Who can forget traipsing through Quantico’s woods looking for ammo cans and coming up smack dab in between two of them?  Unfortunately, 13 TBS lieutenants chose to rely not on their lensatic compasses and the direction of their “drift,” but on a cheat sheet with an earlier (different) exam’s answers.  Now the 13 have been separated, according to this Navy Times article that Phil Cave linked to on his Court-Martial Trial Practice blog.

28 Responses to “13 TBS lieutenants separated from USMC for cheating on land nav exam”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Not dismissing the integrity issue, but why would you join the Marines and then not want to learn how to do land navigation?

    I mean pretty much that’s a foundation of what the Marines are, which is at its core, everyone is an infantryman.

    Wouldn’t you want to make sure you did that pretty well? It’s like one of us cheating on a crim law exam, kinda should be able to do it.

  2. Mike "No Man" Navarre says:

    For Ballard and his classmate, that could be one expensive cheat sheet. The cost of a Naval Academy education is North of $100K.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Good riddance…we spent way too much time and money training Ballard for him to show this kind of judgment. Same goes for the USNA grads down in P-Cola who shot the endangered birds.

    USNA bears just as much blame, IMO. They either (1) failed to teach them that this was unacceptable behavior or (2) gave a commission to someone who had not learned that lesson. That said, I hold out no hope that Ballard’s departure will cause any introspection on the banks of the Severn.

  4. DB Cooper says:

    Predictably, the TBS Commander couldn’t resist the urge to make pedantic comparisons between the “moral compass” and the “lensatic compass” . . .

  5. Dwight Sullivan says:

    I’ve wondered what our USNA alumni friends think of this year’s kinder gentler Herndon climb.


  6. some USNA grad says:

    Dwight–not much.

  7. Lee Marsh says:

    I feel bad for the class of 2013. Don’t they now get an asterisk by their time? Herndon was an experience I will cherish for a lifetime.

  8. Late Bloomer says:

    Methinks night land nav should be an affirmative defense.

    I don’t think we should start breaking out the pitchforks and storming Bancroft Hall just yet. The LEL department takes the Leadership and Ethics part pretty seriously, for what it’s worth.

    How many USNA grads go through TBS without incident, or with honors? This sounds like a squad (based on the number) got busted and not all of them were USNA grads. 2 were priors. Where are the calls for MCRD to do its job? For the record, I am not an Academy grad. I just don’t like easy scapegoats.

    On a different note:

    “Although Ballard plans to fight the ruling, he also admitted he has been talking to the NFL about going pro.”

    Sounds like a future Redskin! But I’ll bet Rooney won’t take him!

  9. Anonymous says:

    Having been there and done that, land nav is not rocket science. It’s not easy, but it’s not rocket science. These guys are just plain stupid and this in and of itself is proof they don’t rate a commission.

  10. First Hand says:

    I was one of two judge advocates in the same TBS training company as these all-stars. Their cowardice and deceit cast a shadow over the company and jeopardized the reputations of the company staff and the institution itself. The investigation hindered training from the moment it began until graduation. Perhaps worst of all, the fiasco destroyed the sense of esprit-de-corps that many Marine officers remember as central to the TBS experience.

    Fortunately, I can report that both judge advocates from Company E emerged from land nav with their characters intact – even if their bodies were not so fortunate.

    Good riddance to those aspiring officers who lack the courage to face their failures.

    Honor, Courage, Commitment.

  11. Cheap Seats says:

    First Hand – thank you for letting us know how these poor decisions affected everyone in the Company. To the honorable Marines of Company E, congratulations on your graduation from TBS! We all look forward to serving with you, the other Judge Advocate, and the other Marines in “The Fleet.” Semper Fi!

  12. Anonymous says:

    Did they let the 13 continue to train with the Company even after the allegations surfaced?

    Echo is a USNA heavy company, so, statistically, having only 2 of the 13 be grads probably means that USNA was underrepresented among the cheaters. Not that that is much comfort.

