Jason B. Ladd

Ask the Questions. Embrace the Answers. Make the Leap.

Reawakening: Has the Movement Missed the Mark?

reawakening marine corps

The hills are alive /

With the sound of…

…A softening US Marine Corps.

That sentiment has surfaced from critics of the “reawakening” campaign in America’s beloved fighting force.

The reawakening is described by the Commandant of the Marine Corps as an effort to:

“. . . reawaken the soul of our Corps against an enemy emerging from within our ranks. By soul, we mean those timeless attributes and habits that have defined our Corps for 238 years: persistent discipline, faithful obedience to orders and instructions, concerned and engaged leadership (24/7), and strict adherence to standards from fire team leader to general officer.”1 (emphasis mine)

The Commandant names the enemy in this “battle against the insurgency of wrong-doing:”

  • disregarding orders and standards
  • substance abuse
  • sexual assault
  • hazing
  • self-destructive behavior
  • failure to maintain personal fitness and appearance standards

The enemy, he states, “weakens our Corps and dishonors all who have endured war’s hardships.”2

So far so good. The Commandant laid out solid principles that are difficult to critique.

But some think the policy is nothing more than a morale-crushing, duplicitous force-shaping measure that’s transforming the military into a “Mormon ladies social.”

Is the reawakening making our warriors weaker? Is it just another program that has “service members thinking that they joined to be in the Sands of Iwo Jima but got stuck in a showing of The Sound of Music?3

US service member and writer Carl Forsling suggests this might be the case. He provides a thoughtful look into the controversial campaign in his article titled “The Real Reason For the Poor State of Military Morale,” where he identifies Morale as a casualty of the campaign. Additionally, he fingers leadership’s failure to keep faith with the troops as the key factor driving low morale in the US Armed Forces. Finally, Forsling condemns the knee-jerk responses by senior military leaders to satisfy civilian demands for an impeccable military image.4

Regarding these assessments, I believe Forsling gets it right. In some instances, the reawakening has been a nightmare where good Marines receive a bad deals, and the US military is in a drawdown period. But a few other points are worthy of discussion.

In a separate article published in the Marine Corps Gazette titled “Put The ‘Reawakening’ to Sleep,” “Forsling writes:

“We can’t tell Marines that they have done a great job fighting abroad, yet are now falling short in garrison, because there should be no difference between the two. The only reason the Marine Corps exists is to fight abroad. Everything else is background noise.”5

A great amount of attention has been focused on injustices resulting from the reawakening. Flaws in the fitness standards in the military appearance program have caused some good Marines to get the boot.

But the reawakening is about much more than physical fitness standards. At least, it should be.

Some aspects of the policy rightly serve to rouse us from our slumber. Changes which deglamorize alcohol abuse and discourage destructive behavior are good. Policies which encourage the development and fitness of the body, mind, and spirit are good.

So which is it? A depressing cultural shift driven by a congressionally mandated force strength, or a call to higher ideals?

I think the answer lies in the one issue most commentators on the reawakening fail to address–the component which upholds the legitimacy to the campaign:

  • The aim to make our warriors better citizens

This is where the campaign hits the mark.

Call it naïveté , or ridiculous optimism, but perhaps the purpose of the reawakening really is to make our service members better people. Spoken in the spirit of Forrest Gump, now I don’t know if Mama is right, and Marines have a higher purpose, or if Maj Forsling is right, and Marines exist only to fight abroad. But I think, maybe it’s a little bit of both. . . . Maybe both is happening at the same time.

There is more to being a US service member than fighting abroad. Serving in the military is a call to a higher purpose. It is the promise to fulfill an expectation during the fight overseas and over here.

Forsling is correct. The key factor is about keeping faith. But it’s not just the leadership’s faith in our troops. It’s about instilling within our troops a faith that being better citizens will make them better warriors. The same warrior spirit which creates courage on the battlefield should shape character in garrison.

The military erupts with enthusiasm over the sands of Iwo Jima; however, they should not turn a deaf ear to the sound of music. After all, what was Captain von Trapp before he fell in love and rediscovered his passion for music?

Ah, yes. A war hero.

What do you think about the changes in the US military? I’ve got my flak and Kevlar. Send it.

1 Gen. James F. Amos, “The Reawakening: A Message From The Commandant Of The Marine Corps,” DCMilitary.com, October 25, 2013, http://www.dcmilitary.com/article/20131025/NEWS10/131029888/the-reawakening-a-message-from-the-commandant-of-the-marine-corps

2 Ibid.

3 Carl Forsling, “The Real Reason For the Poor State of Military Morale,” Task&Purpose, December 29, 2014, http://taskandpurpose.com/real-reason-poor-state-military-morale/

4 Ibid.

5 Carl Forsling, “Put the ‘Reawakening’ To Sleep,” Marine Corps Gazette, Vol. 98, Issue 12, accessed January 5, 2015, https://www.mca-marines.org/gazette/2014/12/put-reawakening-sleep

Photo Credit: Sgt. Jessica Ostroska / PD /

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About Jason B. Ladd

Jason is an author, speaker, Marine, and father of seven. He has flown the F/A-18 Hornet as a Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 (MAWTS-1) Instructor Pilot and the F-16 as an Instructor Pilot. His award-winning book One of the Few: A Marine Fighter Pilot’s Reconnaissance of the Christian Worldview has been optioned for film adaptation. He is represented by Julie Gwinn of The Seymour Agency.