CAMP LEJEUNE, NC — “Take me to the brig!” Chesty Puller once demanded during an inspection, “I want to see the real Marines.” Aboard Camp Lejeune, Marines seek to keep that spirit alive in the 21st century with Lance Corporals Course, a professional military education program designed to teach newly-promoted Lance Corporals the fine arts of thievery, insubordination, and slacking off that are essential to the E-3 rank.
The program features an intense six week course in which Marines learn the fundamentals of how the Uniform Code of Military Justice works, and how to properly violate every single article in it.
"Look, we all know that Marines are going to violate the UCMJ no matter what we tell them," said Sergeant Major Jack Mitchell, head of the Camp Lejuene Staff Academy and a resident of Webster Springs, W.Va. "At least this way when they drive through the front gate in their stolen car with a bag of spice in the glove compartment and an underage girl in the trunk they know exactly what we're going to be charging them with."
According to Mitchell, the first Lance Corporals course was an ad hoc program he created in 2010, following publication of the comic strip Terminal Lance.
"I had junior Marines coming to me asking what an oil check was and why getting married would solve all their financial problems," Mitchell told Duffel Blog. "That's when I realized that these Lance Corporal traditions were in danger of being lost. It's up to us to teach a whole new generation what it means to be a Lance Criminal."
He then leaned out the window at his office and called over to a group of Marines in the course hanging out at the smoke pit.
"Hey Marines, don't forget to cut the grass sometime today!"
"Fuck you, old man!" they shouted back. "Come down here and make us!"
"I had to get busted down to PFC twice before I could speak that authoritatively," Mitchell said with a big smile, while pulling out a stack of Page 11's.
As the Marine Corps has grown more diverse, Lance Corporals Course has sought to make itself more relevant. While the course used to be primarily male-oriented, in recent years it has expanded its curriculum to show females the proper way to level false sexual assault accusations against their chain of command and get out of deployment through a brief pregnancy.
Private (Third Award) Martin Dalten, an Instructor originally from Grand Island, Neb., believes Lance Corporals Course can also help Marines improve skills they think they already have, such as the proper use of the Honor, Courage, Commitment Cards.
"Every Marine knows the joke about using your [Honor, Courage, Commitment] cards to break into someone's car or barracks room," said Dalten. "Here at Lance Corporals Course we teach our Marines to be more innovative. How about placing it on the table at a restaurant like you're paying so you can sneak out without arousing suspicion? Or stealing your friend's, then leaving it and his fingerprints behind at a crime scene?"
"A fellow Marine was at a bar getting kind of loud and rowdy, bothering these local girls," said Lance Corporal Terry Westerberg from Tuscon, Ariz. "But using the training I received at Lance Corporals Course, I took out my card and showed it to him. While he was distracted by reading it, I smashed a beer bottle across his face. With him unconscious, it was much easier for me to start bothering those girls."
The program recently celebrated the graduation of Lance Corporals Course 5-13, whose honor graduate was ceremoniously reduced in rank to private and received a one-week vacation in the brig.
"I think this program was amazing," said honor graduate Michael O'Hearn, a native of Grand Rapids, Mich. O'Hearn received the honor for his recent actions at a Toys for Tots event, where he drank so much that he plowed into a school bus on the way home.
"I used to think it was pretty cool to drink a couple beers while underage," O'Hearn said as he was being read his rights. "But now I can nail a sixteen year-old girl, get her pregnant, then skate out of deployment because I'm her legal guardian."