Friday, January 29, 2010

Game Day

Part IV

We arrived at the stadium and were given field passes and seats to watch the game. We were also able to do a run-through before the opening with our Irish counterparts. Right on time, gale force winds began blowing through the stadium accompanied by a trickle of rain. I felt evil forces were conspiring against me. After we finished color guard practice fans began to fill up the stands. All I have to say is that 35,000 is a heck of a lot of folks! There were people everywhere, players were swarming all over the field as they warmed up, thousands of American fans had flown in for the game, and curious Irish were wondering where the beer concession was.

It was time for the color guard to march onto the field. As soon as we stepped off I swear that the clouds parted and a ray of sunlight shown down on us. When the crowd caught sight of the color guard they began to cheer loudly. I thought I could hear a chorus of angels as we approached the sidelines but they were drowned out by the roaring from the stands. Actually I didn't really notice the crowd too much. I was concentrating on the task at hand and a low mantra in my brain housing group underlined everything; size 12, size 12, size 12.

The U.S. national anthem was sung by The Corrs; at the time they were only popular locally. The crowd was on its feet singing. My boys were fabulous. The Stars & Stripes unfurled in all its glory before the assembled masses as the visage of four of the finest men in Ireland was splashed across the screen of a giant TV at one end of the field. It was great. The Army Golden Knights made another appearance dropping in over our heads carrying the American and Irish flags. They were ok I guess. All in all it was pretty glorious. The fans were moved. Flowers rained down around us. As we marched off, men were on their knees crying and women begged to be the mothers of our children. My chest puffed up so big one of my buttons shot off and hit a spectator right in the face.

After the game began we took our seats to watch the show, after which, we realized that we still had our field passes. What the heck were we doing in the stands when we could be on the field? Quickly we went back down to rub elbows with the players. Of course, when you stand next to some of those guys you run the risk of having an elbow rubbed in your eye. Nevertheless, we hit the field with our passes before us to ward off any evil security type personnel. We were still in our blues so no one gave us any grief anyway.

While we were down on the field we introduced ourselves to Howie Long, James Brown, and Ronnie Lott who were commentating in a makeshift studio at one end of the field. They were pretty cool to us and couldn't say enough good things about the military. Ronnie Lott's father was a career serviceman and he had once thought of joining the Air Force himself; it just goes to show there's just no accounting for taste. The three of them signed autographs and chatted for quite a while before we were shooed off by producer type TV Nazis. Heaven forbid if there were Marines in the shot during a game of American football.

Before we were chased off Howie Long asked one of my Marines if he could get a pinch from his dip can. Awestruck, Sgt Ash offered his tin of Copenhagen to Howie as if in a trance. Howie casually took a three finger pinch and packed in his lip thanking Sgt Ash as he returned the can to him. One thing that needs to be pointed out here is one of Howie Long's hands is equivalent to both of mine side by side. His fingers were like two of mine taped together. So a three finger pinch from Howie Long is a six finger pinch taken by a normal human. Sgt Ash's look of hero worship melted into disbelief as he received back a nearly empty can of Copenhagen. For at least a week later all were heard out of him were a litany of expletives about "friggin' Howie Long" taking three quarters of a can of Copenhagen in one pinch.

Later we walked up and down the sidelines and talked to some of the players from both teams. One of these hulks was on the sidelines having his ankle wrapped. He talked with us for a while and at one point he said; "Well you guys are better men than I am." As his arms were as big around as my waist I decided that right then wasn't the time to openly disagree with him. A few of the other players also said they admired our service, I thought that was pretty cool of them. One of the Bears even shouted "Semper Fi!" as they took the field before the game.

That evening we drove our vehicle out of the stadium parking lot negotiating through the departing crowd. Still in our blues, fans began to walk up to the car, Irish and Americans.

"Hey! Good job Marines!"

"Thanks a lot Marines!"

Another button burst off my blouse and shattered the windshield.

The following day one of the local radio stations lamented the fact Budweiser had sponsored the game but there was no beer sold in the stadium. Consoling themselves one of the announcers stated: "Well, at least the Marines were good."

