to exactly 17 weeks, more than 11 weeks shorter than the program in effect in August 1965.26
In many ways Basic Specialist Training proved to be a significant improvement over OJT. Not only was Basic Specialist Training faster than OJT, the Basic Specialist Training graduate was "as well trained or better trained than the Marine who previously spent 90 or more days in on-the-job training."27
Unfortunately, the efficiency of Basic Specialist Training came at a price. Before September 1965, a new Marine spent at least three months with his unit before deploying overseas, plenty of time for him and his squadmates to get to know each other and learn to work as a team. After that time, recruits rushed through a disorienting swirl of training programs and instructors, moving on before most of their superiors had time to learn much about them. Most new recruits joined their first permanent unit in Vietnam.
While Basic Specialist Training proved a mixed blessing, the reduced length of recruit training and Individual Combat Training remained a necessary evil. In April 1968, the Commandant of the Marine Corps regarded the ideal training program to be 10 weeks for recruit training, 4 weeks for Individual Combat Training, and 4 weeks for Basic Specialist Training, a full month more than the program in effect at that time. A policy statement noted that the shortened training course was a temporary measure, and that
the Marine Corps intends to return to a longer training period as soon as the international situation permits. The present length of training is the minimum time possible in an emergency situation to meet the objectives of recruit training.28
In the meantime, the Marine Corps relied on the leadership of its captains, lieutenants, sergeants, and corporals to compensate for the lowered standards, high turnover, and reduced training period. The Search for Junior Leaders
As the Marine Corps grew, the numbers of junior officers and noncommissioned officers increased proportionately. This expanded body of company-level leaders faced the challenges of dealing with declining recruit quality, increased personnel turbulence, and combat.
During the first years of the Vietnam War, the experience level of junior Marine officers actually increased. Following the practice of World War I, World War II, and Korea, the Marine Corps quickly expanded its junior officer corps by offering temporary commissions to senior noncommissioned officers.29 Between July 1965 and June 1967, the Marine Corps commissioned 4,059 warrant officers and senior enlisted as temporary second lieutenants. In July 1967, these officers constituted two-thirds of all ground and aviation-ground assignable lieutenants. By the beginning of 1968, over four-fifths of the ground first lieutenants were temporary officers.50*
Between 1965 and 1968 the average length of commissioned service for Marine captains shrank from nine to six years, and for lieutenants from three to two years, but a large number of these officers had far more service than their pre- Vietnam peers. In fact, the temporary officers created an experience "hump" that slowly worked its way up in a bloc. On 31 December 1967, almost 60 percent of all first lieutenants had over 10 years of service, while the same was true for only 20 percent of captains. Only a quarter of captains were over 30 years old, while more than half of the first lieutenants were over 30 years old.
The temporary officers provided the Marine Corps with capable junior officers during the initial Vietnam build-up, but this program was intended as a stop-gap, providing lieutenants only until the normal commissioning programs could meet the demand for officers. Unfortunately, after the temporary commissioning ended in June 1967, officer recruiting did not meet expectations. Anti-war sentiments on college campuses made it difficult to recruit qualified young men." As early as August 1967, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Wallace M. Greene, Jr., expressed his concern over the large number of candidates who quit the Officer Candidates and Platoon Leader's Courses.?2 Although the total numbers were small, the number of lieutenants commissioned from the NROTC program also declined dramatically in 1967. Only the introduction of the Enlisted Commissioning Program, which produced 410 lieutenants in fiscal year 1967 and 580 in fiscal year
*7Lieutenant Colonel Merrill L. Bartlett, who served in Vietnam as an intelligence officer, considered the temporary program "an unmitigated disaster! Certainly, we can all recall temporary officers who were successful. At the same time, I can recall that most were simply SNCOs [staff noncommissioned officers] wearing bars." He observed that his field "was fertile dumping ground for these types." He personally served with several and provided the following harsh generalization: "Hardly any of them could write, most had alcohol problems, and many worked mostly on figuring out ways to get their tours shortened or to find soft billets in the rear." LtCol Merrill L. Bartlett, Comments on draft, dtd 8Nov94 (Vietnam Comment File), hereafter Bartlett Comments.