Money in War: Research into the Life of Just One Financial Marine (Part I)

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September 11th, 2001; I turned 10 years old a few months prior and had just started fifth grade. They didn’t show the news coverage in my school for a long time, and my teacher had to do it without permission. I remember a cloudy feeling of doom: our country was plunging into war. What was going to happen? I learned about the Revolutionary War — the war against an oppressive government; the Civil War — the war of the federal government against the states; and Vietnam — the war we never “won.” What would this new war be against? A new word started appearing everywhere, “terrorism.” Something just wasn’t right. “How long will we be at war?” I thought, “Hopefully not that long. Hopefully it won’t be as bad as Vietnam.”

13 years later, I am almost 23 years old. I have lived over half of my life during a war time. This War on Terror has been the longest war fought in United States history. I had countless battles throughout my childhood wondering what the place of war is in our lives. As a child, coming to grips with the fact that the government you were taught to believe was there to protect you was all of a sudden using our children as martyrs for the sake of “democracy.” It was a confusing time, and over the years, I have grown to understand just what the costs of war are, and these are costs that no one should be willing to pay.

In 2009, the economy was recovering from an economic collapse, AKA “The Great Recession.” (Isidore) I graduated from high school that May. You can guess how many jobs there were out there for an 18-year-old high school graduate with writing and sandwich making skills, a knack for violence and a bunch of family problems. After attempting to make it out on my own in Alaska, only to be sabotaged by unfortunate circumstances, I joined the Marine Corps.

I arrived in Parris Island, South Carolina on January 25th, 2010. It was there that I began my journey being trained to do nothing but accomplish the mission and destroy the enemy. Marine Corps boot camp is one of the most psychologically stressful events in the world. There, you are broken down as an individual and built back up as a perfectly molded soldier, ready to take any order given. There have been studies done by the military on the psychological effects of boot camp. What the top psychologists do to the individual recruit, in warfare, is called attrition: the action or process of gradually reducing the strength or effectiveness of someone or something through sustained attack or pressure. There are many factors that tie into the effectiveness of Marine Corps attrition, such as the recruit’s socioeconomic background, coping mechanisms, defense mechanisms, and other forms of adaptation to stress. They extract and manipulate psychological information about every recruit, and exploit weaknesses by almost any means necessary. The first 24 hours of boot camp are essential to establishing instant willing obedience to orders which carries on into Basic Warrior Training (BWT), which is where I believe most of the brainwashing occurs, but I do not remember those times.

The first time I knew I could not resist the brainwashing that was happening to me in boot camp was after we had been taught how to properly shoot our rifles on the range: BWT. As females, this was often the first time many of us had been exposed to warrior training. It consisted of two weeks: indoctrination and application. The most important week was week one: we were marched into a large theater with our brother male battalion under high stress. I didn’t understand why our drill instructors were acting the way they were during this time. They seemed angrier, which just added to the stress and confusion of boot camp all together. I do not remember the first week very well. The only part I remember during that time is the Combat Hunter video we watched. Combat Hunter is a course given to Marines to make them effective at doing just what the title insinuates: how to hunt other humans perceived to be a threat to the mission. There were speakers who taught us land navigation, battlefield operations, and weapons management, but I can’t recall any of the classes.

In between each speaker, we were forced to stand up straight and scream Marine Corps “knowledge” at the top of our lungs. These were things such as the Commandant of the Marine Corps, weapons safety rules, general orders, etc. It really hit me what was going on when we were told to relax and watch a video which gave us a general overview of what Combat Hunter is, then I started to fall asleep. My battle buddy smashed my arm with her fist and before I knew it, the video was over. Our drill instructors were told to relax as some higher ranking officers came in to speak to us about the video we just watched. Shortly afterwards, we marched out onto the old flight deck and lined up to stare into the tree line of the South Carolina forest. We were looking for suspicious objects in the tree line with our binos (binoculars), and to my amazement, I found every single one of them they set up. “Wow,” I thought, “What has happened to me?” That was just a pale fraction to the amount of psychological stress that the recruit endures to adopt the Marine Corps warrior mindset. Some Marines do not even remember boot camp and their other training. Combat training in the School of Infantry is just another monster added to the shaping of the United States Marine. This is the time where we are made to follow orders, and that’s what I did.

After combat training (see details of combat training in Money in War Part II) came our Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) School where I was trained as a financial technician to credit and check miscellaneous amounts of money from individual service members in the interest of the United States Treasury. It was there that I finally learned what it is that financial Marines do overseas. During our initial brief, Chief Warrant Officer (CWO) Jones was assigned to our classroom to give a brief on what finance Marines do when we were deployed. He described an incident which happened while he was in Iraq that really opened up my eyes as to how the wars in America are funded.

