Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Post Traffic Stress Disorder.

Driving phenomena in the Middle East is interesting to study. Time and again drivers in this part of the world conduct themselves in ways which, in America, would cause citizens to exercise their 2nd Amendment right to ventilate the offending motorist's bodywork.

Traffic can get heavily congested but drivers behave as if they are the only one on the road. For years versatile Mid East drivers have cunningly managed to squeeze three lanes of traffic on to streets designed for only one. Using turn signals is considered a sign of weakness earning you no respect on the road. Every lane is a turning lane. The vehicle in front has the right of way and damn everyone behind. Ramming speed!

Parking is as parking does. Which is to say, everywhere and anywhere. Painted lines in parking garages merely suggest drivers park their rides parallel to the lines and not necessarily between them. It is not uncommon for vehicles to simply stop in the road and the driver to get out to conduct his business. Heedless about blocking traffic, it is all about "me" in the Middle Evil.

Usually I walk to work in the morning. Cab drivers, necks craning like vultures, prowl the streets hunting for fares. Many times I am startled by predatory taxi cabs stealthily coming up from behind and laying on their horns. One time this is will happen and I am going to put a hand grenade through their windshield and claim PTSD.

It normally plays out like this: taxi slows to a crawl upon seeing me and blasts his horn. I ignore him and he honks again in case I didn't realize he was honking at me. The third time he honks I shake my head vigorously NO where upon he throws his hands in the air as if to say, "You're a pedestrian and I'm a cabbie! What's wrong with YOU?"

It's a Bizzaro world where taxis hail me and I ignore them. A sure sign this part of the world will never have a space program.

Semper Fidelis!
America's 1stSgt

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Heard in the clear...

Real life dialog never gets old. It is also greater than any fiction conceived by writers. More notable utterings offered here today...

You may have heard about video game tournaments where jobless masses are encouraged to spend all their free time playing video games in order to hone their “skill”. Some are impressed with these oxygen thieves, others not so much:

Marine: “But 1stSgt they get paid to win these tournaments.”
A1S: “Some folks get paid to sell drugs. It doesn’t make them cool either.”

On occasion, our Naval brethren have to be reminded about what exactly it is we do here:

Our work week is from Sunday through until the Global War on Terrorism is over!”

I am not a parent, but I can imagine parenting can get as biologically hazardous as any war zone or mad scientist’s laboratory:

“The kids pick their ass and then smell it, so I’m really not worried about a stupid dog’s mouth.”

In the dictionary under CONFERENCE:

“Just another day of unresolved issues remaining unresolved.”

Everything is indeed relative:

“Five minutes doesn’t seem too long, unless you’re under water.”

On good order and discipline:

“If the Marine Corps would just issue me a bamboo cane I could give stripes instead of taking them away.”

Concerning the approaching apocalypse:

“The Mayans couldn’t even invent a wheel. So why are we worried about their stupid predictions?”

“We’re not worried about global warming. We’re actively participating!”

“Don’t hate me if in the apocalypse I wear suspenders.”

On mentorship:

You can mold people but there is only so much you can do with jello.”

Regarding service pride (Action Figure Therapy):

Our dress blues are pressed by the shame of those around us who wish they were Marines!”

Semper Fidelis!
America's 1stSgt

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

33 Years Under the Green Blanket: Stories My Father Told Me

There is a reason Marines have discarded the label Disabled Vet in favor of Wounded Warrior.

For a portion of the Vietnam War my dad was the Marine Liaison to Balboa Hospital. Basically he made sure wounded Marines returning from Vietnam were taken care of properly, handling their administrative issues, getting paid, etc.

There was one Marine who had stepped on a toe popper (anti-personnel mine). He had two lurid surgical scars than ran up both legs and met at his lower back and began traveling north from there. He had a glass eye and had been told he would likely not walk again.

