Six Marine lieutenants face separation after allegedly cheating on land navigation course

| August 9, 2018 | 70 Comments

Since were were talking about Navigation anyway, I thought THIS would fit in nicely.

 

The old military stereotype that lieutenants are inept at land navigation has circulated for ages.

But a recent incident at The Basic School — a course for newly commissioned officers aboard Quantico, Virginia — may be giving it added credence.

Six officers are now facing expulsion from the Corps following allegations of cheating during the land navigation portion of training at The Basic School, or TBS.

Marine Corps Training and Education Command, or TECOM, described the incident as “misconduct” in an emailed statement to Marine Corps Times.

“The six officers are being processed for administrative separation,” TECOM said.

It seems this is not the first time, I doubt it will be the last.

In May 2010, 13 junior officers were booted from the Corps after Marine officials found the young lieutenants had used cheat sheets to help them locate the land navigation points.

Ok, I must come clean about the Lt. and map thing.  By the time I became a Platoon Sgt I had already been to most training areas a dozen times.  Chicken Road was no mystery to me.  Roaming around 29 Palms CA can be daunting for anyone the first time.   I might have let a few of them wonder around a bit, but I only knew where I was because I had been there a dozen times while he had been pissing his life away with all that educational nonsense.

I may have been lucky, but I served with some fine Officers.  The entire story is HERE

In a related story, it’s the job of the Platoon Sergeant to look after his Lt. so he can grow a pair and become a fine Officer and unrepentant Leader of Warriors.

There is a great story on how a responsible Platoon Sergeant burps and changes his Lt. HERE

 

 

 

Category: Real Soldiers

Comments (70)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Daisy Cutter says:

    Take note of their names, they will show up here on TAH in a few years.

  2. Veritas Omnia Vincit says:

    Well I suppose that will lead to series of new and wildly entertaining memes surrounding the relative lack of value of a second lieutenant….

  3. sj says:

    Posted here before that any success I had in the Army had its roots with my first Platoon Sgt in the 82nd. I still remember the “Would the LT like for me to….” (shit that I had ever thought to do and should have).

  4. 5th/77thFA says:

    Dumbasses. Would it not be better to try & try again, is there a ‘toon SGT to help guide them on the training course? How about a shifty member of the E-4 Mafia that could be bribed/talked into helping them out. Or is it that cheaters gotta cheat?

    • Graybeard says:

      My youngest brother was a Sgt. in the 82nd, and tells of a 1LT who was so determined that HE was in charge, he would not let his Sgts look at the map when he had them lost in a swamp at night.

      They ended up sleeping wrapped around trees to stay out of the water, then the Sgts liberated the map from the idjit, sent some privates to where the trucks were waiting and had them come meet them.

      Some of these wanna-be ossifers think they have to do it all themselves.

      • Ex-PH2 says:

        It’s when they do NOT listen to their sergeants that they get into trouble.

        • UpNorth says:

          Hell, 2nd LTs could save themselves a lot of embarrassment if they’d even listen to their Sp4 drivers. My brand new butterbar got us lost on the way to an alert bivouac that I’d driven to at least 8 times. He insisted on reading the map and giving directions, though he’d never been there. He turned a 40 minute trip into a 10 hour drive through the German countryside.

    • E4 Mafia For Life. says:

      It would definitely take a bribe or a free pass on the next Article 15.
      I had NO love for the butter bars. We had one that came straight out of OCS to the desert. We found out quickly that he would get us killed when we crossed over.
      He received no help from The Shadow Warriors.

  5. AnotherPat says:

    Speaking of Lost & Found and GPS as well as following Hondo’s and AWEd1 lead:

    “Dog tag returned from North Korea belonged to Army medic”

    https://www.militarytimes.com/news/your-military/2018/08/08/dog-tag-returned-from-north-korea-belonged-to-army-medic/

    “The lone military identification tag that North Korea provided with 55 boxes of human remains last month belonged to Master Sgt. Charles H. McDaniel, an Army medic from Indiana who was killed in the opening months of the Korean War.

    The Army on Wednesday handed McDaniel’s slightly corroded dog tag to his sons, Charles Jr. and Larry, who were so young when their father perished that they have little memory of him.

    Charles, 71, told reporters he was moved to tears when he got the phone call at home in Indianapolis last week informing him that his father’s dog tag had been returned.

