Monday, August 29, 2011

"America's" 1stSgt?

The moniker "America's 1stSgt" has drawn some interesting remarks from time to time. Comments range from an Army groupie referring to the name as "presumptuous", to a 76 year old retired Marine who: "... isn't so sure you should be calling yourself America's First Sergeant but says you are in the boots and would know if you can fill 'em out or not."

Others have even said: "You can't give yourself a nickname!" To which I generally agree. All I can tell you is America's 1stSgt isn't a nickname but a title by which I author this blog (and email, and answer the phone, and...). My real name isn't exactly a secret but it's more fun this way.

Where does the name come from? It is a long and storied tale beginning with my time as a Company 1stSgt with 3d Battalion 3d Marines, known as "America's Battalion." Way back in the 1980s future Commandant Charles Krulak was the battalion commander. He was also a big fan of the Dallas Cowboys (don't hate him for it). You may recall the Cowboy's nickname was "America's Team." Some time during his tenure as commanding officer a friend mailed him a letter addressed simply: "Commanding Officer, America's Battalion." The Postal Service, being the fine outstanding federal entity it is, delivered the letter to LtCol Krulak. From that point on the name stuck. You can verify the story with the Marine Corps' History and Museum Division if you like.

In 2007 I was the Kilo Company 1stSgt and my Company Commander and I took to referring to Kilo as "America's Rifle Company." Somewhere along the line, since no one was claiming the title, I began signing off on e-mail as "America's 1stSgt." It was particularly apt when I became the Headquarters Company 1stSgt which is the senior 1stSgt billet in the battalion. When the battalion commander begins to refer to you as America's 1stSgt it's game on and I haven't looked back since. Besides, no one took on the mantle after I transferred so I figured I'd just keep the name.  

So there you have it. The origin of "America's 1stSgt." I mean really, Captain America has been without a senior enlisted adviser for far too long.

Semper Fidelis!
America's 1stSgt

 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

My Mother Warned Me...

...about playing with pointed sticks.
Big mean guy tries to skewer A1S w/ bayonet trainer unsuccessfully.

My wanderings have recently taken me back to Sedona, Arizona. This is my personal headquarters for all post-apocalyptic, counter zombie, samurai/gladiatorial type training (tomahawk not included). 

Considering the post about my small collection of sharp objects, I figured some of you might breathe easier if you were convinced of my modest training in their use.

Big mean guy tries to stab A1S with knife. In some cultures this is considered particularly rude. 
I even tried the Burton Workout on for size. This where two guys whack each other with wooden swords for time. It can get rather dynamic and beats the snot out of the treadmill any day. Helmets were worn more for the eyes than the skull.

They made me do this one in doors so I couldn't run away.
There was also some more traditional battlefield training of the Japanese variety. 
The helmet helps hide the fact I am trying not to blow chow during a vicious spear duel. 
Sadly, the naginata is rarely seen in samurai flicks. This is a traditional Japanese zombie cleaving weapon.
Swordsmen and swordgals.
In my minds eye there really isn't much difference between these two pictures:
 

Semper Fidelis!
America's 1stSgt

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Marines can do anything.

My encounters with Navy Lts are as infamous as they are glorious. Why one would purposely engage a senior enlisted Marine is well beyond my power to speculate. On those occasions they do, it rarely goes the way they imagined it would.

Last month my Company Gunny and I were grabbing chow at the food court on NSA Bahrain. As we stood in line a young Navy Lt (0-3) walked up behind us. A glistening sheen of perspiration shown on his forehead indicating he had just come in from the sweltering heat.

Summer in Bahrain is not merely hot. Somewhere over the tiny island kingdom, sunshine is transformed into beams of magma. This causes a kind of heat and humidity the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature measures as "Molten." The occasional breeze offers no relief as every gust feels like a hair dryer blistering the back of your neck.  Just leaving your office to go grab a bite can turn your afternoon into an episode from a reality survival show.

As the young Lt behind us gingerly patted out the flames on his uniform, my Gunny and I turned and greeted him with a hearty, "Good afternoon sir." Taking this as some kind of invitation the plucky Lt sought to engage us in friendly Naval banter.

"Hey, I heard Marines can do anything," he said readily. "Can you do something about this heat?"

Without hesitation or a trace of humor, I replied: "We can make it hotter."

My pithy response and implied threat visibly deflated the unfortunate Lt. Shoulders slumped, he broke contact taking his smoldering utilities with him to the Chinese takeout line.

Turning back to the task at hand my Gunny wondered aloud: "What was he thinking?"

We may never know.

