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An Open Letter to the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, Michael P. Barrett


An open letter to Sergeant Major Barrett, Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, regarding his testimony on April 9, 2014 on proposed budget cuts.

4.14.14 Update: The Marine Corps Times recently interviewed Sergeant Major Barrett regarding my open letter below. Discover my response to that article here.


Let me start with stating that I have a lot of respect for you. I think you are without a doubt, one of the best Sergeant Majors this Corps has seen. But I’m greatly disheartened by your testimony provided to the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel yesterday.

I read the Marine Corps Times article with the following:

“Barrett’s comments came in contrast to his counterparts in the other services, who conceded to senators that lower pay raises, scaled-back commissary offerings and smaller housing stipends would be problematic for many servicemembers.

Instead, Barrett argued that the lower quality of life would be beneficial to Marines.

“I truly believe it will raise discipline,” he said. “You’ll have better spending habits. You won’t be so wasteful.”  … “In my 33 years, we’ve never had a better quality of life,” Barrett said. “We’ve never had it so good.”

I was blown away by your words. Maybe it’s because I’m not a Marine. But I’m part of your Marine Corps family. I’m married to a mustang; a Marine who has faced 3 combat deployments to include Fallujah and Now Zad in the Helmand Province and was a Leftwich award finalist.

I wanted to know for myself if your words were taken out of context, so I watched and transcribed your testimony below with my thoughts.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of NY asks the

Sgt Majors & Chief Master Sergeant of their respective services:

The department has proposed a number of compensation and benefit related proposals, although we haven’t seen the full details. They’re basically 1% pay raise for most military personnel rather than the 1.8% that would take effect under current law. One year pay freeze for General and Flag Officers, flight reduction, the growth of housing allowances over time as such that servicemembers will pay 5% of their housing costs out of pocket, phased reduction by one billion of the annual direct subsidy provided by military commissaries down from the current subsidy of 1.4 billion. Increase in Tricare enrollment fees and pharmacy co-pays and consolidation of the Tricare health programs.

Secretary Hagel testified two weeks ago that the savings from these proposals would be reallocated to address readiness and modernization shortfalls. As I said in my opening statement, these proposals will be difficult for many of us on this committee to support. I’m particularly concerned that we are not waiting for the Military Compensation Retirement and Modernization Commission which is tasked with taking a comprehensive look at these benefits.

This is for each of you to answer as you see fit. What will the impact of the changes be on our servicemembers, especially our lower enlisted troops and families? What are you currently hearing from the enlisted ranks what the biggest concerns about these cuts? How important is the commissary benefit in particular to our most junior servicemembers? Is there another way to deal with the commissaries? And will the enactment of these proposals harm recruiting and retention?

Your Response to Senator Gillibrand:

… “Ma’am to go right to the very heart of your question… first of all Marines don’t run around and ask in, what’s on their mind is compensation benefits or retirement modernization. That’s not on their minds. As I walk around and talk to the thousands of audiences, they want to know, and to whose neck do we put a boot next?

When I hear you talk about the Marines you’re meeting with, I think about those Marine NCOs whose primary concern has been amending the ‘sleeves rolled’ policy. These Marines are hard-chargers, yes, but these are the same ones living in the barracks, living it up on payday weekends, and the next weekend spent on marathon Xbox sessions because they’re broke. They’re living with limited tunnel vision.

They want to know about what new equipment are we getting? Are we continuing to modernize? Are we not going to, you know, just because the budget sucks, does that mean that we’re not going to get any more gear? Are we going to stay ahead of our competitors?

These are the kind of questions the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps should be getting asked.  Let’s look at who your audience is, they’re going to ask Marine-centric questions, not questions about Congress’ decisions or budget demands. Besides, who wants to look like a whiner in front of the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps?

And the other thing they always ask is about is, they want to know about training. We’re a force that has a bias for action and we’re a happy lot when we’re deployed. Idle hands are not good in the Marine Corps.  Keep us out there forward deployed just like our moniker tells us, that’s where we need to be.

No Marine wants to stay out of their fight, “first to fight” – this will always be on a Marine’s mind no matter the tempo or budget, I whole heartedly agree.

I realize the Marine Corps don’t want someone to join the Corps for college tuition or benefits. They should join the Corps because they want to be a warfighter. That comes with pride, motivation and the other intangibles. However, to get our Marines to STAY, they need those benefits they were promised when they signed on the dotted line to serve.

That’s what’s on their mind actually. Yeah I’ll tell you promotion, retention, and money does eventually come up, but it’s not in the top 3, it’s normally four, five, six or seven.

I started USMC Life because the Marine Corps wasn’t meeting our family’s needs. I felt I could do something to help as a spouse, but I do realize that my site isn’t the one all, be all, but it’s another opportunity for our families to connect with others and receive information — just as our USMC services are not perfect.

I can tell you based on the feedback I’ve received, that promotions and force reduction are on everyone’s minds as well as budget cuts. The almost 40,000 Marines who are being affected by downsizing have served our country during this wartime conflict are taking early retirement packages, moving onto civilian opportunities on their own accord, but many are being forced out.

Many wanted to retire from the Corps and are now being dealt a set of new cards after years of family sacrifice. Are we going to have a more competitive Corps in the long run? Yes, but it is still costing our Marine Corps families today.

And to get to the point about what Sgt Major already said, if we do not get a hold of slowing the growth, if we do not pay a little bit more attention to the healthcare that we so generously have received wonderful packages, in my 33 years, I have never seen this level of quality of life. Ever. We have never had it so good.

Quality of life is a broad statement.

