A SERIES OF SCANDALS involving civilian killings in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as mistreatment of prisoners in Iraq, have drawn renewed attention to the way Marines are trained for combat.
"Rules of engagement training, handling detainees, military ethics, these are all areas of instruction that are getting an increased emphasis," said Maj. Paul Merida, who oversees the training of 2nd lieutenants at the Marine Corps' Basic School in Quantico, Va.
"Those are very important things that we have to do well in order to do well in the type of environment we're in," he said in an interview.
Allegations of civilian killings and other abuses against Marines bring to mind the notion of the "strategic corporal," a moniker that captures the widespread significance that the actions of one person can have.
It does not have to be a corporal, Merida said. The concept applies to any Marine. "The guy's called a strategic corporal because not only can he make a good decision that has strategic implications, but he can also make a bad decision that can have strategic implications. He can be a corporal, he can be a sergeant, he can be a lieutenant--that's why these guys have to know these things and be trained how to operate as far as ethics and rules of engagement," Merida said.
At the center of the Corps' renewed attention to ethics is the martial arts program, which has been around for a decade and is required for all Marines. The Marine Corps martial arts program, or MCMAP, to an extent has influenced the service's approach to close quarters combat, morality training, and the concept of employing a "spectrum of force," which typically is taught in law enforcement.
Supporters of the program assert that it better prepares Marines for the moral gray areas that they encounter in combat situations.
"It's a huge...