Saturday, April 30, 2011

Making Monsters in the PT Lab

In the Marine Corps we are immersed in a culture of physical fitness (among other things). I always say when Americans "send in the Marines!" they expect a certain product. This product not only includes a physical prowess defying a number of inviolate laws of physics and medicine but also a neat and professional appearance. It's a look easier to pull off when your shoulders are wider than your waist. Many regard physical training as a mandatory chore designed to lessen their quality of life just that much more. Some figure it doesn't pay to attack a hill if half way up you are noisily blowing chow all over your boots and can't employ the machine gun.  Others have it in mind they will be more able to overcome the enemy if they make themselves bigger, faster, and stronger.

Here's the real reason we conduct physical training. Ready?

We are, in fact, making ourselves harder to kill. A healthy, well fed, fit human body is more capable of surviving and functioning while immersed in the various diseases, illnesses, infections, etc, one encounters in theater. Not to mention being able to survive combat wounds or just running down the block draped in 100lbs of gear during the balmy desert summer. Bracing!

I was told a story once about an interview of Japanese POWs during WWII. The Japanese Imperial Army had thought they were fairly invincible and their defenses impregnable. They were asked at what point during the campaign they felt they might be in trouble. Turns out while machine gunning Marines down as they landed the Japanese noticed the wounded and dying still trying to advance and crawling forward despite their wounds. The Marines were coming. They were hard men to kill. 

I'm not suggesting a superior PT program won the war in the Pacific but being hard to kill certainly is a force multiplier. In an effort to remain so I often encourage Marines to come workout with their 1stSgt in the afternoon. Workouts with America's 1stSgt have a reputation not only for being cruel and unusual but quite competitive as is our nature. For their part, Sailors in our vicinity want no part of what we are up to when it involves perspiration and demonic levels of physical pain.

We get paid for this!
In these photos we are gleefully destroying each other in a joy filled PT session. The name of this particular workout changes as it is named after whomever achieves the lowest score and is known as the "       " Challenge. This is a shame best avoided as it marks the namesake as the weakest member of the tribe. Each of us has 15 minutes to complete as many rounds as we can of:

3 Pull Ups (chest must touch the bar)
6 Chest Slapping Push Ups (hands must slap the chest while in the air)
9 Jumping Squats

The Challenge is the kind of workout which on the surface seems simple enough. Then about one minute and thirty seconds into the workout the victim realizes he has made a grievous mistake and has placed his mortal life in peril. On this occasion the stakes were particularly high as the current namesake openly challenged one of his peers to a head to head competition. Naturally, this brought all the meat eaters and we all part.

Nose to nose clapping push ups with a little encouragement from yours truly. 
As the workout progresses it becomes increasingly difficult to keep proper form. Chests miss the bar here and there and chest slapping push ups degenerate into clapping face plants. Awesome! 

Ugly but acceptable technique.
Although this appears to be the end of the workout, there are actually 10 minutes to go.

Flogging for one? This way sir.
The end of this particular Challenge was inconclusive as it resulted in a tie with 15 rounds completed each. While others spent the day on the couch mashing bags of potato chips into their pie hole, FAST Company forged some ruggedness, tested a little character, and enjoyed the camaraderie. Sounds like a day seized to me.

Semper Fidelis!
America's 1stSgt

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

2011 Milbloggies!

For the second year the Camp of the Praetorians has been nominated for the Milblog Awards for best Marine blog. This a pretty cool honor and I'd like to thank Kanani for nominating me as well as Kristina who is also in the running for best Military Supporter.

Now, I have to be honest and admit my ego is as big as the next Marine. It sure would be great to win again this year. However, I think the right thing to do is encourage folks to vote for someone who has not won this award previously. Last year Taco Bell over at the Sandgram did as much for me and I'm glad to pay it forward. So this year I'm pulling for Cpl Beddoe over at USMC81. Or hell, you could vote for Cpl Sanders slinging hate and discontent at Guts, Glory, and Glitter. Either way, it would be great to see a winner who has not yet received this honor. My ego does compel me to remind you it's not bad thing if you decide to vote for me. I certainly won't hold it against you.

Since we are talking Marine blogs other than mine(what?). I'm going to throw a couple of young leathernecks under the bus and let you know who has recently dipped the toe of their combat boot into the shark infested waters of the blogosphere.

You may recall SSgt Hensley? He has started his own blog here. Check it out if you are partial to knuckle dragging awesome. Yes Virginia, there is such a thing as monsters and Grendel is stalking evil doers in a neighborhood near you.

One of my young Sergeants has also recently taken a turn at some blog action here. Currently he is ruminating on the combat mindset. Just a heads up, he likes GUNS. Real shooty ones.

Oh yeah, if you intend to vote in the Milbloggies go here. Carry on with the plan of the day!

