Friday, May 27, 2011

Your NCO PME for today.

When the call goes out to,”Send in the Marines!” Americans expect a particular product. The success of the Marine Corps can be directly attributed to the efforts of Non Commissioned Officers for nearly 236 years.  Training Marine NCOs is like handling a hot piece of iron, you need to apply a hammer here and there until it is properly forged. In this instance I am happy to apply a little polish vice the hammer. By way of Professional Military Education (PME) I broke out a promotion warrant and a dictionary to go over some particulars with my NCOs recently. Afterwards I felt compelled to write it all down. What follows is directed toward young Marine leaders specifically but I suppose anyone of a military mindset will get something out of it.

Today for PME I present a Marine Corps promotion warrant to Corporal.    

To all who shall see these presents, greetings:
Know Ye, that reposing special trust and confidence in the fidelity and abilities of
 [insert name]
 I do appoint this Marine a
CORPORAL
in the
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS

to rank as such from the 1st day of  [insert month], two thousand eleven.

"Effective with this appointment, you are charged to carefully and diligently execute the duties and responsibilities of a CORPORAL of Marines, and I do strictly direct and require all personnel of lesser grade to render obedience to appropriate orders. As a CORPORAL of Marines you must set the example for others to emulate. Your conduct and professionalism both on and off duty shall be above reproach. You are responsible for the accomplishment of your assigned mission and for the safety, professional development and well-being of the Marines in your charge. You will be the embodiment of our institutional core values of honor, courage and commitment. You will lead your Marines with firmness, fairness and dignity while observing and following the orders and directions of your senior leaders and enforcing all regulations and articles governing the discipline of the Armed Forces of the United States of America.”

If you are a Marine Corporal you have heard these words at least once. If a Sergeant, then twice as both warrants read the same. Often there is some question of what is expected of junior leads so let's review the warrant again shall we?

"…reposing special trust and confidence in the fidelity and abilities of…"

Reposing: to place something in, especially confidence.

Trust: Assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone.

Confidence: Faith or belief that one will act in a right, proper, or effective way.

Fidelity: Faithfulness.

Ability: Competence in doing.

The issuer of the warrant is saying he is: " …placing special assured reliance on the character, ability, truth …and faith he will act rightly, proper, with effectiveness…based on the faithfulness and competence…"  of the individual receiving the warrant.
"… I do appoint…" 

Appoint: To set officially.

This is an official document informing the recipient (and all others) what is expected of their performance as outline in the rest of the warrant. Notice it goes on to say: "Effective with this appointment..." There's that word again.

"…you are charged to carefully and diligently execute the duties and responsibilities of a CORPORAL of Marines…"

Carefully: Close attention to detail, implies attentiveness and cautiousness in avoiding mistakes. 

Young Marines often hear the phrase: "Attention to detail!"  Here the warrant is demanding the Marine remain alert and not get complacent. Mistakes will be made but leaders should still make a conscious effort to avoid them.

Diligent: Characterized by steady, earnest, and energetic effort. 

Remaining consistent and enthusiastic is a challenge for everyone. Leaders should be seen conducting themselves with consistent, genuine effort on behalf of their troops.

Let's look at that sentence again:

"… you are charged to be attentive, avoid mistakes, and remain consistent, earnestly executing the duties and responsibilities of a CORPORAL of Marines…"

Duty: Moral or legal obligation. 

Responsibility: Moral or legal accountability. 

This may be the single biggest point where learning will occur, so pay attention. Many young Marines have a hard time grasping the difference between tasks and duties.  Tasks are things we are assigned to do: swab the deck, attack the hill, eliminate Al-Qaeda from the face of the Earth making it safer for everyone.  Duties are what we are morally or legally committed to do: risk ourselves for the safety of others, take care of our fellow Marines, show up on time, obey the orders of the President of the United States. 

As pertains to NCO leadership it would look like this: A Corporal may be a squad leader and accountable for the conduct, equipment, and safety of the Marines in his squad.  He is NOT accountable for Marines in other squads but he has an obligation toward them.  If a Marine he doesn't know steps out of line he is obliged to take corrective action.   Likewise every Marine who is not a coward feels obliged to find his way to Afghanistan because he knows it is where other Marines are facing danger.  Right now in your home town, an old, salty, WWII jarhead is pissed the Marine Corps won't let him strap a rifle to his wheel chair and push him out of a plane somewhere over Helmand province.  It's just how we're wired.

"… you are charged to be attentive, avoid mistakes, and remain consistent, earnestly executing the moral obligations and accountability of a CORPORAL of Marines…"

The warrant continues:

"…and I do strictly direct and require all personnel of lesser grade to render obedience to appropriate orders. …"

Notice at no time are personnel of lesser grade directed to render agreement or are required to like appropriate orders.  It just says they are to be obedient. Field day, physical training, weapons maintenance, and the like will continue as normal. Carry on!

"As a CORPORAL of Marines you must set the example for others to emulate."