One of the responsibilities of finance Marines while deployed overseas is to complete monetary contracts with the local villagers. The most common form of contract is for restitution of destroyed property. I’ve heard of $2,000 being paid for a single goat being destroyed in a firefight. Another form of contract is the “humanitarian” contract. This is where CWO Jones comes in. He described a contract in which he and his men had to form a patrol over to a nearby village’s school to form somewhere between a $50,000 and $100,000 contract. This money was intended to provide electricity and running water to the school. I’m assuming that since the amount of the contract was over a certain dollar amount, the team had to follow up to ensure the money was being used for what it was intended for.

The man who signed the contract had disappeared. CWO Jones and his men got a call to inspect a hose that was nearby the school that had been reported by a sympathizing villager to be suspicious. They went to the house, kicked down the doors, herded the women and children into a sectioned off area, and found a house full of automatic weapons. “We can only assume what happened to that man at the school,” he said, “but that’s war. That’s what you’re here for.” What CWO Jones did not take into consideration is that he did not join the Marine Corps to personally fund the enemy he was supposed to fight against, and I did not think it was possible for him to understand that. I understood that, though, and the decision that I made of joining the military really began to sink in.
Financial Marines are the foot soldiers in the funding of these wars. There are missions assigned to us that consist of entering the United States Treasury vault, removing pallets of money, sending it on a helicopter, getting the transfer form signed, and that individual Marine does not know where that money went. Here’s the thing, though, someone does. Any amount of money being removed from or inserted to a government institution has been recorded in the money database systems of the government. There is a trace (whether electronic or hard copy) of every financial transaction ran in the United States of America — it’s just a matter of finding out where it is.

Every form of financial authority is recorded in some long, boring manual with every piece of financial knowledge in there for you to conceive. These financial transactions are governed by the Department of Defense Financial Management Regulation, a manual compromised of every financial authority in the Department of Defense. Every branch of the military studies this manual, and each section that is referenced is divided by the financial specialty. The DoDFMR is so large that it is impossible to know all of the information contained in all of the volumes unless you’re The Rain Man or something. My point is that there is no possible way for the Department of Defense to know exactly where all of these financial transactions are located.

I sat through a financial regulation stand down where a top Colonel was giving announcements on certain system functioning changes and pay systems manual updates. He happened to mention that the administrators who created the system we use to fund our troops and military operations cannot be audited. That means that there is no possible way to keep track of all of the financial transactions processed by the Department of Defense. This also means that these financial transactions have little accountability. What does that say for the other, larger branches? As a platoon, we had fairly efficient ways of keeping track of financial transactions, but ultimately some just end up missing or being incorrect for long periods of time. This is due to the inflation of financial transactions processed during a war time.

When a Marine is stationed overseas, he can make anywhere from $450.00 – $700.00, sometimes almost $1,000 more dollars per month being stationed in a combat zone or hazardous duty location (HDL) (APSM). An HDL, as distinguished from a combat zone, would be an area with an increased rate of violence that the United States is not at war with, such as Libya or Egypt in 2012. (DoDFMR, 7a). These entitlements have to be adjusted every time the Marine travels from country to country. A lot of these transactions are ran through administrative units which were so unreliable that a lot of times Marines got overpaid or underpaid whatever monetary amount the manuals had instructed. These failed oversights resulted in individual service members owing the federal government hundreds to thousands of dollars.

I was in charge of writing the denial endorsement for every Marine that requested a waiver of this debt that had not been wounded in combat. There was an instance of a PFC Cocoa who paid child support every month. He had been receiving an entitlement to cover the child support amount that was incorrect, resulting in a total debt/overpayment for this PFC of around $12,000 with a $300 monthly liquidation on this debt at less than $800 biweekly and $200 to pay in child support. In his grievance letter, he said that he could not afford gas money to go and see his daughter because all of the money he was spending was on uniform items and left him with barely enough money to sustain his life. Oh yeah, and he was in the infantry too. His waiver was denied because a brand new PFC to the fleet should “have reasonably known” that he was not entitled to the money he received, even though he asked his superiors several times about the money he was getting. That was not even the half of it. I’ve seen countless Marines fall into the indebted hands of the United States government and have been afraid to leave the service because the debt that they have to pay due to incorrect entitlements sometimes runs to tens of thousands of dollars. This is a system that oppresses and enslaves individuals by instilling indebted control over their lives.