Marines have a tendency to dismiss "medical science" as some kind of heathen shamanism to be mocked with derision. This Leatherneck was no exception. Not only was he able to walk again, he completed and passed a Marine Corps Physical Fitness Test. As one might imagine, both of these feats were accomplished with some difficulty. The PFT in particular was completed under the kind of immense physical pain that would fold average men like so much wet cardboard. Naval witch doctors begrudgingly issued him a cane.

Despite this, his wounds were such he would have to be medically discharged. My mother, who was a Navy Nurse at Balboa during this episode, said it was the darnedest thing how this Marine's records kept getting misfiled. I am uncertain if these fortuitous administrative errors were able to get him past a certain 'years of service' threshold or merely put a few extra paychecks in his pocket.

In those days there was no direct deposit and everyone was issued hard checks. One day our wounded jarhead came ambling out of the bank after cashing his paycheck and was jumped by three dirtbags. Having mistaken him for an easy mark, imagine their surprise as he savagely laid his cane across their skulls beating them down in the street.

As police arrived on the scene he removed his glass eye and leaned heavily on his cane. Outraged these thugs would treat a "disabled" veteran in such a manner, the cops roughly shoved them into the squad car and took their leave.

So be careful next time you intend to cross a Wounded Veteran. You may end up catching a stump to the rectum.

Semper Fidelis!
America's 1stSgt

Sunday, November 20, 2011

On Taking Action

You may be familiar with the issues and allegations surrounding the current Penn State controversy. I haven't been following it in much detail until recently. Seems heads are rolling over the lack of action by various administrators and coaches. Particularly loathsome, in my opinion, is the inaction of Mike McQueary who allegedly witnessed Sandusky raping a young boy in a shower. I've been following a number of posts and discussion on Bookworm Room concerning the topic. It would appear some folks feel there is too much focus on McQueary when it was Sandusky who is the true monster.

I couldn't disagree more and here's why: What keeps me up at night isn't that I might be a pedophile (or a purse snatcher, or a terrorist). I do get anxiety at the possibility that when it matters, I won't rise to the occasion. The mere thought I might not take action in the face of a hazard or threat fills me with dread.

This manifests itself in little ways. When flying out of Kuwait the plane is normally filled with military types. Inevitably there is a spouse traveling with children and lugging along a formidable carry on bag. It is with some satisfaction I can report men of action trip over each other in an effort to render assistance. Here's the funny thing though. If I'm not the guy helping stow her bags and kids I feel like a complete heel, as do all right minded people I would hope.

The atmosphere sadly changes once we arrive in the U.S. and transfer to our connecting flights. Boarding one plane I noted a mother in front of me carrying her baby on a device which resembled a front mounted parachute with arms and legs. She was wrestling a carry on bag bigger than both of them through the aisle. I found my seat but bag, baby, and mother continued on down the plane. With some foresight I dropped my pack in my seat and followed them a few rows down where she was struggling with her bag trying not to crush her baby in the process. Lesser men seated nearby were engrossed in periodicals of one type or another when I loudly asked: "Miss, may I help you with that?" With some relief she thanked me as I stowed her bag in the overhead compartment in one mighty heave.

I stopped and looked around at the men seated nearby with open distain. In retrospect I wish I had addressed them with: "Gentlemen, do you find it acceptable to sit around when this woman obviously needs help?" Fortunately for me, this is the extent of my missed opportunities, unlike McQueary.

Of course, rendering aid to traveling mothers and choke slamming pedophiles caught in the act are two wildly different scenarios. The main point remains the same though. When presented with an opportunity to take action, it should be seized. Perhaps it is tied up in my identity as an American warrior but I consider it my duty to do so.

In the company office we have been discussing how much dental reconstruction Sandusky would have to endure had any of us caught him in this heinous act. We also can't fathom how McQueary didn't do more than fumble with his cell phone. Surely he could have pulled a fire alarm, yelled, or done something more substantial than call his dad for advice.
This also reminds me of the e-mail I wrote to Dr. Alan Berkowitz a while back and his response. I reprinted his recommendations to the USMC Senior SNCO Sexual Assault Prevention Conference. In particular I am reminded of recommendation number 4:

Hold bystanders accountable. In every incident there are bystanders. Are they held accountable for their non-action? Create a climate in which bystanders are expected to intervene in some way and support and appreciate bystanders who act.

