Top Marine Says Pay Cuts Will Improve Discipline, Neck-Stomping Skills

Most military bigwigs might beg Congress not to reduce their troops' pay. But they're not the Marines' top enlisted man, who told a Senate panel to slash away Wednesday. His Marines could care less, he said, because they just "want to know into whose neck do we put a boot next."

The comments were part of Sgt. Major of the Marine Corps Micheal Barrett's gung-ho-git-some-HOORAH channeling of R. Lee Ermey in testimony before a Senate armed services subcommittee, in which he "dismissed lawmaker concerns that proposed compensation trims in the Pentagon's fiscal 2015 budget proposal would hurt troops' morale or desire to serve," according to the Marine Corps Times:

"Marines don't run around asking about compensation, retirement modernization," he 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"...

Barrett's comments came in contrast to his counterparts in the other services, who conceded to senators that lower pay raises, scaled-back commissary offerings and smaller housing stipends would be problematic for many servicemembers.

Instead, Barrett argued that the lower quality of life would be beneficial to Marines.

"I truly believe it will raise discipline," he said. "You'll have better spending habits. You won't be so wasteful."

Barrett's hardcore tone is certainly in keeping with the Corps' ethos and his own reputation—he's as gentle as the .50-caliber sniper's rifle that shares his name—but weirdly, it's the entire defense establishment suddenly clamoring for cuts in service members' benefits (even if the sergeant major's calmer comrades admitted most troops would take those cuts hard). Budget reductions are coming to the Pentagon, but they cut so deep there's a guns-or-butter problem, and the brass assures Congress that the military needs new weaponry more than its uniformed workers need a cost of living allowance.

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

It's pointed, and it's political, but more than anything, Barrett's rhetoric is textbook motivational drill instructorese. He may as well have told his Marines "BECAUSE I AM HARD YOU WILL NOT LIKE ME." Though there's a pretty good chance that when they knock off work and they're done training, and out of PT gear, and showered, and standing in the sauce aisle at the base exchange trying to figure out how to feed two kids and a wife on $1,919 a month in base pay, that, yeah, some of Barrett's Marines will not like him.

But Full Metal Jacket is still pretty cool.

[Photo credit: U.S. Navy]