Unwavering Trust

Generally, we’d say the American public, if not much of the world, buys into the U.S. Marine Corps reputation of uber-integrity.

Recently, the commandant of the Marine Corps (CMC) tested that trust by stating, “We ask hard questions. We’re the only service that sits a young American down and asks, ” ‘Have you ever used drugs?’ “

We found that interesting. The Marine Corps is the only service that asks this? No other service screens for drug use? We were intrigued — and suspicious — so we checked into it.

In discussions with the Army and a representative from DoD, we found the other services screen for drug use, too.

So where’s CMC getting his scoop? Was he misquoted? Did he mean something different? (Maybe, but that’s a pretty straightforward statement.) Maybe the Marine Corps sits and asks this question while the other services stand. Maybe the Navy asks it underwater and the Air Force at 10,000 feet. Maybe the other services word the question differently.

Regardless of wording, this is not about drug screening. This is about misleading the public at the expense of others. In this case, CMC has made a statement that implies its sister services have lesser standards. And maybe they do, but such statements should be based on fact instead of what appears to be misinformation. He’s the commandant of the Marine Corps; who’s going to question the statement?

Here’s his complete quote:

We do issue a lot of waivers. I’ll tell you why: “We ask hard questions. We’re the only service that sits a young American down and asks, “Have you ever used drugs?” If they answer, “Yes, I experimented,” we can still take them, but they will require a waiver.” Our waiver percentages are way high compared to others, but it’s not because these people are criminals. It’s that we’re asking hard questions.

They probably approve a sizable portion of those waivers, too.

Though not a recent example, a source who was a Marine Corps waiver officer in recruiting once saw a waiver approved for a prospect who had used marijuana over 1,000 times during a three-year period. Yes, that would seem to be daily use up to the day the prospect walked into the recruiter’s office. Sure, the Marine Corps screens.

Is this scenario unique to the Corps? Probably not, but who are we to judge?

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