It's not fun
July 14, 2004 12:01 PM   Subscribe

A Farewell to the Corps Colonel Wayne Shaw, USMC, Quantico, Virginia In recent years I've heard many Marines on the occasion of retirements, farewells, promotions and changes of command refer to the "fun" they've had in the Marine Corps. "I loved every day of it and had a lot of fun" has been voiced far too often. Their definition of "fun" must be radically different from mine. Since first signing my name on the dotted line 28 ½ years ago I have had very little fun.
posted by konolia (18 comments total)
That took guts... and good for him. Hopefully someone was listening.
posted by Witty at 12:23 PM on July 14, 2004

If I'm reading that correctly, it looks like that was written in April of 2000. Most of what he says rings more or less true with what friends of mine who served with the Marines and the Army in the 90s told me, but unfortunately I am now of the age where I no longer have friends that are still in active duty in the service.

Does anyone know if several of the things he complained about (low pay rates, crappy healthcare for families, isolated and detached leadership) have improved since 2000 when Bush ran on the "improve morale in the military platform"? I'm not talking about Iraq, and the continued reduction of veterans benefits which has been well documented, but I am sincerely curious to know to what degree the Bush administration has worked to improve the living and working conditions of America's men and women in uniform.
posted by psmealey at 12:52 PM on July 14, 2004

The minorities and females are looking for some skills training but also have considered a career if "things work out." They have come to serve their country but only in a very indirect way.

I'm sure that
to differ.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 1:15 PM on July 14, 2004

Wow.. that was a good read. This touched on a lot of what I saw and experienced in '94.

By time my four years were up, I had felt most of the inspirational and quality leaders had left. Either they had retired or found higher paying civilian jobs. With benefits going rapidly they didn't see much point in sticking around.

What was left wasn't a pretty sight. NCOs that didn't care about the job, Officers that didn't regard you and Senior NCOs that were more worried about kissing Officer ass then taking care of their people.

Out of my classmates, only one planned to stay in past his four years. A few including myself jumped ship before enlistment was up in search of better oppertunities. Moral was horribly low. Most young enlisties I knew, would not re-enlist.

One of the guys I worked with struggled to make ends meet with two kids. They were well below poverty.
posted by Akuinnen at 1:20 PM on July 14, 2004

I feel bad for this guy, but he's been pissed on for twenty years by the government and basically did nothing about it.

The US needs to get a clue from other more professional militaries -- the UK, even Israel (though they should also learn from the Israeli army's moral bankruptcy) and people like this brave but misguided man putting up with two decades of crap are just encouraging them.

I'm very glad he spoke out though.


When our nation was in turmoil over our involvement in Vietnam I knew that we were right in the macro strategic sense and in the moral sense, even if in the execution we may have been flawed. I still believe to this day that we did the right thing. Many of our elites in the nation today continue to justify their opposition in spite of all evidence that shows they were wrong and their motives either naive or worse.

I find a statement like this risible -- it's one of the very few historical statements that's testable. America went into Vietnam because many horrible things were going to happen if Vietnam fell, chiefly the rest of Asia was going to go Communist ("The Domino Effect").

Well, Vietnam did fall, and guess what? The area's more capitalist than ever. Even "Red China" is in reality a centrally planned capitalist economy these days.

So I feel sorry for this guy and I'd certainly buy him a beer and hang out with him if he dropped by but it's "logical consequences" of a series of poor decisions from him, and from the US government.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:33 PM on July 14, 2004

On the military benefits thing, I've been trying to track down info on the GI Bill payouts. Does the US Military still give you about $5k per year in service, so 4 years of serving will get you $20k of tuition money.

Is that number still accurate? I'm wondering because in the last ten years I've watched college tuition on the state level climb 400% and today I can't imagine any quality schools that are only $5k a year to attend.
posted by mathowie at 1:37 PM on July 14, 2004

It doesn't look like 3 years will now get you $35k. You can find the current GI bill benefits here.
posted by SteveInMaine at 1:51 PM on July 14, 2004

I am never sure that why one joins is the same thing as the stating of why one in fact did join. Years ago, I recall riding a train cross country and being in uniform. I heard a young boy tell his mother (noting a number ofsoldiers in uniform on the train) there are more soldiers than people. The military is loved when there is a war. No war, they are just a batch of folks unable to get "real" jobs--the general consensus....As for college tuition: ilt is criminal that yearly tuitition rises well aboive the rise in cost of living, thus keeping more and more out of college and forcilng them into jobs such as the military when the economy is bad.

My view iln general: any and all jobs requiring uniforms suck. My son served in the MNrines (4 years) and I served in the army twice.