    “It’s a very mixed, jumbled moment for us,” he said, referring to the emotions he and his brother feel so many years after having grown up without their biological father, never knowing for sure what happened to him in a war many Americans have forgotten.

    At least we have this,” he said, pointing to the dog tag, imprinted with the name, Charles Hobert McDaniel, and a service number.

    Charles Jr., of Indianapolis, told reporters he has no recollection of what his family was told when his father was reported missing in action.

    Larry, 70, of Jacksonville, Florida, said he has no memory at all of his father, but “I’m proud of what he did and what he accomplished.”

    Bring Them All Home.

  6. 2/17 Air Cav says:

    Boot six LTs for that? I’m sorry but if that’s all there is to it, then that’s messed up. I’m hoping that there is more to it, like each was given the opportunity to come clean but lied. Without that, six careers ruined, families hurt…the punishment doesn’t fit the crime. I’d like to know how the cheating was accomplished. Did one of them paint rocks? Was there a cough and sneeze code?

    • Denis Williams says:

      AC, I heartedly and respectfully disagree. If an officer will cheat, which is lying because one is saying one did something the way it was supposed to be done when one did not, on something so simple and minor and core to the experience, that is a character statement. And that character is unworthy of being an officer who will potentially lead men or make the decisions that will lead men into life or death situations.

      Is that consequence severe for a simple or single lie? Perhaps. But they faced the same consequence of discharge for cheating on a test in college. Does everybody cheat in college on a test, particularly in a class that is not in their major? No. A lot do, but again, there’s that character thing showing it’s hindquarters.

      In the linked article is the perfect example of what I’m saying. The NFL player who got caught whined and tried to fight his discharge because, but, but, but, everybody is doing it. Worse are the quotes about complaining that the maps are outdated, it is hard, it is a difficult skill or concept to master… In other words, excuses for poor decisions, refusal to take responsibility for the consequences of actions…all the character traits the Corps – and every branch – needs less of, particularly in the Officer ranks.

      Sorry AC but Officer is an earned title. Honor is one of those things that is earned as well. You don’t get one without the other. And if you can’t act with honor on the little things…

    • Mick says:

      The final event in Land Navigation at TBS is a graded event, and cheating on a graded event at TBS is considered to be an “integrity violation”. That’s why these 2ndLts are being administratively separated.

      Administratively separating Marine officers for “integrity violations” during training is nothing new.

      Way back in days of yore, a TBS classmate of mine was caught cheating on the final navigation exam while we were in Aviation Indoctrination at NAS Pensacola (we were taught the “old school” method of Naval Aviation dead-reckoning navigation over water using airspeed, a compass, a clock, winds at altitude, a plotting board, a hand-held mechanical flight computer that operated like a circular slide rule, a.k.a. “Whiz Wheel”, and the aircraft carrier’s PIM). The final navigation exam was held in a classroom and each Student Naval Aviator was required to navigate along a simulated route over water and ultimately find the aircraft carrier. It was a very difficult exam, and any early navigation errors compounded themselves along the route. My TBS classmate was caught looking across the aisle at another student’s work; he was immediately removed from the classroom and was dropped from the Aviation Indoctrination program THAT DAY for having committed an academic “integrity violation”.

      He was subsequently administratively separated from the Marine Corps. He wasn’t sent to serve in the infantry or any other MOS. He was out of the Marine Corps in a matter of weeks.

    • Steve says:

      Just one perspective, but this offending isn’t about 6 LTs messing around doing normal 22-year-old mischief.

      Cheating is an integrity issue. It doesn’t surprise me that officers are held to a much higher ethics standard.

      Granted it does seem harsh, but the way I figure, maybe they also lied about it when questioned. Dunno.

      My $0.02.

    • CWORet says:

      Land Nav is a graded event at TBS. Academic dishonesty is the easiest (and dumbest) way to get canned from the Corps. We had a Warrant get the boot for cheating on the PFT (pullups) and lying about it. He was still there on legal hold when we graduated.

      • 2/17 Air Cav says:

        I get the integrity issue. I truly do. My beef is with the punishment. Give me 15 minutes and I’ll come up with 50 examples of where a lack of integrity resulted in a lesser disciplinary action, starting with the storied cheating scandals from West Point, Annapolis, and Colorado Springs. Hey, I wonder if any of the USNA cheaters were involved in signing off on these actions.

