I don’t know what’s in the box–But it BETTER NOT be the freakin’ Lieutenant!

I was a boot Lieutenant and I didn’t know shit–or at least that’s how I felt. My XO cleared the company office. Everyone with flat black needed to leave. It was just him and us, the boot Lieutenants.

It was a bad week and, to be honest, I don’t even remember why. I just remember several consecutive days of mistakes. If I wasn’t making a mistake, my peers were and vice versa. So, our XO called the meeting.

We sat around the conference table and his head started swaying like a bobble head–that’s what he did, involuntarily, when he was angry. Clueless, we were cracking jokes because we had no idea what was coming. From nowhere, arose his palpable frustration. He said, “Don’t get put in a fuckin’ box!”

Here’s what that means. Marines will challenge their leaders, especially the new ones. They will take every opportunity to remove the young leader from the equation. Keep him or her at arms length. Effectively allowing themselves (the inmates) to the run the platoon (the asylum) without much of your input. When you’re a new guy, it’s really hard to lead a platoon. You’ve got so much on your plate and you lack confidence. You’re susceptible to the NCO line, “This is how we’ve always done it, sir!”

Sometimes, and that’s a really fine line, that’s an acceptable answer. Not all of the time. Actually, not even most of the time. But the “sometimes” makes you doubt yourself as a young officer. After all, these guys have been around the block.

The words of my XO are vital. If you get put in a box, it’s only a matter of time before it’s gets welded shut.

Have confidence in what you’ve learned. Remember, you, the officer, went through a long schooling pipeline to get here. You have proved yourself worthy of that commission and, no matter what those Marines say, you know what you’re doing. But, if you allow them to undercut your confidence and shut you out of the process, you will be in a box.

Get out of the box.

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