Quality of housing: Yes.Our Marine Corps and armed services have had an influx of funds because of the war. Our first home on MCB Camp Pendleton was built in 1966 with little improvements. Since privatized housing took over, they’ve demolished old buildings that were filled with mold, rodents and needed vast improvements. This goes along with our barracks as well. Our Marines were living in barracks that were condemned years earlier. Most of the barracks have been refitted or completely rebuilt to offer suitable housing for our Corps. Is it perfect? No, but we’re light years ahead of where we were pre 9/11.

Quality of equipment: Yes. Our Corps has seen improvement in warfighting gear, machinery, and weapons.

Family Life: No. Our families have endued deployment after deployment. Families grow weary of workups and war. Our kids while resilient, are continually left wondering if mommy or daddy will return home after the next conflict. Their friends at schools have parents who have died, or return home as a double or triple amputee. They live and see this daily on base.  They also deal with transition and say goodbye to the life they once knew. Our son is in third grade, in his third school.

Our Marines are forward deployed with several years of little communication home. Most Americans think that our Marines can call home when they want or Skype with their families. That’s simply not the case. My Marine has never Skyped home. We watched his platoon fighting live in Iraq on TV when the war first broke out. We had to wait more than a month before he could call and say he was okay. Seeing war on TV and social media takes a toll on families.

Single friends of ours are leaving the Corps because they aren’t given an opportunity to start family. You want to talk about retention? Some of our best SNCO’s and Officers with families who have lead on the battlefield against our enemies are leaving because they are tired of being jerked around by our government and desire quality family life.

When environments are not met with high enough levels of satisfaction to ‘make the juice worth the squeeze’ you will be left with second and third best in command. We don’t want to see that on the battlefield and in the end it will cost America its sons and daughters.

What about the drastic toll that is being taken on our caregivers who have sacrificed their careers and lives to take care of their wounded warriors. Have they seen a better quality of life?

We have stood at the grave alongside our friends whose husbands died in the line of duty and helped them cope with their loss as best we could. We have said goodbye to loved ones who served alongside our husbands. To say that these families have never had life so good is costly.

To date, my husband has lost more Marines to suicide than he lost at war. Both Battalions lost 20 men each in the fight.

Clearly our Marines and family members have seen better days.

And I say that point because if we don’t get a hold of slowing the growth, we will become an entitlements based, a health care provider based Corps, and not a war-fighting organization if we don’t stop, step back and take a look at hey, 1% pay? That makes sense because our quality of life is good.  Hey you know what? Out of pocket? You know what? I truly believe it will raise discipline. And it will raise it because you’ll have better spending habits. You won’t be so wasteful.

I do believe in the one Tricare model because there will be savings and it’ll be less administrative, admin burdened , on those that have to perform all those things.

This is simply not the case. I serve on the MOAA (Military Officer Association of America) Spouse Council and we stormed the Hill yesterday to fight for military benefits and Tricare. Your words were the complete opposite of what we were fighting for.

If we move to one model, the care received will be impacted greatly. We already see a substantial wait to see healthcare providers for care and referrals. If we move to one model, we actually lose the promise of ‘access for care’ and those weeks could easily turn into months on end before appointments become available.

When it comes to co-pays, it’s just not that simple. Our families will have to make choices between paying the electric bill or that co-pay for a nagging cough. They’ll pay the electric bill. Maybe they’ll even treat their kids to a movie instead because their daddy or mommy has been deployed for 6+ months or busy with workups and hasn’t spent any time with them. How will our families who qualify for food stamps be affected with co-pays?

Preventative treatment will become a thing of the past and our family members will resort to only treating more serious cases, which will end up costing our government more money in the long run.

And you know, should there be some type of subsidiary, subsidy reduction to the commissary,  you already heard the Sgt Major of the Army talk about it, I’m sure there’s a better model out there. But in the grand scheme of things, if we don’t get a hold of this, it’s going to impact our warfighting capability, it’s going to impact our investment for the next challenge. And like I said, we might be done in Afghanistan,  with the people we’re fighting, but they’re not done with us. And we need to be more prepared for what’s around the corner.

No one is disputing our warfighting capabilities, but a happy medium must be found. Other services need to become more like the Corps and budget conscious.

Just look at the billions of dollars wasted in uniforms alone when each service developed its own cammo uniform pattern. In a Military.com article, “Critics allege that the Army has wasted $5 billion on uniforms and equipment all printed in the inadequate UCP. The GAO estimates that the Army will have to spend another $4 billion on uniforms and equipment over the next five years when it selects its new family of camouflage patterns.”

The Corps made ours both cost effective with superior quality. This is where penny pinching needs to come into play, not into our family and quality of life programs. The budget should not be balanced on our military member’s backs.

Your remarks were followed by the Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force who stated: 

… “I want to be real clear that our Airmen are not overpaid. So this discussion we’re having about compensation in the military is not because we feel they are overpaid, they have earned everything that they have received today. All servicemen and women and their family have, they have sacrificed.. but I fully support our budget because at the end of the day, if you want real feedback from our airmen and their families and what they want, they don’t want to have a conversation about compensation; they just want you to give us more money so we don’t have to… they’re going to go fight their nation’s war. They will do it, regardless. That’s what makes them so special.  But make no mistake about it, that this has impact…

Sgt Major Barrett, again, I have countless respect for you, but I would also welcome a conversation about what our families are facing today. I’d ask you to review MOAA’s documentation with how our families will be affected by the proposed budget cuts.

Thank you for your service and sacrifice to our great nation.



Marine Spouse and Founder of usmclife.com


4.10.14 –For those of you reading this letter, you may also read Sgt Major Barrett’s opening testimony statement on 4.9.14

4.11.14 –Sgt Major Barrett issues a statement to address Marines and Family.

4.14.14 — I released a subsequent article as to why these cuts have so much potential to hurt our military families.