        • 11B-Mailclerk says:

          Maybe the lesser punishments are part of the problem?

          How many articles did Jonn post of officers making a spectular “crash and burn”, where we were posting various WTF comments….

          Weed the shitbags out as 2LTs, and they wont become the disgraceful “officers” we all mock.

    • West Point 1987 says:

      Integrity’s a big deal in the officer corps of all services…put it this way, if an LT would lie about this (knowing he’d just get re-tested), what would he do when it really hurt to tell the truth or do it right? That’s where folks get killed or screwed over. LT reports Phase Line Red, but he knows he’s way short of it (doesn’t want the Old Man to jack him up for not keeping up)…Old Man orders up a fire mission for where he thinks the platoon is, but actually drops stuff right on them. You can dream up a lot examples of an officer lying and killing his soldiers. Lying/integrity is a zero defect thing for officers, so good riddance.

      Cool Land Nav story…when I went through Night Land Nav in the Army Infantry Officer Basic Course, we lost a classmate…we were out in the woods at Ft. Benning all night on line searching for this nimrod, only to find him sleeping on the bus early the next morning (he never actually went out on the course, just blew it off, thinking he could copy someone else’s points). Total shit bag, he luckily found his way to Ft. Living Room and no lucky platoon had to suffer carrying his worthless ass.

      • 2/17 Air Cav says:

        “Lying/integrity is a zero defect thing for officers, so good riddance.” And then there’s the West Point cheating scandal of 1976. 2/3 of the cadets who were shit canned came back after a 6 month hiatus.

        • West Point 1987 says:

          Yes, not our brightest moment (and there were many other incidents, too). The 1951 scandal was even worse, and more corrupt in terms of the execution. The whole process for enforcing the Honor Code (and the possible sanctions if guilty) changed as a result of the 1976 incident…as well as the Pelosi silencing, too. There’re some good articles online that lay out why the Army was forced to let many of them come back in (“re-apply”), and honestly a lot of them probably shouldn’t have been forced to resign in the first place. Due process, sanctity of the board, rules of evidence, etc. were really messed up. But I stand by my contention that lying cannot be excused in an officer. The stakes are too high.

  7. 26Limabeans says:

    Silva compass and a sidearm.
    The rest is intuitive.

    • rgr769 says:

      Bought a Silva compass (they are the best) just before Ranger School and still have it; also carried it in the field in the Viet of the Nam. In a mech unit in Germany, a compass is useless in a vehicle. Also, navigating from the cupola of an APC (vehicle) with a topo map at 15 to 20 mph is a whole different ball game, as is doing it in an aircraft.

      • West Point 1987 says:

        My uncle was a CPT in a tank unit during WWII, and he gave me a German tanker’s compass he took off a tanker he’d killed…it looked and functioned like our Army lensatic compass, but it didn’t need to be charged to glow (radioactive as hell) and it worked perfectly fine in a buttoned up M113 or M60. My PSG borrowed it one night to plot our road march route, and I heard a loud “plink” as he broke the cover off trying to open it to full 180 degrees…the German WWII compass only opened to 90 degrees. I used it for several years after that, but lost it at some point.

  8. Animal says:

    I’m wondering the same thing. When I did the course in 92 I don’t remember seeing but maybe two or three other Lt’s while I was on the course. And it’s an all day course. I don’t remember anyone failing. I spent one of my Saturday libo’s being assigned to a poor Lt from NYC to help him with his land nav. He failed the first time, but passed the second. We even had a Lt pass the limiting boundary and walk for another 3 hours. He eventually had to knock on someone’s door and get a farmer to bring him back to TBS.

  9. Slick Goodlin says:

    I thought this old saw only applied to enlisted:

    Enlisted men are stupid, but extremely cunning and sly, and bear considerable watching.”

  10. Green Thumb says:

    Later, Shitbags.

  11. Jeff LPH 3, 63-66 says:

    After yesterdays comments about land navigation using lensatic compasses,topographic maps and plastic grid overlays, I took a beating, so I’ll just keep my mouth shut on this one. LOL

    • Graybeard says:

      FWIW, I enjoyed that sub-thread, Jeff.

