Educational Philosophy

by Capt G.R. Ing

Capt Moore’s article (May84) on the legacy of Gen J.C. Breckinridge is successful in its attempt to reawaken the reader’s appreciation for the efforts of our predecessors, however his basic philosophy is not without flaws.

The first point of contention refers to the manual that was published in November of 1983 on the Marine rifle squad. The handbook is the result of a joint effort by the Doctrine Center and The Basic School. It was compiled after a year of gathering information and soliciting input from FMF commanders and a year of writing first through fifth drafts. This was done not by outsiders brought in for consultation but by a group of highly qualified combat veterans who have reputations throughout the Corps as combat leaders. Put together as a guide for FMF units, this handbook is based on these experienced individuals’ keen insight into small unit operations. It is a starting point for the young rifleman and squad leader and something far more than a “hollow statement of minutiae and drill.”

The second point of contention concerns Capt Moore’s ideas of our officer schools. Contrary to his views, the professional schools in today’s Corps are so steeped in historical analysis, problemsolving, and critical analysis of doctrine that we are turning out little more than philosophers and maneuver gurus. Every solution is the right solution; no one’s solution to an exercise is totally right or totally wrong. Every student walks away with a warm inner-glow, knowing that his solution was right. Well, in the real world there is a right solution-the best solution. Other solutions may work with varying degrees of effectiveness; the best solution will be the one that not only ensures success but is the least costly in Marine lives. In an academic environment a school solution makes sense. It is constituted from the corporate knowledge of the present cadre of instructors and affords the student an opportunity to take advantage of the collective wisdom of his predecessors.

Maneuver gurus and philosophers abound to the extent that most officers know nothing of tactics or how to train their Marines. Marine officers are so concerned with looking into the future and philosophizing on strategy, policy, and doctrinal concepts that they don’t realize they are deficient in tactical fundamentals. This is evident by Capt Moore’s statement on “the awakening of Marines to the studying of new tactical concepts and maneuver warfare.” These maneuverists have come up with nothing new or innovative in regard to tactics. Tactics have not changed nor will they change. Anyone that doesn’t realize this doesn’t understand tactical fundamentals. Read your history. Weapons, their ranges and lethality, change; speed of movement changes; dimensions change; but tactics and their inherent fundamentals do not. From Genghis Khan to MacArthur, they have remained the same.

If more time was spent by company grade officers learning tactics and tactical fundamentals, developing techniques at the small unit level, and training Marines, instead of worrying about the direction of the Corps, we wouldn’t have the problems we have.

Gen Breckinridge left us a legacy and it is a valid one. However, I’m sure he did not intend it to be at the expense of our Marines. Let’s stop some of this philosophizing and start being company grade officers. The field grade officer can philosophize, the general grade officer can shape the future of the Corps. We can lead and train Marines.

Incidentally on page i of OH 6-6, The Marine Rifle Squad, is a user’s suggestion form to solicit recommendations for changes to that handbook. MCDEC did not receive many of these from the field. Perhaps if we weren’t so concerned with the direction of our officer schools we would have more time to devote to those areas in which we can have a significant impact. Have you submitted your recommendations?