Friday, January 30, 2015

Things Your SgtMaj Hates: The Lone Marine

I don't like seeing Marines by themselves. It's a bit unnatural in my mind.  I don't mean they shouldn't have some alone time, most of the time I'd prefer to be left to myself too. Somehow trouble follows the lone Marine though. 

Marines who are with their buddies generally fare better when a fight breaks out. They also don't commit suicide in the company of another Marine.  In my experience it seems DUIs tend to happen more to Marines who are by themselves as well too.

I always used to encourage Marines to hang out with each other on the weekends in Hawaii by asking if any of them ever deployed to combat by themselves. They answered no of course. I'd then ask why in the world would they let themselves go out in bars and clubs populated by local thugs who wanted nothing but to mount a Marine's head on his wall.

As a 1stSgt with FAST in Bahrain I tried to combat the impact of Marines being by themselves. I always told them we were not strangers to each other and to act accordingly. We were the only company of Marines on the entire island so if I saw a Marine eating by himself I'd ask where his buddies were.  Once I saw two lance corporals sitting by themselves at two separate tables. I asked one why he wasn't at the other table. He replied that he didn't know that Marine as they were in different platoons. I introduced them then made them sit together and finish chow.

The CO, XO, Company Gunny and I had a habit of going to breakfast together. Occasionally, I'd see a young Marine eating by himself and we'd all sit down with him. Being under so much scrutiny certainly spices up the average mealtime. Pretty soon the word was out.

My weekend routine in Bahrain was to hit up the breakfast buffet put on by MWR. For a couple of hours I'd read a book while gorging on omelets made to order, coffee, and a bonanza of fat pills. I was always satisfied to see groups of Marines sit down and eat together.

One morning a young lance corporal plopped his tray down on my table.

"Good morning 1stSgt, is it alright if I sit here? Marines don't eat alone right?"

I put down my book and said he was absolutely right. We talked while we ate and the next thing I know I was host to a table full of Marines laughing and joking as they shared a meal. Not a bad way to spend the morning in the Persian Gulf I'd say.

Louis L'Amour said nothing binds men like sweat and gun smoke, but breaking bread together will do in a pinch.

Semper Fidelis!
America's SgtMaj

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Coffee Shop Encounter With A Marine Hater

Over in the Bookworm Room I read about an encounter between some barristas and a Marine dress blue cover.

Bookworm was at a coffee shop and noticed a Marine recruiter talking to a couple of young men. When they all left the Marine accidentally left his cover behind. A woman picked up the cover and gave it to the barristas to look after. Here's a bit from the post:

"All three barristas were suddenly riveted by the cap.  Indeed, they seemed to attribute to it some totemic significance.  One young man made as if to put it on, but immediately halted the action before the cap got higher than his nose.  Another young man said, “If you do that, you’ll start doing push ups.”  To which the third young man added, “If he comes back and sees you do that, he’ll make you do push-ups.”

This same “Marines are kind of scary cool” joshing continued for a minute or so.  Suddenly, a customer who had been there when I walked in (and was still there when I left), yelled out “You shouldn’t joke about those murderers.  There’s nothing funny about them because they kill women and children.”  The store instantly fell silent.  No one chimed in, but no one challenged him either.  My only thought was “It’s interesting that you didn’t say that while the Marine was here.”

And no, I didn’t say anything either.  It was clear looking at the speaker that there was something wrong with him.  His face and body were a bit dysmorphic, in a way that my San Francisco-tuned radar says often goes with unstable people.  My firm rule is “never argue with the crazy lady (or man).”"

At first I'd wished someone had told this clown off publicly: "You're an absolute fool, shut your gob."
But Bookworm is right, there is no reasoning with crazies or zealots of any stripe. In light of all the asinine comments surrounding American Sniper, rational people must come to the conclusion that service members aren't homicidal psychotics, but that people like the one above really, really wish we were.  They want us to be remorseless baby killers because it would justify the scorn they heap on us and make them the good guys. There is no arguing against the erroneous notion the military conditions all of us to be soulless murderers. It doesn't fit the preapproved narrative of their fantasy world of glitter and falsehood.