Semper Fi,
America's 1stSgt

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Lookin' Sharp!



No, this is not a picture showing what we found after an unannounced health and comfort inspection of the barracks. It's merely another small sample of the kind of equipment you can find in the office of America's 1stSgt.

I can see the questions forming in your minds now: "Why in heavens name so many sharp objects?" I know, right? At this rate, I'll need to graft an extra set of arms to my torso just to wield all these beauties.  Then again, it would be horrific to see some of you ladies if you actually had enough feet to fill all the shoes you own. We'll just call it even then.

The last thing the undead ever see.

A full arsenal of keen edged butt kickery is essential whenever the plan of the day is slaying dragons, rescuing maidens, or thwarting villains. Any self respecting man of action will invest in a good knife or ten. Every red blooded American warrior dreams of braining zombies and other threats with a tomahawk (and well placed shot groups). EVERY single one.

 It's a fundamental law of ruggedness to own, fondle, and lust after a well forged blade. There are other inherent truths which naturally follow but we will not delve into them right now.


America's 1stSgt
Dragons Slain,
Maidens Rescued,
Villains Thwarted,
Fingers All Present.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Another movie I am not likely to see...

You may recall my issues concerning Hollywood in the past.

In the news of course is the fast tracking film project Killing Bin Laden. This is being made by some of the same outfit who conjured up The Hurtlocker. It may come as a surprise to some I have never watched The Hurtlocker, Brothers, or Jarhead. One of the reasons is I prefer my science fiction to be labeled as such. Another reason is I am done seeing my profession portrayed as a bunch of deeply flawed, mentally disturbed, sociopathic, gun waving cowboys.

My feelings on the matter were best articulated by my CO recently when his wife asked him why he he had zero interest in watching The Hurtlocker on DVD. His answer: "Why the hell would I want to watch that? Do you think if the Marines made a movie about hippies and communists anyone would want to go see it?"


Semper Fidelis!
America's 1stSgt

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Desert Gunslingers!

Besides our usual mission of deterring, detecting, and mitigating villainous behavior, FAST Company participates in a number of bilateral training engagements.

Recently we wrapped up a joint urban combat training package with Bahraini Special Security Forces and U.S. Naval Security Forces here at NSA. Among the various subjects and drills were tactical movement, shooting, reloading, and communication through various environments and scenarios. At the range they were able to engage multiple targets, conduct transition drills, and most importantly shoot a lot of rounds.



Just another ho-hum day moving, shooting and communicating. We get paid for this!
              
Each of the Marines who participated were later recognized by the Commander of Special Security Forces Command with the following certificate of commendation.


THE COMMANDING OFFICER, SPECIAL SECURIYT FORCES COMMAND
WISHES IT BE KNOWN THAT

[CORPORAL NINJA WARLORD], USMC

IS HIGHLY COMMENDED FOR THE ACTIONS DETAILED IN THIS CITATION


[Cpl Warlord] displayed superior performance, tenacity and determination in the execution of Advance Urban Combat training for Special Security Forces Command personnel during the month of July 2011. This training has both increased mutual capability and strengthened the ties between all the personnel and units involved.

His personal and professional conduct was in keeping with the highest traditions and standards of a United States Marine.

[Cpl Ninja Warlord] is a highly professional and competent individual who has displayed the highest qualities of leadership in his dealings with this and other training missions.

He is a credit to his command, the United States Marine Corps, and his country.

GIVEN THIS 28TH DAY OF JULY 2011

COMMANDING OFFICER
SPECIAL SECURITY FORCES COMMAND
MINISTRY OF THE INTERIOR
KINGDOM OF BAHRAIN

The desert gunslingers with their awards. One day I hope to find a cameraman who doesn't feel I need to have a picture of the ceiling.
Just a snapshot of what some of America's Finest have been up to.

Semper Fidelis!
America's 1stSgt

Monday, August 8, 2011

Blogs with a bias for action.

Recently I added Man Of Action Magazine to my blogroll. The author is a swordsman, gunslinger, and zombie eliminator of my acquaintance. His blog is primarily aimed towards those of “a courageous character who is a seeker of adventure.”

The Man Of Action himself on the right.
Man Of Action Magazine expresses an identity for 21st Century swashbucklers who, like myself, sometimes feel they may be stranded in an era celebrated by mediocrity and androgeny. So go check it out.


MOA and A1S conduct a little sword work.

Ladies! In an effort to make up for a lack of pink t-shirts, may I direct you to the likes of Lil Chantilly. Chantilly is a genteel lady with a thing for fast cars and firearms. Firmly entrenched over at Heels & Handguns, she will curtsey after she shoots you. Below is video of her dealing with discourteous shoppers at a recent shoe sale.