So in the end the planets remained in their proper alignment, the Gunny didn't have to ruin a perfectly good pair of shoes, and the reputation of the World's Finest remained intact. Whew!

Semper Fi,
America's 1stSgt

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Golden moments...

Part III of IV

We attended a reception at the Ambassador's residence in honor of the team owners, the president of the NFL, and a number of the players. The Army Golden Knights were also in attendance and parachuted into the back yard of the Ambassador's residence. A day or two before we had a small soiree at the Marine House and had invited the Golden Knights over; they took the opportunity to plaster our home with Golden Knights stickers and even put one on the bumper of our car. This egregious abuse of our hospitality was an affront to our martial pride. It would not go unanswered.

During their big production and whoop-de-do in the Ambassador's back yard I gave our Gunny a sly look and he suddenly convulsed with a "What in the name of Chesty Puller did you do?" look. They parachuted in without incident and smoothly transitioned into a spiel about how great they were. At the conclusion of their portion of the show the Knights came to attention, faced left, and marched off to the epic tune of the Marines Hymn playing on an Irish bagpipe. The piper and I had made an arrangement earlier. We ended up hiring him for the Marine Corps Ball.

Between standing duty in the embassy, our regular training, and giving hours of instruction in baton use during which local Irish embassy guards were convinced that I had some clinical issues related to inflicting harm on other people, we somehow managed to throw in some color guard practice.

Gunny would innocently ask from time to time how the color guard was coming along. Then he'd grin wickedly as he polished his shoes.

A week before the big game, I got a phone call from Captain Farrelly who was in charge of the Irish color guard. We were supposed to meet up at Croke Park to practice but naturally, everyone was getting different word. They were going to show up in full dress uniform for practice and we were wearing blue jeans. No one really knew what it was we were going to do, or if we were going to be able to practice together before the game. Captain Farrelly and I decided that it had to be some civilian's fault, if one of us military types were in charge then everyone would know what was going on and when. Suffice it to say once we all arrived at the stadium and got the show business guys to shut up, we ironed everything out.

Interestingly, the Irish Army didn't have a codified drill for conducting a color guard like we do. So we invented one on the spot. Whereas the Marine color guard had four members (two riflemen and two color bearers) the Irish hand only three (two riflemen and one color bearer). They simply had not done anything like the ceremony we were going to do for the football game before and had no need for a color guard. Regardless, we got it squared away.

Next time: When cheerleaders attack! Stay tuned…

America's 1stSgt

Sunday, January 24, 2010

"Here in America we don't tolerate that kind of crap sir!"

Part II of IV

In July of 1997 posters advertising the game were plastered all over town. "Earthquake Headed To Dublin", they read, "Touchdown Imminent!" Cheerleaders appeared on the corners of every street handing out pamphlets. Irishmen gathered in pubs nationwide and wondered allowed. "What in the world is American football anyway? Why can't they play a proper game?"

Meanwhile, we carried on working and escorting important type people to functions by and for the NFL. One night we got all spiffed up in our dress blues and escorted Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith and her brother Senator Ted Kennedy to a charity dinner in support of Irish Special Olympics.

I had two Marines stationed at the entrance with M-14 rifles (for drill only) like sentries guarding the entrance to the dining room. When the Ambassador entered they snapped to attention and came to a sharp present arms terribly impressing everyone as I escorted her to her table. I pulled out the Ambassador's chair and once seated I took a position nearby to watch the show. I really don't remember too much of it except that the host was a well known Irish comedian who nearly lost all his teeth that night.

As the dinner was coming to a close and it was time for me to escort the Ambassador from the dinning hall I approached her table and came to attention. The Irish comedian took it upon himself to begin jumping around me and asking questions like: "Are you one of those guys who can't move no matter what I do? Are you allowed to talk or anything?Hello?Hello?" This was much like an episode of The Simpsons in which Homer asks many of the same questions.