So why do I care about what ignorant clowns have to say about the matter? Why not just brush off their despicable remarks for the utter horse dung it is? Well gang, if we don't speak up then we automatically lose the debate.

But if factual evidence and logic will not penetrate the force field of fantasy with which they cloak their minds why bother?  When you encounter this hateful phenomena I recommend you mock them to derision: "Your conclusions are the sad ravings of a demented, gravy sweating, slob. Your ignorance makes me want to rip that downy soft beard off or your jowls and wipe my ass with it."  

Might as well give it a shot. It's not like they're interested in being your friend anyway.

Semper Fidelis,
America's SgtMaj

Monday, January 26, 2015

How Not To Remain Invisible, A Boot Camp Tale

Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, CA

Before heading into Boot Camp, I figured I would graduate a squad leader. When we finally dropped to our platoons, the buffoonery surrounding the competition for the spots as a squad leader and guide made me change my mind. The clown show began as aspirants fell all over each other jockeying for one these august positions amid the roaring of Drill Instructors. This chaos seemed so ridiculous I decided to simply remain invisible and be another recruit among the herd.

Over the next couple of weeks guides and squad leaders dropped like flies. The Drill Instructors cast their critical eyes upon the platoon, convinced America had finally run out of acceptable applicants to fill the ranks of their Corps. Every recruit they selected for a leadership position continued to think their job was to be a mini DI. This didn't save them from summary judgement and a vehement, public firing. It was a bloodbath.

Throughout this, the DIs were shrewdly evaluating other recruits who were not running up like lemmings to be castigated as leadership failures and cast back into the mob.  I had no idea this was going on at the time but would later learn I was being sized up as a possible squad leader. 

Apparently I gained the attention of a couple of them during hand to hand combat training. At the time the Marine Corps close combat program was known as Linear Infighting Neural Override Engagement (LINE). It was a specially crafted acronym meant to describe a system dedicated to crippling, dismembering, and otherwise killing evil doers. This program spawned catchy phrases like: "Grab, twist, pull, grab!"  Real life use of LINE techniques would result in your boots being smeared with a thick paste of brains and teeth.

The Drill Instructors noticed I took particular glee in applying painful arm locks and wrist manipulations. We trained in a large pit filled with saw dust and wood chips where we leg swept one another with vigor. My lust for causing grievous bodily harm was considered a positive trait and duly noted.

Then I did something really dumb. I volunteered information that I had studies commercial art in college and suddenly I was the platoon "Artist Recruit." This meant I put together art projects designed to teach recruits things like rank structure and other general knowledge.  I had irrevocably skylined myself. 

One afternoon I was summoned into the DI hut under the pretense to demonstrate my hand salute. In low growls the DIs explained they were considering me for a position as the next 3rd squad leader. The current one was showing more behind than a red-assed baboon. The Senior DI had no idea who I was. After his team briefed a few anecdotes about my bloodlust and gave me a once over with his x-ray vision: "Our 3rd squad leader punts it one more time and you're in."

That night, before lights out I was the third squad leader.

In the morning we endured another grueling PT session. My memory of what exactly we did is hazy but I remember our guide at the time had flat feet which were killing him. At the end of PT one of the DIs handed me the guidon: "You're it."

This may help you figure out which one I am in my platoon picture.
Eleven weeks later, by some miracle, I managed to end up graduating as the platoon guide. Go figure.

Semper Fidelis!
America's SgtMaj

Saturday, January 24, 2015

A Boot Camp Photo

I can't even figure out which one is me anymore. Can you?

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Hanging With The Old Breed

Recently it was our honor to be invited to the offices of Representative Marcia L. Fudge to help present the Congressional Gold Medal to Marine John Campbell on his 91st birthday.  In 2012, Congress awarded it highest honor to some 900 surviving Montford Point Marines who served during WWII in a segregated Marine Corps.

Mr. John Campbell and his bride of 68 years, Rita.
Between the years of 1942 to 1949 roughly 20,000 African American warriors attended boot camp at Montford Point. Mr. Campbell served in the Pacific campaign helping to secure the Marshall Islands.