There you have it. For my money, McQueary didn't do enough to actively intervene on the victims behalf. He isn't the perpetrator but intervention could have ended this alleged predatory conduct years ago and prevented subsequent molestation of other kids. I have no sympathy of Mr. McQueary or anyone else who felt they did the minimum required. They should be made examples of even more than Sandusky.

I don't think being a good citizen requires you to strap on a weapon and patrol your neighborhood. It does require a certain morality and a duty to take action when possible. The quote below has been reprinted often enough to be nearly cliche, but I think it bears repeating in this case.

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." - Edmund Burke

Evil triumphed that day back in 2002. Evil got its rocks off at the expense of a ten year old boy. Mr. McQueary, had he an ounce of valor, could have stopped evil in its tracks by physically intervening and failed to do so. Those are the sad facts.

Evil: 1 / Good Guys: 0

You may not like the score. Changing it requires more than standing around with your hands in your pockets when the monsters come out. I pray when my opportunity comes I don't let the good guys down.

Semper Fidelis,
's 1stSgt

Friday, November 18, 2011

It's in the blood!

Every day in the month of November somewhere in the world a Marine Corps Birthday Ball or cake cutting ceremony is taking place. So I feel no shame in sharing even more Marine Corps birthday goodness with all of you. Today a little link love goes out to Sylvia's Friends for this post:

Silvio Sepielli, genuine Leatherneck.
If you're not one of Sylvia's Friends then you're just not cool. If you've never been given the impression Sylvia would happily open you up with something sharp, presuming you crossed the line, then you are sadly lacking in situational awareness. 

Semper Fidelis!
America's 1stSgt

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Moral Compass and the Space Between

Our former Regimental Commander, Colonel Barton S. Sloat, was the guest of honor for the FASTCENT Marine Corps Ball this year.  I thought I’d share a portion of his speech with you.

“ I need to share an important teaching from the great psychiatrist and holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankl, as contained in his influential book Man’s Search for Meaning: ‘Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.’

Let me give you an example of that moral compass found in today’s Marines – I would share with you a story that took place back in the spring of 2008 in Iraq which identifies that ‘space between’ where we choose our response. On the morning of 22 April, outside an entry control point in the city of Ramadi, there were two young Marines standing post. One was from 1st Battalion 9th Marines, the other from 2nd Battalion 8th Marines. Two different battalions because there was a turnover taking place, one battalion to the other. Inside this compound with the Iraqis were about 40 Marines, some of whom were sleeping because they’d had a night patrol the night before. Some were going about their daily routine.

At about 9:30 that morning a 20-foot tanker truck busted through the outer cordon of Iraqis and headed towards an old flimsy metal gate (the stimulus). At 500 yards, the Marines on sentry post at the entry control point realized what was taking place and started putting well aimed rifle fire on the cab of the truck (the response). There is an escalation process that takes place but, in fact, they didn’t go through that process because they recognized immediately what was occurring.

At about 25 yards, the machine gun opened up and the truck then came to a halt about 10 yards from the post. The truck exploded, we think there was probably a dead-man switch on the driver. They had 2,000 pounds of explosive which was ignited. Young Corporal Yale from Burkeville, Virginia, and Lance Corporal Haerter from Sag Harbor, New York, really never had a chance with the explosives that close.

The Iraqis who had been manning the gate when the Marines opened fire ran. An hour or two later when General Kelly, the senior Marine Commander, and the Iraqi commander came to view this hole that was seven feet deep and 20 feet across, the Iraqi commander said to General Kelly: ‘Why didn’t they run? My men ran and they lived.’ (their response). General Kelly said: ‘They couldn’t run. I hope some day you will understand that, but they couldn’t run because there were 40 Marines on the inside of that gate depending on them.’

