Tuesday, March 30, 2010


 Meatheads. From what I've seen they populate gyms everywhere. If you've ever attempted to work out in what I like to refer to as a "chrome and fern" type of gym you've probably encountered them yourself.

Meatheads are the bulgy guys flapping their way through a workout on their massive lats using up the squat rack doing bicep curls and bellowing like they are being mounted by a rhino (and kind of like it). As they walk by you they magically inflate with the pixie dust of imagined superiority and isolation exercises. "Today I'm working nipples and kneecaps! Yeah!"

In the infantry it is generally accepted if you are covered in slabs of muscle then you can't possibly be a grunt. Grunts spend too much time in the field eating cruddy MREs to develop the inflated physics of their box kicking brethren. As young Marines we used to try and guess other guys MOS's by how big they were: "That guy must work in Supply. There's a Bulk Fuel Marine. Look at the size of him!"
Meatheads have their own dress code. The other day it was apparently tank top day in the weight room and no one sent me the memo. All the meatheads in the gym had a tank top on and spent more time admiring their own awesomeness in the mirror than actually working. Apparently the more bulk you have the smaller your tank top is supposed to be.

Even better is the variant fashion of actually wearing a t-shirt and pushing the sleeves up. This style is usually practiced by meathead wanna bees who actually have no muscle tone to speak of but wish to admire the "pump" their arms get during triceps push downs. I even saw a guy on the hack squat machine with his sleeves up and openly wondered why his pant legs weren't rolled up past his knees instead.

Trying to fit in I got on an ab working device once and rolled my shirt up past my chest. Strangely this practice wasn't accepted by the meatheads nor the gym staff particularly when I began trumpeting my full rhino mount bellow in an effort to properly pump my abs. I guess the logic didn't translate.
Having long since abandoned trying to reach any common ground with the meatheads I now keep to myself in the squat rack and take notes so I can laugh at them later.

In our gym on NSA Bahrain the king of the meatheads is a guy we refer to as Front Spread. I have been on base for almost three months and have not yet seen this guy in a uniform. He is only ever spotted wearing blue Under Armor shirts with a Navy logo and can usually be found personally training someone in the gym. At other times he has been witnessed flapping about the base speaking in meathead code to his brethren laughing like a neanderthal who has found a book of matches. He also fails to understand the concept that UNDER Armor is for wearing UNDER clothing and not an outer garment. Amazingly when he works out he strips of the Under Armor to reveal a tank top underneath. Who would have thought?

Front Spread earned his moniker while personally training one of his worshipers on the hack squat machine one afternoon. As his charge was blasting out reps big'un caught his reflection out of the corner of his eye and immediately struck a front double biceps pose shouting: "FRONT SPREAD!" Another meathead in a tank top said something unintelligible behind him and he immediately spun around hitting his buddy with another front double biceps and yelled:"FRONT SPREAD!"

I immediately left the gym and wet my pants in hysterical laughter.

Semper Fi,
America's PT Monster

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Happy Anniversary!

It occurs to me that one year ago today the Camp of the Praetorians posted its first article. If you've never read it here it is again for your pleasure. Without the aid of my trust admin Hope and her incessant um... encouragement there would be no Castra Praetoria. So don't think this is a one man show. If had to deal with all this computer garbage I would have long since hurled my laptop into the ocean. Thanks Hope!

And thanks to all my usual suspects for your comments. The feedback is much appreciated. To everyone else, don't be shy! Actually, I have to admit I am pretty much a lurker myself so no hard feelings.

Speaking of feedback, while you're basking in the glow of your monitor feel free to click on the picture of me on the right. Yeah, the one with the sun glasses. Click on that.

America's 1stSgt

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Ask America's 1stSgt Edition # Does It Really Matter?

Applegoat, a Soldier's Angel (we won't hold it against her) asks what's the difference between Oorah! and Hooah!

The main difference is Oorah! is a battle cry associated with the World's Finest United States Marines where as Hooah! is a discomforting sound usually emanating from an Army latrine. I think it is related to some kind of gastrointestinal disorder but I may be wrong.

There are those who suppose that Oorah! comes from some kind of Turkish or Russian remark meaning "kill" or "kill them all". This is utter nonsense so don't believe it. Frankly, trying to associate the Marine Corps with any other nation except AMERICA should be considered heretical and violators immediately water boarded.

Oorah! is thought to be derived from an old Reconnaissance growl properly pronounced "AARUGHA!" This term originated from the dive warning on board a submarine. Over the 1MC the warning, "Dive! Dive! Dive!" would be given along with the Klaxon horn before a submarine would dive. The sound of the horn of course is, "AARUGHA! AARUGHA! AARUGHA!"

It is believed Marines began to use the AARUGHA as part of a running cadence and from there it caught on becoming a Recon battle cry.