Campbell's boot camp platoon.
Chatting with PFC Campbell he gave us an anecdote about "Hashmark" Johnson, a famous Monteford Point Marine who was renowned for having more service stripes than rank on his sleeves.  As Mr. Campbell tells it, one day a young recruit bumped into Johnson who told him to watch it.

"Well who are you? I didn't see no stripes," said the offending recruit.

Johnson immediately decked the young man and looming over him said: "Well now you're seeing stars AND stripes!"

Standing room only as the room was filled with members of the Campbell family. 

He was speaking with a local reporter when he noted that there was no choice about joining the military during a wartime draft. Once drafted though, he decided he was going into the Marine Corps. When asked why he said: "I wanted to be something spectacular."

Spectacular effort Marine.

Semper Fidelis!
America's SgtMaj

NCO Logic

Ft McClellan , Alabama, 1998.

During this time in my career I was attending Nuclear Biological Chemical Defense School. I was led to believe this school would qualify me to train Marines to operate in chemically contaminated battlefields in conflicts against the forces of evil the world over. This belief was utter fantasy but that is not the subject of this story.

I was a sergeant attending an MOS producing school attended primarily by Marines just out of Boot Camp. As such, I was the NCO in charge of a class room of boot jarheads who had a natural tendency to get embroiled in various kinds of mischief and stupidity.

One night around midnight I was awoken in the squad bay by a young Marine who had been in a fist fight. He let me know he had been playing basket ball against some Army guys. One particular Soldier kept blatantly fouling him and running his mouth. This eventually ended up in fisticuffs, a past time young men sometimes engage in. 

Being a responsible non-commissioned officer, I asked two simple questions.

"Are you hurt?" He wasn't, but safety is paramount after all.

"Did you win?" The honor of the Corps is always a top subject. He answered in the affirmative so I didn't worry about it anymore and sent him away.

Later, Army MPs came by as the loser had reported the incident. This created some small drama as the young Marine was taken away and the instructor staff was notified.

The next day it got back to me through our instructors that the Master Sergeant in charge of our course was furious with me for not having immediately reported the incident when I found out about it. The other instructors came to my defense remarking they would have done same thing I did. They were dumbfounded the MSgt was more pissed at me over the whole incident. In the end I was exonerated as two glaring truths continued to rear their twin heads: he wasn't hurt and he won the fight which the MPs decided was a mutual endeavor vice assault. Go figure.

That troop welfare thing can get a little tricky sometimes, it's best to keep things as simple as possible.

Semper Fidelis!
America's SgtMaj

Monday, January 19, 2015

Concerning What Constitutes Cowardice

I wonder, is it more cowardly to execute elite rifle marksmanship and eliminate an enemy threat at a great distance, or speak ill off a decorated war hero who cannot respond because he is dead? Interesting this controversy would rear its head on a day dedicated to the idea of judging someone solely on the content of their character.

It might be argued that the real question is why would anybody care about the opinions of chumps like Seth Rogan and Michael Moore. In the end none of us really should give much weight to what these jackasses have to say about their betters. However, I also think it's important that when clowns vomit their nonsense all over the rest of us, we point out how stupid they sound to right minded people. If we don't ever challenge backward thinking, we'll lose the debate whether we like it or not.

Others would argue that since Rogan and Moore have never served then their opinions on the subject do not matter. I don't think that is an accurate assessment either. Those who have not served are certainly allowed their opinion. Though they are not soldiers they are certainly human and will have thoughts on any given subject whether or not they have any personal experience. For example, my wife isn't a veteran but she thinks I'm awesome. 

Considering that any one of Clint Eastwood's films utterly eclipses Rogan's and Moore's entire body of work combined, they probably should have saved their criticism for real live extremist savages who hide behind their dogma as an excuse to murder, rape, and otherwise violate anyone who doesn't share their world view. I wonder where they could have found some of those to cast dispersions on instead?

Semper Fidelis,
America's SgtMaj