Who really cares about White Socks In searching for a title for this point paper, I could have chosen one of a hundred different titles. Who cares about: white socks, sunglasses, items hanging off the uniform, ¼ roll of your sleeves, field gear worn with PT gear… The list could go on and on. The point would be; nobody really cares about any one of those “little things”, except when you look at the big picture. I was a grunt sniper my entire career. Working with snipers and recon types has been a very fun and fulfilling career, but there are things with individuals that work independently with special skill sets, that if not kept in check, will result in actions that are not favorable to any of us. Everyone has heard of the “cowboy mentality”. No one jumps from “A J Squared Away Marine” to a cowboy in one leap. Those things are done gradually over time as people tend to ignore the little things and allow that attitude to develop. How many of you have been bitten by an elephant? How many have been stung by a bee? See, it’s the little things that get you. But if you take care of the little things, you never have to worry about the big things. To draw the correlation to the myriad of little rules and regulations that we have in the military; by ignoring those things that make us Marines, we are ushering in an era where the cowboy attitude will start allowing corners to be cut in safety and operations, that will and has, gotten Marines killed. This is not a new concept. We have learned these lessons in the past. The enforcement of our standards is a hallmark of Marines. That is why it has always been tougher to be in the Marine Corps than any other service. That is why every service holds either a deep seated dislike, rooted in jealousy, or an affectionate admiration for our Corps. That is why there are so many civilians that hold Marines in such high regard. Obviously we are different from everyone else. That difference can usually be readily seen when you put us all together in one place. Except lately that line has been eroding away. Marines are not acting like Marines anymore. We are becoming sloppy and there seems to be very few that are making the corrections when and where they are needed. There have even been some who have said, “All of that stuff doesn’t matter here, we’re in a combat zone”. If any thought is put into that statement, it would be shot full of holes. The combat zone is the reason why we enforce all of the little things. Those things keep us sharp, keep us alert, maintain our discipline and influence how well we follow orders and instructions. The enforcement prevents the cowboy mentality that results in sloppy actions that result in unnecessary deaths, and violations of the rules of engagement and law of war. Marines that have specialized skill sets and functions like recon and snipers have learned this lesson with every generation of new NCOs. To allow someone to develop a “Special Attitude” about one’s self or unit can have a devastating effect upon future success. I’m not speaking of the healthy pride in one’s service or unit that everyone should have, I’m talking about the attitude that because I am in this unit, I don’t have to do ____. You fill in the blank. This dangerous attitude is becoming prevalent today especially in those Marines that are assigned to work independently. The shortcuts of discipline have resulted, as one example, in Marines being killed or severely injured while not wearing PPE. We have all witnessed these examples. Yet it seems very few are drawing the relationship from those deaths directly to: “Get those sunglasses off the top of your head Devil Dog”, “Roll your sleeves down”. Part of the emplacement of this attitude is due to how our Marine Corps uniform is viewed. Just a few short years ago there was a lot of discussion about allowing even our Navy Corpsman to wear our new uniform. I’m glad they are wearing it, but now we have gone way too far. Now we give that uniform to anyone that wants to wear it. Interpreters, civilian contractors, even KBR employees wear our uniform with no regard to mixing components with non-uniform items or wearing partial uniforms or being even close to Marine Corps’ standards. Now the Marines are growing so used to seeing all manner of uniform wear, that they do not even want to try and correct another Marine for looking like a bag because there are so many other bags being allowed to walk everywhere around them. This problem is not just an enlisted issue. There are officers running around that if it wasn’t for their rank device, one would question if they were civilians. Plus quite a few of them get down right nasty when an NCO attempts to correct them. Another aspect as to why we need to enforce all of the rules and regulations is that if you allow those little ones that are not important to you to go by, then the starting point at which you would start to enforce them would be different for everyone, and we would end up being so confused that nothing would be enforced. For the sake of those Marines that are entrusted to our care. For the continued success and outstanding image of our Corps. For the reputation of professional excellence that has permeated our ranks throughout history. We all need to tighten up and police ourselves.