That is the moral compass. That is the moral discipline. That is the physical discipline. That is sacrifice, the supreme sacrifice that man may give to his brother. I’ll tell you folks, if our country continues to provide us with great young Marines like that, we can go anywhere and do anything this nation asks.
May we always listen to our moral compass during that space between stimulus and response – and choose the better path.

As Winston Churchill reminded us: ‘We have not journeyed all this way…because we are made of sugar candy.’ May we as a nation and as U.S. Marines foster the moral discipline needed to face the challenges of tomorrow, recognize that ‘space between’ and choose to act rather than be acted upon. Act rather than react and choose the better part.”

I think it’s no coincidence the Marine Corps Birthday, Veterans Day, and Thanksgiving all fall in the same month. As we prepare ourselves for the heady holiday season, take a moment to give thanks for those few who made the decision to stand in the gap, strive to negotiate the thin treacherous space between stimulus and response, and do the right thing. When the time comes, pray each of us can do the same.

Semper Fidelis!
America’s 1stsgt

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Culinary Conundrum

On occasion I get e-mails from folks wishing to guest blog or for me to pass some word along to those who may be interested. When I thought it appropriate I have done so in the past. Other times I merely ignore the request.

Recently I have received no less than two requests regarding guest posting or sharing a link about recipes.  My reaction: "Whuh?"

Are these people paying attention to what my blog is about? America's 1stSgt doesn't spend time in the kitchen! He spends time on the battlefield! This is about flashing swords, sweat, and gun smoke! Blasphemous! This would be as nonsensical as say, my producing a yoga video.

However, after consulting with fellow bloggers Kanani and NavyOne, I have decided to relent on my somewhat rigid content and give this questionable material a shot. So here goes...

During the month of December I will post recipes by guest bloggers. Don't get your aprons in a bunch as this will come with some guidelines and restrictions:

1) Said posts will have a Christmas holiday theme mashed up with a zombie apocalyptic flavor. It is preferable said dishes not actually taste like walking corpses though. If I wanted that I'd simply direct everyone to the nearest box of MREs.

2) Words like swashbuckling, gun slinger, hard core, and world's finest United States Marine Corps, or the equivalent,  should be used liberally and often. And yes, you may mention zombies or monsters.

3) You must send a care package containing your confections to a deployed unit of your choice. I know I have a service preference, but as a radical supporter of individual freedom I'll leave it up to you.  A good place to look up units is at Readers from outside the United States are encouraged to support a unit from their nation. We appreciate loyalty here at the Camp of the Praetorians. [ The New Magoo shared this link for Support Our Soldiers. Cool!]

4) Pictures! There must at least be photographic evidence of you actually mailing your package.

Gathering loot for the troops in Iraq December 2007.

Now this sounds like something America's 1stSgt can sink his teeth into!

Further guidance on mailing overseas can be found at Boots On The Ground and here are some FAQs on mailing to FPO/APO addresses including when to ship in time for Christmas.

I will post as many recipes as meet the standards even if this means every day, twice a day during the month of December. If there is that much traffic I may start in November. Click on the Ask America's 1stSgt link to the right for contact info.

Refer all questions to comments. No one's feelings will get hurt if your package doesn't get there by Christmas. Troops dig getting stuff all year 'round.

Semper Fidelis!
America's 1stSgt

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Meanwhile at the Tomb of the Unkown Soldier...

I think it should be pointed out a fixed bayonet has the tendency to encourage others to conduct themselves appropriately. In the video below, a Tomb Guard locks on someone running their pie hole when they should kept it respectfully shut.

That friends, is conflict resolution in action. Hat tip to Tartan Marine for this one.

Semper Fidelis,
America's 1stSgt

Thursday, November 10, 2011

This Veterans Day

November 11 is a day Americans set aside to honor all veterans. Today I'd like to recognize a buddy of mine, SgtMaj Jim Lanham of 3rd Bn 6th Marines. We served as 1stSgts together in 3/3 and was well known as Ol' Jim Lanham, the Rugged Tennesean.  In those days he was likened to a one man public affairs officer where he enjoyed a whirlwind bromance with Ralph Peters

Below is a video of the Rugged Tennesean dispensing combative wisdom to his Marines who are currently confronting the forces of evil in Marjah Afghanistan.

