Friday, November 28, 2014

Heard In The Clear! Conversing with televisions.

More timeless comments preserved for all posterity. Since my tradition on Black Friday is to stay indoors and watch TV, this episode will center around remarks made to and about the nonsense spewed forth from the television. It's nick-named the Idiot Box for a reason I suppose.

I am constantly amazed at the nonsense news anchors are able to say during live broadcasts and still keep their jobs.

CNN anchor remarking about a news item: "Who could rob a church and shoot a priest?"
Me: "Obviously an asshole."

News anchor speaking over security video of someone shooting at a van: "A gunman started firing off dozens of shots in the middle of a quiet neighborhood. What was this person thinking?"
Me: "I suppose he was thinking of killing people, but what do I know?"

What producers decide is actual news is somewhat confounding to me: "Dear media, the story that Justin Bieber conducts himself like a douche is, in fact, not news."

Remember the media histrionics around Malaysia Flight 370? Here was my take: "BREAKING! Five page report on Flight 370 only has one word on each page: WE. DON'T. KNOW. WHAT. HAPPENED."

Watching movies and TV with my wife has been a great source of observations and one liners.

She had never seen Dead Poets Society before so we watched it recently. Half way through the film she remarked: "This movie gave your life purpose didn't it."

While watching Superman Returns (2006) with the wife I was bad mouthing Lois Lane as a traitorous scamp for writing the article, "Why the World Doesn't Need Superman."
Her: "You know, these people don't really exist."

Me: "SHUT your heathen mouth."

Truer words were never spoken.
Her: "If Bella were dead the vampires and the werewolves could all live happily ever after."

She never was a comic book fan.
Her: "If Bruce Wayne had been afraid of clowns this would have been a much different movie."

Then there was the time we watched the Game of Thrones marathon.

Me: "I don't think I could be one of the Black Watch."
Her: "Please, before you met me your entire Marine Corps career was the Black Watch."

A remark she made right after Rob Stark secretly married Talisa: "Didn't they learn ANYTHING from Braveheart? Secret marriages never end well."

‪Of course, I could not refrain from making my own observations about the show: "If I were Robb Stark's SgtMaj there would have been less weddings and more taint kicking. The SgtMaj of the North! The SgtMaj of the North!‬"

Carry on with the plan of the day!
SgtMaj of the North

Monday, November 24, 2014

33 Years Under The Green Blanket: Concerning Mental Toughness

A vignette featuring my father.

As I've noted before, Marines tend to deny the need for medical science unless it is a near death event. Here is a typical conversation between me and my wife when she is concerned with my health.

Her:"Are you ok?"
Me: "Yeah, I'm alright."
Her: "I call bullshit. You could be laying in a ditch somewhere with both legs missing and still say you were 'alright.'"

It's true. If we didn't have Navy doctors and Corpsmen, Marines would prescribe themselves a vigorous physical training regimen to cure all our ills. We are the only group of people who, when they feel under the weather, consider going on a three mile run to clear everything up.

When I was around six or seven years old, I was outside with my dad. Somehow I'd scraped my knee. I began to cry as what I perceived to be a river of blood poured down my leg. To my utter shock my father's reaction was: "Knock off that &*%#@ crying!" Ah, my first lesson in manly comportment.

I was raised by an expert in pain management. As a Recon Marine he once went out on a long swim with his team. As they were entering the water my dad noticed he had some chest pain. He figured he'd get with the Corpsman after the swim to get checked out. Upon arriving back at the beach the Corpsman announced my dad was having a heart attack and what the %#$@ was he thinking going on a swim in this condition?

This a man who'd been in so many fist fights that when he held his hands out each finger pointed in a different direction. Once a doctor was examining him and noted his nose had been so badly broken he wondered how in the world he was able to breath through it.

I can remember another time as a wee kid playing in the yard as my father was on a ladder trimming a hedge. There was a bee hive in it my dad hadn't seen and when the inevitable happened hordes of angry bees erupted from the hedge.  He stayed at the top of the ladder letting the bees sting him as he shooed my mother and me away. Later as my mom plucked bee stings out of his nose and shaven skull I asked him why he hadn't simply run like I would have. He gave me the look of a man who had never fled from North Korean and Chinese Communists or Viet Cong, he surely would not run in the face of mere insects.  He explained that if he had run the bees might have come after me or my mother so he had taken their wrath full in the face, quite literally.  Enduring the hazard so others would not, another lesson taught by example.

 So ladies, when it appears your Marine is the most stubborn person on earth, brushing off bumps, bruises, and fractured limbs, remember what kind of creature you have on your hands. Besides, no man of valor passes up the opportunity to be nursed by a lovely lady.

Semper Fidelis!
America's SgtMaj

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