- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 30, 2001

The Marine Corps general in charge of reserve forces used the term "bums" in a memo to describe reservists who may use the current terrorist crisis to come on active duty so they increase eventual retirement benefits.

The memo from Lt. Gen. Dennis M. McCarthy, commander of Marine Forces Reserve in New Orleans, has angered some Marine reservists. One officer said no Marine should refer to other Marines as "bums." A copy of the memo was provided to The Washington Times.

A Marine spokeswoman, however, said the general was quoting a term used in the Reserve/National Guard culture.

Gen. McCarthy dispatched the memo on Sept. 15 as the Pentagon began to mobilize reservists and National Guardsmen for the war on terrorism. The three-star general wrote to command generals that during the 1990 Gulf war buildup some Marine reservists went on active duty to build up active duty time to claim retirement benefits earlier, instead of waiting to age 60.

"In 1990, many of that category were able to aggressively work private, hand-shake deals to get themselves activated," Gen. McCarthy wrote. "This time, I hope to stop as much of that type of opportunism as possible."

He then added, "I asked all my [commanding generals] to put a screening/vetting process in place for their commands to try to filter out individuals who should not be joined for example, some of our 'ADSW bums' who are currently not eligible for ADWS because they have more than 16 years of active service."

A reserve officer, who asked not to be named, said the term "bums" inside the reserve community is a derogatory term for unemployed reservists in need of a quick paycheck. ADWS stands for "active duty special work," a category of activations.

The 16-year limit is a Marine Corps rule to prevent reservists from coming on active duty just to reach the 18-year mark, which by law allows them to then serve 20 years and qualify for immediate retirement pay. Retired reservists, in contrast, must wait until age 60 to collect retirement checks, defense sources say.

"No one likes to be referred to as a bum," said the reserve officer. "And no Marine should refer to another Marine with honorable service as a bum, and most certainly not by his commander. The time may come when a whole lot of reserves may need to be called up whether for service overseas or consequence management at home. I don't think then they'll be referred to as bums."

Maj. Carolyn Dysart, a command spokeswoman, defended the use of the word. "I think that's a common term to refer to people who try to take advantage of the system. It's not his term," she said.

"The general wanted to make sure we were getting the best people on active duty and not people who were doing it for self-serving reasons," she said.

She said allowing activated reservists to reach the 18-year mark disrupts the Corps' officer management system and the rate at which it brings in new officers.

A 34-year Marine, Gen. McCarthy in 1997 became the first reserve officer to command an active duty Marine division. He saw combat in Vietnam as a platoon commander and communications officer in the 1st Battalion, 13th Marines. He assumed his current command in June, overseeing 104,000 Marine reservists across the country.

To date, the Pentagon has activated 612 Marines. They include a company of 100 Marines who will go to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to provide security at the U.S. naval base. What is called an "augmentation command element" of about 75 Marines will go to work at Camp Pendleton, Calif., to help in planning.

Marine expeditionary units sailed with two carriers, the Theodore Roosevelt and Carl Vinson, which are now launching fighter-bombers in strikes on Afghanistan's ruling Taliban and fugitive Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda troops. It is not clear whether Marines will have a ground role in Afghanistan. To date, Pentagon officials say the war to destroy the Taliban and al Qaeda will be an air/special-operations war.

The Pentagon said it has called up more than 35,000 reservists and Guardsmen for the war on terrorism from 401 units in 49 states, the District and Puerto Rico.

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