What’s my point here? The point is that the military industrial complex is so large that the federal government cannot accurately take account for the money its’ spending because the system is too large, and therefore enslaves men by creating a monetary debt based off of clerical errors. Murray Rothbard, in his book entitled, Anatomy of the State, explains that one method the state has to maintain support is by creating vested economic interests. Since the state has the individual in debt, the individual feels as though he cannot escape the hands of the state because the debt will forever follow him. With veteran unemployment so low, a lot of active duty and reserve service members are intimidated into staying in the service because they believe their lives would be ruined if they did not have the government funds coming in to pay off their government debt. Let that sink in for a moment. Not only do service members get deployed overseas to kill men, women, and children in the name if economic interests of the few, they also run a high chance of being monetarily controlled by financial debt transactions that cause over payments to the individual.

Why do we fight in these wars that our children are being brainwashed in the name of national security to fight, send our children over to die in, and deal out our financial support that may just end up stuck in a database somewhere and is never accounted for? We deal out humanitarian monetary contracts that end up in the hands of the enemy, thereby inadvertently supporting the enemy that our fellow men died while fighting against. These are the kinds of things that happen when governments are allowed to fight against other countries in the interest of international corporations. A large government creates an uncontrollable government. Hopefully in the coming years, our fellow men will learn to live voluntarily with one another, and that violence only exists if we allow it to.

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37 Comments

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37 responses to “Money in War: Research into the Life of Just One Financial Marine (Part I)

  1. wow. brilliant post you’ve done here. thank you.

  2. Reblogged this on Obzervashunal and commented:
    your closing conclusion: ‘Hopefully in the coming years, our fellow men will learn to live voluntarily with one another, and that violence only exists if we allow it to.’ really does say it all… This is a big wish of mine as well. Hope we both live to see it become reality…

  3. Thank you so much for writing this. I have learned something completely new today, in addition it is clear that your heart and soul is in this issue. You are an excellent writer as well, it seems like you could write a book on this topic someday or become an investigative journalist (or both). Doing away with conscription and having a military of those that volunteer seems like the more moral thing to do, but in reality it seems that “voluntary” is a bit misleading. Many join the military it appears through lack of other options, and those in that military seemed to manacled into a continued career due to not only the brainwashing aspect you described, but complete financial mismanagement. I guess that’s what happens when the biggest economy in the world spends over 700 billion dollars a year on defense (more than the next 8 biggest economies in the world).

    Keep educating others, you have a very wonderful voice.

  4. Thank you for writing this. Incredibly informative on yet another way many are enslaved through government- created debts

  5. Reblogged this on kinginascent and commented:
    This is fascinating

  6. A fascinating and impassioned piece. Thanks for sharing it.

  7. It makes me want to cry, really. So sad – in a dumb sort of way.
    Best wishes to you and your everything, good lady.
    Peace, luvz, and hugz! Uncle Tree

  8. “Hopefully in the coming years, our fellow men will learn to live voluntarily with one another…” and love will conquer all.

  9. Dear Cassandra, Unfortunately, the abuses of power that you share are realities of life in today’s world, not just in your country but, in some form or another and to a lesser degree only because your country is more rich and powerful than any other, at this point in time. There is nothing that any individual can do to change the system. It’s operated by humans and all humans are vulnerable to temptations of power.
    I worry for you that you have exposed what some might consider the unfortunate necessities of wartime, or the integration of governments and big businesses that use the military to serve their ends. This, too, has always been and will always be until we elect people who cannot be bought, and they might end up dead, so the game can go on.
    Be careful, and try to consider that all of what you express may be an unfortunate necessity (or at least justifiable to some extent) to protect and defend the relatively secure lifestyle we enjoy.
    Love,
    Jean

    • Cassandra Rose Arthur

      Although I understand and respect your point of view, I often find it to be the default position that allows the government to be ran in the corrupt way it is being ran today. None of the information I have provided is a threat to national security because it can be found by typing simple words into Google. The key is to know where to find the information. The only security that I challenge is that of government control and corruption, especially in regards to our monetary policies in war and the military industrial complex.

      I believe that the key to changing the world is in the youth, and that although I may not live to see the day that “the system” changes, and my fellow men will be enlightened enough to reject violence, I can do everything I can to ensure that my children will have an easier time than I did.

      Jack Kerouac once said that you can’t change the world by holding a sign up on the corner, the key is through literature and poetry. I suppose I have the Kerouacian view on life: protesting happens through the paper and pen.

      Jean, if I have done enough for you to question even the information I have provided, I have done what I have set out to do. That means that I have helped provoke new ideas and information which allows for independent thought. I can assure you that as long as we reject violence (whether by the sword or by the pen) that we will no longer need governmental authority to dictate what information can and cannot be disseminated.

      Indeed, for the monopoly on violence is kept by those who have been elected.

