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Analysis and summery of MCDP 2, Leading Marines

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Leading Marines is the greatest resource that I have come across so far for guidance and motivation in becoming a leader of Marines. In one neat sentence located in the forward, we are given everything that sums up what is expected of future leaders of Marines: “Our actions as Marines every day must embody the legacy of those who went before us.” Marines have a great expectation to live up to, and as commissioned officers we must absolutely carry on the tradition of excellent leadership that has come before us. This leadership comes in many forms under many different conditions. As there are no two people who are exactly alike, there is no single way to lead. Leadership is learned not born; one must utilize personal traits and experiences to find his way of leading. I draw some of my leadership style and experience from leading a football team, O.C.S., and principles I have learned from my parents, while others may draw on school, physical challenges, or any other of their personal experiences. This doctrine is meant to help the leader understand the excellence that they are inheriting, and to give guidance on developing one’s own leadership style.

The first chapter is titled Ethos, which describes to the reader what it is that makes a Marine, and leading Marines, different from every other walk of life. Being a Marine a full-time gig, never a part-time mindset or a paycheck. When Marines do things in the civilian world, they often hear statements like “that’s such a Marine thing to do”, or “only a Marine…” This is because Marines have a special way of going about things, a different way of looking at life and all it entails. Young people join the Marines because they want to be different, because they want to stand out. Marines desire the challenge and all that comes with it, because it is under these conditions that we form the cherished and unbreakable elitists mindset and sense of brotherhood so well adorned by the Corp. All Marines wear the title Marine as equals. Whether officer or enlisted, each has been given the same basic indoctrination, a rite of passage so well that guarded and cherished that it has stood for 197 years.

Where other American services fail, the Marines excel at instilling a common bond between all those who wear an eagle globe and anchor, laying a foundation for all Marines to depend on, regardless of what they wear on their collar. A sense of selflessness is another common trait about Marines that makes us unique. It is putting others and the Corp before oneself; it is helping a fallen friend, with no regard to your own interests, without hesitation or second thought. It is the spirit of being a Marine that is instilled in us “on the drill decks of Parris Island or San Diego, or in the woods of Quantico.” This spirit is what prevails, and allows statements like “it is not how many show up, but who” to be said about Marines. And while technology changes, and weapons systems become obsolete, the fighting man will never go away. It is the Marine in everyone who wears the uniform, not the rifle he carries, that will be winning battles for years to come.

A dimension of the Marine Corps that belongs solely to the Marines is the credo “every Marine a rifleman.” There are no Marines whose only purpose is to support. Given the expeditionary nature of our force-in-readiness structure, every Marine must be ready to take on the function of a rifleman. This is why all Marines must go to MCT or TBS; it is necessary that all officers be able to assume the duties of a rifle platoon commander. Stories like those of Captain Elrod demonstrate the importance of this concept, and also serve as a shining example of its usefulness. This basic training provides all Marines with the confidence that every Marine can be counted on to fight. No one man can make it alone, rather success lies in dependence on those around you. Those who share the common bond of struggle with each other reserve a special place for that man in their heart.

The “soldier at sea” legacy is important to defining the character of a Marine. The sea going nature of our trade is what separates us from the Army, and the soldier in us is what separates us from the sailors. Our country was a maritime nation at its birth in 1775 and still is today. Four of Five capitals are within 300 miles of a coast, demonstrating the importance of an infantry force from the sea to national security. Together, the individual Marine, similar indoctrination, “every Marine a rifleman”, and our maritime heritage make up the Marine tradition.

The second chapter of Leading Marines is titled Foundations. It lays out the foundation of every Marine leader; it is a collection of the principles taught to all Marines. Our core values, and Marine leadership principles make up the bulk of the chapter. Leadership is what makes men take action against their most basic instinct of self-preservation. Leadership is based not only on the Marine ethos, but also on certain elements of leadership philosophy. The elements rely on each other, and collectively they serve to help guide a Marine leader in decision making. These values must be reflected in a leaders action, otherwise the follower has no faith in the leader and the words become hollow and meaningless.

