Friday, November 21, 2014

Toys For Tonsils!


No really, it's that time of year again and the Marines of 3/25 have begun the great winter campaign known as Toys For Tots.

Last year we gathered 65,000 toys, ensuring as many as 35,000 kids received something from Santa for Christmas. The Toys For Tots campaign is so big in northern Ohio if we counted up all the man hours the Marines put in you'd throw yourself into traffic. Suffice it to say that Thanksgiving will probably be the last day off anyone has until December 25th.

Santa looks a little uncomfortable being shaken down for goodies, but that's the price of doing business. 
Really now, who doesn't want to see kids get a bunch of loot for Christmas? Support your local Toys For Tots ninjas!

Semper Fidelis!
America's SgtMaj

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Role of the Modern Warrior

Recently I wrote a little something about the definition of the modern warrior. Naturally, this begs the question; what is the warrior's role in modern society? In answer to this I first asked myself a question I often ask: Why do I train?

Delving into the personal motivations behind anything is always a good starting point. The short answer to the second question is: To put steel on target. But why? Well, certainly not for selfish personal gain or other villainy. Robbing banks doesn't appeal to me nor is merely being a mercenary, whose only obligation is to the paymaster.

If those choices are categorically out then the only remaining one is the other oriented path of the modern warrior best described as an Exemplar. It was remarked to me once that institutions like the Marine Corps do not produce a certain type of individual so much as attract a certain type. I would go so far as to suggest other action biased occupations attract that type as well.

So, what is the Exemplar's role in modern society?

I often lament that in the 21st Century there are no heroes. On television and in movies the anti-hero trope has become so corrupted that now villains are the heroes. Batman is a psychopath, people openly admire Walter White, every character who shows any nobility or virtue dies horribly on Game of Thrones. Tune in any news station and it is a highlight reel of a decided lack of integrity or any moral compass. These examples horrify me.

When my troops find themselves frustrated with a military institution they perceive as hypocritical and even outright stupid, I remind them that each of us has a sphere of influence with which to impact those around us. As a SgtMaj my sphere is somewhat larger than a Sgt's but everyone has bit of influence nonetheless. Within that sphere each Marine can make the Corps what it is supposed to be and make a positive impact.

I was once pulled aside by an officer who told me he'd just overheard the best compliment ever given by one Marine about another. He had seen me walking through the chow hall and as I passed by one of the young Marines remarked: "If every Marine was like that guy, I'd reenlist right now."

In our respective communities we should be making a similar impact as an Exemplar. Do others admire who we are? Do they follow our example? Do they perceive nobility and leadership or a self interested, ignoble bully? Which do we wish to be perceived as? Which do we wish to actually be?

My wife once remarked to me that she's always felt safe in my presence. Another time a civilian friend told me I had an air of confidence that radiated: "Not to be f*#-ed with." Once I was doing an interview with a newspaper reporter when he suddenly blurted: "You're a hard man." I laughed at him, to which he replied: "No, you're friendly and smile a lot, but there's something around the eyes." How do other people feel when they are around us? Safe? Intimidated?

I submit our role in modern society is to be an example to our community. This doesn't require us to run for mayor but to be cognizant of our impact on those around us. It also doesn't require mean mugging everyone when we enter a room. The Exemplar knows what he is capable of and often our mere presence is enough to prevent criminal knavery without affective posturing. 

On our promotion warrants in the Marine Corps there is sentence charging the Marine to be the embodiment of our institutional core values of honor, courage, and commitment. As an Exemplar, we should each be a living example of the enduring fabric of what we are trying to become as 21st Century warriors.

 Exemplar, what a great word.

Semper Fidelis!
America's SgtMaj

Monday, November 10, 2014

Marine Corps Birthday Bash!

As is our custom, the war pigs of 3d Battalion, 25th Marines celebrated 239 years of satisfied customer service this past Saturday with a lavish feast, dancing, and of course our traditional cake cutting ceremony.

One of my favorite bits is the cutting of the cake itself. Being the kind of guys we are, we always cut the cake with a sword. During this portion of the ceremony, a piece of cake is given to the oldest Marine present as a sign of respect to his seniority and experience.  The oldest Marine then gives a piece of cake to the youngest Marine present symbolizing the passing of knowledge and tradition, as well as the duty of senior Marines to mentor and nurture young Marines.

This year our oldest Marine was a gentleman who was born in 1932 and joined the Corps in the early '50s and retired as a Sergeant Major after three decades of service. He was deeply honored to attend and kept thanking me in his pleasant southern drawl. I think I got the better part of the bargain.

Generations collide! Our oldest and youngest Marines in attendance.
The Friday before the ball I walked into our admin shop to spot a Private First Class in Service Alphas. He had just arrived that day from the School Of Infantry and was checking in to the battalion. He leaped to his feet as I spoke to him, my sergeants glaring nearby in case the poor young lad committed any faux pas of military courtesy. A thought struck me as I was talking to him.

ASM: "What are you doing tomorrow?"

PFC: "Uh, nothing SgtMaj."

ASM: "Do you have dress blues?"

PFC: "Yes SgtMaj."

ASM: "Be at the hotel tomorrow at 10:00 for practice. You're going to the ball."

Thus I had chosen our youngest Marine. Within 24 hours of checking in to his battalion, he was participating in the cake cutting ceremony of our 239th birthday. That's how we do business.

A very happy birthday to the World's Finest, United States Marines!

America's SgtMaj

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Some photos for your enjoyment.

Am neck deep in Marine Corps Ball preparation madness. While you wait for me to post something of substance, enjoy some photos.

Courtesy of the Marine Corps History Division. This photo proves Marines have not changed much at all since 1937.