Semper Fidelis!
America's 1stSgt

Friday, August 5, 2011

33 Years Under The Green Blanket...

What's so dang funny?

Recently came across this video over at the Kitchen Dispatch of the 7th Commando Battery, 29th Commando Regiment Royal Artillery. There is also a link to NPR there you may find interesting.


Watching this I found myself joining in and utterly jamming out as it reminded me of my own deployment to Karmah, Iraq with Kilo 3/3 back in '07. In those days the company leadership sat outside together late each night as it cooled off. In the darkness illuminated only by the occasional struck match and lit cigars, we would "smoke and joke" for a couple of hours. As the winter months came on we constructed a crude fire place and continued our nightly routine of laughing at each others expense and recounting stories too absurd to be fiction. The only music I remember playing regularly was Journey.  We convinced ourselves we would eventually rig loudspeakers to our vehicles. On the night we left the OP for the final time we would play "Don't Stop Believin'" at full volume throughout Karmah town. We never did it but Iraq would have been that much cooler if we had.

Immersed in a world where the daily weather forecast is partly cloudy with a chance of mortar fire, how troops are able to maintain a sense of humor and camaraderie is often a mystery to regular folks.

Which reminds me of a story my old man told me once.

I don't recall if it was Korea or Vietnam but he told about a firefight he and some Marines had been in on some forgotten hill. They had lost some buddies in the fight and were trudging back to their bivouac area.  Another Marine wrote home to his mother. He was aghast how my father and his men were able to laugh and carry on together when they had just lost some guys. As mothers often do, she immediately wrote her congressman about this deplorable condition. The Congressman in turn did his civic duty and looked in to it.

Eventually my dad's Commanding Officer inquired of him what in world was so humorous about Marines dying in battle.

The old man didn't waste much time inviting everyone who didn't participate in the fight to immediately visit very specific levels of Hades. Laced throughout the mosaic of expletives which was my father's response was this simple message: "We were laughing because we were alive."

Seems as good a reason as any to me.

Semper Fidelis,
America's 1stSgt

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Things Your 1stSgt Hates...

...Concerning Promotion Ceremonies.

The first of the month is always a fine time anywhere in the Marine Corps. Not only do we all get paid (usually), we also get to promote a few deserving Marines in whom we've reposed special trust and confidence.

This week we promoted one of our Marines to Sergeant, three to Corporal and one to Private First Class.

Cpl Rehfeldt receives his warrant from the CO.
I normally begin the promotion ceremony by calling the company to attention and have each of the platoons report their accountability: “All present or accounted for!”  Then I about face and wait for the Company Commander to march on and take his position in front of me. Here I render the report and he will say: “Take your post!” or simply: “Post!” I then move in to my position to his left rear.

"Sir, do you like how I positioned myself to be in the shade while you remain blistered with ultraviolet radiation?"


Next I will order: “Marines to be promoted, CENTER! MARCH!”  They march around from behind the formation and report to the CO.

Then I read the warrant authorizing the promotion of the Marine.





Now days, Marines being promoted to an NCO rank or higher are given the privilege of requesting who they would like to pin on their new chevrons. This privilege is supposed to highlight the major step taken from a troop to a small unit leader and NCO. If you don’t think this is a big deal then you haven’t been paying attention.

Above, two of our Sergeants pin Corporal chevrons on a newly minted Cpl Beeby. To the right the Commanding Officer and America's 1stSgt exercise the privlige of promoting Private First Class Carrissosa.



It is at this point where I sometimes tighten my jaws at promotion ceremonies. I have witnessed promotions where those pinning the Marine remove the old rank insignia and disdainfully toss it away. I don’t know where this started but it strikes me as profoundly disrespectful. Tremendous feats of valor have been accomplished by Privates, PFCs and Lance Corporals throughout our history. These are not ranks to be despised.   

Back in Kaneohe Bay I had a SSgt toss a Lance Corporal chevron into the grass during a promotion. Immediately following the ceremony the SSgt aided me in combing through the grass to find it. When we were successful I explained there were a lot of good Marines buried in Arlington Cemetery bearing this insignia. It would be ignoble of us to callously cast aside something they bore honorably in combat.  Our mantle is something we pass down to worthy successors not hurl into the dirt to be forgotten.

It hasn’t happened again in my presence, but if it did someone would find themselves subject to a nose to nose counseling from America’s 1stSgt.




Semper Fidelis,
America's 1stSgt