Changing of the Guard and the Chaos, etc. It Causes

Discussion in 'Merchant Marine Academy - USMMA' started by jasperdog, Oct 9, 2009.

  1. jasperdog

    jasperdog Member

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    I am starting this thread because over in the thread "Plebe Candidate Status - Rewisited" several topics came up and a couple of frequent posters who I normally solidly agree with have put forth some ideas and thoughts about the traditions, etc. at USMMA as regards leadership trainng,etc. that are being challenged/changed by the new adminstatration, and I don't agree with those posters thoughts and comments. So I figured I'd put my the topic and my thoughts here and see what the broiader audiance thinks.

    The basic thoughts and ideas are that recently changes in how the "Administration./Higher Ups" "hog-tie" restrict the trainining program as managed by the Regimental, Battalion, and Company level midshipman officers, particularly the management of the USMMA plebe class, is detrimental in one way or another to the overall leadersip training program. Further there is an underlying sentiment to these thoughts that these actions are not in historic keeping with the long held practices and traditions at the Academy.

    My thoughts and feelings are decidedly otherwise. I have a view on these traditions as someone who entered the USMMA 30+ years ago, raduated 26 years ago and have been at worst a moderately active supporter and alumni since then, so I believe I have some first hand knowledge of said traditions that is somewhat longer in view and perspective than many posters on the topic.

    I disagree that the Company Level Midshipman Officers, particularly the CTO level, should have more latitude, etc. If you go back to the time prior to 1999, the basic structure and number of Midshipman Officer Billets was proportially fewer than the current USMMA regimental structure. Even though we had 7 companies, vice 5. There was no Company Level Training Officer, at all. There was an RTO and a BTO. There also was basically no real leadership responsibility for the Third Class and a minor amount for the second classman. To me this worked much better - the result was there was more competition for Regimental and Battalion level Midshipmen Officer Billets that resulted in a better caliber of midshipman officer, IMO and a set of Company Commanders and XO's who were also more committed and serious about their midshipman officer responsibilities.

    That combined with the fact the US Merchant Marine Academy hadn't been morphed by 10 years of USMC driven influence meant the training regimine was different and the care, feeding and management of the Plebe Class was ineed pretty much left to the RC, RTO, BC, BX, BTO and the CX's. To be sure the Commandant and the Deputy Commandant set guidelines and bounds within which the first class midshipman officers lived but they handled things day to day. If an individual Company Level Commissioned Officer had an issue with how this was working he topld the Midshipman Officer, if that didn't work he talked to the Commandant and he "talked to the RC and that Midn officer'. The CO's pretty much NEVER issued directives to the Midn Directly - the RC, BC, and CC's did that for general things or Upper Classman; the RX, RTO, BTO or CX's did that for the Plebes. It worked - seriously.

    Oh and we had NO IT - none of this "instantaneous, simple, non-effective over in a minute punishment" - we all got demerits, get enough and you get restricted, get restricted and the MOD and CDO had a day and half after all the noin-restricted guys were off campus to make sure you had taken responsibility and were accountable for your actions and "learned your lesson."

    Oh and the BX's ran mast and that meant through a year since there were two officer rotations and 3 battallions six guys were the "judges" for the entire year. The were pretty fair and consistant in their application of the rules, if they weren't their classmates got on them. Also they weren't afraid of any of the commissioned officers and if those guys did something that was felt to be unfair or inconsistant in their appliation of rules for Class III Offenses the BX's fixed it. Also we didn't have Class II write up for Class III offenses - the Commandant did the Mast for Class II'[s and the Superintendant did Class I's. Of course even though we had women in our Class back then we never felt the need to have sex in our barracks rooms so there were fewer Class I's.

    The Honor Board also worked. The Chairman was Elected by the First Classman on the HB. Never to my knowledge during the 4 years I was there did the Honor Board's recommendation not get followed by the Superintendant and as far as i can remember they never got it wrong.

