Battle Rattle

Professor: Marines can stop bad behavior by speaking up, reminding wrong-doers of their identity

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A Harvard professor is suggesting that bad behavior in the war-zone could be prevented  if just one person in the unit stepped forward to say, “Marines don’t do that.”

Michael Wheeler, professor of management practice at Harvard Business School, posted a piece to his LinkedIn profile examining how someone’s decision-making can be changed in a matter of seconds. He cited the case of British Royal Marine Sgt. Alexander Blackman, who was recently sentenced to life in prison after being found guilty for killing an insurgent at close-range during a 2011 patrol in Afghanistan’s Helmand province. The act was captured on helmet cameras worn by other Royal Marines.

Footage captured by a camera mounted on a helmet during a patrol in Afghanistan in Sept. 2011, showed a British Royal Marine shooting a man in the chest. A Harvard professor is arguing that Marines and other troops can stop bad behavior by speaking up.  (AP Photo/ Ministry of Defense)

Footage captured by a camera mounted on a helmet during a patrol in Afghanistan in Sept. 2011, showed a British Royal Marine shooting a man in the chest. A Harvard professor is arguing that Marines and other troops can stop bad behavior by speaking up.
(AP Photo/ Ministry of Defense)

Wheeler writes that some military experts believe the act might have been prevented if just one other marine in the unit told Blackman, “Marines don’t do that.”

The phrase is effective, he argues, because it includes the word “Marines,” which is an important part of someone’s identity. And since it doesn’t include words like “stop,” “order” or “wrong,” it puts the spotlight on the person rather than the act, he wrote.

“‘Marines’ is the most important word,” Wheeler wrote. “It comes first and works on two levels. It tells the soldier, ‘Remember who you are. Don’t renounce your identity.’ Uttered by a fellow marine, it also says, ‘Your brothers are here with you.’ ”

Wheeler reached out one of his former students, retired Maj. David Dixon, for his input. Dixon said the concept of reminding another service member about their values is exactly in line with what Marines are taught from their first day at boot camp.

“If the Marine next to you is falling asleep in class, you must have the moral courage to wake him up and motivate him to stay awake,” Dixon told Wheeler. “If you are caught sleeping in class at boot camp, not only do you get in trouble for laziness, but the Marine to your left and to your right get in trouble for lack of moral courage [because] they should have corrected you when you were in the wrong.”

Helping someone about to make a bad decision means Marines shouldn’t look away, Wheeler wrote. They should have the moral courage to speak up.

Tell  us what you think. How can Marines help hold their peers accountable in the war-zone and at home?

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Comments

  1. Gunny Says:
    December 18th, 2013 at 4:58 pm

    So I’m guessing this professor hasnt spoken to nor spent much time with Marines? NCO’s & Staff NCO’s have been doing that forever!

  2. Cpl Sekely Says:
    December 18th, 2013 at 5:09 pm

    That is exactly what it is all about. This should be more emphasis on this during and after boot camp . So many times service members are coming home with bad things on there mind that could of and should of been avoided. Problem with this is , a bad person with cruel intentions has to listen. I was but in a strange position like this and didn’t speak up and still live withe this thing to this day. I’m not the only one though.

  3. Donna W. Haynes Says:
    December 18th, 2013 at 5:25 pm

    I think we can all learn from the Marines. Maybe we should incorporate some of their values and techniques in our schools since they are no longer taught by many parents. Not sure what can be done to help said parents.

  4. marc Says:
    December 19th, 2013 at 12:36 pm

    Marines are indoctrinated with the importance of both moral and physical courage. However, acts of physical courage are highlighted and revered throughout our Corps. A stronger emphasis should be placed on moral courage. There are no glamorous tales of moral courage, likely because it was the right thing to do.