If you have any problems viewing this article, please report it here.


  1. Well done Kristine. This current attitude of “oh they’ll suck it up” is one of the most short sighted positions our leaders have adopted. Because those same qualities that lead our service members to serve despite inadequete compensation and the general air of don’t-give-a-shit from their leaders and govt also drives them to provide for their families. And we’re setting them up to have to choose between the two.

    • Semper I and f_ _ _ the next guy has been a way of life for a while. Immediately followed by I got mine lets see if you can survive to get yours. If you are maxed out for pay and are going to retire at 75% or greater what difference does a LCpls quality of life really make in your circle? We haven’t had a SgtMaj or Commandant who gave a flying damn about Marines since General C.C. Krulack and SgtMaj L. G. Lewis.

      Always remember that those who testify before anyone that matters has already made their bones and is guaranteed to be able to retire with all the pomp and circumstance that can be mustered.

  2. I am extremely proud of you for investing the time and courage to address this situation. There is nothing that needs to be added; you said it all! Kudos!
    A retired Marine Corps wife.

  3. He’s talking about Marines will suck it up but fails to realize he’s ready to retire after this assignment. He does not care because it wont affect him. How can a young Marine consider this a career if they keep talking cuts on every aspect of services available. As a Marine Veteran a hard to even consider what it has become and where they are going to end up.

  4. Okay so I am not a marine nor am I the spouse of a marine, but I’ve grown up with relatives going off to the service, neighbors and friends as well. I am a high school student enrolled in MCJROTC. I’m instructed by a Master Gunnery Sergeant and a CWO3 who happens to be a Marine Gunner IWO. Those two men alone have taught me discipline beyond the bounds of any other student out of the 750+ students in the school. They have shown me that money isn’t everything and that the U in JJDIDTIEBUCKLE is what the Sgt. Major is pushing for here. It means unselfishness. Money isn’t everything people and I know that it could impact a family’s lives if the pay is lowered. Lower pay would increase budgeting in the soldiers making them think twice about those ‘Weekend long xbox sessions’ and many more profound issues dealing with money. And to any selfish son of a bitch who thinks otherwise, unless you’ve been taught by a marine or you’ve been a marine we don’t need your bullshit and bitching on the subject. Soldiers choose to live they way they do and have come to terms with it. I’ve planned to work my ass off my junior and senior years of high school to attempt to enroll in the USNA to become an officer with the potential to become a general and perhaps even the commandant. Who knows. But I ask of every visitor to this site a small favor, come with common decency and proper knowledge of the subject before you become a crybaby bitch.

    • Young man,
      We prefer to be called “Marines” not “Soldiers.” As you are enrolled in JROTC with Marine Corps instructors, meaning you have no experience what so ever in the actual military, you yourself are not on the same speaking level as a Marine or a Marine Spouse. You have yet to endure recruit training, a deployment or even the enjoyment of your first duty station, or PCSing to another, you have no experience to call on or to talk about. However, your lack of experience is amusing and entertaining to read, and your enthusiasm that you tried to accentuate with your profanity, shows your lack of maturity. Please do me the favor and do not blemish my beloved Corps with your lack of professionalism.
      In regards to being “unselfish” Marines don’t have that problem, we willing give our lives, and give up time with our families to protect those we love. You will understand the true meaning of JJDIDTIEBUCKLE once you serve your country. Being in JROTC is a wonderful opportunity for you to grow and develop and to help you decide if the military is right for you. It does not give you any actual military experience to talk about.

    • Tristan Lloyd,
      Since you’re still a child, and speak as a child, you should keep your mouth shut when your betters are speaking. Until you’ve walked in our shoes, shut up. Don’t spout your BS here. We’ve lived the life of which you’re dreaming and know it’s not all unicorn farts and pixie dust. We’re the ones who’ve been fighting the war since 2001, and we’re tired. We’re tired of seeing our efforts go to waste. We’re tired of seeing our monies spent foolishly. We’re tired of the “good old boy” upper rank caste system that rewards those that screw up with a better position and that punishes those who speak out against the waste. We’re the ones who have been doing the bleeding and the dying and we’re the ones who will continue to do so. We just want what was promised to us when we signed on the line. So Tristan, you say, “I’ve planned to work my ass off my junior and senior years of high school to attempt to enroll in the USNA to become an officer with the potential to become a general and perhaps even the commandant.” Well guess what buddy, you can plan to do something all you want, but you’ve not done it yet, SO YOU CAN’T SPEAK ON THE MATTER. GO AWAY.

    • Tristan:

      Don’t get discouraged. Listen to those Marines who are leading you. Unfortunately, your views aren’t shared by a lot of Marines coming in in the last 10 years or so. You are too “Old School”. Truth is, a lot of these commenters are probably POG’s and joined for the pay and benefits/stable job and college. I joined before 9/11/2001 and was itching for a chance to take the fight to the enemy. I didn’t care who it was- and I didn’t care how much they paid me. Signing on that line and taking the oath is about SELFLESS SERVICE. These idiots crying about “we are the ones fighting” and other BS are joining for the wrong reasons. You know the pay is crap when you join, so plan accordingly. You know you will get thrown under the bus any chance that comes up, so plan accordingly. Don’t act surprised when things happen- adapt to it and move on. It’s God, Country, and Corps. Doesn’t say anything in there about family/college/living the good life. We are about being the best damn fighting force this world has ever seen. We locate, close with, and destroy the enemy by any means necessary.

      I am going to catch flack for these views but I could care less. Truth is, we need more Marines like you in our Corps. I hope you choose infantry- you will be among friends there. JJDIDTIEBUCKLE is important. Live by it and you will be a good leader.