    Anything notable about the other 13…same squad, platoon, etc., or were any from the Citadel or VMI?

  13. Random says:

    “the fiasco destroyed the sense of esprit-de-corps that many Marine officers remember as central to the TBS experience.”

    Well, I certainly wasn’t one of the “many.” I didn’t observe much esprit-de-corps in my platoon other than through shared torment. I suppose that makes me one of the few? the proud?

  14. Charles Gittins says:

    Cheating scandals are rampant at TBS and other schools at Quantico. Same at USNA — they just don’t get much publicity. The problem is with the screening process and lowering of standards because the academy and officer training programs cannot compete with the public sector for excellent pay and the competing demand for by pol/mil for “inclusiveness.” In addition, particularly at TBS, the staff is lazy — it is their down time from deployments — and they have not really overhauled the program to get away from multiple choice exams to assure that real learning is going on. Although I do not have any children, if I did, I would counsel against attending USNA, I am sorry to say. The place has suffered from the need to be PC at the expense of training warrior officers with courage and mental toughness. That’s all I have to say about that! And yes, I am a 1979 grad of USNA. Omnes Viri!

  15. John O'Connor says:

    If you read the linked article closely, it doesn’t say that exactly 2 of the 13 were USNA grads. It says 2 of the 13 were USNA football players, and two others were prior enlisted. It could be that all 13 were USNA grads (including the two prior enlisteds), or that it’s just 2 of 13.

    I have no larger point except that this article doesn;t actually say how many USNA grads are involved, nor do I think it’s reasonable to draw a larger conclusion about the USNA from the misconduct of a few grads, whether it’s 2, 13, or some number in between.

  16. Dew_Process says:

    North of $200K is more accurate. They are claiming $50K+ per year.

  17. Class of 1997 says:

    It sounds as though you are equating diversity with weakness.

    Why would you counsel your child against attending USNA? Is it because none of your all-male, predominantly white classmates in the class of 1979 ever committed misconduct, lied, cheated, or stole in the Fleet? When did USNA stop training warriors? Was it in 1976 when the first class of women arrived or was it when they started admitting more blacks, Hispanics, and Asians? I would argue that the product the Academy is putting out today is better than those put out ten or twenty years ago. I would be proud if my racial minority son or daughter wanted to attend USNA or any other service academy.

  18. Mike "No Man" Navarre says:

    USNA ’97–While I am about 99% sure Charlie Gittens needs no defending, I didn’t read anything in his post that even hinted that by “PC” he meant a move toward diversity. By way of example, I don’t think anyone can say that the degreasing of the Herndon Monument was related to diversity. But I think it is fair to characterize it (though I would not) as a change brought about by political correctness.

  19. Charles Gittins says:

    See what I mean? Whiny responses to arguments not made. That is what USNA is putting out these days.

  20. Class of 1997 says:

    Arguments not made? Then what pray tell did you mean by “inclusiveness?”

    I guess we can file your post under “everything was better and tougher when I was a Mid.” I’m sure your class had the last real plebe year.

  21. Charles Gittins says:

    I simply refuse to argue with morons and you clearly qualify. You must be the cream of 1997. And by the way, why don’t you post by name? It’s a matter of courage, my friend. If you can’t put your name to what you have to say, you lack that fundamental warrior characteristic.



  22. Weirick says:

    Can’t we all just get along? We should just chalk this up to a few misguided individuals taking the easy way out by cheating on exams. To attribute this to a greater problem with USNA grads or Mustangs is of little use. Having shared a TBS class with both groups, there are very admirable individuals in both of these populations.

    It is very easy and convenient to remember the good old days and attribute greater attributes to those in the past. It should be remembered that these 2009 USNA grads joined with an almost 100% chance of serving during a time of war. That can not be said of joining in 1975.

    With almost 2,000 officers of Marines being trained each year, 13 cheaters is statistically insignificant when trying to draw larger conclusions about the quality of individuals.