    My point, go back to how it really was traditionally - even before the Joe Stwart era - we are training Commissioned Officers on a tight cram 4 years into 3 years period. Stop pretending the 2nd and 3rd Class has time for or is ready to lead the Classes below them. Let them keep their noses clean and take responsibility for their own actions while they are at sea and between sea years. Yes still have them cvolunteer to be DI's during Indoc to see whop wants to and is suited to be Midshipman Officers when they are first classman. Let the First Class run the Regimewnt within simple, consistant straight-forward guidelines. Let the First Calss - though fewer of them - be Midshipman Officers and Lead the Entire Regiment. Reward those who take this responsibility with something meaning, self regulated, free gangway until the Class Passes Liscence. Everyone who has passed Liscence should have Free Gangway like in the past.

    Restore Overnight LIberty, every weekend to both uper classes if they are not either on Academic Probation or Restriction.

    Review the Class I, II, and III demerits list and have it make sense. Then let the Midshipman Officers enforce it for the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Class. The CO's enforce it for the 1st Class - so we restore Class Unity - no one ever stuck a classmate "back in the day." That worked...

    My Rambling 2+cents - your thoughts?
     
  2. 2013Parent

    2013Parent Member

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    My thoughts;

    This is not rambling.

    Jasperdog, you are definitely someone that exemplifies the character of every single KP graduate I have met.......Respectful and Respected and everythng that goes along with that.

    I apprecidate your comments. Thank You for posting here. (and on the other board)
     
  3. zonker

    zonker Member

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    Thanks, as always, JasperDog, for sharing your wisdom and experience. We all encourage the best outcomes for KP, and all the special folks who have chosen to take that challenge.
     
  4. jasperdog

    jasperdog Member

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    Zonker and 2013 Parent - Thanks for the thoughts.

    I just re-read my post and I'm really upset with myself for all my spelling errors - I guess I'll have to download another add-in so I can spell check things before I post. I sound "slightly" illiterate. Capt. Arnold would have given that post an "F" and returned it with one simple word/comment/explaination "Proofread?"
     
  5. kp2001

    kp2001 USMMA Alumnus

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    Do you have any references for this statement?

    I was at his change of command in 1998 and he was wearing the uniform of a two star Major General. I could also not find any reference to this in his official Marine Corps biography.
     
  6. kp2001

    kp2001 USMMA Alumnus

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    I came to KP in 1997, at that time we had 5 companies (had been that way for several years prior, not sure on the exact date). For Training officers we had: Regimental Training Officer - responsible for the upperclass, Regimental Training Officer Assistant - responsible for the plebe class, and each company had a Company Training Officer. I don't remember a Battalion level training officer. The CTO was not a new position when I came in, but not sure how far back it went.

    Do they now? There were petty officer positions, but they didn't do squat. The third class were squad leaders for the plebes, but that was pretty much a position in title only and didn't have any real responsibilities/duties.


    Would say this was the way it worked while I was there. The company officers were around for guidance and would have fun with the 1st classmen, but as an underclass I rarely heard from him directly.

    We had IT; however, it was only during Indoc, prior to acceptance day, and then only during Tattoo. We still got stuck, demerits meant something, but overall the punishment definitely changed towards the easier during my 4 years there.

    [/quote]Oh and the BX's ran mast and that meant through a year since there were two officer rotations and 3 battallions six guys were the "judges" for the entire year. The were pretty fair and consistant in their application of the rules, if they weren't their classmates got on them. Also they weren't afraid of any of the commissioned officers and if those guys did something that was felt to be unfair or inconsistant in their appliation of rules for Class III Offenses the BX's fixed it. Also we didn't have Class II write up for Class III offenses - the Commandant did the Mast for Class II'[s and the Superintendant did Class I's. [/quote]

    This was the way it worked during my 4 years there. Has this changed? I can't positively say on the class I's and II's as I never had any direct involvement with them.

