My last duty station in the Marine Corps was as a part of the Inspector-Instructor staff at the 25Th Marine Regiment in Fort Devens, Massachusetts. I-I duty is a unique monster, one worthy of its own analysis, but one thing my time at the regiment afforded me as a lowly sergeant, was the opportunity to work alongside a number of senior ranking officers and enlisted Marines in a more peer-like capacity than most Marines are afforded in the Fleet Marine Force.

When there are only 30 of you, you tend to get familiar with one another, and although rank never left the room when I interacted with field grade officers, it did tend to fade into the background as our shared challenges superseded the pomp and circumstance we tend to afford to the shinier collars that grace our halls. Marines make mission, and when that means sitting in a mini-van with a Lieutenant Colonel for six hours just to collect some toys for charity, you do it, and you may be forgiven for getting to know the guy behind the rank insignia a bit along the way.

It was that familiarity that often found me conversing with senior leaders in their offices, often with papers strewn about and a dozen metaphorical fires burning at once – as we worked to solve problems faced by the unit, whether it was getting a full honors funeral organized, planning a training revolution for our reservists, or trying to manage the administrative and logistical nightmare it is to stand up and deploy a reserve battalion.

The Marine Corps actually utilizes a fairly robust, if outdated, software suite called the Marine Corps Total Force System (MCTFS) to manage seemingly innumerable data points that can be pulled, analyzed or accessed through a number of different “portals.” 3270, which looks like MSDOS and works in a similar fashion, is the most common one for desk-types, Marine Online is the common portal for everyone else, and other specialized programs like Cognos Impromptu offered different methods of pulling and viewing the same data pools. One source with multiple channels of access may sound complicated, but I’m told it’s actually a much more consolidated and efficient system than is employed by other branches (though I have no first hand experience to with other systems to verify).