    On the lighter side, it is impressive that anyone could find all of those red boxes and create a cheat sheet. It is hard to believe that the TBS staff intended to have 25% of the boxes lying on their sides at the bottom of a ravine covered by branches.

  23. VP says:

    they didn’t have to cheat on land nav. It reflects a greater character flaw. When I was at TBS and took land nav, it was like a walk in the park when you had the fundamentals down.

  24. Obnoxious says:


    I’m get embarrassed when my 89 year old neighbor talks like that….But I humor him because he is old and from a “different” era…Maybe, if you ask management, they’ll do you a favor and erase it for you.

  25. Norbrook says:

    It’s not rocket science, it’s actually straightforward, and if you can manage it, you have other issues. Now, one of my more memorable training experiences was the land nav course that everyone “failed.” The problem was that no one had told the cadre that the course had been remodeled, and they gave us the previous worksheets. There’s nothing like hitting a point and finding a hole in the ground where the target post used to be.

  26. Anon says:

    The Naval Academy and Navy football should be ashamed. People are fallible. An honorable person would have admited his wrong and taken responsibility, not tried to avoid culpability by saying “everyone does it it.” Is he serious? Whether or not an honor violation and academic problems occurred while Mr. Ballard played football at Navy, this one incident and his reaction to it demonstrate that he is not the kind of person young Marines deserve as a leader. It’s very possible that Navy turned a blind eye to what were clearly moral and ethical failings while he was was a Mid. Navy football should consider choosing ‘the harder right’ over easy yards, even if it means losing to Army once in a while. It’s not worth the trophy year after year if the tradeoff is producing graduates who are not equipped to be officers and leaders. Mr. Ballard is still young, with a life of opportunity ahead of him, just not in the Armed Forces. Hopefully he will learn from this experience and find meaning and fulfillment in whatever path he’s on after this unfortunate fork in the road.

  27. The New Echo says:

    let me be the first to say that jags suck ass and should be separated with the cheaters.

  28. Anon says:

    WOW! Great reporting here.
    Most of the “cheaters” came from 1st platoon, Echo Company. Some from other platoons and some from Charlie company.
    I’m pretty sure I am correct when I say that the 2 USNA football players were the only Acad guys.
    Here’s why cheaters is in quotes:
    A lot (a VERY high number) of the Marines that were booted were only booted because they knew SOMETHING (not necessarily everything) was going on and they didn’t tell. If you knew that something was being passed around, and nothing futher, and you didn’t say anything, then you were done. And guess what: it will affect you for the rest of your life. They are all getting general discharges (which are “less than honorable”).
    What they didn’t tell you was a total of 20 were pulled into this entire thing. A prior 17-year Gunny was at the nose of the investigation, along with other females from 1st platoon. 5, that for some reason were only recycled to another company, were resurrected back into the company after 2 weeks. It seemed like they were undoing some of the witch hunt that started. 1 was brought back to another company after being on the outprocess “list.” You either did something or you didn’t…so why are these Lieutenants getting revived?! It was a total witch hunt, and the entire company was affected! ALL of Echo Company. The investigation is what will give the Marine Corps a black eye, and it will eventually surface.
    The former JAG at TBS should be booted from the Corps (Also a USNA grad). The way the entire investigation went down was probably legal (because he IS a JAG), but was the most unethical thing I have ever seen. He held Lieutenants in rooms by themselves for HOURS and the company staff told them to just wait there. They never gave them updates as to what they were waiting on or anything. They once asked a Lieutenant a few questions, then, after their answers weren’t what they were looking for, they left them in a small room for 5 hours, only to come back and ask the same questions. The panel of 3 LtCols and the JAG was established to handle this entire thing. Talk about a messed up process. They were interrogating EVERYONE in 1st platoon and some in other platoons, flat out calling them cheaters and seeing how they reacted. They pulled everyone in, no matter your background (prior enlisted, purple heart, perfect record, etc.). Everyone was guilty until assumed innocent.
    I got a BAD taste in my mouth about the way things are done at TBS. Hopefully the new CO is changing it.