Thursday, September 29, 2011

Heard in the clear...

Once again, quotable gems  gleaned within my sight and hearing.

Subjects debated within the U.S. military are as diverse as they are outlandish. On occasion, competent authority has to intervene for the sake of good order and discipline:
"I'm going to settle this right now! The last guy who thought it was a good idea to domesticate an alligator is wiping his butt with a stump!"

Not said in reference to any recent posts on the Mellow Jihadi, but it would have been appropriate:
"I can too judge a book by its cover, because everybody gets to choose their own cover to wear. If someone chooses to dress a certain way then I can choose to call them a douche."

Who hasn't had this conversation?
"I'm not wasting any of my bullets to save them, zombies or otherwise."

Corporal blowing foam during NCO PT: "Man he's fast!"
Staff Sergeant: "The 1stSgt? He's only  forty-something. That's not old."
Corporal: "Well I'm only twenty-three and he's kicking my ass!"

A1S leading the pack.
America's 1stSgt

Monday, September 26, 2011

Dr. Tabata. We hate you!

As the senior enlisted ninja in the company, it often falls to me to devise ways to develop our young non-commisioned officers in preparation for the various leadership challenges they will inevitably face. In my opinion, physical training (PT) is one of the least effectively used tools in our professional development tool-box. Last week I decided to hone my NCOs with a little light body maintenance.
"Alright men, now turn around and kick your partner dead in the crotch!"
Simply thrashing a group of Marines into the ground is pretty easy and not a method of instruction I prefer. If they are simply getting their doors blown off without learning anything then I figure I've passed up a great training opportunity.

I like to ask Marines why we PT at all. Their answers are inevitably: "To be in shape." "Be fit." My personal favorite is: "To look good naked 1stSgt!" I appreciate the honesty.

The bottom line is we conduct PT in order to make our bodies harder to kill. Never mind the idea of being fitter and stronger than your enemy. Fit, healthy bodies tend to survive being shot, blown up, infected, and other rough treatment. It's only natural the Corps would develop a culture of physical fitness within its ranks.

There are only three exercises I absolutely hate: running, pull ups, and crunches. Coincidentally, these are also the three events comprising our Physical Fitness Test (PFT). My aversion to those three exercises probably has to do with 20 years of repetitively running, pull uping, and crunching. Another pet peeve of mine are PT sessions specifically geared toward passing the PFT. These take the form of long runs in formation followed by a max set of pullups and two minutes of max crunches.

In my ongoing effort to battle monotony and expand the minds of Marine NCOs I try to take a different approach to PT and let learning occur while training. This time I decided it to introduce them to the esteemed Dr. Izumi Tabata and his interval. Of course, my version included rubber rifles and full cammies.

I had them sprint with their rifles for 20 seconds...

"We hate our liiiiiiiiiives!"
...then rest for ten seconds in the prone.
"Oof! I miss pull ups."
This was a great workout. They repeated this scheme of maneuver for eight rounds jumping up and running again and again. The keen observer will note this somewhat resembles how one might move on a battlefield. Hmmm...

"What happened to the ten seconds?"
We don't even have to do push ups if I just make Marines simply keep getting up off the ground.
"I think I'd rather be getting shot at."
Despite what you might think, four minutes of sprints can smoke even the fittest if they are putting any effort into it. I brought the Marines in and we set the rifles aside for part two. Oh yes, there was more!
"I don't have positive feelings about this."
For the second half we did Tabata intervals again. This time one Marine would fireman's carry the other for 20 seconds then during the 10 second "break" they would switch out. This is called hell.
It is unclear who is getting the worst of it in this picture.
"Dude wait, I think I'm gonna honk."
Ideally, for training purposes Marines are matched up with someone of similar height and weight. One of my sergeants drew the short straw and had to partner up with my Company Gunny. He's in the large land mammal category.
"Gunny...if you... ever really get... wounded... I'm not sure... you're going to make it."
To my regret I jumped in to aid the exhausted Sgt as to keep from having to clean up breakfast hash browns off the nice astro-turf. 
Fortunately, O-ring reconstruction is covered by Tri-Care.
Afterwards I explained the Tabata interval can be used with any exercise imaginable and they could do this with their squad and fire teams in any number of ways. The method we used here more or less reflects things they may actually do in combat. I hope to see fully armed and armored Marines happily Tabata sprinting up and down the streets at any moment. They're doing it for America and so should you.