Evidence that sweeping dirt is not a new idea. The expression on the Marine on the far right is universal among Marines who thought 'first to fight' had nothing to do with manning brooms and everything to do with defeating villains.

The greatest unit t-shirt ever devised. The galley slaves of 3/25 concocted this masterpiece. If I were a Recon Bn SgtMaj I would wear this shirt exclusively.

Somehow, this doesn't seem very sporting.

And here I thought we were working with professionals.
Carry on with the plan of the day!

America's SgtMaj

Monday, November 3, 2014

Heard In The Clear!

As my regular readers know, I keep a running log of timeless remarks blurted out in the open. I feel it is my duty to record these for posterity lest they be lost for all time. The intuitive wisdom gleaned from these sages should be preserved so that future generations can ignore them.

I recently returned from a conference of senior leaders in my regiment. I'm always enlightened by their various insights into the military mind.

It is said that recognizing you have a problem is the first step towards recovery:

"That idea makes too much sense to be a plausible course of action."

"I learned as a 2nd Lieutenant that 'special trust and confidence' is a bumper sticker."

Concerning military education:

"You're drinking from a fire hose, but you're hydrated."

It's good to be king, no matter the pay:

"I willfully ignored that order and I'm still in charge."

During the conference one of the topics was the Expeditionary Force of the 21st Century. One of the very first slides showed a map of the globe and its various crises. The speaker's discernment of the overall situation was brilliant.

"As you can see from this slide, the world is a shitty place."

Tact is the art of telling superiors they are dead wrong without creating offense:

1stSgt: "Sir, I'm making a coffee run. Want anything?"
Officer: "Yeah, get me a triple caramel mocha esspresso."
1stSgt: "Right, one large cock in a cup. Got it."

On the other hand, what's a day in the Corps without a little offense?

Semper Fidelis!
America's SgtMaj

Friday, October 31, 2014

All Hallows Eve Edition

 It's probably no surprise this is currently my favorite commercial. Naturally, my version of this scenario would involve one of the characters shouting: "Like the good neighbor, the Marine Corps is there!" Then a Marine fire team would appear and direct accurate fire eliminating the threat.

An alternate ending would feature America's SgtMaj arriving on the scene to conduct a rectal exam on the villain with one of the chainsaws. Then drive away with the two ladies leaving the male characters behind to contemplate their utter failure as men.

However the scenario plays out, remember that in the really real world, there is no cure for stupid.

“Stupidity cannot be cured. Stupidity is the only universal capital crime; the sentence is death. There is no appeal, and execution is carried out automatically and without pity.”- Robert A. Heinlein

You kids have fun out there tonight. 

Semper Fidelis!
America's SgtMaj

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Exemplar: Definition of the modern warrior

 Recent I've been ruminating on things in the face of some of the issues we are confronted with in our modern times. An anonymous commenter on my last post said: "If the English language has a word for the synergistic combination of moral courage, right action, and bravery, I'm sorry to say I don't know it. If there isn't such a word, there should be. If there was, it would either be used too rarely for people to know the word, or overused as the word 'hero' oftentimes is by the media."

My response was to post something from Exemplar LLC, an outfit that disseminates values and traits of the modern warrior culture through hands-on training and lectures: "For us, 'Exemplar' is the definition of the modern warrior—that individual who is self-initiated, ever dutiful in aiding others, ever pushing forward in self development of his or her own capability, consciousness, and character. Exemplar LLC provides a culture where those individuals can pursue the path of the Exemplar."

In another prior post I discuss the concepts of consciousness, character, and capability. Here is a more in depth look at those traits from the director of Exemplar LLC Hunter B. Armstrong:

I suspect most of you who are looking at this page share choices that you’ve made in maintaining goals in physical conditioning and perhaps combative skills. I know that all of those whom we’ve invited to this page also share high standards in regards to personal character. I believe that I can make a similar claim to their level of consciousness, by this I mean not simply intelligence, but intelligent awareness (or perhaps aware intelligence).

These are the three traits that we consider requisite to the concept of the Exemplar: Consciousness, Character, and Capability. In the modern pop cultural milieu of today, there is some interest in physical capability, though it tends to be in pop concepts of conditioning (e.g., CrossFit), or pop ideas of capability (e.g., MMA, jiu-jitsu (sic)). There is considerably less of a pop cultural interest in development in consciousness—in either intellect or awareness—and perhaps the most detrimental lack in the pop cultural world is a virtual zero value put to the concept of developing character.

Unfortunately, the pop cultural world seems to be having an ever expanding influence in the modern world. The good news is that there are people out there, who are men and women of consciousness, character, and capability, seemingly in spite of the common pop cultural values.

What we are trying to do with Exemplar is bring together some kind of cohesion among these people, a shared identity, if you will, that can provide a stronger model to help counter balance the negative values that we seem to be so constantly blasted with from the media.

There are plenty of groups, sites, and organizations that focus on one or another aspect of our three traits. In particular, there are a plethora of physical conditioning and combative skills pages on Facebook alone (our own Spartan Training Center page is an example of a combination of those two). To lesser degrees there are postings regarding intellect (an aspect of consciousness) and character. But these are independent and relative only to themselves as traits.

However, for the Exemplar, we see the three traits of consciousness/character/capability as three parts of the whole, as versus individual and separate attributes. Each trait contributes to the other, and each should be trained in accordance with the others: Consciousness drives; character guides; and capability provides the means.

Our goal, then, is to bring together, like minded individuals who, sharing aspects of those traits, through their own self-discipline seek to improve themselves in consciousness, character, and capability, not simply for their own self-improvement, but as well for the betterment of their community and society as a whole.

- Hunter B. Armstrong

You can check out more modern warrior concepts on the Exemplar Facebook page.

Semper Fidelis!
America's SgtMaj