Semper Fidelis!
America's 1stSgt

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Egypt is the place to be...

Small demonstration in Tahrir Square while I was in town. Not sure what it was about but I think at least one sign reads: "Welcome America's 1stSgt!" in Arabic.
Just returned from a command visit to one of my platoons in support of the American Embassy in Cairo. During the revolution the forces of good were able to slip in and reinforce embassy security allowing the diplomats to continue their mission and keep the consulate open.

As you can imagine the Marines witnessed a number of surreal events during the last 90 days or so. The embassy is roughly 400 yards away from Tahrir Square and I am told the uproar of the crowd was thunderous to say the least. At one point the CS gas was so thick you could still smell it 15 stories up. As the Marines witnessed the infamous camel charge they could only look at each other dumbfounded: "Did that just happen?" They noted some of the riders were armed with machetes and hacked at the crowd as they plowed through. The riders were almost all snatched off the back of their mounts and swallowed by the furious crowd never to be seen again. A number of people were burned to death when molotov cocktails were thrown into the streets. Rounds ricocheted through the alleys as shots rang out from rooftops into the square. They saw Lara Logan brought in to the compound: "They beat the $#!% out of her." They also saw Anderson Cooper, who despite being "punched in the head!" seemed none the worse for wear.

In the meantime American State Dept types seemed in awe of young fire breathers willing to place themselves between the hazard and perfect strangers. Fortunately the word is out: the Marines are in town. Those with bad intentions tend to get a little queasy at the sight of armed Marines. "Let's go mess with the French instead."

One of my blood drinkers ready to do violence on others behalf.
During my visit there was a small demonstration at the embassy. A bunch of nice people politely demanded the release of the blind sheik Omar Abdel Rahman.  The linked article reports "hundreds" of Islamists staged the protest. Hundreds, as in 200 if they were lucky. When all your friends are assassins and killers I guess there isn't a lot of turnout for you.

Egyptian military provides security in front of the American Embassy. We all agreed the armored vehicles would make great anti-zombie conveyances.
Cairo is still picking up the pieces. As you drive around you can still see the burned out government building on the northeast corner of the square as well as the rusting hulks of torched cars still littering the area here and there. But life is returning and shops, restaurants, and businesses were open while I was in town. Hopefully the good guys will win this one in the end.

Semper Fidelis!
America's 1stSgt

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Reports of my demise...

A common theme in messages and e-mails I have received lately center around some concern for our well being: "Dude, your AO is on fire!" I have also been accused of all but quitting writing in general. As to not compromise operational security, I am unwilling to go into any details about what acts of valor we are currently up to. Suffice it to say FAST Company is involved in, has completed, and is planning for various missions and contingencies throughout the Middle East in an effort to deter, detect, and otherwise thwart acts of villainy.

As for our general welfare, keep in mind Marines have a terrible habit of running toward the sound of gunfire and other perils.  Throughout our careers Marines are bound to encounter hazards of a various
and sundry nature.  These threats include IED explosions, AK wielding insurgents, mortars, RPGs, pirates, communists (foreign and domestic), sharks with laser beams, and of course, brain gobbling zombies.

Of all these, easily the most dangerous hazard is advancement. I often warn my Marines the dangers of promotion. The most horrific and inevitable fate of all is having your Marines taken away and being given a desk. Regular readers already know of my love affair with all things administrative. Unfortunately, like death, this fate is nearly impossible to escape.

In the meantime, like a band of Vikings, the Marines participate in high seas adventure while I concentrate on the mind numbing awesome which regularly come across my desk.  This includes heaping praise onto mouth breathers who have managed not to get any saliva on the furniture.

What I really mean to say is despite what you may see on the news and while Marines are out on the tip of the spear, your 1stSgt is usually engaged in activity more resembling this:



I'd rather be out bayoneting villainous persons.

America's 1stSgt

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Shameless Name Dropping!

All the excitement in our area of operations recently has made FAST Company very popular among a number of important people (as well as keeping me from posting). Recently the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, visited NSA Bahrain and took a little time to hang out with some of the World's Finest. I thought it was pretty cool of him.

The Admiral greets my Duty NCO and A/Duty after they blew his eyebrows off reporting their post. 
America's 1stSgt greets the Chairman assuring him no more Marines will yell at him. In return I receive a coin as heavy as a man hole cover. 
Of course we didn't let the Chairman go empty handed. He now has a favorite t-shirt.
After visiting the company office Admiral Mullen hung out with the Marines for lunch. We had the whole room to ourselves. The Admiral spent about an hour and a half talking with the Marines winding it all up personally handing each of them a coin.
Just another ho-hum day of VIP juggling and mean mugging the forces of evil where ever they show their heathen faces. 

Semper Fidelis!
America's 1stSgt