Former Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps and Reconnaissance Marine, John Massaro is often attributed with bringing AARUGHA to MCRD San Diego where it spread to the Drill Instructors and thus to recruits. From then on Marines shouted "AARUGHA" or other guttural variations at each other, the enemy, or their Ball dates as the situation required.

From what I can tell, some time between then and the late 80's or early 90's some clown (probably an officer) decided we needed to spell the growl and Oorah! was born.

For the record, America's 1stSgt hates Oorah! I can't stand it for a number of reasons. Let me just reiterate if Oorah! had a mouth I would put my fist in it. Can I make it any clearer?

Let me explain why.

As a kid growing up around Marines never once did I hear an Oorah! or any variation thereof. Marines growled at each other like predatory beasts. My father, a Reconnaissance ninja and friend of SgtMaj Massaro, encouraged all Marines to "give him a growl" if they saw him on the street. "I don't care if I'm with my wife and son! I'll give you one back." Sure enough, my parents and I would be downtown and suddenly a booming growl would emanate from somewhere and my dad immediately thundered in response. To me they were like lions greeting each other on the savannah. It was primal and savage and suited Marines like a fine set of dress blues.

When I enlisted in the early 90's all of a sudden there was this Oorah! garbage permeating the air. This wasn't the savage roar I was raised on. It was the sound of fairies pollinating each other in a flower garden. It was also spelled out! Heresy of heresies!

What happens when a term becomes institutionalized is the disgruntled members of that institution begin to use it in mockery and derision. "Go clean the head." "Oorah!" See what I mean? Then it loses its original meaning and intent.

Now days I am on a one man campaign to eliminate Oorah! from my Marine Corps lexicon wherever I go. I encourage Marines to growl and great each other like prehistoric cavemen were meant to. Primally. I find acceptable nearly any guttural vocalization as long as it doesn't resemble Oorah!

I also refuse to spell out any growling as in my mind it is too primitive an ideation to be encapsulated by the trappings of civilized "letters".

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

America's 1stSgt

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Fun with mag locks!

American Embassy Madrid, Spain 1997.

The forces of evil tend to live in mortal terror of your average Marine standing post. This generally to leads to hours of very boring and uneventful duty. While this is precisely why the State Department likes having us around at consulates and embassies worldwide, it also makes what could be exciting work turn into an endless battle against boredom.

The Consular Sections daily processed hundreds of people for entry visas and other issues. Before entering they would be screened by local security guards. All the entry and exit points in the embassy have magnetic locks controlled by the Marine Guards at Post 1.

On one particular balmy Madrid afternoon a father and son entered the building and stopped to speak to the local guard before being screened. The young boy, no older than three or four, quickly grew bored and began pushing on the crash bar of the bulletproof glass door leading back outside.

Being the vigilant kind of watch stander I was my senses were always highly tuned to detect the possibility of mayhem or find the opportunity to cause same.

As the young lad threw his weight behind the door it opened and he slipped outside to see if anything interesting was going on out there. The door shut behind him and I immediately toggled the mag lock on firmly sealing the door. The boy kicked around the top step for a moment and turned back to the door as he realized it had shut behind him. Grabbing the handle he began to tug in futility. Valiantly he put his back into the pull straining with all his might. Veins and sweat began to appear on his little brow as he heaved to no avail. I was having a ball.

The father glanced down and finally noticed his son missing. First looking left then right as parents do he spun around searching the immediate area of the lobby. Finally he located the boy who, unable to see through the one way glass, had plastered his face against the door trying to look in. As soon as dad's hand hit the crash bar I toggled the switch to off and the door opened smoothly as I rubbed my hands together and cackled evilly.

The poor kid was yanked unceremoniously back into the lobby for some harsh discipline. Sorry kid, some lessons have to be learned the hard way.


America's 1stSgt

Friday, March 12, 2010

View from the bottom...

Discovered one of my Marines from H&S 3/3 started a web site called Terminal Lance the other day.

LCpl Uriarte was an infantry grunt whom it was discovered had a talent for art and was kidnapped into the Information Operations section. Working with our Combat Camera ninjas he contributed to a number of artistic projects for the battalion. Now back in Hawaii marking time until his EAS, LCpl Uriarte began his site featuring cartoons on Marine life from an infantry Lance Corporal's point of view.
A word of warning: the comics feature language best reserved for the locker room or the barracks. Any professional military types easily offended by Lance Corporal humor might just do themselves a favor and give this one a pass. Remember this is Marine Corps life through the eyes of a an E-3 and Terminal Lance delivers just that. You may not get the humor if you're not familiar with barracks life or the Corps at all so don't say you haven't been warned.

In my days as a Lance we were always mystified by our SNCOs lack of humor regarding the absurdity of what we perceived as our miserable existence. How was it not funny?

