I don’t tell them then, but the marble is meant to ingrain that lesson. It’s about them looking out for each other and making sure they each have their marble.
Awakening to the lesson of the marble.
Just as I’ve never had a recruit decline to accept the challenge of the marble, I’ve never had an entire class make it through even my first visit without a single recruit being caught without their marble. ALET 11-02 was no exception.
Corporal Spitzer, himself a past recruit of mine, caught the first recruit without his marble and gleefully informed me. I asked him to send the recruit to see me. Moments later, there was a knock on the VIP quarters door.
“Recruit De La Fuente, Ma’am. Permission to enter.”
The recruit entered, stood at attention, and looked straight ahead, not making eye contact.
“Recruit De La Fuente, how is it that Corporal Spitzer caught you without your marble.”
“Well, ma’am, I was changing and …”
I held up a hand, silencing him. “Not the right answer, Recruit.”
He paused and I saw an awakening flicker in his eyes. “Ma’am, this recruit has no excuse, ma’am.”
“That’s the right answer. Here’s the consequence -- in addition to being responsible for your own marble, I expect you to ensure that no other recruit is caught without his marble. Also, if you’re asked about the consequence by any other recruits, you are to tell them that you can’t discuss it. Understood?”
The next morning I addressed the class. “ALET 11-02, yesterday Corporal Spitzer caught Recruit De La Fuente without his marble. Would someone please tell me how that happened?”
As murmured excuses began, I again held up my hand and split the silence with, “Not the right answer.”
Into the stillness, a voice replied, “We let Recruit De La Fuente down, ma’am.”
I locked on their eyes, “That’s the right answer,” and felt a hum of awakening.
That evening I encountered some recruits in the break room and perfunctorily asked them to present their marbles. As two of the recruits started to dig theirs out, Recruit Harrell busied himself with the contents of a cupboard. I figured he was teasing me.
“C’mon, Recruit Harrell, quit kidding, show me your marble.”
“I don’t have it, ma’am.”
“No really. Show me.”
“I really don’t have it, ma’am.”
My jaw dropped. I closed it and began grinding my teeth. I glowered. Harrell’s face reddened. He didn’t appear to be breathing. I turned my gaze to Recruit Etheridge. He held up his marble and blurted, “This recruit has his marble, ma’am.”
I snarled, “Not the right answer, Recruit Etheridge.”
He slowly lowered his marble. I stepped closer until we were nearly touching.
“Telling me you’ve got your marble is CYA, Etheridge. CYA is not the right answer. Now, you give me the right answer.”
He thought. “Ma’am, this recruit let Recruit Harrell down.”
I replied, “Now, you give me the perfect answer.”
Etheridge’s face scrunched in concentration. Then his countenance awakened. “Recruit Harrell can have my marble, Ma’am,” and he held it out.
I grinned. Etheridge grinned. Harrell smiled hopefully. I whispered, “You had the perfect answer inside you, Etheridge. If I’d yelled at you and told you the answer was to give your marble to Harrell, you would’ve never discovered that you had the perfect answer inside you all along.”
“Yes, ma’am,” said Etheridge, still grinning.
“I want the other recruits to discover they have the perfect answer in them. So, don’t tell them what happened here other than to say I caught Harrell without his marble.”
Both recruits nodded, “Yes, ma’am.”
“Recruit Harrell, there still has to be a consequence. Frankly, you’ve caught me unprepared. I was certain after this morning’s discussion and the consequence I visited on Recruit De La Fuente we wouldn’t have another occurrence like this. Clearly, you’ve been sent to me as a challenge. I’m going to have to sleep on it.”
The next morning as the recruits stood at attention when I entered the classroom, I turned and demanded, “ALET 11-02, how was it I caught Recruit Harrell without his marble last evening?”