    None of your classmates ever snuck their girlfriend's into their rooms????

    This definitely changed while I was there. My plebe year with ADM Mattison saw a much harsher punishment for these type of offenses.

    Couldn't agree more here!

    I would add at least one more change:
    *Get a new slate of Company Officers: one in particular needs to be let go as I believe he has done more harm to the school than most other individuals. His leadership style is abrasive and abusive and it needs to end. What about the possibility of getting a variety of backgrounds such as people who have actually sailed or even some people who have recently left active duty. I would even look at these people being on a 3-4 year rotation.

    and one more:
    *Put all parents on a do not accept calls from list - well except at Patten and for emergencies :shake::biggrin: (okay, only kidding)


    The last ten years have seen a slew of changes to the school, some good, some bad. Some would have liked to have seen Admiral Stewart removed earlier, some would like to still see him there.

    I personally will forever be indebted to him for the leadership he showed me directly and giving me the idea that you can be a leader and still know your people. Admiral Mattison couldn't name more than 2 or 3 midshipmen by name. Admiral Stewart knew every single one.

    Overall I think you make some very valid points and I wish I saw more of this being debated by those who can make the changes.
     
  7. jasperdog

    jasperdog Member

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    KP2001 Since We're both being open here, hopefully this won't come back to haunt me b

    You make some interesting points and observations so I will too. I have some reservations since I'm also the parent of a current midshipman as well as being an Alum but here goes:

    RE:
    Oh and the BX's ran mast and that meant through a year since there were two officer rotations and 3 battallions six guys were the "judges" for the entire year. .... [/quote]

    3) This was the way it worked during my 4 years there. Has this changed? I can't positively say on the class I's and II's as I never had any direct involvement with them.

    4) None of your classmates ever snuck their girlfriend's into their rooms???? ..This definitely changed while I was there. My plebe year with ADM Mattison saw a much harsher punishment for these type of offenses.

    5) I would add at least one more change:
    *Get a new slate of Company Officers: one in particular needs to be let go as I believe he has done more harm to the school than most other individuals. His leadership style is abrasive and abusive and it needs to end. What about the possibility of getting a variety of backgrounds such as people who have actually sailed or even some people who have recently left active duty. I would even look at these people being on a 3-4 year rotation....

    6) The last ten years have seen a slew of changes to the school, some good, some bad. Some would have liked to have seen Admiral Stewart removed earlier, some would like to still see him there.....[/QUOTE]

    On Item 1) I think your observations make my point - why even have the Platoon Leaders, the mentors and teams, etc for the Third Class. It seems currently they (the Third Classman who do this) approach it with such a wide variance of method, etc. that it is meaningless and confusing. Also frankly those midshipmen who crave these types of responsibilities often do so for the wrong reasons, back in the era I was there (1978 -1982) they seemed to be the same as those who I saw the few times I visited my son during his Plebe year. Interesting the nickname for them hasn't changed much started with "Reg and ended with a K" then and still does. Also many of those same mids who want the positions and minimal authority that comes with it struggle academically and don't participate in many other extra-curricular activities either. In other words, they are seldom natural leaders. So do away with all that and the facade that goes with it and let them focus on getting a solid GPA and learning what good leaders need to understand first and foremost - how to follow - for a solid 24 months before bringing up Midn regimental leadership.

    On Item 2) We had the same we just didn't call it IT, nor did we call them DI's - we did "supplemental PT" or "push-ups" and they were called "Pushers" - they had a more official name but it wasn't DI's - we weren't the USMC so didn't feel the need to use those terms. It wasn't "The Grinder" - it was what it is - Barney Square, we didn't need a name that was used at Annapolis or West Point for the area in front of Delano Hall, just because someone might have to march or do some close order drill as punishment. In any case, all that ended at the end of Indoctrination and by the time Acceptance Day rolled around, we didn't get too many breaks from our CX when it came to demerits. Perhaps the BTO turned into the CTO when the number of Comapnies went down from 7 to 5 and Battallions went from 3 to 2 since the size of the Company got bigger. In any case I advocate the smaller unit as a way to train leaders and administrate the Regiment. Not sure when that change was made.

