The selection of Sergeant Major Ronald Green as the next Sergeant Major of the Marine Corp (SMMC) has once again stirred up controversy about combat experience and the somehow fanatical belief that to be a great leader, one must be an 03, AND must have earned a Combat Action Ribbon.
As the Corps is winding down two wars lasting 14 years, one can reasonably ask, how does a Marine serve for 30+ years, covering the Gulf War, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and NOT be a combat vet? The answer? Marines do not get to choose their duty stations; you go where you are assigned.
Sgt Maj Green’s 30 plus year career in the Marine Corps was primarily as an 08, in Field Artillery Operations. Aside from a stint as a DI at Parris Island, he maintained this MOS for the first 18 years of his career. As the SMMC, Sergeant Major Green’s primary responsibility is to advise the Commandant and be his eyes and ears of the enlisted ranks. As we wind down our nation’s longest period at war, the Corps is facing many challenges; two of the biggest are dealing with the overall military drawdown and more importantly, dealing with returning vets and PTSD. Can he concievably do this without that precious ribbon? I believe so.
Since the Combat Action Ribbon was established in 1961, only two SMMC have not received the CAR: Sgt Major McMichael and Sgt Major Estrada, both who served in the past 16 years during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. One could make the argument that anyone would be better than our outgoing SMMC, Sergeant Major Barrett. As a highly decorated vet with two combat tours, Barrett made controversial remarks on April 11, 2014 to a Senate Armed Services Committee panel that Marines should be paid less and that “I truly believe it will raise discipline. You’ll have better spending habits. You won’t be so wasteful.” Well, I remember my paychecks as a lowly E-3, I never remember having money to waste.
Ever since air winger General James Amos was appointed as the Commandant of the Marine Corps without a CAR, the internet has been abuzz with memes, “Dude, where’s your CAR?”. With General Dunford taking the reins as Commandant whose an infantry officer with a highly decorated career, perhaps Green’s lack of actual combat experience is not necessary.
Dunford’s nickname of “Fighting Joe” Dunford given to him by General “Mad Dog” Mattis, gives him enough street credibility to offset any perceived weakness anyone can throw at Green. Sure there were there other combat vets eligible for the position; Sgt Maj Kasal is an obvious favorite among the enlisted ranks earning the Navy Cross in Iraq. Personally, I would have chosen Sgt Maj Ploskonka who was my squad leader in 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines in the 90’s, and one of the most influential leaders in my life.
All this being said, Dunford has chosen Green and Green it is… CAR or no CAR.
About the Author: Andrew Northam is a freelance writer living in Las Vegas, Nevada. He is Marine veteran who served with 3/6 (3rd Battalion, 6th Marines) from 1990 to 1994. You can read more of his works at TheNortham.com.