News: Civilians get a taste of Marine Corps ethics
Story by Lance Cpl. Tabitha Bartley
MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. - Thirteen executives from industries such as national security, telecommunications and an international beverage conglomerate, went through simulated ethics training here at TBS on Jan. 5. The participants came to The Basic School to learn how the Marine Corps teaches ethics in everything they do, using honor, courage, and commitment as the pillars to their foundation of decision making.
This group of civilians twice previously visited MCRD Parris Island, S.C., to see how ethics-values based training is taught to Marine recruits. The civilians are from the master of business administration program and executive members of the Center for Ethics and Corporation Responsibility J. Mack Robinson College of Business at Georgia State University.
“It was suggested to us, after our second visit, by Col. Eric M. Mellinger, head of the recruit training regiment, that we go to Quantico to The Basic School to see how the same principles are then taught and training to the lieutenants as a leadership function,” said Dr. Steven D. Olson, the center director.
The civilians were split into three fire teams and had to hike through a marked trail at TBS to accomplish different missions along the way. With every mission faced, there was an ethical challenge thrown into the mix.
For example, during one challenge they had to secure a water point where they were confronted with a mother whose daughter who was injured by an IED. The group had to make a decision to help the daughter and how to do that without offending the customs of the local tribe.
“Inaction is a form of action,” said Maj. Dan M. Dowd, command section head warfighting at TBS. “We accomplished our mission of securing the water point but when it came to the courage of helping the girl, we didn’t do so well.”
After the exercise was completed, the group discussed what they did and didn’t do, and how they could have done things differently. Many of the participants agreed that, even though they met their goal of securing the water point, they didn’t accomplish the overall goal of building good connections with the tribe.
“You can learn a lot about people by what they don’t do and don’t say,” Dowd said to the group. “If you are the person in charge, you have to make the choice of taking action or not taking action. The leader isn’t the only person who can say something. We all have morals and values, we all know the right thing to do, so why wouldn’t you say something? Are you going to just take orders and have no real responsibilities, or are you going to say something when the right thing isn’t being done.
“It’s difficult to figure out how to go about doing the right thing,” continued Dowd. “But that’s why we do the training.”
The training didn’t end there. After the discussion, the group was split in half and sent on separate missions, where they encountered a simulated genocide and an IED explosion which injured one of their own.
With each mission, they were faced with ethical choices and the challenge of adhering to the ethos of the Marine Corps: honor, courage and commitment.
“One of the things we want people to take away from this is a duty and obligation,” said Olson. “We want them to have responsibility that pulls them forward to a higher ethical structure rather than, ‘what’s the minimum I can do to get the advantage.’ We knew we couldn’t teach it and that it would have to come from experience, so that’s why we came here.”
“Ethics is essential to mission accomplishment,” said Olson. “The Marine Corps has been showing that for years. Now it’s time for the corporate world and business students to see and appreciate that.”