    3) I don't think it has officially changed, what I have seen through my son, is at least some CO's "work the system" and write things up that back when I was there were clearly Class III offenses and per the regulations sure seem like they still should be as Class II's. Of course the good news, I believe is that I think Capt. Fell will have less tolerance for that. It will be interesting to see how those CO's now "go around" the intended system and approach to put in place their own systems and rules at the Company Levels and how that will be dealt with by Admiral Worley and Captain Fell this year.

    4) Yes occassionally a girlfriend was snuck ito a room, and I'm sure occassionally two midshipmen of opposite sexes engaged in "inappropriate conduct" in the barracks but it wasn't all that common. a) We knew of other places around campus that were more discrete. and b) We never had so many folks on Class II or Class I's for this sort of thing as has occured recently. Maybe I really am an "old man" now - but if you're not restricted why do it on campus in anyplace close to where you'd get a Class I anyway. There's plenty of places to go. Personally if I were still a Mid and so inclined, I'd rather risk the Class II 50 & 6 for being OTW then the Class I 100 & 10 for doing it in my room. First hand I can say I never "did it" in my room while I was there nor was tempted to do so.

    5) See my response to item 3) - I agree and those are the CO's I'd be looking to compel to find other means of employment. Not sure how this can be done within the constructs of them being Federal Employees but I agree with your recommendation. The reason this isn't a long term problem at other Federal Academies is because those guys are on Active Duty and they do rotate/PCS.

    6) I think 10 years is just too long for anybody to be Supt. Overall, I liked what Joe Stewart tried to do, though clearly from my points and tone, I think everyone can tell I disagreed with two key things he did - 1) the overall push of the USMC and the resulting increase in graduates going into the Corps in particular and active duty Military in general vice the Maritime Industry immediately upon graduation and 2) the seeming desire and exhibition of that desire on his part to be friendly and paternal with the midshipmen - the increased number of setbacks, etc. which resulted from his kind heart and well meaning efforts lowered standards in my opinion and did not really help results in more qualified folks getting through the program, IMO.

    Acta Non Verba:thumb:
     
  8. kp2001

    kp2001 USMMA Alumnus

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    I wish we could get a group of wide-ranging alumni together to sit down and put something together to present to the admin. The President's council would be a good forum, but I'm afraid there isn't much diversity there.

    Would be a very interesting meeting of the minds.
     
  9. kp2001

    kp2001 USMMA Alumnus

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    TPG:

    Just realized I completely forgot to respond to your post.

    Interesting to say the least.

    I would be interested to hear the entire story. The flag ranks work a little weird at times with there being a finite number of people allowed at certain titles and the ranks changing based on exactly what job they are holding. I don't think it is necessarily uncommon to have a flag officer go back in rank with a change in jobs.

    I don't have the full story, but I would love to hear it.

    Adding more intrigue:

    Here is testimony from March 1998 from him to a House subcommittee where he is a Major General assigned as the Deputy Chief of Staff for I&L.

    http://armedservices.house.gov/comdocs/testimony/105thcongress/3-11-98stewart-byrum.htm
     
  10. trackandfield08

    trackandfield08 USCGA 2014

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    Hey,

    I was just lurking in the USMMA section and decided to read this thread to gain some insight on the USMMA, mostly out of curiosity and potential sports rivalries next year. :smile: I do have a question though. Is IT currently allowed at the Merchant Marine Academy? If so, why not? I can tell you from swab summer after being IT'd by my division cadre for an entire lunch formation for not knowing five meals in advance that it was definitely motivating...we knew five meals in advance for the next four meals straight. I'm not trying to say that the USMMA is "soft" or anything, I'm just curious. Sorry to hijack the thread a bit by the way.