Our Irish friend fared far better than Homer much to the relief of Irish-American diplomatic relations. I remained at attention while this fool jumped around me like a lunatic. I considered grabbing him by his throat and crotch then hurling him through the nearest window, but I was there for the Ambassador not for myself, so he got a pass. The guests all appreciated my willpower as well and applauded that fact that I didn't perform a disembowelment so soon after dessert. Jean Kennedy Smith took my arm and patted it saying: "Very good." She knew what her boys were capable of.

More tolerance in part three!

America's 1stSgt

Friday, January 22, 2010

American Embassy, Dublin, Ireland. July 1997

I was checking in as the new Assistant Detachment Commander and thought Dublin was going to be total skate duty. Embassy guard duty is probably one of the best kept secrets in the Marine Corps. My first assignment had been American Embassy Bujumbura, Burundi; mostly civil war between Hutu and Tutsi tribesmen chopping each other up with machetes and AK-47s. Later I was stationed at American Embassy Madrid; lots of night clubs and where I learned that Europeans have a deeper addiction to tobacco use than Americans. Dublin in contrast was a city that felt more like a small town and was very walkable (pub walkable). The Detachment was small which was just my style and everyone in Ireland is, well, Irish.

At the time the Marine House was only one house away from the embassy so it was nothing to slip on a tie and waltz over to conduct a little business. The Detachment Commander's office was attached to Post 1 where Marines controlled entry and exit from the building while looking sharp in blue delta uniforms accessorized with .357 revolvers and PR-24 batons.

The Detachment Commander, a Gunnery Sergeant, had me in front of his desk for my initial counseling. That was when I learned that I would be in charge of the next color guard detail; easy day. It wasn't my first rodeo. Then he let me know that it was for an exhibition football game at Croke Park Stadium in front of 35,000 people. Great. After I digested this he revealed that the Pittsburg Steelers would be playing against the Chicago Bears and the game was going to be televised live. Heh, wonderful.

The Gunny kindly reminded me that blowing this detail and embarrassing the Corps on live television would result in crapping size 12 for the remainder of my tour. I expressed my appreciation for his guidance.

No problem. Throughout history Marines have laughed in the face of daunting prospects. In 1918 Marines assaulted German machine gun positions without artillery support in the wheat fields of France and won the day. Japanese generals claimed that their fortifications at Tarawa would take a million men and 100 years to breach, U.S. Marines did it in three days. At Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War Marines were surrounded by an overwhelming army of Chinese determined to wipe them out. The Marines simply chose a direction and advanced. This is one of the most famous battles in our history.

So I swaggered around the embassy brimming with confidence. So what if our work schedule was packed to the gills with training our local guard force in the violent application of the PR-24 baton and we all had our regular duties as well as attending every function and fund raiser on the Emerald Isle from now until the end of time. Did I mention that we were also a man short in a five man detachment? No worries!

Despite my outward bravado there was a frightened little boy inside my brain housing group jumping up and down wetting his baby pants. I knew that if we were flawless it would come as a shock to no one. The average person expects nothing less of the world's finest. If anything less than flawless were to occur at Croke Park Stadium then the storm clouds would gather and rain down Gunny's size 12 on my tender colon.

Excitement! Thrills! Riverdancing! Stay tuned for part two!

America's 1stSgt

Monday, January 18, 2010

New weekly feature! Ask America's SgtMaj

There are questions you have been dying to ask!
Questions have been lurking unanswered!
Sometimes you just HAVE to know!
Because you don't know stuff!

And what sage oracle can you consult when desperate for knowledge?


Some of you may have questions about life in the military or what my thoughts are on particular topics. The floodgates are officially open so e-mail me already! I'm hoping this experiment will keep me writing on fresh topics particularly when nothing exciting or explosive is going on (like my entire last deployment).

The Rules of Engagement (ROE):

1. Send questions for consideration with the subject line: Ask America's SgtMaj, to

2. Indicate if you wish to remain anonymous. Otherwise I'm telling everyone who it was and we will make fun of you.

3. Keep in mind I may choose not to answer a question if I feel it is inappropriate, or I simply don't know the answer, or I can think of nothing clever to say about the subject. So no getting bent out of shape because I didn't choose your question. It's in the ROE so you have to comply.

If there are any questions about the ROE feel free to ask them in comments.