      Always remember: when you sign that contract and take the oath, it’s no longer about “what can I get out of it”. It’s all about “What can I do to serve others.” Keep your attitude and you will do fine.

    • Tristan,

      You’re a child and have plenty to learn. Unfortunately, you’re going to learn the hard way, but not soon enough. You’re a kid who sits on the internet flaming a woman who has successfully raised three children and has been married for (17) – during that time, she’s sacrificed her dreams and goals for that of those children and her husband who still has time remaining on the clock. Your growing up with “relatives, neighbors, and friends” is the equivalent to a “nasty” saying, “oh, yeah, I know a guy/girl in the military – I totally understand what their life is all about.” You’re foolish to believe that you understand what anyone goes through in the military, let alone the realities of adult life in the 21st century. But then again, you’re a damn millenial that thinks taking selfies and “it’s all about me” is more important that true service. True service is about those who are behind the scenes never asking for glory, honor, medals or credit. Something our family understands because “silent professional” is an ethos we and our friends and family live and die by.

      Good on you for your parents enrolling you in MCJROTC. Shame on you for not going out and getting a REAL JOB that will help out your family NOW. Young man, I was working at the age of (12) to help my (22) year honorable Navy service family make ends meet. Having been married (10) years to my (15) year Senior SNCO, active duty husband, I’ve worked graveyard shifts and 16+ hour days to help compensate our income and pay for my husband’s bullets and kevlar for war and not to mention my hard-earned tax dollars that pay for the x-box playing, big boat buying turds that started this financial mess in the first place (which is where you should be directing your flaming to anyway). Anyone can wear a uniform, son, and pretend to have JJDIDTIEBUCKLE. But it takes a special someone to uphold the JJDIDTIEBUCKLE and maintain a family in this century. You’re aspirations to head off to the Naval Academy have merit, but your education will be paid for by those taxpaying “crybaby bitches” that you’ve come to severe quick judgement to. Those same women and men that are military spouses are the same U.S. Citizens that pay out the ass in taxes so that juveniles like yourself can attend such prestigious schools and participate in JROTC, and become one of the many overpaid, inexperienced officers that pollute the Corps today. I hope a hard-nosed mustang or SSNCO gives you the toughest reality check of your life.

      I for one consider our lives to be relatively comfortable thanks to our pre-Corps budgeting skills, although like every other American in this country, winning the lottery wouldn’t hurt so that we can ease some of the burden and help out aging parents with elderly care. Maybe that’s a hard lesson that you’ll understand later in life. So son, go thank your local fast-food worker, teacher, therapist, nurse, doctor, lawyer, etc., etc. regardless of how old they are. Because without every single hard-working American’s tax dollars, your JROTC program would cease to exist.

      And by the way, Kristin was certainly not a “crybaby bitch” in her open letter. It was a validated research editorial. Maybe if you spent more time in the classroom and in real life instead of marching around and caring about your sleeves up (which REAL Marines don’t give two sheets about), then you’d have weighed your opinions much more carefully.


  5. Tristan,
    It is apparent by your comments that you have no idea how the real world works. And I wouldn’t expect you to since you are a high school student. I do agree that money isnt and shouldn’t be the only motivator for most folks to serve; it is required to live.
    Things like car payments, mortgages, school, bills (utilities), and general living expenses are things that most single folks and families have. Throw in an occasional vacation or fun outing (if the military member is able to take leave due to ops tempo) if there is enough money left in the budget.
    To say that you need money or even a pay raise isnt selfish. The military (particularly the enlist corps) do not get paid enough for what they do, especially when compared to their civilian counterparts. And that isnt even taking into account the jobs that don’t exist in the civilian world such as infantry, special forces, mortar squad, etc.
    The impact of what the Sgt Major is suggesting will be huge on families…far more than you or even he can see. Take away a man’s ability to properly provide for his family and he will be forced to find other means to do so. The senior enlisted officials in his position are the folks who need to go to bat for the people below them. Fight to keep the pay and benefits they deserve…not kick them in the teeth by saying they need less.

  6. First of all, shut your punk mouth you stupid child Tristan Lloyd! That being said, I an active duty Marine Sgt. I am married and my wife has a part time job. I am on I&I duty, meaning there is no barracks for single Marines, nor is there any on base housing. At least, not where I am stationed. How will this affect me? Well, I would have to get a second part time job, which would probably burn me out, making me less effective. I would probably still have significant problems paying my bills. Rent for me is $975 a month. Groceries, let’s just say there is a reason we are planting a huge garden. My wife has ADHD, which while not life threatening, cost a lot for her 60 mg of Aderhal (sp?). The generic brand, which is much cheaper, does not work for her. I might also have to get rid of my pets as well. My wife and I can certainly forget about children. One other thing I plan on doing is talking with my 1st Sgt to see if he will help me Draft a letter to my congressman. In said letter, I plan to let him know the Sgt Maj is an idiot, and clearly has no idea what the hell he is talking about! Mad Dog wouldn’t have let this crap happen… Also, very nicely written letter Ma’am.