As Marines, we are held to a higher standard then the rest of society because of the nature of our profession. Just because we carry arms and have an awesome amount of power, does not mean that we can do as we please. With the application of force comes a strict liability, requiring the individual Marine to place the interests of the group ahead of his own. Hence, all Marines are taught standards of conduct during their entry-level training. Setting the example is at the heart of these standards. All Marines must live the standards and breathe life into them otherwise they are just dead words. This also applies to followers; All Marines must practice good followership.

Individual Courage is another foundation of all Marines. Courage is ability to overcome the fear one has when faced with a difficult situation. Courage on the battlefield has long been a trademark of the Marine Corp, but courage off the battlefield is equally important. A Marine must always stand for what is right, no matter the consequences. Esprit de Corps is necessary in order to build effective fighting units. The confidence and comradeship between not only officers and enlisted but among all Marines in a unit is what gives a unit strength in combat. Together these elements provide the Marine with the basic foundation needed to carry out the mission at hand, both in combat and in garrison. These foundations are a forged part of Marine Corp history, and if they are to be a part of the future must be lived by all Marines today.

The Marine leader faces many challenges. In war, we call this friction. Friction is discussed in detail in FMFM 1, and a leader must deal it with effectively if the Marines are to succeed. Marines must learn to operate in friction, to understand what they can and cannot change, and to learn to flourish in it where our enemy fails. As an officer candidate at OCS we learned that if there is a hard way, an impossible avenue of approach to an objective, you could count on the Marines going that way. In its worst form, friction is self-induced. The fog of war provides for enough friction as is, and compiling friction as a result of ones self only worsens the situation exponentially. Vigorous, effective leadership best overcomes self-inducted friction; the leader must always the what, how and most importantly why of his actions. Leaders always face a moral challenges, and must posses the moral courage to overcome it. Immoral action is not only wrong in its own right, but also severely hinders the fighting will of a unit.

The battlefield is a place were moral leadership is paramount; it greatly induces the enemy to give up his will to fight. Men fighting for a moral and just cause will always, always prevail over those forced to fight out of fear or oppression. It ensures that the sacrifices made by men do not go in vain. Overcoming physical challenges has always been a hallmark of Marine success. Marines are renowned for outstanding physical prowess, as it is necessary for out survival both on the battlefield and as a service. It goes without saying that Marine leaders must possess an ability to do everything expected of their units, and to do it with enough ease to be able to still maintain an ability to lead. Leaders must exceed the physical standards they set for the men, and those set for them, in order to set an example for those they lead. Men must believe that when the situation turns sour, they can count on their leaders to be physically able to get them through. Physical strength inspires men to do the impossible.

In order to overcome these challenges, there are traits that Marines need to possess and constantly develop. The first of such traits is adaptability. Plans rarely go off like they are supposed to, and it is often an ability to be flexible that is decisive in winning the battle. Marine leaders must be the most adaptive of any in the world. Our expeditionary nature goes beyond traveling from point A to point B; the leader must be able to be ready for anything at any given time. Innovation goes hand-in-hand with adaptability. A leader must use the resources available to him in order to succeed. A perfect supply chain can never be accomplished under the stress of war, and is often incapable of providing the necessary equipment. At other times, the necessary tools for success may not even exist, or the tactics need to be used may never have been invented or applied to a similar situation to the one the leader finds himself in. The leader must have a clear vision of what is needed, and then the ability to make that happen regardless of resources.

Decentralization plays a big part in overcoming the challenges facing a leader. Often the leader has capable personal under his charge, and the effective use of such personal has won many battles. Leaders must encourage their subordinates to lead themselves, as many times it is difficult to for the leader to have direct control over all actions of his subordinates. Decentralization also instills huge amounts of confidence in units, as it makes men warriors and less of machines controlled by the will of a single director. All leaders, even though they may not lead the same way, share a common trait: will. With will the leader will find an ability to accomplish a mission, and/or to be as effective as possible in any given situation. Combined with a solid training background, will is a potent weapon; it allows some to have the tenacity to succeed where others fail.

Leading Marines gives the future Marine leader much to think about, and little to desire in the way of inspiration. It shares with the reader a sense of who they are, what they are inheriting, what challenges will face them, and gives them the tools to overcome these challenges. It is less of a manual and more of a doctrine because the nuts-and-bolts quality of the piece is minimal. Rather, it serves to foster a leader’s own thoughts; to apply the principles contained within to ones own life. It is a book to be read not once, but to be come back to repeatedly for guidance and motivation.

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