Friday, January 15, 2010

What are we fighting for?

Considering the last couple of posts authored by me were about my personal training I imagine most of you think I endure all of it honing my combative skills in an effort to protect the innocent, liberate the oppressed, or otherwise stand in the gap against the odious armies of darkness and save little babies. It's an egregious lie and I will set the record straight immediately.

The reason I participate in such arduous training isn't to protect children; it's to DEFEAT them.

Here is photographic evidence of an unprovoked attack by a cell of kids who mistakenly thought I was a soft target. This merely proves what many of us have suspected for some time: Children are dangerous and a dire threat to Western Civilization as we know it.

I managed to keep the conflagration contained to the den for at least an hour as bodies were carelessly hurled into couches; wedgies, noogies, and horse bites were dispensed at a cyclic rate.

The little demons resorted to breaking out various weapons from a seemingly inexhaustible cache. I was beginning to lose the arms race.

Despite their violent gun play my superior skills overcame their technological advantage and the battle ended badly for them.

There is only one time proven technique to truly defeat the chaos of marauding children: the application of discipline. Of which, I happen to carry around a good dose of at all times.

Note the sadistic joy the younger sister takes at her brothers' expense. It's all about divide and conquer; besides as Robert Heinlein says: Little girls, like butterflies, need no excuse.

In the end there is nothing like pushups to confound evil forces and send them packing right back into the kitchen ensuring the dishes get done right this time.

America's 1stSgt; keeping adults sane one pushup at a time.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Practical Application.

Still at the Spartan Training Center whoopin' it on.

Here are some photos of a more modern application of the kind of thing we were training for in the other post. The drill is designed to train you to get into an optimum distance based on the use of the type of weapon you have. In this case a baton.

The ICS developed the Battlehand series of drills some years ago that can probably be described here. The drills can get pretty intense and we have even done some live blade drills in the past.

The live blade increases the risk/threat of the exercise and thus the neural intensity. Usually after training I'm exhausted even if we really didn't push ourselves physically.

To see what some of this looks like in action check out some video of Battlehand. Extra points if you can figure out where I am in any of the videos.

For those of you who insist on remarking: "Why don't you just shoot 'im?" Well yes, that would be ideal but there are plenty of examples of hand to hand combat and bayonet charges in every major conflict in recent history. Besides, I've never been involved in a fight yet that went "ideally".

So check out some of the links to see what I have been up to. Or just check out more cool pictures of me beating people up.

Sleep peaceably everyone.

Semper Fi,

America's 1stSgt

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Attack! Attack! Attack!

Getting a little beat up the past couple days at the Spartan Training Center. We practice a traditional Japanese battlefield system which has the added benefit of occasionally kicking the crap out of everyone involved.

In the photos we are conducting a drill involving sword vs spear. You'll note the swordsman is wearing protective gear (bogu) because the spearman will drill him if he can. It's not only good training but feels great when you really lay one on somebody.

That isn't to say the spearman doesn't catch it too. Ideally the swordsman wins the engagement but we don't give anything away for free.

We also train spear vs spear with bogu on and it sucks. We call this ju shiai or "free engagement". The difference between ju shiai and sparring or fencing is well, we're actually trying to kill each other. This work will SMOKE CHECK you. The neural drive and physical stress generated here is far more taxing than any workout I have ever done. By the time the drill is over my breathing is so labored that trying to open my mouth any wider to squeeze in an extra sip of oxygen would dislocate my jaw. My forearms get destroyed the only thing gripping the spear toward the end is personal pride.

Plus getting speared just hurts.
Like here:


America's 1stSgt

Sunday, January 3, 2010


"This is the law:
There is no possible victory in defense,
The sword is more important than the shield,
And skill is more important than either,
The final weapon is the brain.
All else is supplemental."
John Steinbeck

I am spending some time in Sedona training at the Spartan Training Center. Much sword work and spear slaying will be conducted. I even have a decapitation class at 16:00 today. Cool or what?

No better way to start the new year off in my opinion. Pictures to follow.

Fix bayonets!

America's 1stSgt