Book Learnin’ for Young Marines (and the curious)

Last Saturday the Marine Corps Recruiting Office in Dover was kind enough to come to the gym with over 35 young men and women who are interested in joining the Marine Corps.  We have had a couple groups like this in the gym and you can read more about what we did HERE.  

When I have the opportunity I like to point potential future Marines in the direction of good sources of knowledge in their future endeavours.  It usually involves me flashing a book in front of them when they are completely exhausted and don’t even know where they are.  I promised the last group I would share a picture on our facebook page of the books so they could check it out later.  I have decided to do them, and anybody curious enough to read this post one better.  

Here is my reading list for young Marines and those aspiring to become Marines:

  1. Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey.  Why am I pushing a money book?  The way you manage the money that comes in on the 1st and the 15th will either destroy you or be your greatest opportunity.  No joke.  I have seen plenty of guys get divorced and money issues are the number one reason.  If you end up in crazy debt it can affect your security clearance and end your career.  You can’t focus on your job if your personal life is a total mess.

“Alec, I’m not a moron with my money”.  You probably are and you don’t even know it.  If you aren’t willing to learn about the subject you are probably going to end up in a platoon office explaining why you bought a lemon beemer with a fresh coat of paint and fake rims worth $6k that you paid $18k for and financed for 6 years at 35% “to build your credit”.  Even if you think you have it all figured out, read the book to learn about common money myths so you can talk your dummy roommate out of a bad decision.  It is sad to say but virtually every predatory lender, rip off car dealer, and any other hook and crook will be within 1 mile of every gate of every base you are ever stationed at.  They know what you make and and they know what you like.  Be prepared.

Stay out of debt, live way within your means, save and invest.  18 year olds with steady paychecks make notoriously bad decisions with their money.  So do their young officers that really should know better.  Have some humility and read this book.  Because of the miracle of compound interest your young years are extremely valuable and you have a great opportunity.  I borrowed this book from a buddy my first deployment, read it, and used my deployment cash to get out of debt.  I wouldn’t own a gym if I hadn’t done that.  

2. The Passion of Command: The Moral Imperative of Leadership by Colonel B.P. McCoy.  Okay now I am getting into the military specific stuff.  This short book is a primer on how to prepare an infantry battalion for battle.  It is a must read for anyone who wants to be an officer but I also think it is worth a read for young enlisted Marines.  Col McCoy preaches brilliance at the basics.  Great units are comprised of great Marines who do the basics with a high degree of proficiency and habit.  The last chapter, The Warrior’s Stone Mask, will prepare you for the adjustment of coming home.  The concepts in the book will make you a better Marine and a better leader.

3. The Question Behind the Question by John C. Miller.  I really wish I came across this book when I was a young Lieutenant.  The tagline on the cover is “practicing personal accountability at work and in life”.  Here is what this book is for anyone who works in the government or other large bureaucracy: a sanity pill.  While the military looks efficient and badass in movies you are still part of the government.  You will encounter your share of mickey mouse BS.   The concepts in this book will help you replace unproductive complaining with productive action.  Here’s why I wish I got this as a young lieutenant: I guarantee there were times I was sitting around bitching about some stupid decision up at my battalion while one of my Sergeants was bitching about some stupid decision in the platoon, while one of his Lance Coconuts (not a typo haha) was bitching about some stupid decision in the section.  QBQ helps you quit complaining and get moving on what you can do at your level.  

4. The Complete Guide to Navy SEAL Fitness by Stewart Smith.  I don’t care what you want to do in the Marine Corps you need to train like you want to try out for MARSOC or Recon.  One of my college roommates is a SEAL and my other roommate is in Recon (making me the wussy baby out of the three of us!).  The level of fitness you need for those communities takes years.  If you aren’t interested now, you may not be ready when the opportunity presents itself and you become interested.  

The other reason to work up to elite levels of physical standards: it will make you a better warfighter.  Every Marine is a rifleman, meaning even if you are a diesel mechanic, you are ready to drop your wrench, grab a rifle, locate, close with, and destroy the enemy.  Doesn’t sound plausible?  On my second deployment aviation maintenance Marines repelled a heavily armed, well coordinated attack on the airfield.  The attackers made the mistake of assuming they were hitting a soft target.  They paid dearly at the hands of Marines who embodied a warrior mindset.   It all starts with a physically prepared body.  

Be a reader.  These selections are in addition to The Commandant’s Reading List

Thanks for reading!  Likes and Shares are great!

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