    -T&F
     
  11. zonker

    zonker Member

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    T&F. Good question.
    If the experience of 2012 showed anything, the 'kinder gentler/don't raise your voice' approach is a mixed bag. 2013 stories seem to be exhibiting similar disrespectful tendencies (although it is early).

    In short, 2011 bound together because nothing quite accomplishes that as strongly/quickly as shared misery in the foxhole. 2010 even moreso.

    Besides, in the middle of the ocean, with a storm looming and a tense situation with people, these new mids BETTER exhibit respect under pressure, and decisiveness. The captain certainly isn't going to send them to their rack to write poetry.
     
  12. Is2day4him

    Is2day4him Member

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    i know i have been a voice for bringing back IT and soforth for a while and it's not that i particularly agree with IT or any of the nonsense that i was subjected to as a plebe. i don't think it's a good way of trying to teacher leadership.
    however, it got some positive results.
    the new hands-off, kumbiya approach has yet to yield any positive results as far as i can see. the plebe class as a whole has shown themselves to be uncooperative, unappreciative, and completely disrespectful.
    the old system didn't work, and the new system works even less-- even though it is apparent that the admin is trying to work it out.
    the real problem is, how do we fix it? what's the next step?
     
  13. jasperdog

    jasperdog Member

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    Is2day:

    I would say, I firmly believe the way to fix "it", assuming "it" is a problem relating to two things: a) improving the retention/graduation rate within the desired 4 year program, and b) improving the leadership skills of the graduates so they are better prepared to meet the goals and objectives of the USMMA as leaders with high standards (either in Industry or the Military) - is to lead through example and positively reinforce desired behaviors, vice focusing on negatively disincenting undesired behaviors.

    As much as I have some personal disagreements with various specifics of what I understand to be particular standards and things that are being sought by the new Supt and Administration; I believe those methods are what exactly what they are doing. Specific examples of those methods:

    1) Basically requiring midshipmen with Academic Success (Gold or Silver Stars) to wear them if they want to recieve the additional liberty they've earned. This shows many folks that not just "dweebs" or "regc*@#$" strive for and earn good grades, and it rewards all for doing so.

    2) The new liberty policy basically sets a more uniform standard for liberty for each class, requires mids to take responsibility for their actions or risk, what over time will become a more valued commodity since it's not so openly available and then rewards through incentives desired behaviors. This is not an endorsement on my part of the changed, more restrictive policy, I am just saying the way it's been written it seems to me this was/is the intent.

    3) Getting rid of IT or reducing the use of it after Indoc and more uniformly enforcing the Class III regulations and Mast policy is also clearly an effort to lead by example with more uniform standards in a manner that treats officers in training with more respect and attempts to more clearly hold them accountable for taking responsibility for their own actions in a way that is more respectful of them as persons.

    I would close with change is hard all the time, and those subjected to it are often very resistive. Culture change takes time and is even harder to effect or endure. The current culture is the product of 70 years of tradition overall and for the prior 10 years was driven primarily by one very strong, charismatic, driven individual; in many instances this resulted in at least some degree, a cult of personality. The new administration seems to be trying to change some aspects of the culture that goes back to traditions that predated the prior Supt. while in others they are clearly trying to ensure the resulting updated culture does not result in a cult of a different personality.

    This type of effort usually takes time before any substanative results can be observed. It's also very hard to do without some breakage of good things (as the saying goes "let's not throw the baby out with the bath water"). Hopefully things will be settling down for you guys in the regiment and now the inital changes have been effected additional changes, course corrections will be minor and well considered before being enacted.

    Finally - hang in there - the life after graduation and the preparation you are getting for it are indeed worth it - that is the one statement in this post for which I have at least one real world data point, everything else is just my opinion and we all know about them...

    Acta Non Verba!
     
