Marine Corps' Core Values Remain Unchanged for 229 Years
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 10, 2004 Two hundred twenty-nine years ago, Marines came ashore from sailing ships; today they come off large amphibious ships. But the service's core values have remained the same, the top Marine general said.
"The young Marines today are emulating the warrior ethic that the Marines who went before established," Marine Commandant Gen. Michael W. Hagee said Nov. 5 in an interview with the Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service.
Hagee, the Corps' 33rd commandant, explained that "Marines that have gone before us really set the standard" in famous battles such as Belleau Wood, in France in World War I; Iwo Jima, in Japan in World War II; and the Chosin Reservoir, in the Korean War.
As the Corps celebrates its 229th birthday today, modern Marines have much in common with those long-ago warriors, Hagee said. "We are a force in readiness, and we've always been a force in readiness," he said. "We're an expeditionary force, and by expeditionary I mean expeditionary in the fullest sense. In other words, when we arrive, we can sustain ourselves. And finally, we are a combined-arms team. That has remained the same for years and years."
Still, today's junior Marines shoulder much more responsibility than their predecessors. Hagee said the war on terrorism is "essentially a war at the squad-leader and platoon-leader level."
In 1999, then-Commandant Gen. Charles Krulak wrote of "the strategic corporal" young Marines "far from the flagpole without the direct supervision of senior leadership."
Modern Marines "will be asked to deal with a bewildering array of challenges and threats," Krulak wrote in Marines magazine. "In order to succeed under such demanding conditions they will require unwavering maturity, judgment, and strength of character."
Hagee said the emergence of "the strategic corporal" makes it much more vital that Marines continue their education -- and that the Corps make education opportunities available to Marines.
"We've got corporals and sergeants out there making very important decisions. And they don't have time to get a 3x5 card out of their pocket, and they don't have time to check with anyone," he said. "They need to make the decision there. And in order to prepare them to do that, we have to properly educate them."
The commandant said he'd like to see that every Marine has the opportunity to earn at least a bachelor's degree over the course of a career.
In a wide-ranging interview about the past, present and future of the Marine Corps, Hagee said he's often inspired when visiting Marines who have been wounded in Iraq. He said it's "uplifting" to spend time with these young Marines.
"They're very proud of what they have done. They're not thinking about themselves," Hagee said of the wounded Marines he's visited. "They want to know how their unit is doing, and they consistently tell me, 'I am ready to go back.'"
The general also offered words on encouragement for those Marines who are manning home stations and are not deployed to a war zone. "What I tell the Marines who are back here in the United States is, 'Just think what you have done over the past year,'" Hagee said.
He noted that Marines who are not deployed are a vital part of training and equipping those who are deployed. "Without the support of Marines back here in the United States, the force protection and the capabilities of the Marines in theater would be much less," he said. "Everyone has an important job, whether you're forward or whether you're back here."
Speaking before Operation Al Fajr began in Fallujah, Iraq, on Nov. 8, Hagee said the Marines preparing to carry out that operation were ready for what they would face and were in good spirits. "I would argue that the reason they feel so confident is that they're properly equipped, properly trained, properly led, and they understand the importance of the mission," he said.
Looking to the future of the force, Hagee said the Corps would maintain its character and its three core missions: to maintain the service's force-in- readiness posture, to maintain a combined-arms team and to maintain the Marines' expeditionary character.
In short, he said, the Marines will remain "most ready (to respond) when the nation is least ready."