Review A Few Bad Men by Maj. Fred Galvin, USMC (Ret.)

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Wow, what a great book. Some of you may remember the 2007 ambush of an MSOC Company in Afghanistan. To try and summarize: a MARSOC unit was attacked by a VBIED and small arms fire; turret gunners in some vehicles returned fire. Afghans alleged the Marines killed or wounded dozens of civilians and that no Taliban were present. The investigation was atrocious with the word of Afghans forming the balance of the government's case.

Let that last sentence sink in.

A Court of Inquiry was held and the Marines were exonerated despite best efforts of current and future general officers.

A fantastic book with an enraging story. IF (big word) the book contains some bias the facts are those Marines were railroaded by their COC, including Army officers. Utterly disgraceful, but not surprising given the state of our commissioned officers today.
 
If I had to take one issue with the book it would be Maj. Galvin's view on COIN. He repeatedly blasts the concept of COIN and blames it as one of the underlying causes behind the treatment of he and his Marines.

COIN works, we didn't follow a true COIN strategy. We followed a flawed, if not broken, strategy authored by a guy (guys) with no experience in COIN or FID. This strategy/ policy was a bastardized COIN strategy relying heavily upon largely undertrained conventional forces.

Maj. Galvin also characterizes our involvement in Afghanistan from 2001-2006/2007 as keeping our foot on the Taliban's throat and the switch to a COIN strategy is what doomed the war. I reject this because of some things that we did or didn't do in 2005-2006 (and a big one in 2003) which allowed the Taliban's resurgence.

Beyond one man's minor gripes above? Fantastic book.
 
I just read this book. I'm not in the military (yet) but try to educate myself as best I can before going in. I get the impression that careerism has become a significant problem throughout the officer world, which is discouraging. But it's also encouraging to know there are guys like Galvin who are committed to taking care of their people. And that he eventually won the case, all things considered. I hope that my generation can be different and that I'm not just a naive fool.
 
I just read this book. I'm not in the military (yet) but try to educate myself as best I can before going in. I get the impression that careerism has become a significant problem throughout the officer world, which is discouraging. But it's also encouraging to know there are guys like Galvin who are committed to taking care of their people. And that he eventually won the case, all things considered. I hope that my generation can be different and that I'm not just a naive fool.

Don't throw the baby out with the bath water. You can be a careerist and take care of your people and do the right thing. Also, this behavior is the exception and not the rule.

My mother was not a very good mother. She had her moments, though. As I grew up and especially when I started having kids I told myself "I will not be like her with XXXXX, but I will be like her with YYYYY." I also took that approach with people (NCOs and officers) in leadership. People can be a good example and a cautionary tale.
 
problem throughout the officer world
Many sr. NCOs are just ticket-puncher's too.

Just like the politicians they are, it usually all begins with good intentions but you soon find out that you have to check the right blocks to be competitive. As @Devildoc mentioned, you can check the career blocks and still complete your mission/ take care of troops. A lot of "careerists" are just worried about pleasing the boss, piling up the stats, and looking for the next career move.
 
It seems perhaps, the issue is less that "careerist" people exist and more so that the promotion criteria/process tends to incentivize behavior that isn't good for the military as a whole.

If I've gathered anything from Galvin's book (as well as a podcast series that Jocko did on the psychology of military incompetence) it's that genuine mistakes are weighed too heavily in preventing promotions, so some leaders are overly fearful of taking any risks.

And perhaps a candidate's prior subordinates should be consulted with before a promotion to make sure they aren't two-faced. But I'm no assessment expert and I'm sure that can confound things as well.
 
it usually all begins with good intentions but you soon find out that you have to check the right blocks to be competitive.
Reminds me of the Abe Lincoln quote about power (or the prospect of it, I guess) being a true test of character.
 
I just read this book. I'm not in the military (yet) but try to educate myself as best I can before going in. I get the impression that careerism has become a significant problem throughout the officer world, which is discouraging. But it's also encouraging to know there are guys like Galvin who are committed to taking care of their people. And that he eventually won the case, all things considered. I hope that my generation can be different and that I'm not just a naive fool.
Fuckin’ officers
 
the issue is less that "careerist" people exist and more so that the promotion criteria/process tends to incentivize behavior
The professional development models are well- intentioned and make sense in theory. The problem is that it doesn't always ensure that the cream rises to the top. Going to all the cool guy schools, recruiting, Drill Sergeant duty, etc doesn't make you better than an NCO who spent all his time in his MOS, in green tab positions.
 
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