      I have some of those tools in a home-made map case with the USGS topos for various AOs.

      I’ve had a great deal of fun in the past taking Venturers (think old Explorers of the BSA, but outdoors only and on steroids) on orienteering competitions. Lots of good skills there.

      • Jeff LPH 3, 63-66 says:

        Graybeard; When you mentioned the map case, I remember that I had the topo map covered in a plastic wrap and I used a grease pencil to mark off the overlay grid mil tics onto the map. We had to shoot an azimith in the direcion of the compass point where our waypoint was and then count our strides while walking and one of the guys had a bead counter for each click we walked and if there was an obstruction, we had to count our stride around the obstruction then walk back the same number of strides that we walked on the other side to keep the same azimuth reading. We did this on our Fort Drum 2 week deployment when I was in the NYARNG 75-77. Amazing how the memory comes back when someone brings something up from the past and yes, I remember Capt. Sherrow from our unit up in Huntington LI, NY who was brought up on this site a number of months ago. Silva compasses top of the line and were better than the Mil issued and a lot of Inf. guys bought them.

  12. Just An Old Dog says:

    I was stationed at TBS from 86-88 and I recall cheating at land Nav happening at least once or twice by Lts. I don’t recall the exact outcome.
    I think what happened was a few of them went out on the course on non training weekends and got the coordinates and numbers off the boxes at the checkpoints.
    I imagine with cell phone and GPS technology its a lot easier to figure out a way to cheat now.

  13. Skyjumper says:

    I posted this once before, but I think it’s worth reposting because of this story.
    Never fails to make me laugh, no matter how many times I see it.

  14. Bobo says:

    In my day, cheating on the land nav course consisted of a few whispers among the LTs moving between points of description of the point (it’s halfway up the spur tip) or an occasional bang or two on the picket with the clicker so the others nearby could zero in on it.

  15. FatCircles0311 says:

    Happens a lot on the enlisted side as well. I actually got into with my partner at ITB over it. Lazy marines going to be lazy marines. It’s why in the fleet you only get a couple in the entire platoon that can read a map let alone land nav at all. Then one in each squad gets fucked over doing it for the rest of the time they are in. I was that guy. If an officer was “leading” 99% of the time we got lost. Cheating must be the norm at basic school and these ones that were caught are just being punished because they suck at getting away with it.

  16. Garold says:

    29 Stumps; one helluva place to do a land nav I suppose. If I recall they do have a 500 meter range though. I used to practice there when I used to shoot competition back in the late ’80’s.

  17. Ex-PH2 says:

    If they cheated, what did they do?

    All these cheaters sound as if they’d get lost in the middle of a cornfield that’s been combined, on a low hilltop, where you can see in every direction, because they can’t tell east from west, or north from south.

    I have known people who said they themselves could let lost in a brown paper bag, even if they had a map and a compass.

    • Mason says:

      Training new officers at the PD, I had people who got lost in the city. A city they grew up in and had worked for previously!

      Some people just have zero sense of direction. These are the ones who follow their GPS’s directions to drive into a lake or a closed road.

  18. OldCorpsTanker72 says:

    We had a couple of lieutenants go missing during a night land nav exercise at TBS back in ’72. The whole company had been called out around midnight to go look for them when they finally showed up – having just got back from the Officers’ Club. Seems they’d been to the eye doctor earlier that day, their eyes had been dilated, and they were excused from the exercise but had not bothered to tell anyone.

    Night Land Nav at TBS was a hoot. There was one particular route that had a small cliff – 5 or 6 foot drop-off – in the middle of it. You’d hear someone coming along, then a shout, then a thump, then cussing. Funny as hell, especially since it had just happened to you a few minutes earlier.

    • Dustoff says:

      There’s a joke here somewhere…
      Night land nav course. 2nd LT is lost (does have a radio with him). Static, then a voice comes over the radio…
      Voice: “What’s your location LT”?
      LT : Looks up at the sky, keys the mike and says- “Directly under the big dipper”

  19. thebesig says:

    Junior Officer gets lost at Land Nav, gets mistaken as Big Foot. :mrgreen:

    https://thisainthell.us/blog/?p=70180

  20. USMCMSgt (Ret) says:

    I’ll go out on a limb and say the punishment of getting separated for cheating on the land nav test is appropriate (and appropriate for cheating on any other exam)…

    …especially since day 1, the LT’s have heard it repeated – time and time again – if you lie or cheat at TBS, you’re gone.