Emulate: Strive to equal or excel. Imitate.

NCOs in the Marine Corps have the most influence on their Marines. They set a standard others should strive to meet.  Whether they know it or not their men will act like they do. If an NCO is lazy, the Marines will be lazy. A squared away NCO will have squared away Marines. It's an immutable law of nature.   

"Your conduct and professionalism both on and off duty shall be above reproach."

Conduct: A mode or standard of personal behavior, based on moral principles.

I spend more time discussing conduct during liberty briefs than any other subject. Americans expect and deserve a certain standard of personal behavior out of their Marines. Look at the issues surrounding the investigation concerning Captain Honors of the USS Enterprise. The American people speak far more offensively on a daily basis. Certainly civilian society makes and watches more offensive films. The thing is Americans expect much better out of their military and even more from their Marines.

Professionalism: Qualities which characterize or mark a Marine.

If at a glance people don't realize you are one of the World's Finest, United States Marines then you should probably go seek other employment. By this I do not mean emblazoning your skin with eagle, globe, and anchors or buying moto t-shirts in bulk. Our bearing and comportment should mark us as a distinct cadre of professionals.

"…both on and off duty …"

It needs to be pointed out because often young Marines don't understand this isn't our job, it is our lifestyle. There is no "outside of work" for us. There is only being a Marine. Either you are or you aren't. 

Reproach: Blame, discredit, disgrace. 

Marines are all of one mind when the Corps is disgraced by Marines who give away state secrets, murder pregnant women, or kill puppies. We so want to kick their ass up and down the street until people beg us to stop because there is so much gore on the tarmac. We hate discredit and failure with the heat of a nova. 

So rereading that sentence, it can be interpreted: "Your standard of personal behavior and those qualities which characterize you as a Marine both on and off duty shall be above any blame, discredit, or disgrace."

"You are responsible for the accomplishment of your assigned mission and for the safety, professional development and well-being of the Marines in your charge."

Safety: It is a given Marines will go in harms way, so when it comes to safety we are talking about things like pre combat checks and inspections. Did you prepare your Marines adequately for the mission? Did your drivers get eight hours of sleep before you put them on the road operating 7-ton truck? Do they really understand how dangerous drinking an entire bottle of tequila is before getting behind the wheel?

Development: Using our previous definition of professionalism, professional development is the process by which leaders cultivate those qualities which will characterize their troops as Marines.  Holy smokes NCOs! Your job is to teach young troops HOW TO BE MARINES. 

Well-being: Taking care of your Marines and looking out for their welfare does not mean releasing them on liberty early every day, getting them out of standing duty, or covering up the DUI they got this weekend.  It does mean holding them accountable. It does mean ensuring they have the skills, training, and equipment needed to achieve success. Finally, as I always say, taking care of Marines means making them do things they do not want to do. 

"You will be the embodiment of our institutional core values of honor, courage and commitment."

Embodiment: To personify or make concrete. 

I don't know how many times I have heard young Marines complain that all the Semper Fi stuff in the Marine Corps is BS. Sadly, there are plenty of posers masquerading as Marines who have never bought in to the whole band of brothers thing thus illustrating the point. As leaders it is our job to actually be the living breathing U.S. Marines our troops imagine.  We're not all going to be Sgt Stryker but within our own sphere of influence we should strive to make the Marine Corps what it should be. 

Institutional: Established organization, part of our public character.

Core: Foundational, basic, essential or an enduring part.

When we say institutional core values we mean things which make up the fabric of what we are as Marines. These are honor, courage, and commitment. You will hear these three words for as long as you are in the Corps.

Think of it like this: "You will be the living example of the enduring fabric of what we are."

"You will lead your Marines with firmness, fairness and dignity …"

Firmness: Solidly fixed. Not weak or uncertain. Vigorous. Not easily moved.

Fairness: Just, equitable, impartial, unbiased. Elimination of one's feelings, prejudices, and desires to achieve proper balance of interests.

Dignity: The quality of being worthy, honored, or esteemed.

So that sentence actually reads: “You will lead your Marines with solid decisiveness, without bias, being worthy of the honor bestowed to you.”

"...while observing and following the orders and directions of your senior leaders and enforcing all regulations and articles governing the discipline of the Armed Forces of the United States of America."

Discipline: Instruction. Training which corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character. Enforcing obedience and order.  Orderly or prescribed conduct.
If there are no questions, this ends your period of instruction.

Take charge and carry out the plan of the day!

America's 1stSgt

Friday, May 20, 2011

Zombie Prepardness: Centers for Disease Control

The CDC recently posted on their Emergency Preparedness and Response blog Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse. How cool is that!

If you're ready for a zombie apocalypse, then you're ready for any emergency. emergency.cdc.gov
 I've been saying this for years!