  7. Re: Tristan Lloyd.
    Thank you for your opening admission that you are neither a Marine, nor directly related to a Marine. This provides you cover for your articulate, yet completely inaccurate response. While your contact with Marines (always MARINES, NEVER Solders as those are ARMY) is obviously having an influence on your perspective, you really have no basis to a) Call out anyone who lives with or is a Marine b) understand the complexities of life in/with the Corps. Both Master Guns and CWO3 are at the height of the pay grade and their experiences will differ vastly from the Staff NCO or below currently in the Corps. Please educate yourself beyond second hand information provided by others through their filter or perspective BEFORE you come to a page and think your limited experience qualifies you to call anyone (MARINE, there’s that accurate word again! Or Dependent) a “crybaby bitch”. Especially, when your closing statement requests others to “come with common decency and proper knowledge of the subject”. Via your words, I find that you posses neither qualification.
    The Chick who is married to a Shit Hot Marine. A Marine who has been deploying to combat since Bill Clinton was getting serviced by a 20 year old intern, and in the Corps long enough to remember the ‘good old days’ of broken down condemned base housing, MWR, bringing personal computers to combat because there was no ISMO or tech available, and the wonderful spouses who maintained the ‘family readiness’ while the unit or squadron deployed and did work ups. You know, the Corps your Master Guns and CWO3 aspired to join when they were in high school.

  8. Honestly, I have no problem with what Barrett said- if taking his WHOLE statement in context. I didn’t join the USMC, and the infantry specifically, for the the pay and benefits. They are going to take money from somewhere anyways, and I would rather it not be taken from programs for training and gear aquistition. I joined to locate, close with, and destroy the enemy…, not for all the other stuff. I could care less about politics. Just give me the gear I need and the training that will help me kick ass and show me the target. This was the attitude a lot of guys I signed up before 9/11/2001 had. Recently, there is more and more about “give us more money!!!”. Why is that? You know pay is crap before signing on that line and taking the oath. It’s supposed to be “SEFFLESS SERVICE”. Why, all of a sudden, are we worried about pay and benefits? You are signing up to go take the fight to the enemy, not for all the benefits, RIGHT?

    Unfortunately, you find many who join for stable work or college. That’s BS. If you are joining the USMC for any of those reasons you don’t belong. They are the ones raising a stink about it. Most of the infantry guys I know could care less about all that trash. They just want the gear and training and the green light to slay bodies. If you want marketable job skills and a bunch of bennies, join the Air Force and quit polluting the Corps and our history of being the greatest fighting force this world has seen. Suck it up and do your job… U Signed the Mother#$&%*@$ Contract.

    Semper Fi. Now get to work.

    • Would you have got shot at for free? Lived in a shelter half for all your time in? Had MRE’s every day? Paid for your medical if you got shot or hurt on the job? I doubt it my friend. You would of cared about all that stuff the minute a dime came out of your pocket.

      • EdUSMC0311 is NOT advocating that Marines work for free. He’s advocating that we are paid just fine for what we do. Everybody is throwing a fit because Sgt Maj stated he was okay with a 1% pay raise in lieu of the 2-4% raises we’ve been getting the last decade.

        Everybody here sounds like a bunch of liberals whining about how little they make. Let’s be honest with ourselves, folks…the majority of Marines make a lot more money than their civilian counterparts. Oh…you’re a Supply Clerk, Admin Clerk, MP, etc. and you make $50k (with BAH and benefits) while your civilian counterpart makes $30k? In the real world people are paid on skill, supply and demand, etc…and not how demeaning or hard the job is.

        I compare this liberal whining to unions whining for more pay when they already make more than their non-union counterparts. I guess my Marine Corps has turned into a liberal whine-fest…or maybe conservatives and liberals have always been big whiners who think what they do for a living is deserving of astronomical pay and benefits.

        If anybody is advocating for any pay increases; it should be for Combat Pay…which needs a DRAMATIC increase. When the government sends you to war…then I concur they should be paid…and paid well. As the civilian counterpart to a Deployed Marine is a Blackwater employee (or similar) who makes upward of $100k.

        On a side note; if anybody is underpaid, I’d say it’s the Sgt Maj himself. His civilian counterpart is the equivalent to a CEO, President, etc that would make hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars a year. He makes ~$100k.

        Finally…MONEY DOESN’T GROW ON TREES…even though the Federal Reserve continues to print it like monopoly money.

  9. Very well written and I agree with much of what you said. I minor note: it is Air Force (not one word) and we have a Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force not a Sergeant Major.

    As a First Sergeant I see problems every day. I believe the leadership of the Services are very much out of touch with their force. What they fail to understand is that when they get questions they are often times “planted” by Public Affairs representatives. Very rarely do you see young Airmen ask what is truly on their mind due to fear of calling out the senior folks. Additionally, these people don’t remember what it is like to be an E-3 and how little money comes in, especially when you are trying to support a family. Do we have it good? Absolutely, but that is not a bad thing. Start cutting pay and benefits and things are going to go down hill pretty quickly.

    • You are absolutely right, First Sergeant! The Chief of Staff of the Army visited Camp Humphreys in South Korea when I was stationed there in 1997. The company First Sergeants had to approve the questions that would be asked to General Reimer. The “askers” of the approved questions were then randomly placed throughout the crowd so it would indeed appear to be random. One company First Sergeant was the moderator, so he would call on the Soldiers pre-approved to ask questions, ensuring that nobody would ask an unapproved questions.What a joke! So, when senior leadership gets “input” from the troops it is often a very scripted kind of thing that does not accurately represent what is on their minds.

