Thursday, December 18, 2014

Scientific Administration

Getting out from the behind the desk and walking about is an important habit for leaders to develop. You never know what you are going to learn about your Marines.

I swaggered into my admin office (S-1) this morning to find four Marines huddled around a chemistry set microscope busily cleaning the little glass slides. As this seemed a somewhat unusual endeavor for administrative clerks to perform, I immediately felt the need to investigate.

America's SgtMaj: "What in the world are you knuckleheads doing?"

Marine: "We're going to put a staff sergeant chevron under the microscope to see where the power comes from."

They weren't kidding.
I'm anxious to see if they find anything.

Semper Fidelis!
America's SgtMaj

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Shameful PT Session

There haven't been too many times I've been professionally ashamed of myself. One of those occasions was while assigned to 2d Maintenance Battalion, 2d Force Service Support Group in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

After six years as an infantryman, I had been tricked into reenlisting as a Nuclear, Biological, Defense Specialist (it sounded cool on paper) and was eventually assigned to 2nd Maintenance Battalion, 2d FSSG as their NBC Chief. By way of explanation, the FSSG (now MLG) is a giant logistical support apparatus that supports combat operations for II Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF). There are numerous ways I could relate about how this part of my career just sucked but I'm trying to stay on topic here.

One day, the good idea fairies in Headquarters Company decided they wanted to do company PT. This in and of itself is ok, and a normal practice among Marine units. In this instance, it was declared we would conduct PT at the barracks led by some civilian aerobics instructors from the base gym. In my mind this was a recipe for degradation and disaster.

On the day prescribed we were formed up in front of the barracks with the aerobics instructors jumping around to the beat in their laughable aerobics attire and headset microphones. I was somewhere in the back of the formation openly mocking the indignity of it all as their vile music infected the air. 

Four more, three more, two more, aaaaaaaand I hate you.
So there we were, flitting about like a bunch of fairies with glitter permeating the air like snowflakes. Then the worst possible thing happened. A company of infantry Marines appeared down the street on a hike wearing full gear and weapons. They humped right past our barracks castigating the pogues for prancing around in t-shirts and shorts while they ruggedly trudged along in full combat gear. You know, like Marines.

These Marines aren't exhausted, they're just a little out of breath from laughing at me.
I just stared at the ground ashamed to be associated with the whole thing. Oh, the horror! The humiliation! Not long after I fled the FSSG for Division units and haven't look back. Ugh!

Semper Fidelis!
America's SgtMaj

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Military Courtesy and Influencing Others

I've always hated a weak greeting. While with FAST Company in Bahrain I was constantly shocked at the lack of simple military courtesy displayed by the Sailors and even more by the complicit tolerance of it by their leaders. When new platoons would arrive in Bahrain I would brief the Marines about the egregious nonsense they would encounter. Particularly they would see Sailors ignore their platoon commanders as if they did not exist. I instructed the Marines they would not treat Navy officers with the same discourtesy, but they would respond by doing the right thing and rendering the proper greeting of the day to all petty officers, chief petty officers, and commissioned officers with vigor.

Like roaring lions young Marines greeted every officer within sight and hearing with such enthusiasm that Navy Lts began avoiding them. Some months later the below e-mail was forwarded to me. I find it satisfying that Marine lance corporals were able to impact an entire Chief's Mess with their example.

-----Original Message-----
From: CPO USN NSF Bahrain
Sent: Tuesday, July 26, 2011 7:42 AM
To: M-BA-NSA - All CPO's
Subject: Military Courtesies and Discipline

Brothers and sisters,

If this doesn't bother ANY of you, then we as a fraternity are in big trouble. I'm going to give it my best shot and hope, at the very least, it starts some sort of an awareness amongst us.  How many times in the morning or during the course of the day have you walked your hallway/passageway, or maybe down the "spine" on the base, and a junior Sailor looks you straight dead in the eye but continues to walks on without saying a word? Or how many times have they walked around you without even acknowledging your existence or presence? Well, that has happened to me a couple of times and because they don't work for me, I've always thought it wasn't such a big deal. Until yesterday.