As for Viet Nam: my view is that there has not been a war since WWII that we should have entered. Yes: we did save S. Korea, and yes it is propering and is a democracy...but for years it was run by people no better than the commies and since 1950 (when it began) we have always had to keep over 35 thou troops there to ensure its safety.
posted by Postroad at 2:02 PM on July 14, 2004

What this man talks about is just another symptom of a general malaise in overall American society. Sounds like a lot of good people are leaving the professional (officer)military in disgust, just like in a lot of other societal niches. Unfortunately this leaves a vacuum into which sleazy, bad people will infiltrate until there are no more good people in the military.

And an officer corps full of bad people is a very dangerous thing indeed. Viz Abu Ghraib and the culture of coverup that is still obscuring much of what happened and what still is happening there.

It's sad that so many things seem to be going south. Just our everyday infrastructure of life seems to be "wearing out" and not getting fixed. This just seems to be a small piece of an all-pervasive problem, to me.
posted by zoogleplex at 2:13 PM on July 14, 2004

Yes, talk to teachers, lawyers and doctors and just about anyone else and most of them will complain about how much worse their jobs are today than they were twenty years ago.
posted by kozad at 2:29 PM on July 14, 2004

If I'm reading that correctly, it looks like that was written in April of 2000

i was wondering why he called the WWE the WWF.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:48 PM on July 14, 2004

As long as the pay is shit, the "honor" is shit too. And that's true of pretty much every profession that I know of.
posted by wobh at 6:59 PM on July 14, 2004

May 2000.

And you will find nearly identical sentiments at virtually any period in modern American military life, felt by some, publicly stated by very few, and huffed about by many.

But for my nearly 17 years in service, I don't honestly recall a time when overall morale has been better.

Overall staffing levels do seem to be down a bit, but there have been periods when staffing levels fell farther, faster (drawdown of early 90s). And people will ALWAYS complain that they are being forced to "do more with less," no matter what the staffing and funding levels are.

Pay is good -- don't *even* question that -- but of course some will always grumble that it's not enough. Consider: an Air Force staff sergeant in 1997 made $1577 per month in "base pay," plus approximately $650/month for housing & food. In 2004, a staff sergeant makes $2251, plus approximately $800 per month for housing & food.

On top of that, healthcare is (mostly) free for the active-duty person and the spouse & children.

Healthcare benefits are amazingly generous - you won't find any organization that takes better care of it's "staff", their families, and their retirees. Mistakes - sure. Bureacracy - yep. But on balance - can't be beat, and progress continues to be made.

As far as clueless leaders who are cowards, political hacks, and incompetent -- well, you can read the same BS over at, and it's the same garbage that a few "enlightened" (snark) people have been spouting for decades. Doesn't mean that it's true.

In short -- the author makes a few valid points, comes off as whiny too often, and seems to be most upset that things *gasp* changed! He obviously was not comfortable with all of the changes -- no one ever is -- but to extrapolate from this one person's experience is reaching quite a bit.

No harm, no foul. Mostly harmless venting, IMO.
posted by davidmsc at 7:26 PM on July 14, 2004

mrgrimm: perhaps he's an concerned environmentalist.

But a family of four having to share one bathroom. Should anyone really have to rough it like that?
posted by biffa at 3:38 AM on July 15, 2004

His expectations may be a bit high davidmsc.

There wasn't much fun for a Colonel with a family of four to live in a 1200 sq. ft apartment with one bathroom that no welfare family would have moved into.

1200 sq. ft. may not be a McMansion on the hill but it is larger (way larger in some cases) than millions of americans can call home. And a single bathroom for four people is hardly a hardship. He may have a point on the maintence condition of base housing, can anyone speek from experience as to wether it is common for roofs to leak and not be repaired in a timely fashion?
posted by Mitheral at 8:30 AM on July 15, 2004

His expectations may be a bit high davidmsc.

Well, you have to consider his rank - he is a full bird colonel, one step below general. (A big step, but he's still a big fish.) If he was in a command position, he would be in charge of a brigade - about 2,000 troops.

Point being that if he was a civilian with the same level of responsibility, he would be doing pretty well...

And yes, base housing is crap, especially in Marine and Army units. Note when I was at Ft. Bragg, Air Force folks who had to stay in Army housing got paid extra because of the substandard living conditions.
posted by mtstover at 2:52 PM on July 15, 2004

When McGuyver made colonel he usually only had one soldier under his command.

And why doesn't the US army have brigadiers?
posted by biffa at 3:05 PM on July 15, 2004

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