Semper Fidelis!
America's 1stSgt
Making Marines Harder To Kill

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Boot Camp Advice

I received an e-mail from a young lad getting ready to ship off to boot camp. In it he asks for any advice I could give him, as well as his parents who are quite naturally worried about his well being. I wrote him back and then began to reflect on my own boot camp experience nearly 20 years ago (holy smokes!). What follows is my general advice to anyone on their way out the door to boot camp. Included are a few boot camp gems starring yours truly.

 - First bit of advice, write to your parents.

 - Remember, as a recruit, you have the easiest job in the world: do what you are told. Pretty easy when you think about it.

 - Never pass up an opportunity to take a leak, even if you don't have to go.

Before I went to boot camp I figured I'd graduate a squad leader. Then I asked myself why anyone would do what I told them. At 140lbs soaking wet I wasn't exactly intimidating anyone into compliance (I've gotten pretty good at it since).  I decided if I were in a leadership position others would do what I said simply because it was me telling them. Oddly enough, this seems to have worked pretty well for 20 years. No false fronts, be genuine. Be your own man.

At MCRD all the clowns were crawling over each other to be squad leaders and the guide or foolishly trying to suck up to the Drill Instructors. They'll probably be doing the same in your platoon. I decided they looked ridiculous and refused to participate in their shenanigans.  Figured it would be best to just do what I was told and give everything my best effort. Two weeks later I was the platoon guide. Go figure.

 - Write to your parents.

 - Help your buddies. At first you will all be strangers but this will change quickly. There is no such thing as a one man gang and Marines are successful only because we do things together. Once you and your fellow recruits figure that out, things get better. Well, maybe not better but at least you are doing it right.

In the squad bay I had a top bunk and my buddy to the right of me had the bottom bunk in the rack next to mine. Carter was a short black guy built like a fireplug. At all of five feet tall as well as wide, he resembled a sea bag full of bowling balls.

At night we would get on line next to our bunks and "mount the rack" to go to sleep. Of course, everything was done by the numbers as none of us could be expected to go to sleep in a proper Marine Corps manner without step by step instruction.

"Prepare to mount!" We sharply turned and faced our racks as ordered.

 "Mount!" On this command we leapt or dove into our racks as required by the laws of physics. Mine was a top rack and vertically leaping at the position of attention was difficult at the best of times. Stupid gravity.

"Too slow! Get back!"

Wearily I got back on line. Then failed to move quickly enough and we got back on line to try it again. I was so tired I couldn't physically get in to the top bunk quickly enough. I remember clinging futilely to the side as I tried to scramble into bed only to be told to "Get back!" This happened at least three times. Frustrated I got back in line one more time believing I was holding up the entire platoon from blissful rest.

This time, on the command, "Mount!" I felt Carter's hands around my waist. He hurled me into the air with so much force I nearly flew over the other side of the rack. Landing immediately on my back into the position of attention we were finally ordered to go to sleep. Carter and I dozed off snickering at our victory. I don't know if the DI on duty saw what happened or not. I do know Marines condone team work in any given situation so we may have gotten a pass. 

 - Having said that, remember not everyone buys in to the "band of brothers" idea. Be wise and look out for yourself too. This was advice my Senior Drill Instructor gave me in boot camp. At your first duty station the guy who approaches you first and asks if you want a beer is probably the biggest dirt bag in the unit. Decline his offer and bide your time. The squared away guys are sizing you up before they talk to you.

 - Write to your parents.

 - Speaking of your parents, there is nothing you can do to keep them from worrying, especially your mother. In my experience parent's reaction to their child joining the Corps varies. My father for instance, was a 33 year Marine veteran of Korea and Vietnam. When I told him I joined he did back flips up and down the street. This was quite a feat for a 62 year old man. My mother on the other hand, had been a Navy Lt and a nurse at Balboa Hospital during Vietnam. Having cared for many a wounded vet during this timeframe her reaction to my enlistment was: "Those bastards got my baby!" When your mother does this remember she is just doing her job (well in fact). Besides, if it wasn't for mothers there might not be much worth fighting for in the first place. 