Burt Lancaster? I'll let you be the judge. I can confidently tell you with a fighter like Jim Lanham backing them up, 3/6 will do alright.

Take care brother, and come home soon.

Semper Fidelis,
America's 1stSgt

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Happy Birthday to the World's Finest!

Tomorrow, November 10th 2011, will mark the 236th anniversary of the United States Marine Corps. It is our tradition to conduct a cake cutting ceremony and share a meal amongst the brethren. FAST Company's celebration of our 235th birthday was rugged and glorious. During the celebration we read the birthday messages from the 13th Commandant and our current Commandant.

On November 1st, 1921, John A. Lejeune, 13th Commandant of the Marine Corps, directed that a reminder of the honorable service of the Corps be published by every command to all Marines throughout the globe on the birthday of the Corps. Since that day, Marines have continued to distinguish themselves on many battlefields and foreign shores in war and peace. On this birthday of the Corps, therefore in compliance with the will ov the 13th Commandant, Article 38, United States Marine Corps Manual Edition of 1921, is republished as follows: 

"On November 10, 1775, a Corps of Marines was created by a resolution of the Continental Congress. Since that date, many thousand men have borne the name Marine. In memory of them, it is fitting that we who are Marines should commemorate the Birthday of our Corps by calling to mind the glories of its long and illustrious history.

The record of our Corps is one which will bear comparison with that of the most famous military organizations in the world's history. During 90 of the 146 years of its existence, the Marine Corps has been in action against the Nation's foes. From the Battle of Trenton to the Argonne, Marines have won foremost honors in war and in the long era of tranquility at home. Generation after generation of Marines have grown gray in war in both hemispheres and in every corner of the seven seas [so] that our country and its citizens might enjoy peace and security.

In every battle and skirmish since the birth of our Corps, Marines have acquitted themselves with the greatest distinction, winning new honors on each occasion until the term "Marine" has come to signify all that is highest in military efficiency and soldierly virtue.

This high name of distinction and soldierly repute we who are Marines today have received from those who preceded us in the Corps. With it we also received from them the eternal spirit which has animated our Corps from generation to generation and has been the distinguishing mark of the Marines in every age. So long as that spirit continues to flourish, Marines will be found equal to every emergency in the future as they have been in the past, and the men of our Nation will regard us as worthy successors to the long line of illustrious men who have served as "Soldiers of the Sea" since the founding of the Corps."

Below is the video message of our present Commandant, General James F. Amos. At the begining of the video you will hear the voice of Sgt Dakota Meyer.

Pictures of FAST birthday celebrations to follow!

Happy birthday to all my ninjas!
America's 1stSgt

Saturday, November 5, 2011

50th Anniversary of Operation SHUFLY

Headquarters Marine Corps, Division of Public affairs is currently organizing a series of commemorative events in honor of the 50th anniversary of Operation SHUFLY, the first U.S. Marine Corps engagement in combat operations leading to the Vietnam War.

They would like to get in contact with Marines from the squadrons who participated. Their hope is to get as many of these vets as possible to participate in the various events in the upcoming year.

Headquarters Marine Corps, Division of Public Affairs, is currently organizing a series of commemorative events in honor of the 50th anniversary of Operation SHUFLY, the first U.S. Marine Corps engagement in combat operations leading to the Vietnam War. If you served in one of the squadrons listed below as part of this Operation, DivPA is interested in speaking with you to discuss your possible participation in a commemorative event in 2012. Interested Marines should contact Jeanette Casselano at 703-614-1034 or by email at
      USMC Squadron                                        Time of Rotation
       MABS-16, Sub Unit 2                               9 Apr 1962 – 30 Nov 1964
       HMM-362                                                     9 Apr 1962 – 31 Jul 1962
       HMM-163                                                     1 Aug 1962 – 11 Jan 1963
       HMM-162                                                     12 Jan – 6 Jun 1963, 1 Jul – 7 Oct 1964
       HMM-261                                                     7 Jun 1963 – 30 Sep 1963
       HMM-361                                                     1 Oct 1963 – 31 Jan 1964
       HMM-364                                                     1 Feb 1964 – 30 Jun 1964
       HMM-365                                                     8 Oct 1964 – 30 Nov 1964

Spread the word!