  14. Is2day4him

    Is2day4him Member

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    good points Jasper!

    i am sure that in the long run what is being changed will be just fine (it probably won't reach any form of normalcy until after 2011 graduates i'm sure), but in the mean time, it's hard to find the motivation to push any of the new requirements when everyone resents them so much.

    i think the most frustrating thing about the changes is that no one has bothered to fill in the regiment as to what is going on, the intent of the changes, how they effect us, etc... as a firstclassman that's expected to lead by example, how can i do that if i don't know what that example is supposed to be? it's clearly shifted from what it used to be, but no one bothered to tell us how.
    bottom line is, there are 248 days till i graduate. i guess it's time to lay low and don't worry about it. :)
     
  15. noworries

    noworries Banned

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    You know Napoleon's corporal probably thought he shouldn't ask what was going on given his station in life.

    Had he known how important it was for Napoleon to know that he knew what was going on. I bet that corporal would have helped Napoleon clarify his plans even more.

    You seem like a pretty smart person. Maybe you should ask what specifically is expected of you so you can easily accomplish the mission and exceed expectations.

    Surely in addition to everything else you have learned one thing remains paramount. Clear communication is a vital to success.

    Wouldn't it make things easier if we knew how to talk to people in a way that they just wanted to do the right thing instead of having resorting to punishments or rely on titles and authority.

    Show me someone who: by their mere presence and knowledge of simple humane nature we naturally want to please ...and I will show you someone whom we shall all learn something about true leadership.

    I think your class is capable of finding a way to influence the newer less experienced and maybe less knowledgeable classes to do what is right.
     
  16. Is2day4him

    Is2day4him Member

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    the problem is that we've tried to get a clear view of what's going on and we're not being met with anything logical. it's truly a mess.

    with that, as a class we're having a difficult time getting through to these kids due to all the red tape. we're not going to put our necks on the lines for plebes that won't listen... we've got too much at stake. essentially the system looks like it's destroying itself. we don't want this, but no one listens to us or really seems to care what we think or how we feel about the changes or the way they're being made.
     
  17. jasperdog

    jasperdog Member

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    Another thought to bear in mind...

    Well unfortunately what I didn't say until now is the number one thing you need to do if you are trying to successfully effect change is communicate, communicate, communicate and work to gather buy in and consensus. That's not something that people who have spent the majority of their careers in heirarchiacal, authoritarian buracracies like the military normally do well. In this regard they've generally (no pun intended) been a bit spoiled as theyve had an out from the sort of passie aggressive/passive resistive behaviors that folks in other organizations, like industry or civil Goverment, have had to deal with, manage and overcome when trying to effect such change.

    As far as whether you should or want to "lay low" for another 248 days, my view is that is certainly your choice. Though from what I've seen of your posts that's probably not your predisposition. Yoe appear intelligent and someone not afraid to to speak your mind, while still repecting other views. I commend you for that and I'd add that if you choose not to "just fly below the radar for the next 248 days" I believe you'll contribute positively to things and you won't in any way be endangering your future.

    Acta Non Verba!
     
  18. Is2day4him

    Is2day4him Member

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    thanks again jasper!
    you called it, i'm not one to lay low and keep my mouth shut. i don't know how well that will work for me after i'm done, but it hasn't gotten me anywhere here. i have tried to call out the nonsense from day one and it's falling on deaf ears.
    i appreciate your encouragement very much! i suppose all i can do is be who i am, try to help how i can and leave the rest to the others. :)
     
  19. jasperdog

    jasperdog Member

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    IS2Day -

    I sent you a PM back
     
  20. KP2013dramamama

    KP2013dramamama Member

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    respect

    It is so sad to hear that there are so many problems going on, especially with the lack of respect or just doing what they should do (plebe class). I know I'm on the outside and don't really know what is going on. We don't hear much from our son b/c he is working so hard. I know my son is motivated, has integrity and is working his hind end off. I just hope he has many like minded classmates to bond with and hope they build each other up.
     

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