marines being tried, and he was, of course, exhorting everyone to uphold high standards when it came to matters of military justice. The Commandant is courting real trouble by making overbearing remarks in public about cases that are not yet resolved. If the defense counsel of those Marines is aggressive enough, we could be looking at charges dropped or overturned on appeal because of generals chest-thumping in public and possibly tainting court martial panels.

    By the way, I asked my old CO a few years ago for a letter in support of my getting re-appointed. After all, it would have been consistent with his recommendation to the MEF CG and with what he put in my last fitrep. He is a good man, but is now a general officer himself and does not want to risk what he has.

    So, CMC is now under scrutiny for how he is handling the case of the scout snipers urinating on the dead Afghans, replacing one general who recommended NJP with another who favors a harsher approach, among other things.

    Now this is just my humble, and admittedly jaded opinion. I think that CMC is practicing either political self-preservation, sadism, or both, and publicly masquerading it as moral courage.

    I am not in CMC’s boots, so I can’t judge. However, CMC was not in LtGen Waldhauser’s shoes either, so I think he should have relied more on his assessment.

    Sadly, I predict more top-level mishandling of legal and discipline issues, especially in our current environment of media attention of sex assault issues. The rest of the country you are defending does not (in fact, many Marines don’t either) share the ethos of crushing punishment that we have seen reported in these pages lately.

    I hope cooler heads prevail.

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