      • Dear Cassandra, Didn’t Adlai Stevenson say that “the government you elect serves you right?”. Then, as you say, it is the young voters who will change the system if it is to be changed, and, yet they first must be committed to change. But, what change? In today’s world security is a powerful issue. The answer to the world’s problems are never simple. But, I admire your dedication to help create a more peaceful world.
        Jean

      • Dear Cassandra,
        Those we elect can never be totally unlike ourselves. We each are a unique blend of all the qualities that anyone else possess. We have potential to do good, or otherwise. Power corrupts, perhaps by weakening our resistance to temptation. Also, there is powerful pressure to conform and tempting rewards to do so. It cannot be easy to resist wealth and power. Of course, most of us are protected from those temptations, but not others.
        Love,
        Jean

  10. Fascinating insight, thank you for sharing

  11. davidisoje

    brilliantly written muse

  12. I’ve always been fascinated by the military. There are so many stories that don’t make it to newspapers and movies. This has been a very interesting piece. Thank you for sharing your experience.
    As long as we are ‘walling in and walling out’, we’ll need the military.

  13. Scary. The land of the free? One might as well be in an inept dictatorship which cheerfully admits that it is that … well, the dictatorship part, anyway. I have the feeling that all administrations are inept.

    • Hate to state the obvious, but wouldn’t the opposite of inept be something along the lines of ‘perfect’? Which of course is another way of saying utopia…

      My point being that – without trying to sound too nihilistic – your ‘feeling’ is founded in truth, there has never been an administration of any country/state in any era that was not by definition, inept.

      Which of course doesn’t mean that we cannot strive for less ineptitude 😛

  14. Fascinating essay/blog. These are the types of stories the lame-stream media just doesn’t cover. How much money was wasted in Iraq? We’ll never know. And we promised we’d re-build their infrastructure. Instead, companies like Blackwater lined their pockets while their mercenaries made twenty times what you and other Marines made. Thanks for writing that.

  15. Beautifully written, and a fantastic exposé into another facet of the ever-growing leviathan.

  16. Hey Cassandra, I sent you an email about a personal question, let me know when you get it. Once again, I Love your work. Keep doing what you do!

  17. Howard James

    Sensational writing expose! Beautifuly written.

  18. Awesome. I am a former reporter for Stars and Stripes and have not seen such an eloquent explanation of how our government is screwing its service members. Well done!

  19. This is fascinating. And, you know, awful. The potential for corruption, that’s one thing — that’s terrible, of course, and we need more accountability and transparency in all the large institutions — but screwing over the individual marines (and soldiers and etc.) with this kind of nonsense is just… evil. It puts the lie to a lot of bullshit mythologising about the military: it really is just another exploitative employer. Thanks for writing this.

  20. equinoxio21

    Brilliant. I once found doing research that Amnesty International’s corruption index is inversely correlated to GDP per Capita. (Have to post that one!) The more corruption, the lower the GDP per capita. One point of Amnesty’s index actually costs around US5,000 GDP per capita a year. Thank you for your views. Maybe “the powers that be” should be evaluated every year on wether they have improved the country’s score on Amnesty’s. 🙂
    Have a great week-end
    Brian

  21. I enjoyed your article.

  22. I enjoyed the article but sadly…

    The generation that is coming up. The kids just starting school will never know the freedom or have the opportunities our parents and grandparents had.

    The world is changing and it will never go back to the way it used to be.

  23. Given the recent flack about the VA and its corruption (etc) I really hope this blog post can be brought to the attention of a greater number of Americans. Wish I knew where to put out a link so that people can start to understand the financial mismanagement and waste that is going on and how it affects our soldiers and our country.

  24. Oh my God. That was insane. Thanks so much for that.

  25. I found this extremely interesting… Good job

  26. I give you big respect to make it in the marine corps .
    Uh rah devil dog semper fi.

  27. Thank you for the clarity of all this

  28. Reblogged this on Bitratchet and commented:
    The TL;DR: the military is a twisted poverty making machine.

  29. ‘Why do we fight in these wars that our children are being brainwashed in the name of national security to fight, send our children over to die in, and deal out our financial support that may just end up stuck in a database somewhere and is never accounted for?’

    The answer is complicated and of course it would be difficult to know the whole truth of it, but as of this moment this is the best answer I can offer.

    To ensure that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer and possibly – I can only assume, though not entirely understand – for the entertainment of the elite.

  30. I have a comment on comments: There are plenty of people in the Boomer and Tweener generation who are still committed to change and daring enough to act. Let’s join all ages together into a generation that really accomplishes something. hannah

  31. Pingback: A Call to IRR Marines being called to Active Duty and Division Marines Gearing Up: | Cpl Kerkman Reference Guide

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