The only way to combat their worry is to, wait for it, write them letters. This may sound strange in the electronic century we live in but trust me. Write your parents and tell them about your adventures in boot camp even if it's only a one page letter. Remind them boot camp isn't dangerous (combat is, but you don't need to remind them of that).  You are taking the rudder of life in your own hands and making adult decisions now. They'll get over it, provided you drop them a line.

 - In summary:
Do what you are told.
Look out for your buddies.
Write your parents.

Sometimes the Marine Corps is the hardest thing I have ever done and sometimes it is the time of my life. So in the end, have fun. 

Semper Fi and write your parents!
America's 1stSgt

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Beware Aussies Bearing Gifts!

Some time ago NavyOne was the target of a morally reprehensible and cruel gastronomical attack. The innocent and friendly looking confection actually disguised a product so malevolent it nearly escapes description. This unwarranted assault was viciously perpetrated by an evil doer of base and vile motives.

During this period the Camp of the Praetorians also received a package containing this seemingly innocuous product. The shipping information with in seemed innocent enough:

1 Lapel Pin, Friendship (friendship indeed!) 2-flag
1 Arnotts Ginger Nut, Size 200g
1 Arnotts Scotch Finger (oh, we go the finger all right), Size 375g
1 Eucalyptus Drops, size 70g (Isn't that poisonous?)
1 B&G Musk Sticks, size 200g (as it turns out, the most profane product ever produced down under. B&G = Blood & Guts?)

However, being familiar the source of this foulness and its effects, I did what any red blooded American would: I searched out unsuspecting victims and took pictures!

What follows may not be suitable for all audiences. Captions are actual quoted responses of individuals involved. Mostly.

The setup: "Got some goodies from some milsupporters..."
"Do you know these people?"

"Is this dog food?"


"P-tuh! Why do they hate us?"


"Here Marine, don't say I never gave you anything."

"What? This isn't so bad..."
"It burns! It buuuuuuuuuurrrrrrrrrrrnns!"
The CO: "What kind of malefeciance are you up to?"
"This is one of those urnial cakes isn't it."
"You're all fired."

This week we are all attending Post Traumatic Musk Stick counseling.

Semper Fidelis,
America's 1stSgt

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Medal of Honor addendum...

Bookworm over at Bookworm Room laments I did not regale everyone with Dakota Meyer stories in my last post.

The Marine Corps being a comparatively small outfit many of us at least know of one another. Whenever Marines speak of each other the conversation usually goes: "Hey, do you know so and so?" If the answer is long it is usually also derogatory. If the Marine in question is any good the answer is normally: "Yeah, he's a good piece of gear. I'd serve with him again."  

In my mind being a "good piece of gear" is high praise coming from fellow Marines.

As the Headquarters and Service Company 1stSgt in 3/3 I did not get to run around a lot with the sniper platoon (which would have been far more fun than reviewing charge sheets and marriage packages behind my desk).  If Meyer had never been awarded the Medal of Honor and you were to ask me about him I would have said he was a tough, dependable, solid, leader of Marines and a Kentucky wise ass. He's a good piece of gear and I would serve with him again in any clime or place.

If the same is all which is ever said about me I will consider my career well done and time well spent.

As a side note, Sgt Meyer is applying his wasta to raise money for the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation. You should check it out at

Semper Fidelis!
America's 1stSgt

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Sgt Dakota Meyer

On the worst day of his life he was at his best. It is an immense source of pride that I can claim to have served with him and say he was one of my Marines.

“I didn’t think I was going to die, I knew I was. I was just going to keep fighting until they got me. I wasn’t going to sit there and lay down and let them win. That was the only thing on my mind was how to get those guys out. I would’ve done it again.” - Sgt. Dakota Meyer

Semper Fidelis,
America's 1stSgt

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Concerning boy souljas...

You may have caught wind of some jackass bad mouthing troops on the internet a week or so ago. This goofball posted some kind of weaksauce rap song disrespec'n the military.

“F*** the FBI and f*** the Army troops. Fightin’ for what? Be your own man.” Seems running your suck hole safely on the internet is now a pillar of manhood. Be that as it may, it does remind me of story.

As a young boy I recall being furious with my father about some perceived injustince.

