The f
ollowing was posted to MILINET and was subsequently reported on by the Marine Corps Times.

21 December 1998


Anthony F. Milavic,

Major, United States Marine Corps (Retired)

Since retiring, I have watched with much pride as the Corps adjusted to the exigencies of our rapidly changing world while retaining the precepts that made it a premier fighting force. That pride, however, has been muted by a recent event suggesting the Corps has changed its attitude toward Marines who speak truthfully. I am talking about a Marine staff non-commissioned officer (SNCO) who was disciplined for his published remarks; disciplined, reportedly, because his words undermine what “true leaders” are trying to do for the Corps. 

In early October, SSgt Paul Rinnander, USMC, of the 7th Motor Transport Battalion, 1st Force Service Group (FSSG), Camp Pendleton, California was stopped as he left the Base Exchange by a Marine sergeant from the base newspaper, The Scout. He was asked: “If you could change one thing about the Corps, what would it be?” Rather than refusing to speak or lying to a fellow Marine, he responded truthfully and was quoted with four other Marines in the October 8, 1998 issue as having said:  

                                *********************START SCOUT QUOTE*********************

         "Recruit discipline . . . there is a total lack of discipline and respect shown by Marines coming out of Basic Training."

                                      ***********************END SCOUT QUOTE*********************

The source of this quote is an 11-year Marine veteran staff non-commissioned officer who had joined 1st FSSG in February of this year after a successful tour of recruiting duty--a prestigious assignment and one that historically has demanded the best the Marine Corps can produce. His observation was based on service with, and handling of, Marines in the Fleet Marine Force and expressed with the candor expected, or should I say, once expected of a Marine staff NCO.

Less than two weeks after The Scout article appeared, SSgt Rinnander conversed with Sgt Maj Lewis G. Lee, USMC, the senior enlisted advisor to the commandant of the Marine Corps, when he visited Camp Pendleton with the Commandant. It was an amiable meeting where Sgt Maj Lee agreed to send SSgt Rinnander one of his “coins.” Days later, on October 27th, SSGT Rinnander received the following e-mail from Sgt Maj Lee:

*******************START OF E-MAIL************************

"Staff Sergeant Rinnander,

I must admit, you have b___s.  I regret I didn't recognize you when we
spoke.  Had I done so, it would have been an unforgettable meeting for
you.  No, you can't have one of my coins.  In fact, you're probably the
only staff NCO I ever turned down.

By now you know you have orders to the Drill Field.  That's non
negotiable, and you will go, or else you will be flagged as to [whether] or not you deserve further service.

The Commandant and I have been beating ourselves to death for 3.5 years
to make Marines the way we always have.  We travel the world to speak to
Marines about 'Sustaining the Transformation,' and we continually ask
for the support of officers and SNCO's.  Then you go and 'shoot your
mouth off,' in the 8 October issue of 'The Scout,' about how
undisciplined young Marines are today.  As a SNCO you need to understand
that type of opinion only undermines what your Commandant, I and other
true leaders who care about our corps are trying to do.

Now, let's see how well you can 'walk the talk.'  Don't respond to this
e-mail, you'll only p__s me off more at you than I already am.

In case you aren't aware of your orders, see CMC  MSG  200959Z  Oct  98.

Sergeant Major Lee"

***********************END OF E-MAIL************************

Neither in this e-mail nor by any other communication did Sgt Maj Lee ask if The Scout quote was accurate, complete, or even what was the basis for the comment quoted. The Commandant, Gen. Charles C. Krulak, has suggested the importance of such questions: “Like many things that newspapers print, there are always gaping holes in the 'total picture.'" Following that counsel, Sgt Maj Lee would have learned the “total picture” of a problem that this Marine staff NCO was trying to illuminate: After completing Boot Camp, and before many new Marines are assigned to a Marine unit, they are sent to schools run by the other Services for basic specialty skills training--basic skills, such as those required by Marines in 7th Motor Transport Battalion. When these new Marines finally reach Marine units, they are “salty.” They have lost the Marine edge instilled by Marine Drill Instructors at Boot Camp and the new NCOs and new SNCOs of these new Marines have to work doubly hard to bring them back into the fold. If the Marine Corps conducted this basic specialty skills training in Marine Corps schools, the new Marine's transformation from civilian to Marine would follow an unbroken line to his/her first Marine unit assignment avoiding this current pit-fall. Sgt Maj Lee would have learned all this had he listened to SSgt Rinnander.

