Wednesday, June 23, 2010

I will not lie, cheat or steal, or tolerate those who do.

Those words, comprising the Honor Code of the United States Military Academies,have meaning.

At least they do to most Officer Candidates and Junior Officers.
The Marine Corps has discharged 13 junior officers training at Quantico for cheating on a land navigation test, officials said.

The junior officers, eight men and five women, were discharged from military service May 20 after, officials allege, it was discovered they had cheated on a test administered in September.

They were taking an intense, six-month training course for new officers and were trying to learn how to lead a platoon through rugged terrain. They were sent with a map and compass to a wooded area on the base and instructed to write down numbers painted on boxes left there.

The accused wrote down numbers from the previous year's test, base spokesman Lt. Col. Roger S. Galbraith said. During a subsequent inquiry, officials examined the actions of 33 junior officers and found that some had used a cheat sheet. Officials at Quantico declined to release the junior officers' names or speak in detail about their discharges.

Col. George W. Smith Jr., commander of the training program at the time of the incident, said in a statement that those who were released lacked the "moral compass" to be military leaders.

Among the 13 Marines who were "administratively separated" -- the military equivalent of having employment terminated in the civilian world for misconduct -- was 2nd Lt. Adam Ballard.

Ballard, 25, a native of Texas, was a former star fullback on the Naval Academy's football team and was once dubbed a "bruiser" by fellow Texan George W. Bush at a White House ceremony honoring Navy players.

Ballard told the Marine Corps Times, which first reported the story, that the cheating at Quantico was more widespread than the Corps would like to believe. Marine Corps officials have said that some of the officers who took the test thought that the skills involved in the land navigation drill were unnecessary in a modern era of GPS navigational aids and that other officers at Quantico have been sanctioned for cheating on the "land nav" exam in the past.

Annapolis attorney Bill Ferris, who is representing Ballard, called his client's dismissal "totally unjust."

"This is a widespread practice going back years," Ferris said, "and certain people have been singled out."

Ferris said that he had argued for his client to be disciplined by the Corps rather than dismissed outright. He also said Ballard was unfairly penalized by the military after refusing to divulge the names of others involved.

However, Ballard said when reached late Friday, "I don't blame anybody but myself."
The skills may or may not be necessary today, but integrity still is, and so is the ability to adapt and handle hard tasks under pressure, which is why such tests are still part of the curriculum today. These thirteen failed on both counts, dishonoring themselves. It's probably a good indicator of the sort of officers that they would have become, and our enlisted men and NCO's deserve a better caliber of leadership than that.

Good on the Corps for standing up against this dishonesty, and shame on the cheaters, and on Ballard in particular for running to a civilian lawyer and the media instead of just accepting the consequences of his choices. I hope that the Marines follow up on these dismissals by seeking repayment of the monies spent on the training and college educations that these cheaters received. They clearly lacked the pride and integrity and the ability to achieve that our military leadership cadres need so badly these days.

Hell, I'll bet that they voted for Obama, too. Good riddance.


  1. Totally agree with you.

    But I'ld also like to know what people will do if the GPS satellites are ever knocked out?

    There seems to be such a reliance on technology, especially electric / electronic based ones, that I fear the survival of the race if we ever lost power on a major scale.

  2. Agreed! Leadership REQUIRES leading by example and THIS IS NOT an example of the leadership I'd want... Julie's point is a valid one too. GPS does NOT always work!

  3. Man, this really pisses me off!

    Map and compass navigation was something I learned in the Boy Scouts! It's not that tough. (In fact, we thought it was fun!) That these "officers" thought they had to cheat their way through it speaks volumes.

    And it *is* a necessary skill, just like sextant navigation is when you are at sea. As others have pointed out: Power fails, satellites fail or get knocked out. Just accidentally dropping the receiver can put everyone's life in jeopardy if the guy in charge is over reliant on vulnerable technology.

    But the mere fact of the cheating is what galls me the most. Old NFO said it: "Leadership REQUIRES leading by example." And one required example is that they follow the orders of their own leaders. These goofs thought they knew better than their own leaders.

    Technology never fails? Right?

    Gawd, what a bunch of maroons.

    I agree. The Corps and the US military are much better off without them. And if I were the Commandant of the USMC, not only would I go after the money spent on these goons, I would also move heaven and earth to root out the rest of the corruption.

    Good riddance indeed.

  4. Julie and NFO have got the picture. It isn't a new syndrome either. When I was flogging an F-4 in Spain, I had to "counsel" newly assigned aircrews when the failed their initial TAC check which required them to fly a short low-level route terminating in a simulated nuke delivery on Bardenas range.

    They would alibi that their INS (inertial nav system) ran away--the equivalent of today's GPS failing. I asked if they considered reading their map, flying traditional time/speed/distance, using their radar to spot the radar reflectors at the range or simply proceeding directly to the TACAN homing beacon located on the range center-line. Duh!

    After "counseling" some of them actually become aspirants to be real fighter pilots. Bottom line, there ain't no easy way out in combat.

  5. Anonymous1:25 PM

    Leaders need to be able to lead.And do it honestly.

  6. There is never any substitute for integrity. In times if pressure and challenge, all the extra fluff is distilled and the only thing remaining is character and integrity. I have made hiring decisions based on integrity more than I have based on experience. The letter I can help build, the former must already be part of the package.

  7. I'm with the Luddites. Basic navigational skills are CRITICAL for any kind of ground-pounding leader. I was in the Dinaric Alps years ago and tell you what, more than half of the high-tech stuff plain didn't work, and the only way to get around was either the sun and stars or depend on the locals, who believe me, knew every blade of grass for kilometers around.

    Ugh. As far as leadership qualities, if they actually had them, they would have known that blatantly cheating on a test would someday cost the lives of men under them.

    Sickening. It makes me wonder how much the 'corporate culture' has permeated the military, where people go in to get careers so when they get out they can go corporate.

  8. It's hard to raise our young people to have integrity when people who should be role models (like the POTUS) have none.

  9. If you'll cheat on one test you'll cheat on another. Moral equivalency and situational ethics will destroy a unit faster and with more certainty than enemy action.