  10. The Sergeant Major missed the mark. His quality of life with 33 years of service at the highest enlisted pay grade is much different than those of the Marines he leads. Having served 22 years of active duty in the Marine Corps – the Infantry – I find it hard to read some of the opinions he provided before Congress. Marine Corps leadership is about two things – accomplish the mission and take care of your Marines. Mission is and always will be the priority, but to be a successful leader you need to take care of your Marines. The Sergeant Major speaks of all the grand benefits and almost portrays them as a “gift” when in fact these benefits are earned – every day by the Marines and their families who voluntarily sacrifice much in the service of our country. People join to be Marines, period. No promises of a rose garden. I spent many non-payday weekends in the barracks, when I got married my family endured the substandard housing at the time (Sterling Homes at Camp Pendleton) because it was my calling to be a Marine and they supported my chosen profession. The last thing that is needed is to cut the quality of life for our Marines. Yes, we all wanted to be out on the forefront of freedom as much as possible – but we want our families to be taken care of too. The Marine Corps family. Since retiring and moving on to a civilian career with DoD, I can assure you that significantly more money can be saved in becoming better stewards of the taxpayer money when it comes to military procurement and spending. Implement performance budgeting and the savings would be astounding. Tie budgetary resources to outcomes desired. Quality of life, compensation and health care for our Marines and their families should be the last item on the chopping block not the first. We will always be the leaders in technology and have the “best gear.” History shows this. What we need to do is to be accountable for the funds provided in the budget for procurement, operations, maintenance etc. Look at the spending practices for those budgets first, there are more than enough savings. The mind set of “spend-it-all-before-the-end-of-the-FY” or our budget will be cut needs to go away. If fund managers use the disciplined approach to spending, as the Sergeant Major advocates the families to do, you may be very surprised at the savings. I know we can accomplish the mission, with the “best gear” without sacrificing the second part of the leadership model – taking care of our Marines and our Marine families. Semper Fidelis – to the Corps and our Marine Corps families. Accomplish the mission, look out for your Marines, that’s all there is to it.

    • Well said! I have personally witnessed sickening wastefulness in procurement in my 20 years, especially prior to deployments and at year end. The changes need to come in the form of procurement reform instead of through cuts to benefits. As is highlighted in other comments, most comments and questions to officials are carefully screened, are planted, or are “textbook” answers. He is certainly out of touch. It may be true that some Soldiers, Airmen, and Marines are wasteful and live above their means, it is unfair to punish an entire force on their lack of discipline. In fact, that could be attributed to poor leadership, as I was taught in my military education. Instead of pointing fingers and judging, we need to completely revamp purchasing, procurement, and contracting and get the savings in a much more positive means for all Forces, while maintaining current quality of life. I believe tremendous savings could be had, while also increasing quality of equipment and support. It certainly might be a personal conflict of interest for a leader with a large retirement available, as well as a lucrative contracting position available, to produce his junior personnel as sacrificial lambs to the budget “Gods” versus striking at that hand offering to feed him. That too me is anything but selfless service.

  11. I spent 28 proud years in the Marine Corps. I have never been more embarrassed for the Corps than by this statement. It goes against everything I ever learned and tried to teach my Marines. Makes me sick.

  12. This has created a lot of stir within the ranks, mostly enlisted in my opinion. I’m active duty 16 years USMC,(currently deployed) I don’t see what the SMMC has said that dosent make sense. Sure it’s questionable the “more disciplined, less wasteful” but let’s look at the facts. It’s a proposed 1.8% increase set to take effect yet the Department of the Navy has recommended only 1%. If I’m not mistaking, that’s a 1% increase if approved folks. The .8% is miniscule and in fact, not in anybody’s pocket yet so how is it a loss?

    The SMMC is privy to a lot of information and I’m sure can go toe to toe with anybody about what’s fiscally sound for the Marine Corps at this point in our history. Let’s give him some credit for looking to the future of our Corps instead of living within the moment of historic bonuses and pay increases that kicked off in 2003.

    Like many of you, I’ve seen an explosion in accession and retention dollars spent, more money on equipment, and a huge expansion of new family housing and bachelor quarters just to name a few in the last 10 years. It’s been good while it lasted but eventually the money flow slows down, and yes the tax payers may get tired of spending. As Marines have always done, we lean forward to keep our edge and our ability to remain effective. So let’s stop whining about .8% that none of “us” yet have.

    For you economic buffs, you might think about how the 1% will or will not keep up with inflation…now there’s your argument. You are entitled and free to disagree with me as you may, but remember also that those in uniform are free to leave if disastisfied with thier compensation when their contract expires. Lastly, please stop reading the Marine Corps Times. Thanks for reading.

    • I think the thing that bothers most Marines is that he is making assumptions on how we all feel. I get ya…I speak your language. I have 19 years active duty here, but on a stage and forum like he had he has to think with more common sense. He is telling Congress exactly what they want to hear. I also agree with you….The Marine Corps Times needs to go. s/f

  13. Wow. What a fascinating debate. There is no shortage of outstanding points and counter-points. The main reason that this debate can take place is because of the many freedoms that we Americans have as a result of the millions of men and women that have sacrificed while serving their country as members of our armed forces. I too served- 24 years of active Marine Corps service. My service to our nation is the proudest thing that I have ever done (or will do).

    Was it difficult at times? Yes. Were there trials, disappointments, and downright frustrations? Yes- of course there were. Were there times when I asked myself was it all worth it? Absolutely. But in the final analysis, I chose “The Corps” over, and over again, we- me and my family, chose “The Corps.” You see, I came from some of the most desperate conditions a young man could ever know. But what I eventually realized was that my story mirrored the stories of many of my fellow Marines. For the most part, we all joined the Corps in search of something far better than what we had. Whether it was the projects of South Central, the government subsidized housing in the Mid-west portion of America, or the poorest neighborhoods in poverty-stricken trailer parks in any town, America- we wanted to serve.

    You see, you don’t really know what living without is until it happens in your life. Living without does not include “benefits.” When I speak about living without, I’m referring to the basic necessities required to live (Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs). I cannot tell you why our lives were filled with such emptiness– I don’t know that it matters. What I do know is that “The Corps” not only filled the void that life seemed to heap on us- “The Corps” picked us up, cleaned us up, professionalized us, educated us, and ultimately prepared us for a much fuller and exceptional life after our service was complete.

