Top NCO Tells Congress That Marines Don’t Care About Getting Paid

Actual Marines beg to differ

Sgt. Maj. Michael Barrett, the U.S. Marine Corps’ top non-commissioned officer, spoke to a Senate Armed Services committee panel on Wednesday about potential reductions in military benefits.

He’s in favor of them. “I truly believe it will raise discipline,” Barrett said of the proposed military pay cuts. “You’ll have better spending habits. You won’t be so wasteful.”

The war in Afghanistan is winding down. The Pentagon wants to shrink its budget without letting go of expensive new weapons like Littoral Combat Ships, lasers and F-35s.

One way the Pentagon is looking to reduce costs is to “[give] a one-percent pay raise, rather than 1.8-percent raise” plus impose a “slight reduction in housing allowances overtime” and also mandate an “increase in Tricare co-pays and pharmacy fees,” according to the Senate committee.

“Marines don’t run around asking about compensation, retirement, modernization,” Barrett said. “That’s not on their mind. As I talk to thousands of audiences, they want to know into whose neck do we put a boot next.”

Really? War is Boring decided to track down some formers Marines and ask them what they thought of Barrett’s comments.

“It’s one of the most asinine, disconnected, privileged statements I’ve ever heard a Marine utter,” said Alex Diaz, who served in the Marine Corps for eight years, leaving in 2007 as a corporal.

“There are three things you don’t fuck with,” explained Jason Dawson, another ex-Marine. “You don’t fuck with his food. You don’t fuck with his sleep. You don’t fuck with his pay.”

Diaz and Dawson found particularly galling Barrett’s comments about reducing pay to increase disciple. “Bullshit,” Diaz said after reading the transcript.

“These kids get taken away from home, brain-fucked into some crazy Marine Corps culture and then get let loose in some military town—usually far from home and on their own—and just rip loose with irresponsible spending,” Diaz pointed out. “You don’t need much money to go into debt.”

“Education is the only key to curbing junior Marines’ spending habits,” Diaz continued. “As a seasoned Marine, You don’t need people telling you how to spend your money, or that you need less of it to know its worth. That’s juvenile.”

Dawson had a different take on the discipline issue. “What do you think Marines spend most of their money on?” he asked. “Alcohol, tobacco and gas. Most Marines are going to translate this into ‘how will this affect my booze?’ That’s the only way it’ll affect budgeting and responsible spending.”

Dawson also wondered who exactly these “thousands” of Marines were with whom Barrett insisted he had spoken. “You’re a sergeant major. It’s a loaded question,” Dawson said. “No one is going to stand up to the sergeant major. When he approaches anyone, they’re going to lock pop and say exactly what he wants to hear.”

“I’d like to see what Marines he’s talking to,” Dawson added. “People are intimidated and bullied by his rank. He’s a garrison marine. When you’re in the field? You’re God-damned right you talk about your pay.”

“In my 33 years, we’ve never had a better quality of life,” Barrett told the committee. “We’ve never had it so good. If we don’t get a hold of slowing the growth, we will become an entitlement-based, a health care provider-based Corps and not a war-fighting organization.”

“You God-damned better embrace that idea to be a health-care-providing Corps,” Diaz countered, “because that’s the cost of war. And you better fucking believe it’s going to be expensive—and should be, because these kids come home broken for years, if not the rest of their lives.”

The backlash continues on social media, something Barrett has never understood. The Marine Corps Times’ story about the sergeant major’s comments has 200 comments and counting. They’re overwhelmingly negative.

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