    If a person lies about a little thing and get away with it, they’ll lie about big things.

    Violate that trust – you get shit canned. Plain and simple.

    It starts early. These 6 aren’t scapegoats. They’re examples that the TBS staff (and the Marine Corps) is serious about the type of officers it wants to produce, and that officers are supposed to be held to a standard – as are all Marines.

    Those standards are learned at OCS and is supposed to be reinforced throughout a career.

    I suspect a little voice inside their head told them they were fucking up, but they ignored that warning and went on to cheat anyway.

    They’re still young and can fall back on their college degrees, get jobs and get on with their lives. The Corps doesn’t need them.
    Good riddance.

    • Thunderstixx says:

      Imagine seeing that on a resume’ with some old timer like me or other former enlisted man reading the resume’ and asking about why you were separated early from the USMC.
      I would love to interview that guy !!!
      I get some Lt’s when I drive for Uber and carry a compass just to show it to them and tell them that it is illegal for them to touch them and if I do let them touch them First Sergeant Carmichael will put a trash can over my head and bang on it like he did on a couple of AWOL’s from Ft Wainwright…
      I taught land nav in the courses at Huckleberry Creek and always loved it when I would yank the map away from a 2Lt and give it to a PFC that knew, like I did how to work the map !!!
      I used to embarrass the shit out of them, it was hilarious !!!

      • USMCMSgt (Ret) says:

        Yeah, answering that question and giving details on a job interview would be tough.

        If the details were to come out, I’d be listening to how contrite the applicant was with the explanation – or listen to determine if they brushed it off as “no big deal”.

        Some folks just don’t understand how a momentary lapse in reason can have long term effects and negatively impact opportunities.

  21. rgr769 says:

    I would like to know how one cheats on a land nav course, especially a night one. I did over a half dozen of them in my training, and since the way-points and their order for the individual students was different, one wonders how it is possible to cheat. But then we didn’t have any GPS or other technology, only a map and a lensatic compass.

    • Just An Old Dog says:

      Not really that hard. When I was at TBS the courses went from short to pretty big, but they were in the same area. The areas were marked with different color ammo cans and each can would have color or letter coded “answers
      ” on it so you could use them for several different tests.
      A sneaky cheat could simply record the grid and ALL the numbers of the boxes he found while on training exercises. If he got a graded course with one of those grids he had an answer.

  22. SFC D says:

    PLDC, JAN 1990, Camp Jackson. SPC D and his battle buddy are accused of cheating on the land nav course. Why are we accused? We finished way too fast. Why did we finish fast? We read the OPORD. OPORD said “find these points”. It did NOT say “find these points in the order listed”. What SPC D and his buddy did, was to sit down when time started, and plot every point assigned. We then started with the closest point, and followed the points in a loop right back to the start point. Everybody else plotted their points one at a time, and spent twice as much time running up and down a big icy mountain. We finished nearly an hour ahead of the next pair. Work smarter, not harder.

  23. USAF (Ret) says:

    So there I was; following a group of students doing a night nav course. I was a dark no moon and heavy cloud cover nights. So dark you could hit yourself in the face trying to read what time it was.

    I was with a group of 5 or 6 students at the rear of the line following the group. Since it was so dark I had to keep a close eye on the student in front of me. I was monitoring my compass and we were doing a good job of staying on heading and moving at a good pace.

    Then we stopped moving. I figured that the lead student was just checking his compass; but after a long few minutes I decide to go forward and find out what was holding us up.

    Went to the student in front of me and asked: “What was happening?”

    He said: “just waiting for the person ahead of him to move.”

    Went to the next guy and repeat; did this until I got to the 2nd person in line. Asked him the question and got the same answer. But he was pointing at a tree.

    Discovered that as the 2nd person was looking down to get his canteen the lead person stepped around the tree that was in front of him. The Lead then took a heading and starting walking. When the 2nd person looked back up he saw the tree and assumed it was the Lead. Remember it was a dark night. So we were waiting for that tree to start walking.

    Now Lead did not look back to see if he was being followed; he just kept walking until he got to the check-in point. He then turned around and saw no one being him; but did what he was told and stayed put. But I did not know this; hope that it happened but did not know.

