Marine Corps veteran and amateur life coach Jack Mandaville has all the right answers to life’s toughest questions.
We have this new lieutenant who showed up. He’s not a bad kid, but he’s pretty green. How do I guide him properly so the platoon doesn’t eat him alive in his first months?
Staff Sgt. Jeff Nguyen
Wowza wowza wowza! You’ve just presented me with one of the oldest military challenges imaginable — an age-old obstacle like invading Russia in the winter, invading Afghanistan at any point in the last 2,500 years, and trying to get released from work at a reasonable time on a Friday when there’s nothing important happening but your first sergeant is a miserable bastard in a miserable marriage so he’s going to keep all of you there as long as he can so he can avoid having to go home to his nagging wife who will immediately start telling him he’s not doing enough for the family the second he walks through the door, thus perpetuating the cycle of him working long hours in order to stave off her barrage of perceived inequitable expectations that will inevitably bring more nagging and keep all of you at work longer.
You have to look at this like all of you are in prison together. And I’m not talking about real prison where a guy who is in for insurance fraud is bunked up with a guy in for triple murder who makes him call him “daddy” and passes his butthole around to heavily tattooed gang members in exchange for cigarettes. I’m talking about movie prison. Think The Shawshank Redemption. You’re an experienced lifer who’s skeptical of the new guy, but you eventually see how his education and ability to articulate himself well could benefit the overall prison population. You must be a Red to his Andy. You’re an institutionalized wise Black man, and he’s nothing but a supple little white bitch who needs to be gently guided into his greatness so he can eventually become the advocate you all deserve.
Remember, you two are a team now. Your troops are going to pick up on your attitude toward him, and it will reflect in their own, so it must appear that you’re an unbreakable duo. The first thing you must accept is that sometimes you’re going to have to take the hit for his potential mishaps or be a messenger of bad news. But don’t fret, the lower enlisted types have a keen awareness, and they will outright or subconsciously understand where the source of ineptitude is coming from.
They’ll understand this by seeing the deadness in your eyes as you speak to them because you feel like Atlas carrying the weight of the world and old Lieutenant Zeus, who just months earlier was getting high in his dorm room at Arizona State, is just carrying about like the world is just peachy. But while that must be the cross you bear, the advantage is the trust he’s developing for you in the process.
This is not a one-sided relationship. You give to him, and your take is that you can start whispering in his ear about the important things the platoon needs to maintain morale. He takes these things to his higher-ups on the O side, they enter into a self-congratulatory orgy about how they’re taking care of their people, and you and the others get to have your icy cold Bohemia-style beer on a rooftop.
Military leadership, like so many other facets of life, is a Machiavellian game of give and take. And quite often, you must give the taker the perception that they’re the giver so you, the giver, can take when necessary. That’s how it is on the platoon level. That’s how it was in the Bush-Cheney administration. And that’s how it is in the bedroom. Give, take, and elevate the person opposite you because that person will be the one who could potentially convince your first sergeant to finally cut you guys out early on a Friday.
Machiavelli clearly laid these strategies out in his 1513 treatise, The Prince, which became the unofficial guidebook to political and corporate domination for generations. And in 2024, I highly suggest you purchase my updated version, The Lieutenant.
I hope this helped, Jeff!
I love you,
Jack Manford Mandaville I
Jack Mandaville is a contributor at Coffee or Die. He liked being a Marine but loves being a civilian that does commentary on military culture because there’s no real sacrifice involved. He’s a satirical writer, entertainer, and amateur provocateur. His only real love outside his work opportunities is falling asleep to Netflix.
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