    Because of “The Corps” I was able to purchase the first home that I had ever lived in. Because of “The Corps” I was able to travel around the world and to live in places that many Americans only dream of. Because of “The Corps” my children learned to speak and to read several different languages, and to broaden their intellectual knowledge about themselves and the world that they lived in. Because of “The Corps” my family has received some of the best health care available in the world. Because of “The Corps” I was able to compete both my graduate and under graduate degrees- all on the taxpayers dollar.

    Am I better off having served in “The Corps”? You’d better believe it! I love the United States Marine Corps- It’s not a perfect organization, but it’s our organization- It is the World’s most renowned fighting force- It is the World’s most respected military organization! Anytime I see a fellow Marine (no matter the age, period served, MOS, or affiliation) we instantly bond! There’s nothing like being a Marine!

    Having said as much; Ms. Kristine, we love you as well. The Marine Corps and our sister services salute you. We want and need Americans that love their military members and families as much as you do. I personally thank you for your service and your zest to ensure a better quality of life for our service members and their families.

    Please don’t hold the Sergeant Major in contempt for his position on the subject– He is a Marine’s Marine… I should know, I retired as a Marine Sergeant Major over ten years ago.I don’t need to defend the Sergeant Major nor does anyone else. Those are his thoughts, his opinions, and his position. He has served our Corps and our country very well for over 33 years… he has earned the right to his opinion… as do you.

    Very Respectfully,
    SgtMaj (Ret) JEB

  14. SgtMaj Barrett is simply following the talking points and direction of the yes Man Commadant that we currently have in place.
    By far this Commadant and SgtMaj of the Marine Corps is the worst ever. They both say what they think will meet the least amount of resistance. They forced out the top experienced Marines prematurely as well as cut tuition assistance. Barrett does not have the Marines back. His silly comment that Marines are just waiting for the next battle and the best equipment is way off the mark. The Marine Corps has waisted more money on useless equipment. I think they have change the Molly pack and flack jackets at least four to five times in the past ten years. There was nothing wrong with the original version. They need to stop waiting money on new equipment that does not need to be replaced. The Marines should come first and they deserve the best. I Pvt. in the Corps is worth more then any Congressmen or Politician. They deserve top pay and the best of everything. How they spend their money should be of no concern to Barrret. SgtMaj Barret you need to wake up and stand up for your enlisted Marines. If I was in your shoes I guarantee I would speak out strongly.

  15. Sgt Maj Barrett,

    Let me first start by saying here that I fully respect your post as our Sergeant Major. I am about to retire in March of 2015 and I will retire a SSgt. Do you think I stayed for the money? Absolutely not. But damn I didn’t stay for free either. I can without a doubt , respectfully of course, say that you are about 90% off the mark here. When I was a young Marine I was one of the few that did care about what I got paid and such , and let me tell you, I made more at Taco Bell when I worked there before the Corps. I did not join for money, but I did not join for free either my friend. I will let you in on a little secret here. Any time you step in front of ANY Marine you will always get a textbook answer. Why you ask? Because in our world it is the path of least resistance. I do not want to hear some 1St Sgt bitch and complain about my opinions and personal views that I may have so you usually will get a standard textbook answer. Now if me and you sit down kneecap to knee cap then you would get the answer that is in my heart. I absolutely love the Marine Corps. It is the best thing I have ever done, and probably ever will have done, but I will tell you this. The Marines of today are sick and tired of having the people that are supposedly there to watch our back turn on us and make stupid assanine comments like you made in front of our Congress. Like I said…..continue to come to the bases and give your speech or the ” roadshow” as you all have famously titled it , and we will continue to sit here and know that smoke is being blown directly up our asses. The older Marines feel as if our military leaders are actually turning on us. SECDEF Hagel has pretty much thrown in the towel and now it seems as if our direct senior leaders are one by one and day by day. I do not envy your position nor would I ever want to be in your position. I know it is hard. I ask please do not speak on my behalf. Do not tell me what is best for me.

  16. Another O-bot water carrier hiding behind his rank and privileged position to push an Administration policy. Team Obama failed to push the Grand Bargain on the public because of public heat. Not to be intimated Obama’s 2015 budget found an easy target to enact his big scheme to spare his rich Wall Street Friends at the expense of a vulnerable population: cut military salaries and benefits. No other part of his budget discusses cutting government personnel pay, just military personnel.

    Back to Barrett, to demonstrate his deep undercover work for the Administration, his testimony failed to discuss slashing contractor salaries. Cutting troop salaries is a way to protect high flying contractors. This is what Barrett is protecting.

  17. The Sergeant Major is confusing quality of service with quality of life. When you are facing multiple deployments to actual combat zones, both are very important. Do not ask me to deploy in harm’s way, and then pull the rug out from under me. I don’t envy the Sergeant Major. He was sent into a highly toxic political environment, without the proper political training. I appreciated his subsequent letter of explanation, but he still does not seem to understand he got played by those who want to continually cut government spending, mostly far right conservatives, without thinking of the intended and unintended consequences.

  18. If you don’t like it then GET OUT. Look the writing is on the wall, the senior enlisted advisers and flag officers DO NOT CARE about the common man. They know their retirement packages are going to go through and that they will be just fine. OF COURSE they have no sympathy for you. They are looking at keeping their future employers(weapons contractors) happy and they will not cut spending there.

    The Military is a service occupation funded by the American Tax payer who does not want to FOOT THE BILL ANYMORE and CANNOT AFFORD TO. Your husband is an officer and as such im sure he can use his degree and experience to get a job elsewhere. No one should rely on the federal government to finance their lives. This is a false sense of entitlement that you believe you are entitled to these provisions, you are not entitled to anything on the tax payers dime.