I went into the first floor of building 266 (the Marines' quarterdeck area), and ran into a bunch of Marines in the hallway, waiting for who knows what. I tried getting through the crowded bunch and asked to be excused. What followed next was a transformation in my sense of awareness, that made me think I had been failing my duty as a leader in the BEST if not most unique fraternities in the United States military. As I maneuvered my way through these bunch of Marines, I must have been greeted by each one of them individually. "Good morning Chief, good morning Chief" echoed on in about twenty different voices as they made way for me.

This actually happens every time I run across a Marine on base here. I thought for a moment, that only if I could enlist the fine Marines into the Navy, maybe, just maybe the respect and discipline they display would rub off a couple of our young Sailors. Hey, I would be satisfied with just a handful to begin with. But what makes these guy so respectful to a Navy Chief, who holds no responsibility for their advancement or evaluation? Why would they care to say good morning to someone from another branch of service? Then it hit me, their leadership instills the respect in them from day one in boot camp and never stop. The words of Col Jessep (Jack Nicholson's character in "A Few Good Men") rang through my thought "We follow orders, son. We follow orders or people die. It's that simple." I guess the Marines follow discipline too because you hardly ever find a Marine that is disrespectful in public.

After my run-in the Marines, and with the experience still fresh in my mind, I headed upstairs to the Navy world. Now I thought, this was my people, they would show me the same courtesy as the young Marines downstairs. But boy was I wrong! I went by Sailor after Sailor until I came across a MA1 who looked in my direction and called out "good morning Chief!" I replied back "Good morning MA1" but wasn't as excited as I thought I would be in hearing that. I later changed a went on to the HPU compound (MY HPU I THOUGHT) and was met with the same mentality. I even watch as they walked by HPU's Bos'n (a Warrant Officer). So I asked myself, why doesn't anyone ever call these Sailors out? Only answer I could think of is that no one cares anymore. In a day and age where we are on first name basis with the junior Sailors and occasionally party with them. Who really cares? Well brothers and sisters...I DO! At a time when history and tradition is fading pretty fast, it's about time we take back our Navy!  And with the "Season of Pride" fast approaching, I just hope I'm not alone.

Very Respectfully,
NSA Bahrain

Semper Fidelis!
America's SgtMaj

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Return of Christmapocalypse!

Stand by for action!

That's right, the season of undeath is upon us and only you can prevent the spread of wretched zombie plague. In the past I have opined on how to best arm yourself for the season. In the end it's all a matter of personal taste really. As the march of mall walkers claw and groan their way through the month I will be posting some of my previous Christmapocalyptic musings and carols on my Facebook page.

Uuuuugghhh ... shooooooooppping!
Rest assured we will have new apocalyptic carol this season as well. In the meantime, here's a fine holiday video I first posted back in 2010.

Attack! Attack! Attack!
America's SgtMaj

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Concerning the Fatness of Bodies

I've always taken some pride in the fact I've never technically inspired any of Maximilian Uriarte's Terminal Lance comics.  

Then today everyone in the northern hemisphere pointed me to today's strip where he gives me a shout out:

This eerily resembles what may have actually happened during any one of my remedial PT sessions back in K-Bay. Marines hate fat bodies. When I say 'hate' in this instance I mean with the heat of a supernova. You know how I can't stand the mcfattersons.

Today's strip inspired some of my old Marines to remind me of the time I first met some of them as their H&S 1stSgt. One corporal seemed to my eye straining the acceptable standards of height and weight.

America's 1stSgt: "Holy $#@% Corporal, are you married? What is your wife feeding you?"

Cpl: "Chicken and rice 1stSgt."

A1S: "Rice? RICE? The chicken's good but RICE? You don't need that &*$%!"

According to lore, I turned to his sergeant and insinuated he might come to grievous bodily harm if  the young corporal failed to slim down. It is said I may have threatened to put them both on the Body Composition Program (BCP) if weight loss wasn't achieved. I have a knack to inspire. 

Truth be told, any fool can thrash the snot out of troops. I always tried to ensure my guys came away learning something other than why they should never fall out of a run again.

Semper Fidelis!
America's SgtMaj

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