With that in mind I was able to enjoy the site and burst out laughing at a number of the strips. I will feature some of the Terminal Lance comics in the future as the mood strikes me.

Go on, check it out already! www.terminallance.com

Semper Fi,

America's 1stSgt

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Look Ma, no cape!

Every kid wants to be a hero. I spent my childhood sword fighting my way across the harsh landscape of our living room furniture, commanding sieges of Lincoln Log fortresses, and reading comic books on the roof of the house. Once in a while you actually get to fulfill that fantasy even when it may seem like the most mundane of gestures at the time.

Normally a weekend afternoon standing Post 1 at the American Embassy Madrid, Spain would be rather uneventful. Hardly anyone came in to work and most emergencies could be handled by the duty officer on call. On occasion there were situations which could only be handled by the World's Finest United States Marines.

American citizens (AmCits in the embassy lingo) most frequently ran into trouble overseas when they were robbed or otherwise lost their passports, cash, and other important documents. On weekends we would field these types of calls and route them to duty officer who was a Department of State type with trained expertise in diplomacy and possessed other intergalactic powers. AmCits in these situations would inevitably come to the embassy to get everything straightened out.

In one particular incident an American woman lost everything to a purse snatcher. She was understandably shaken by the incident and was meeting the duty officer at the embassy. I received a call from the Guardia Civil manning the gate saying they had some kind of crazy woman on their hands asking to get in. Most of the Guardia spoke about as much English as I did Spanish so the impression was understandable. I spoke to the woman on the phone and decided I would walk out to escort her into the building.

Now I could have just let the Guardia usher her to the embassy door but, contrary to popular belief, chivalry is still alive and gentlemen should go the extra mile for ladies in distress. Now days I explain to my Marines that American citizens expect and deserve a certain kind of conduct out of us. To be any less would be a disservice to our nation and cheapen our legacy.

Striding across the parking lot I gave the Guardia the thumbs up to open the walk in gate. The distressed woman turned in my direction, saw me swaggering toward her with PR-24 baton, a .357 revolver, and most importantly, camouflage utilities with name tapes that read "U.S. MARINES".

She visibly relaxed: "Oh, thank God!"

"Need some help ma'am?" I couldn't resist, if I'd had a white horse I would have been riding it. I suppose in her version of the story I was ten feet tall and over 330lbs of war machine. She'd be about half right.

I escorted her to the lobby and kept her company until the Duty Officer arrived to handle business. No big deal, just another ho hum day holding back the tide of darkness.

America's 1stSgt
Dragons Slain
Maidens Rescued
Villains Thwarted

Monday, March 1, 2010

Ask America's 1stSgt Edition 3.

"Why are First Sergeants called TOP - CI Roller Dude always calls you TOP."

In the old days the term Top was reserved for the top sergeant in the company. If I understand correctly this is still done in the Army. In the Marine Corps First Sergeants are no longer addressed as Top although some Master Sergeants are. I say some because referring to a MSgt in the Marine Corps as Top is a risky venture at best. It implies a sense of familiarity that you may not have with the MSgt. I know MSgts who will point out in no uncertain terms they do not spin on their heads.

On occasion a Soldier will mistakenly address me as Top. I figure it isn't meant in disrespect so I usually let it pass. Some old time WWII Marines will still address me as Top as well. Maj Rick Spooner is an old WWII Marine who owns the Quantico restaurant The Globe & Laurel . Every time I see him he calls me Top. If you think I'm going to correct a Marine who took part in battles in Tinian, Saipan, and Okinawa you are all kinds of mistaken.

Sometimes (just not in the Marine Corps) the 1stSgt is known as the First Shirt. Now days this is primarily associated with the Air Force. One of origins of the term comes from a time when work details would remove their shirts while performing manual labor. The guy in charge of the detail would keep his shirt on since he was not doing any of the work. Thus if you were looking for who was in charge you would look for "the shirt".I once visited a doctor who was caring for one of my Marine Sergeants. She was an Air Force Major whom I suspect had little experience dealing with Marines. I was meeting with her and my Sergeant to discuss his further treatment. At one point I made a comment and she said:"What did you say Shirt?" Out of the corner of my eye the Sergeant visibly started in his chair like an attack dog that really wanted to bite someone but hadn't been given the command. Later he was indignant: "1stSgt, she can't call you that! It isn't right!" In between the growling and snapping I was able to bring him back down explaining she was just using her crazy Air Force talk and didn't know any better.

As a general rule it is always wise to simply address Marines by their rank. Unlike the Army, Marines do not refer to all Staff Non Commissioned Officers as Sergeant. Unless you want to be flogged to death on the spot you will never ever call a Marine Sergeant "Sarge".

Of course, it is always safe to address me as:


Semper Fi!