    So got everyone else in a line-abreast formation, got my heading and we walked. About a half hour later everyone was back together.

    Had the students do a little remedial PT, watered them up and then resumed our little walk in the dark.

  24. Ex-PH2 says:

    If bad weather occurs ahead of the Land Nav test start, and parts of the trails are swamped and full of poisonous critters like water moccasins or even nastier, swarms of mosquitoes carrying encephalitis, are these students expected to use some common sense and find a way to safely get past those spots and still finish the course?
    Just askin’….

  25. Devtun says:

    These LTs could be on the hook for paying back Uncle Sam a prorated sum of the cost of their edumakayshun (Service Academy / ROTC scholarship). I’m guessing somewhere in the low six figure range – yikes!

  26. Roger in Republic says:

    Anyone who cheats or needs too is not officer quality material, no matter what the branch. Owing to the fog of war being lost is the normal state in the field. The skill is getting unlost, and there is no cheating on that.

    • USMCMSgt (Ret) says:

      Absolutely.

      Reading a compass and orienting a map is a perishable skill.

      A little off topic, but years ago I was surprised to learn that Marine recruits were shooting with optics already mounted on their weapons.

      I don’t have a problem with optics because there’s value in them, but optics can go bad – and in places where they can’t be replaced right away.

      It seems to me the youngsters should first learn to aim and shoot with iron sights and know how to make adjustments for elevation and windage. Having that knowledge would come in handy in case mounted optics take a shit.

      YMMV.

  27. 2/17 Air Cav says:

    I don’t want to reply to just one person on this, because I could easily choose from several who believe that canning the young officers is the appropriate response to their cheating. My issue is the punishment. I think it too harsh–unless there is more to the account than was released. So, let’s back up about 10 years. The then president said this: “As of today, patriotic Americans in uniform will no longer have to lie about who they are in order to serve the country they love.” And that’s precisely what thousands of officers and EMs had been doing: lying. Should they all have been canned, those who came out of the closet after the repeal of DADT? After all, they lied and they did so for their own benefit, to remain in the military. Or do we get to pick and choose good lies and bad lies?

    • 11B-Mailclerk says:

      Did those folks -lie- “No Sir I an not homosexual., of did they just not volunteer that they were? Ten years ago the policy was not to ask or tell, as I recall. But roll the date back to “no way” to fit your question.

      Did the Guys cheat on a skill qualification?

      Do we crunch the folks who were adulterous? Were they “liars” for not fessing up? Adultery is/was also a no-no per UCMJ.

      Did they commit the mortal sin of -being caught- cheating?

      Much of service requires at least turning a blind eye to stuff. Some folks do a better job than others of navigating those rocks.

      But if we just say “Oh, they cheated. Smack them lightly and recycle them.” Well, things get messy kinda fast, eh?

      Because there is always going to be “that guy” who takes it one step further for their own ass. Not for the men, not for the mission, but for their own ass.

      Sneaky versus liar. Does the act in question -build- trust- or -destroy- trust?

      Tricky……

  28. nbcman54ACTUAL says:

    The only thing worse than a 2LT is a 3LT. I have fond memories of a group from Hudson High who Summer-Camped with us on the airfield in Fulda. Had one in particular who demanded salutes from virtually everyone he met. Then came the day that he met a “junior” WO1 Huey pilot. That “junior” WO1 was once an E7 who got into flight school and was now enjoying a life of leisure as a US Army Aviator.

    I think you can still see the crater from space…

  29. Mick says:

    Perhaps this will bring a different perspective to this discussion on whether or not lying/cheating is really that big of a deal or not.

    If you were a Marine infantryman up on the pitching, rolling flight deck of an LHD getting ready to board a Marine Corps CH-53 or MV-22 to fly out into harm’s way on a long range night raid in marginal weather (pilots and aircrew on NVGs), would you want any of the Marine Aviators or Aircrewmen to have lied/cheated their way through flight training?

    • USMCMSgt (Ret) says:

      Nope, I wouldn’t…just as I wouldn’t want a missileman (person?) who’s down in a silo somewhere in Montana, North Dakota or anywhere else who cheated on their certification/qualification test.

      The comparisons could go on, but you’re right.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *