Don't let the headline fool you; this isn't an anti-recruiter
In fact, my tour as a recruiting station Executive Officer was
professionally rewarding due in large part to the outstanding
Marines serving on the frontlines in our battle for the best and
brightest. It seems that our first interactions with recruiters
often set the tone for our time in the Corps, yet the ‘recruiterman'
can only tell us so much.
Some things need to be experienced (read, endured, felt, and
seen) for us to really know it.
Crow Valley, the Philippines is the barren
area being used by Marines for training in October 2014. The
Mount Pinatubo volcano's eruption in 1991 caused the desolation.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by GySgt Ismael Pena)
One of the first things to happen after a young man or woman
walks into a recruiting substation is for the recruiter to present
11 ‘benefit tags.' These tags help identify the motivations of the
potential Marine and can be divided into two categories: ‘tangible'
and ‘intangible' benefits*. The tangible benefit tags (technical
skills; professional development and opportunities; physical
fitness; educational opportunities; and financial
security/advancement and benefits) are all good things, but they are
common to all Services. It's hard to picture a Marine saying “I'm
only doing this for my GI Bill benefits.”
benefits won't provide the spark to complete the Crucible or to gear
up for another patrol in another forgotten village during yet
another deployment while missing another significant event back
So where does the motivation come from?
remaining six benefit tags define the intangibles of being a Marine:
leadership and management skills; courage, poise, and
self-confidence; self-reliance, self-direction, and self-discipline;
pride of belonging; challenge; and travel and adventure. These are
the traits that set Marines apart from civilians. These are the
traits that sustain a Marine through difficult duties. These are the
traits that Marines wear on their sleeve long after they've folded
up their cammies or hung up their dress blues.
Challenge, Travel, and Pride
To develop these intangibles, we were told we would have to work
hard. The recruiter said Recruit Training (or Officer Candidates
School) will be the most difficult thing we will ever do. This was
in the forefront of our minds when we were presented with the
“challenge” benefit tag. But left unsaid is that at some point in
our career we will be faced with an ambiguous situation where there
is no clear answer. The situation might involve a peer, or a senior
Marine, and we will have to decide how to respond (or not), knowing
that there may be consequences for coming forward (or not).
times, moral dilemmas will confront us at a greater frequency than
physical challenges. We train year round for our physical fitness
tests partly because we know the tests will be coming – but there is
no way to train for the murky situation that appeared out of
Was I ready? Did I uphold our core values?
“travel and adventure” benefit tag is also a popular selection for
potential Marines. A recruiter will support this benefit with
listings of overseas duty assignments, deployment opportunities, and
even pictures from their personal cruisebooks. But the recruiter
didn't tell us the Sydney Opera House seems smaller than it appears
or the skyline in Hong Kong from Victoria's Peak at dusk is simply...
incredible. Or Malaysia has a unique smell and Crow Valley in
the Philippines looks like the surface of the moon. Or that Thailand
in February is ‘suffocatingly' hot for 22 of 24 hours while South
Korea in February is bone chilling cold for 24 of 24 hours.
What about “pride of belonging?” Did that mean we were going to
contribute to something bigger than ourselves as an integral member
of a team?
Sure. But we didn't understand what brotherhood meant
until we made friends in the Corps who became our family and who we
see more than our blood family. In fact, over the course of one
three-year tour that included seven deployments, I have likely spent
more time with two Marines in the unit than my immediate family. I
can also count on exactly no fingers and no toes how many friends I
keep in contact with from high school, yet my friends in the Corps
are too many to count. My recruiter didn't tell me about the
emotions I would feel when a “family member” dies in combat; even
though it's been almost 10 years, I still frequently think of 1stLt
I wasn't told I would be nervous, I mean anxious before every
single physical fitness test during my career. Someone should check
my pulse – or hand me my DD-214 – if that feeling ever goes away.
‘Recruiterman' didn't say I would find myself caught in the
middle of a challenging situation between two highly respected
individuals, one senior and one junior. Or that it would happen on
more than one occasion.
Thankfully there were mentors who
provided wise counsel during these times. Not the kind who are
assigned but the kind who just kind of happen over time. These
mentors sometimes see something in us that we don't yet see in
ourselves. I consider myself extremely honored to have a few Marines
who continue to patiently entertain my curiosity and questions. But
my recruiter didn't tell me the only way to thank these mentors is
to emulate them by molding the next generation after their example.
We eventually figure this out because there is no other way.
It wasn't in my contract that the closest I would ever live to my
hometown in my career was an eight hour drive or that I would
literally spend years living outside the continental U.S. Or that I
would miss my daughter's “Little Mermaid” themed 3rd birthday or the
“Queen Elsa” themed 5th birthday.
It wasn't in the fine
print that my travel and adventure would include more than 15
I didn't know that my immediate section
would one day include Marines from South Carolina, New York x 2,
Texas, Palau (look it up), Michigan x 2, Mexico, and Massachusetts.
Talk about pride of belonging! There are a lot of things the
recruiter leaves out when we start our journey. And that's ok.
Because no one wants to be told the ending to a good story.
*Three prior recruiters and two prior Executive Officers were
asked about which benefit tags were tangible or intangible and
six different answers were given...
By U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Garron Garn
The U.S. Marines
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