A Harvard professor is suggesting that bad behavior in the war-zone could be prevented if just one person in the unit stepped forward to say, “Marines don’t do that.”
Michael Wheeler, professor of management practice at Harvard Business School, posted a piece to his LinkedIn profile examining how someone’s decision-making can be changed in a matter of seconds. He cited the case of British Royal Marine Sgt. Alexander Blackman, who was recently sentenced to life in prison after being found guilty for killing an insurgent at close-range during a 2011 patrol in Afghanistan’s Helmand province. The act was captured on helmet cameras worn by other Royal Marines.
Wheeler writes that some military experts believe the act might have been prevented if just one other marine in the unit told Blackman, “Marines don’t do that.”
The phrase is effective, he argues, because it includes the word “Marines,” which is an important part of someone’s identity. And since it doesn’t include words like “stop,” “order” or “wrong,” it puts the spotlight on the person rather than the act, he wrote.
“‘Marines’ is the most important word,” Wheeler wrote. “It comes first and works on two levels. It tells the soldier, ‘Remember who you are. Don’t renounce your identity.’ Uttered by a fellow marine, it also says, ‘Your brothers are here with you.’ ”
Wheeler reached out one of his former students, retired Maj. David Dixon, for his input. Dixon said the concept of reminding another service member about their values is exactly in line with what Marines are taught from their first day at boot camp.
“If the Marine next to you is falling asleep in class, you must have the moral courage to wake him up and motivate him to stay awake,” Dixon told Wheeler. “If you are caught sleeping in class at boot camp, not only do you get in trouble for laziness, but the Marine to your left and to your right get in trouble for lack of moral courage [because]they should have corrected you when you were in the wrong.”
Helping someone about to make a bad decision means Marines shouldn’t look away, Wheeler wrote. They should have the moral courage to speak up.
Tell us what you think. How can Marines help hold their peers accountable in the war-zone and at home?