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Posted on Dec 9, 2007 in Armchair Reading, Front Page Features

21st Century Leadership

By Kevin Lee, USMC, ret.

Given that Marines who actually use the weapons and equipment in combat likely will be more knowledgeable than the unit leader must not make the leader feel intimidated and thereby provoke a defensive reaction. This is selfish pride that can only hurt the unit as a whole. I have witnessed commanders refusing to send their Marine subordinates to advanced technological schools due to the fear of their subordinates becoming more technically knowledgeable than they. This attitude only hurts the Corps and could even cause a unit to not accomplish its mission. It may also hamper morale once the Marines realize they are being held back for selfish reasons. For the overall good of the unit, commanders should strive to ensure their subordinates are as highly trained as possible.

A Tactics instructor with Marine Special Operations School conducts an after-action assessment with Marines from 2d Marine Special Operations Battalion during close-quarters battle training here. The training was part of a five week direct action course here to prepare Marine Special Operations Companies for worldwide deployment.
Photo by: Pfc. Stephen C. Benson.

Any type of additional training should be encouraged by the command. As equipment becomes obsolete at a faster rate than ever before, training for newer weapons and machinery must be expeditiously accomplished, whether it is by sending Marines to formal schooling or conducting classes within the unit (conducted by the unit’s most qualified person and taught with well-written lesson plans). If necessary, bring in someone from outside the unit to conduct the training. The most important point to remember is that leaders must take the initiative to ensure their Marines are properly trained on any new equipment and are fully prepared to operate it in combat.


Any weapons and equipment that have become obsolete (and which are not sent back through the supply system) must be properly maintained in operational order, including maintaining all pertinent publications. The reason for this is that if the unit is called into combat, obsolete items could be used as ‘back-up’ gear. It has been virtually a tradition in the Corps to use outdated weapons and equipment, either under the pressure of combat requirements or in a unit’s training program. Just because it is obsolete does not mean it cannot be useful, and proficiency must be maintained “just in case.”

Platoon and company commanders should create time to conduct localized training on all organic equipment, where all personnel will be involved. This might take the form of a Weapons Platoon conducting training on recent modifications of equipment or on a new type of weapon. Another example might be tank crews working with mechanics and re-training with new technology, or communications personnel trouble-shooting or updating modifications on their radios. It is up to unit leadership to ensure this takes place and is an inherent responsibility of command.

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  1. Hello. I am an old friend of Kevin Lee, the author of the above article. I have had a difficult time finding information on him, and whether he has returned home safely. Please forward my information to him, so that he can touch base if he so chooses. Thanks so much.

    Melissa 312-399-6920

    • Hello Melissa,
      You said that you know me. Where do we know each other from?