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Speech on Armory Training1
[Early 1935?] Chicago, Illinois
General Keehn has scheduled me to discuss armory training and the program for next summer. A year ago it would have been very difficult for me, to a certain extent impossible for me to offer many practical suggestions. I would have been compelled to theorize, because I knew little or nothing of the Illinois National Guard, except that I was concerned with operations of the Thirty-third Division in the Meuse-Argonne and checked up on its splendid work by several personal inspections during the battle. . . .
I do not intend to enter into any technical details regarding training. The instructors with your organizations can provide that information. I wish to talk primarily about the mental attitude in which the training is approached, for that determines the results. That represents a fact; training procedure too often merely represents a form.
The present position of the National Guard in this country is practically that of the Regular Army twenty years ago. We have fewer regular troops today and a military problem vastly greater than before the World War. The National Guard, as demonstrated by the recent New Jersey First and Second Army Maneuvers, must be prepared to take the field straight from the armories and troop trains, possibly without a day for ordinary training activities after mobilization. Efficiency must therefore be increased, particularly as regards staffs and commanders from the battalion upwards. No increase in training time is practical of arrangement. Therefore, whatever is to be done must be done within the hours now scheduled.
The practical proposition is, what, if anything, can be done to secure this absolutely necessary increase in efficiency? Is it possible of realization? Yes, it is, decidedly so, but it depends first of all upon your mental attitude, and then on the perfection of certain details.
Take the armory training period as an example, and it is the all important example, because little more can be accomplished in the summer field training, in fact, normally less than was accomplished last summer under its very strenuous schedule.
How can this armory training be so conducted as to produce a positive advance over previous years, in general efficiency? By the effective use of every minute of the available time, everything conducted in a manner to inculcate the military, that soldierly spirit, which breeds dependability.
Probably the most effective disciplinary influence, considering the shortness of the time involved, is the promptness, the exactitude and smartness with which an organization “falls in” for drill. Long close order drills, particularly where the movements are not diversified and every error is not immediately and exactly corrected, do not promote discipline, often are actually destructive of discipline.
If I am right on these points, then the thing to do is carefully to cultivate the habit (and requirement) of getting down to business in a very formal and exact manner, and from that moment to the conclusion of the drill period, have every individual in the armory understand that a soldierly bearing, smartness and military courtesy must govern. If it is a NCO School, don’t permit the casual grouping of the men. Have the detachment fall in, march to the room and be reported in a strictly military fashion to the instructor. Don’t permit gossipy groups of officers on the floor while someone struggles with drill or instruction. Don’t permit first names to be bandied about during that hour-and-a-half. Inculcate every man with the idea that when eight o’clock strikes, all are on military duty and everything is to be done in a military manner.
You want your men to respond promptly to your orders. You cannot do this if you set an example of ignoring the orders you receive. If your staff, or your lieutenants, or even your clerks, know that you treat written instructions or orders from higher up, very casually or entirely ignore them, the entire organization quickly becomes infected with a similar contempt for the sanctity of a military order—and you will reap the whirlwind some day.
The two worst habits, in a military sense, you can follow are to ignore orders from above and issue orders or instructions which you do not require absolute compliance with.
Never give an order—and by this I mean even what you may say informally to a staff officer, or to a clerk—that you do not intend to see carried out. The armory is the place to inculcate that military spirit which makes everything possible. Too often it is the place where the bad habits are developed by example and by carelessness.
You cannot train without planning. You cannot impart instruction without preparation. Training plans in the past have too often been merely so much paper, for which credit was taken as though responsibility for that training had been completely discharged. Instruction has been a failure and a waste of time, due to lack of forethought and preparation.
A common weakness in organizations is poor command and staff technique. Commanders of companies will devote the drill period to problems of administration, leaving the supervision or conduct of training to the lieutenants. The government provides drill pay for instruction work, and administrative pay for another purpose. The latter often submerges or emasculates the former.
Staff officers are too seldom used by commanders for the purposes intended. Each commander has the obligation to train his staff—that is, to use it and not do all the work himself or, more frequently, to absorb himself in administrative work that should have been decentralized among the staff, while he supervised the training.
Gentlemen, you make or break your organization during the armory drill period.
In my opinion there is time for a fifty per cent increase in efficiency without an extra hour or a different type of officer or soldier. And I am not merely of the opinion, I know that the men greatly prefer to belong to a highly disciplined, hard-working, business-like organization. They are proud of it. They boast of it. The stricter the better—within the prescribed hours. Later on comes the social or diversional side. But they should never be mixed with the business end.
It is all in the state of mind, the mental attitude, and not in the lack of time.
If a man is not a leader, there is little that can be done about it. Plans, programs, regulations have no effect. But if he is a leader, and the majority of the commanders must be leaders or they could not have gained their present positions, and he decides that these improvements can be made, they will be made, without a shadow of a doubt. . . .
Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, Speeches, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.
Document Format: Typed draft.
1. Approximately sixty percent of this speech transcript is printed. The omitted portions include a brief summary of Marshall’s association with the Illinois National Guard and a recounting of his past experiences with other Guard organizations.
Recommended Citation: The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, ed. Larry I. Bland and Sharon Ritenour Stevens (Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 1, “The Soldierly Spirit,” December 1880-June 1939 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981), pp. 448-450.