The Corps has launched a very public campaign to hold its commanders accountable for missteps and oversights within their units. Senior leaders have acknowledged removing at least seven officers from their jobs since the end of April, an unprecedented trend in recent years.
This is a refreshing change of course for an institution long wed to the belief that, for the good of its image, it need not air its dirty laundry. However, there has been a noticeable disparity in how these reliefs have been communicated to Marines and why they were necessary. “Loss of trust and confidence,” the parlance used to explain recent events, says little when there’s no supporting context.
That raises questions about fairness and can leave doubts for Marines that a commander’s relief was justified. It also ignores opportunities for “lessons learned” by withholding details that can stand as examples of the sort of conduct and mistakes to avoid, and the price for failing to do so.
Battalion commanders and above are trusted with millions of dollars worth of equipment and hundreds or even thousands of personnel. The American people have a right to know when those commanders have failed to care for the gear their taxes pay for, or have mistreated their loved ones in uniform.
As the Navy has demonstrated for years, officer reliefs can be conducted fairly, yet openly, to send an unambiguous message to others that the buck stops with them.