“Well f*** you,” I muttered bravely under my breath. As he fixed me with his flinty grey eyes, I recall the horror of realizing this Korea and Vietnam combat vet had actually heard me. Visions of my flayed hide decorating the living room filled my mind. Bloody evisceration was at hand.

“Boy, you’re not man enough to f*** me.” He did nothing else but -discretion being the better part of valor- I remained outside “playing” the rest of the afternoon.

Now days my reaction to d-bags slighting their betters is pretty much the same as my father’s. Well, except maybe to go a little old school on a soulja…

Semper Fidelis!
America's 1stSgt

Monday, September 12, 2011


Last week some brawlers from the UFC, fighters Kyle Kingsbury, Krysztof Soszynski, and Tom Lawler as well as octagon girls Amber Nichole and Lindsey Way, came by to hang out with the Marines as part of their tour of mid east garden spots. 

Left to right; Krysztof, Tom, Lindsey, and Amber getting ready to sign autographs and such.
Later on in the evening they held an impromptu MMA clinic where good times and arm bars were had by all. That is, the fighters, not the ring girls. Sadly.

Kyle and Krysztof demonstrating...

...going from ground to standing.

A1S not as graceful. Where's my bayonet?

They demonstrated a few techniques on how to avoid going to the ground, how to get back on your feet, and something evil to do in the event you are unable to get up.

Tom "Filthy" Lawlor.

Krysztof demonstrates how I greeted him earlier in the day.

Kyle Kingsbury conducts some NCO counseling.

"Now, see if you can't separate his head from his shoulders."

A1S: "Tomahawks are more expedient."

After the classroom portion the fighters offered to "roll" with the assembled Marines and Sailors. It was pretty impressive to watch these guys calmly wrestle their way through so many bodies.
Krysztof crushes another soul. Nice shirt though!

"Filthy" reenactes a scene from a prison movie.

Krysztof gives birth to a spider monkey!

In the end a visit well done by the UFC. The Marines had a blast and the fighters were professional as well as just being all around good dudes.

Just another ho-hum day of knuckle draggers thrashing the snot out of each other. Who said beatings don't improve morale?

Semper Fidelis!
America's 1stsgt

Friday, September 9, 2011

This September 11th

A couple of years ago I posted some thoughts about Sept 11. My perspective on the matter remains the same. It is good and proper to take time and remember the events which took place and those who fell. In particular I think of all the emergency responders who raced directly into the teeth of the hazard for the sake of others. Those were my breed of American to be sure.

On the ten year anniversary of this tragic date Americans shouldn't be afraid, simply ready. Opinions vary on proper policies and responses to those who wish us harm. Mine can be summed up in a couple of simple quotes:

"To sit home, read one's favorite paper, and scoff at the misdeeds of the men who do things is easy, but it is markedly ineffective. It is what evil men count upon the good men's doing." - Theodore Roosevelt

"And each man stands with his face in the light of his own drawn sword, ready to do what a hero can." - Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Semper Fidelis,
America's 1stSgt
Ready for action 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Poop Kit

OP Omar, Kharmah, Iraq, 2007.

Fanatical insurgents brandishing AKs and RPGs! Diabolical bomb makers concocting recipes for home made explosives! Suicidal zealots handcuffed to steering wheels of trucks laden with explosives barreling down a one way street to Gehenna! These are the dangers most often associated with deployments to hostile environments in the 21st Century.

Lesser known are the predatory varmints insidiously slithering, buzzing, and barking  about us on patrol or merely hovering nearby while we ineffectually bathe out of a canteen cup.

Those horrors are well documented here and other places and we thankfully need not dwell on them again today.  No, I speak today of one of the most daunting experiences anyone deployed overseas in a combat zone has had to endure. Even the fiercest war heroes have blanched at confronting this villainy. Yes friends, I speak of the biological abomination that is the porta-john. 

At OP Omar the porta-johns were firmly sandbagged and in cover. Not for the protection of possible occupants, but to protect passers by from the denizens dwelling within the depths. These were known to occasionally snatch the unwary. 

Upon breaking the hatch of a porta-john one was never sure which would assault the senses first; the stench of the roiling contents or the swarm of flies just as eager to escape. Futilely, some would gulp a lung full of air before entering. I never met anyone who was able to last though.

During the summer, the atmosphere inside was akin to an abandoned sauna. Touching any bare skin to the inside surface was as risky as it was unavoidable in such a confined space. Not to mention the flies unfortunate to be sharing the space with you. There was neither rest nor room to be had. 