    You made a mention about the co pays and deductibles and living so close on the edge that one could not afford to pay electric bills or co pays. Well if you are living on base that is not really an issue is it? Personally i think many service members live way above their means. People who talk like this normally have new smartphones, drive late model cars and have a great life eating out every weekend and spending money on stupid things. The SMMC is definitely idyllic and out of touch with reality but he is right about people needing to be more disciplined with their finances.

  19. From the top down. The leaders of this nation should volunteer their pay first…i don’t just mean the commadont and Sgt. Major….President first if they really think paycuts are the place to take from. Honestly in my day i was stoked to just be a parrt of the baddest motherfuckers. on earth. I was pretty proud to be able to hump 26 miles with bipods, baseplate, or barrel with a full pack and an M16 on a 105 degree day just to toughen up. When i got payed for that….what a trip. I didn’t need to be paid…it was nice though….i just needed food, food, food, rest, and more training. I realize money is needed to support familiesand provide some happibess such as libbo and beer and food not from the chow hall. I think Marines deserve the highest pay of anybody (worldwide)…,not gonna happen i guess. Good thing we know how to adapt and overcome. Take care of families, take care of your Marines, make sure the president leads by example and cuts his pay first. If I know one thing….Marines will still thrive. Semper. Fi….Do or Die!

    Justin Hadaway
    0341 81s. 1997-2001

  20. Something to we should all think about,
    Over the past week I have been putting a lot of thought into everything the Sgt Maj has been saying, the spouses and even congress. Yes, we are in need of an economic reform. What I am thinking the Sgt Maj was trying to say, is that the Marines are on board for an economic change. I do not believe that he means that our paychecks will be “cut” or that we will make less. However if the military is cutting its numbers, and to aid in slowing the pay raises to help aid in “budjet cuts” I think it will be made to the military in its entirety and not just the Marines. We are “First to Fight” and I think Sgt Maj Barrett was putting more emphasis on being the first to acknowledge change is necessary and that we are not afraid of it.
    The Take Away:
    1. Sgt Maj was taken out of context and exaggerated by opinionated individuals.
    2. Marines are first to fight, first to adapt and overcome.
    3. Once a Marine always a Marine and no one can take that.

    Please be open minded people and aware of change. Listen, observe, retain and then move.

    SSgt Wise

  21. SgtMaj Barrett has broken faith with every Marine past and present. He exemplifies the waste of having a SgtMaj of the Marine Corps. There is not a single Marine who would want to be him someday and he has embarrassed the heck out of the Corps with his stupid comments. Broken faith! I’d shitcan him immediately. I don’t trust him to lead my son or daughter in combat and sure as heck don’t trust him to fight for my or my family’s welfare. He’s weak as in-sweetened cool aid. A complete let down.

  22. How about we cut out all the money that we are giving other governments and put that back into our military, our schools, our health care, or better yet to lower our national debt.

  23. To the writer of this article, I noticed that you left out single Marines. The only time you mentioned single troops are the ones who feel they can’t start a family which really doesn’t address the true needs of single Marines. Single Marines serve alongside the married ones so it’s quite unfair that you’re leaving them behind as you said the married folks are.

  24. No matter how we slice this or dice this….these comments have made him and his legacy. It is what it is for him from here on out.

  25. I’ve worked the past four years in Afghanistan and Africa often interacting with the Marines, Officers and Enlisted, to a one all were concerned about their incomes, equipment, training, and their families back home. Sgt Major Barrett’s comments belittled the concerns of all Marines, and shows his disconnect with the men and women serving in the Marine Corps.

    I’m embarrassed, and angered by Sgt Major Barrett’s testimony and like others I hope that the Commandant forces him to retire. Our men and women should not have to live off public assistance, they shouldn’t have to worry about how they are going to pay their bills or support their families.

  26. This has nothing to do with the artical. Other than the fact that someone has been talking to me on Facebook with Mr. Barretts pictures. His supposed name is Barrette Hayford and he claims to be in the army. NO one should get away with impersonating an American Service man or woman! So many do. How can we stop this?

  27. Over the last few years I have seen many Marines become distrusting of senior leadership mostly due to the actions of
    O-10 Amos and E-9 Barrett. While the billets demand great respect the two holding office right now are far from the this demand. The “heritage tour” these two did was horrible and really changed a commands environment. It appeared as though the commanders got scared.
    Many complaints, moans, groans and gripes could come out of my mouth about the ridiculous policies, programs and expectations these two have started. The great thing is for all Marines, these two will soon be gone and the hope of improvement and respect will be reestablished for Marines at all levels.

    Fair winds and following seas, exept to the CMC and SMMC. To you I (and many others) say Good Riddance!

  28. You have sweated and bled, and still you have taken another step forward. Your families have wondered if you loved your beloved Corps more then them. You took the next step forward. You lost a leg, and you hopped forward. You saw your family hungry and in need. You moved forward, and this Man says that you need even less, and that you never had it so good. I’m not a Marine, or anything else. (I tried though 3 times) I Know that this man has earned a certain amount of respect but I will not respect a man who can look out at the men that he’s supossed to lead, and tell those worthless fucks on Capital Hill that you have to much and could live with less. I’m sorry I believe that Barret has lost touch with his men and women, and is reaching for a diplamatic career. Just saying what he said proves that he’s willing to through his Marines under the bus, then stand on you to reach his goals. No true leader would say such a thing. I’ve often heard of soldiers on food stamps, and thought that wasn’t right. Not while those fat assed pasty faced Congressmen vote themselves a raise every year, then have the nerve to ask if you can live with less. They are all worthless I&A’s (IDIOTS AND ASSHOLES) For my part in this, because I helped get those stupid mother &@#*%^$ elected I say to you “I’m so very sorry.”


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