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Top 5 Marine Corps mysteries

These issues have plagued leathernecks since 1775. Here are the top Marine Corps mysteries that you need to know about!
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Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Daniel Redding.

As an old “lifer”, I am inclined to defend the Marine Corps no matter what, and I mean to the grave! The recruiter had me hook, line and sinker from day one. I believe in executing orders, getting behind the mission, towing the company line, etc. Generally speaking, I am a solid, card-carrying cult member. I am all in.


To quote the great philosopher Austin Powers, “Having said that, I do have some thoughts”. There are questions that have never been answered. These issues have plagued leathernecks since 1775. They should at least go on the record as being legitimate grievances. They span a wide range.

Here are the top Marine Corps mysteries:

1. Admin

S-1, also known simply as Admin, closes their office one day a week for the entire afternoon for “training.” Yup. The hatch is closed, they are all in there, and the sign on the door says, “Closed for training.” Riddle me this: if you are always training, WHY IS MY PAY/AWARDS/SERVICE RECORD ALWAYS JACKED UP?! What kind of training are you doing back there? Knife-fighting? Computer-hacking? Bomb defusing? I know what you’re NOT doing. You’re not learning how to process awards, route leave requests or get my orders squared away. The one admin-type training I think you might be doing is scrutinizing Naval letter formatting so you can kick back my request. Honestly, if you were awesome at being an admin guy, we wouldn’t talk trash about you being a POG (well, not as much).

marine corps mysteries admin
Lance Cpl. Cameron Perry, administrative specialist with Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, combs through a Marine’s service record book updating his personal information. (DVIDS)

2. Medical

I read Medal of Honor citations about Corpsmen running into a hailstorm of bullets to treat a wounded Marine. I’ve heard they can treat a sucking chest wound with an MRE wrapper, give a tracheotomy with an ink pen and restore a drunk for PT with a couple of IV bags. However, in garrison, no matter what the injury or illness, the remedy is Motrin. Doc, seriously!? That’s all you got? Oh yeah, the other treatment prescribed is “drink water.” Maybe part of a Corpsman’s superpower is that his advanced medical training can only be activated by combat. Until the shooting starts, he is as capable as the guy manning the cash register at Walgreens. Doc, I had such high hopes.

3. Chow

The Marine Corps has this inexplicable rule in the mess hall. You can’t have two starches. What?! I was incredulous the first time I discovered this maxim. The paper-hatted authoritarian with tongs in his hand wasn’t budging. You may be a skinny, 19-year-old infantryman who just came back from a 12-mile hike, but you ain’t getting a scoop of instant mashed potatoes because you chose yakisoba. Yakisoba counts as your meat and your starch. Keep the chow line moving, boot. Maddening. You are burning a bazillion calories, you are 30 pounds under your max, but you ain’t getting any mac ‘n cheese. Go fill up at the salad bar (which consists of iceberg lettuce and French dressing). This is why I kept a “rat box” of MREs in my room. I should have joined the Air Force.

A resident of the Reimei No Sato Handicap Facility prepares yakisoba during the facility’s first spring festival in Ishikawa. Due to their volunteer efforts and involvement with the facility, Marines and sailors of 3rd Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, found themselves invited to the festival.

4. Supply

So, there you are, checking out of a unit. You either have orders or have done your time and are getting out. Part of the checkout process is to turn in your gear to supply (or, nowadays, with a consolidated issue facility). You lay a piece of gear on the counter only to have it rejected for not being clean enough. We’re not talking about caked-up mud or anything. We are talking about a stain on a piece of field equipment used by 20 other guys before it was issued to you. The rub is that it was dirty when you received it! How in the world can you always be issued dirty gear but have to turn in clean gear?! No amount of complaining, reasoning or bargaining will work. Nothing to do but go back and scrub some more. If this happens to everyone, why is there dirty gear to issue? Unless they give officers a pass….wait a minute! Grrr.

marine corps mysteries supply
Marines from Lima Company, Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, stack MREs and other supplies. (DVIDS)

5. Current events

Often during gear inspections or promotion boards, those with rank will ask the junior Marines questions about current events. I could never figure out why this was so important. “Lance Corporal Fields, do you know why we are sending forces ashore in (insert country)?” The Lance Corporal is inclined to say, “To kill people, Sir,” but that ain’t gonna fly. Do these small unit leaders reasonably expect a rifleman to understand the geopolitical reasons for employing the military as an instrument of national power in combination with diplomatic, information and economic efforts? All he knows is when the ramp drops, the bad guys will be to the front. Even if he understands why from a national perspective, does it matter? Hard-charger is going to execute orders. Let a reporter ask him why he is there, and his relevant response will be, “To provide security on this rooftop, covering this sector of fire” or “Because my CO ordered me to”. In fact, if you insist that he knows why his country sent him to (insert country), and things don’t pan out well in the end, you actually make things harder for him in the long run. (Getting a little uncomfortable here). Piece of advice: stop asking him about current events and ask him about his job.

There it is, folks. Marine Corps mysteries that will never be answered and never be resolved. None of them are too terrible by themselves, but cumulatively have resulted in many corporals and sergeants declaring, “That’s why I’m getting out!”

Now that these grievances have been aired, let me reassert: the Marine Corps is the finest organization on earth. It is a phenomenal band of brothers in an albeit dysfunctional family. Semper Fidelis.