I am not familiar with Sgt Maj Lee's term “true leader.” I have always believed that ALL Marines were leaders and we Marines had one all-inclusive word to describe this: “Marine.” In that culture, Marines communicated. That meant listening, asking questions, and listening some more because that was the way we learned the “total picture.” I have had the knee-knocking experience of standing before Marine officers such as “Stormy” Sexton and “Brute” Krulak to explain negative reports; and, they listened to the whole story before acting. However, Marines of that era were not encumbered by the fear of hearing the truth as exemplified in the following event from the biography, MARINE!: The Life Of "Chesty" Puller, by Burke Davis:

One rain-swept morning when the troops were in the pine woods on maneuvers Puller rode out in a staff car with a colonel. Jones drove them. Puller rolled down his rear window when they neared a marching column so that he could see the men. A raucous and anonymous voice called:
"Yeah, we're getting wet, Chesty, ya old bastard! Ya satisfied?"

The colonel shook with rage. "Stop!" he shouted. "Stop Jones! I'll get the name of that sonofabitch if it's the last thing I do."

Jones glanced into the mirror. Puller's expression had not changed.

"Drive on Jones," the General said. "If it had been me out there, and the C.O. had come by in a staff car, I'd have said the same thing.”

Semper Marine,

Anthony F. Milavic

Major USMC(Ret)


----POSTSCRIPT #1----


24 December 1998 

A Merry Christmas Response To: “’True Leaders’ vs. Marines!”

I am pleased to report a Marine Christmas story. Today, SgtMaj Harris of the Enlisted Assignment Branch, Headquarters, USMC asked SSgt Rinnander, “What do you want to do? Do you want to execute your orders [orders to MCRD, Parris Island, S. C.] or stay at 7th Motor Transport Battalion?” SSgt Rinnander elected to serve out his tour in the Fleet Marine Force with the 7th Motor Transport Battalion and asked that he be considered for the Drill Field in the year 2000. When Marines listen, the Marine Corps benefits!

Semper Listening,

Anthony F. Milavic
Major USMC (Ret.)

----POSTSCRIPT #2----

Marine Corps Times
8 March 1999
 Sergeant major speaks out against his critics
 Since December 1998, I’ve been a target of opportunity for many
 people, to include active duty, former and retired Marines, who have
 nothing better to do than sit behind their keyboards and engage in an
 electronic and/or editorial debate of my leadership style.
 This particular debate centers around a “private” e-mail I sent to a
 staff sergeant of Marines chastising him for his “public” criticism of
 the quality of our new Marines and what he perceives as our failure to
 make Marines who are “disciplined” and “respectful of authority.”
 That e-mail was a follow-up to his being screened for DI duty and
 subsequent assignment to the drill field. I did, in fact, generate that
 screening and influenced the decision to send him to that duty after his
 public and groundless comments.

 I’ve read how “appalled” many are at my actions and how “proud” they
 are of the staff sergeant for his public criticism of our new Marines
 and their trainers. They defend his general indictment that our training
 process is a failure and endorse his criticisms as a “stand-up” thing to
 Let me state here and now, I’m appalled at the ignorance of all
 those who think I can or did order the Permanent Change of Station of
 this staff sergeant, or any other Marine for that matter, for the
 commandant doesn’t vest me with that type of power.
 I’m also fed up with those who think my actions regarding helping
 this staff sergeant get the opportunity to fix what he perceives to be a
 problem in our Corps as punishment.
 Finally, I want everyone to understand that I don’t believe every
 new Marine is “undisciplined” or “disrespectful of authority,” nor do I
 believe our DIs and other entry-level trainers aren’t doing a great job.
 The facts are our young Marines are disciplined and respectful of
 authority, and our trainers are doing a great job.
 Are they all perfect? Absolutely not, and all that staff sergeant
 had to do was voice his concerns to me in a private, or even
 semi-private, forum. He elected the public avenue he took which
 generated my private response to him. Believe me, I will continue to
 defend the great majority of our new Marines, who are “disciplined” and
 have “respect for authority,” and those Marines — officer and enlisted —
 who train them.

 I will also continue to help those leaders who think they can do it
 better get the opportunity to try. If it’s perceived that I “punished”
 the staff sergeant for speaking out, then so be it!
 Again, that only reflects ignorance of our manpower system, since DI
 duty is our most sought-after duty and any enlightened person knows it.
 Finally, anyone with something to say that makes sense or has merit
 has nothing to fear from me. However, I don’t and won’t suffer idiotic
 criticisms of our Corps and do nothing about it.
 In closing, I say to all those out there who want to engage me over
 my leadership style to quit hiding behind your keyboards and taking “pot
 shots” at me in print, and I encourage you to find a better cause to
Instead, pick up your phone and call me at (703) 697-5356, or better
 yet, come see me in the Pentagon, room 4C686!
     --- Sgt. Maj. Lewis G. Lee is the sergeant major of the Marine