Then our Forward Air Controller, a helo pilot with the call sign 'Dong', improvised a piece of equipment which would transform our entire deployment.  If ever there were a group of people dedicated to making life suck less, it's Air Wingers.

Dong & A1S. Who's awesome? You're awesome!
One fine day Dong produced what he proudly called the Poop Kit. It contained a number of items designed to significantly reduce the unbridled barbarity of the porta-john experience.

What were the items? A screwdriver, a can of aerosol deodorant, baby wipes, and hand sanitizer.

The screwdriver was used to lock the door of the porta-john with the broken lock.  The logic here being no one used the broken john so the likelihood of touching down where 200 other buttocks already had was minimal. Once inside, Dong would insert the screwdriver into the broken door handle mechanism and viola! Privacy assured.

Dong would open the hatch wide and stand outside spraying his can of deodorant into the john before entering. This would send the occupying flies buzzing for cover as the air was replaced with aerosol spray. It also had the added benefit of taking the edge off  the heady odors within.

Baby wipes were used on every surface that had the remotest possibility of coming into contact with human skin.

Hand sanitizer; we probably used so much of this during the deployment it may have made us all sterile.
Dong demonstrates the proper application of the Poop Kit's contents
Praise and glory were heaped on Dong's name for the introduction of the Poop Kit by the few of us who adopted its use. Military historians have so far not recorded this ingenious item as we pretty much kept it to ourselves. After all, we wouldn't want EVERYONE using the porta john with broken lock now would we?

Semper Fidelis,
America's 1stSgt

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Days of Living Frigidly

29 Palms, California.

February of 2009 saw America’s Battalion wintering at Camp Wilson in the scenic Mojave Desert. This was our final major training cycle before deployment to even more scenic Iraq.  Generally, when people hear the word “desert” and “Mojave” in the same sentence they associate it with the word “furnace”.  During our last Mojave Viper training cycle in 2007 Marines were shambling off the ranges at the end of the day resembling mummified corpses wrapped in smoldering body armor. Fortunately, a zealous approach to the consumption of water seemed to keep the incidents of spontaneous human combustion to a minimum.

This trip it appeared there was indeed such a thing as winter in the desert. I would never have believed it as our last adventure there drug us to the very lip of hellfire itself.  During the day it wasn't so bad. As soon as the giant heat tab set in the west, the temperature plummeted sending us all sprinting to our sleeping bags like wailing children.  So intense was this daily cold snap we had decided to rename the training evolution Valley Forge Viper. To add to the discomfort military engineers devised various ingenious ways to maintain a proper level of misery in keeping with the highest traditions of U.S. Naval service.

For instance, all the Marines were housed in metal buildings known as K-Spans. The K stands for, “kill everyone who sleeps in here”.  The diabolical mastermind who designed these buildings somehow engineered them so they retain heat in the summer and expel heat in the winter.  It was actually colder inside the K-Span than the bitterly frigid outside. I suspect the purpose of this was to cheerfully drive us outside in an effort to get Marines to train. Twenty First Century technology is a marvel to behold.

Another clever device was the shower trailer.  The shower trailer was a training tool designed to hone a Marine’s reflexes and situational awareness until they were razor sharp. Upon entering the shower trailer the Marine’s senses had to remain keen as he was never quite sure what was going to happen. As a matter of fact, no two experiences in the shower trailer were ever the same.  The hot  water faucet might actually be cold and the cold scalding hot. Upon turning on the water, it could shoot out of the pipes, the faucet, the walls, or even the drain. Occasionally it even came out of the shower head.  Once, without our knowledge, all the shower heads were replaced with flame throwers. Who said personal hygiene had to be uneventful?

I suppose if it all came easy it wouldn't be the Marine Corps. Sometimes it's a hard life and others it's the time of your life. There is a reason it is referred to as service and sacrifice. Wherever they are right now, Americans can be sure their Marines are meeting and exceeding expectations and continue to do those things others are unwilling or incapable of doing. They are the good guys. Rumors to the contrary are generated by lesser men who will never know or understand what it is to be part of our tribe.

Semper Fidelis!
America’s 1stSgt
Enduring the suck so you don’t have to