While I'm pleased the CDC recognizes the undead threat (completely justifying my entire existence) and provides decent input on emergency preparedness kits for your home and family, I am somewhat disappointed too. At no time do they address tactics, techniques, and procedures to confront/evade the hordes of undead as they methodically advance brutally satiating their hunger for human flesh and brains. The CDC's general emergency preparedness instructions are sound but here in the Camp of the Praetorians we are inundated with A type personalities and our response to the plague of undeath is somewhat more predatory.  I mean really, what kind of zombie preparedness plan doesn't even mention flame throwers?

In an effort to help save humanity from succumbing to the zombie virus I offer some suggestions for items you may want to add to your emergency bug out gear in the event of the Zombie Apocalypse.

The largest debate between zombie aficionados seems to be about weapons. Arguments rage over whether it is better to carry guns vs hand weapons. If guns then what type? If hand weapons what type? Is it better to have a weapon to help maintain distance from the undead? I will attempt to simplify the final answer on this discourse and provide some illumination on the subject of weapons and weapons of opportunity.

When it comes to hand weapons there are those advocating for the judicious use of baseball bats and others for machetes. Let's get some things straight first:

1.  There is a difference between a weapon and a weapon usable tool. It is wise to consider a tool's primary function when deciding its violent application in any given situation. If its primary intended design and use is for a battlefield then generally you can't go wrong even against zombies.

2.  Everyone knows you can only eliminate zombies by killing the brain. When debating a weapon's effectiveness against hordes of undead I always consider the likelihood of traumatic brain injury caused to a regular human.  In the example of a bat vs. machete I suspect more people would receive a traumatic brain injury from the bat.  It would be quite feat of strength to sever someones head in one or two blows of a machete. Hammer a few nails into the bat and you're really in business.

3. In any situation involving violence against zombies, werewolves, aliens, or the Taliban America's 1stSgt generally relies on the tried and true mission of the Marine Corps rifle squad as the formula for success: Locate, close with, and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver or repel enemy assault by fire and close combat.

With these points in mind I have listed a few of my preferences below for zombie apocalyptic war gear.


Here we have a Cold Steel Trenchhawk, my personal preference for close quarters plague victim  elimination. This was designed solely to brain another human being which makes it the perfect hand weapon for our purposes. I am also told by blacksmiths who work forges at the historical Williamsburg, VA smithy that tomahawks are primarily an above the neck weapon. Functionality and history both back my claim making this my hand weapon of choice during the plague of undeath.


Pictured here is another great piece of gear. The Applegate/Fairburn smatchet (short for smashing hatchet) is 16.5 inches of pure combat blade. It is based off a Welsh fighting knife from WWI. I personally know of a Marine colonel who smacked someone on the top of the head with the flat of the blade knocking them unconscious. Again, history and practical application make this a preferred weapon particularly against filthy zombie scum.

Let's move on to weapon usable tools. By this we mean a contrivance whose primary function and design is NOT warfare and the destruction of human tissue.
Above we have a Dead On Tools 14 inch wrecking bar. It's primary function is to chisel, smash, crack and chip away at tile, brick or for other pry bar uses. Dead On Tools advertises it as "...the baddest, meanest utility bar EVER. The Annihilator will make short work of the most difficult jobs!" Presumably this could include the cracking open of zombie skulls. It also might be handy as you try to break down doors and such evading the undead menace.


This is a Dead On Tools shingle hammer. I included this to point out how I believe a hammer is probably the single best expedient hand weapon in the "arsenal" of the average person. One has to consider the amount of traumatic brain injury which can be dished out with a nice hammer vice any other expedient weapon. Hmmmmmm...brain injury...

On firearms: I will keep this simple as there even more arguments raging over firearms than zombies. Considering the average person couldn't hit the side of a barn with a hand gun I am going with the shotgun as number one zombie elimination and defense weapon.  If you miss the head you are bound to hit something and let's face it, the human body can only take so much punishment before it falls apart undead or otherwise.

I am partial to the Saiga 12 in this instance. It is a semi-automatic, magazine fed shotgun which makes me shiver with delight. Load this monster up with a 20 or 30 round drum magazine and you just may be able to save your entire neighborhood single handed!

And finally...




There are a lot of haters out there when it comes to the use of Japanese swords against the undead.  But we should remember these weapons were specifically designed to separate people from their limbs and heads. Pictured here is an odachi. It is 70 ounces and at a length of 57 inches guaranteed to slay any creatures stalking your neighborhood. If you see the pictures at the top of my blog you will notice I have some modest training with these weapons and can cleave the &*#%$ out of any undead spawn in the blink of an eye.

At any rate, I hope this helps you round out your Zombie Apocalypse Preparedness Kit thereby making you harder to kill during the next outbreak.

Semper Fidelis!

America's 1stSgt

Friday, May 6, 2011

This Mother's Day...

"Certain civilians are entitled to a hand salute, such as the President, the Secretary of Defense, etc.   So is a lovely lady." 
- Gene Duncan U.S. Marine Corps (Retired)


 From the Marines and Sailors of FAST Company Central Command, each the son of a lovely lady. Happy Mother's Day!

Semper Fidelis!
America's 1stSgt