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Retired officers skeptical of Commandant's review plan

Apr. 29, 2013 - 12:07PM   |  
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Commandant Gen. Jim Amos has embraced a new focus on accountability and better reviews of leadership within the Corps, but discussions with retired senior officers demonstrated that the change could be a sensitive subject for many.

While Amos has pointed to the Navy as a service that outperforms the Marines at holding its leaders accountable, retired Col. Wayne Martin, now the owner of a consulting business in Jacksonville, N.C., said the Navy model has its own problems.

“We run a pool every year for how many Navy commanders are going to be relieved,” Martin said. “A lot of these people have been relieved for doing really stupid things. A lot of these people have been shot in the back for juniors reporting on them.”

Martin, who commanded the Marine Barracks in Rota, Spain, and Marine Corps Service Support Schools at Camp Johnson, N.C., during his 34 years of service, said the 360-degree review concept was unnecessary in a service that already has stringent standards for its leaders.

“The toxic leadership thing has been around for a long time,” he said. “It has to be a camp buzzword. It’s insidious.”

The Marine Corps in recent years has tended to handle its commander firings and reliefs quietly, releasing little if any information to the public about the decisions and the reasons for them. But retired Col. Robert Barr, who separated from the service in 2012, said he saw plenty of commanders fired over the course of his career, and didn’t think the Corps has a problem doing the right thing when its leaders fail.

“Every senior officer that I dealt with, it was in his DNA to do the right thing, ethically and morally,” he said. “I’ve always been proud of the Marine Corps’ integrity as an institution.”

Retired Col. Michael Shupp, a former legislative assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reiterated the view that, if anything, the Marines are more demanding regarding the quality of their leaders than the other services, citing a slower promotion schedule and a more deliberate review process.

But Shupp said concerns raised by Amos and recent firings that have taken place may be a sign that Marine leaders need additional evaluation.

“I’m concerned, as a retired officer, about the misconduct,” he said.■

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