icon “Toward a Better Slogan” by Capt Jacob H. Johnson (MCG, Dec19)

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    I tip my hat to Capt Jacob H. Johnson for his article “Toward a Better Slogan: Why ‘Protect What You’ve Earned’ Misses the Mark,” (MCG, Dec19). First, it takes discipline and a dose of moral courage to pen a piece for publication. Second, his argument is sound and well-crafted. Lastly, Capt Johnson set the stage for a broader conversation on how we can do better in our messaging to support positive behavior change over the long haul. The ideas that follow are my own, not our Corps,’ and I offer them in the same spirit of professional dialogue that Capt Johnson offered his.

    To write well takes discipline. It is far easier to voice an opinion than it is to craft a written argument. The act of writing puts structure to thoughts. Writing also means giving up some of one’s free time in an effort to offer something meaningful to others. To write on a topic that challenges the status quo also opens an author up to scrutiny and perhaps criticism, which means that an author who enters the public arena to challenge an existing idea has displayed the quality of moral courage.

    Capt Johnson’s article is convincing in part because it is well-written. Thoughtfully, he constructed an argument, provided evidence to support his conclusion, and wrote his piece so that it reads well. The other convincing part is his analysis of our messaging through the lens of psychology. Understanding the methods of compliance, identification, and internalization, as well as how they can modify behavior, is helpful. I found the explanation on why a focus on extrinsic behavior modification would have minimal impact on the drivers of bad behavior compelling, as I did his arguments in support of social learning and incorporating desired behaviors into an internalized value system. As he noted, “even identities can change over time, values rarely do.”

    In light of Capt Johnson’s argument, and in the context of Gen David H. Berger’s Commandant’s Planning Guidance, let us reconsider our messaging going forward. How can we better encourage the internalization of our Core Values? Perhaps we can do better in our communication to provide Marines with positive messaging on positive behavior so that we encourage our people to model the behavior, through internalized values, that we wish to have emulated. But I might be wrong. Therefore, to follow the example set forth by Capt Johnson, I will need to buckle down and do my homework so that the approach we recommend is supported by a well-reasoned argument and evidence.

    We will ask for your help. If you have a contribution to make in how we can do better, please send to @Trust_Marines if you are on Twitter, or to if you are not. Let us challenge ourselves to think, research, write, and act—myself included. If we are successful, we will develop a new messaging approach that better supports the internalization of our Core Values, further encourages Marines to treat each other with dignity and respect, and—in so doing—attacks the destructive behaviors which afflict our Corps.

    I will close with two expressions of appreciation. The first is to Capt Johnson for writing on this topic. The second is to our professional journal for providing a forum for this kind of dialogue. Semper Fidelis.

    BGen Sean M. Salene

    Communication Directorate, HQMC   

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