America's 1stSgt 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Someone's not paying attention.

This may come as a surprise to some, but as a Lance Corporal in the infantry I was considered somewhat of a wise ass (GASP!). This occasionally got me in trouble with SNCOs and NCOs who percieved my remarks as possibly disrespectful or "unmotivated" when in fact I was merely making light of lousy situations. I used to joke that things like logic had to be suspended once you joined the Corps. Being a good Marine was like becoming a Jedi : "You must unlearn all that you have learned."

I pinned on Corporal way back in 1995. It was while I was a student at the Marine Security Guard School in Quantico (pre-pepper spray). I had just come from 1st Bn 3D Marines and had a been a Lance Corporal squad leader during my time there. Being a squad leader (an NCO billet) as a Lance Corporal just may be one of the best jobs in the Marine Corps. You have all the authority and none of the responsibility.

Upon being promoted to Corporal I knew the jig was up. Now I was expected to know better and my Lance Corporal shenanigans would not hold up to scrutiny. It was a scary realization.

In late 1996 I was promoted to Sergeant. This was a big deal and considered one of the best of the enlisted ranks, the other being Gunnery Sergeant. Now I was supposed to actually know stuff. Yikes! Sergeants knew everything about the Corps. Keep in mind, other than my drill instructors, my introduction to Sergeants was none other than the Cyborg himself. I panicked as I realized I didn't know anything!

Still trying to rationalize all of that, I was shipped off to 2D Force Service Support Group in Camp Lejuene to become a Nuclear Biological Chemical (No Body Cares) Defense Specialist. I would spend the next eight years trying to do anything but my military occupational specialty.

The day I checked in the with the NBC Platoon at HQ Battalion a young PFC approached me. Dressed in my Service Alpha uniform I no doubt cut a dashing figure (it's one of the reasons we join after all). He began to gripe about his perceived hypocrisy of some of the platoon leadership. At a loss of what to say, I responded with the only thing I could think of: "Just shut your mouth. Do what I do and you'll be ok." It must have worked. That PFC is now a Marine Captain.

By the time I kind of figured out how to be a decent Sergeant I was selected for promotion to Staff Sergeant. Oh crap! Marine Staff NCOs have a level of responsibility unparalleled in the U.S. Armed Forces. They are go to Marines with the corporate knowledge of 236 years of storied tradition. Immediatly upon recieving your first rocker something magic happens where your brain automatically downloads everything a SNCO needs to know. At least this is the perception. Somehow my software never got the memo.

During this period I was given orders to 3rd Recon Battalion in Okinawa to be their NBC Chief. Many cool things happened at 3rd Recon. None of them involved nuclear, biological, or chemical warfare.

Gunnery Sergeant is probably the greatest rank in the Marine Corps. The Gunny gets things done. In 2003 I was given this mantle. Keep in mind not all Gunnery Sergeants are The Gunny either. The Lance Corporal in me shivered with fear. Gunnys are supposed to everything! They took action and produced results! I was doomed! Sooner or later someone was going to see through my disguise and realise I was a LCpl posing as a SNCO.  I played my role well and eventually a Company Gunny with the Chemical Biological Incident Response Force in Indian Head, MD.

Once I was walking through the passageway with one of my Corporals on some kind of mission to make something happen when the Cpl looked at me and said: "Gunny, how come you walk around like you're some kind of bad $&!#@*?" 

The panicked LCpl in me freaked: he knows! I casually looked the Corporal up and down and said: "I'll let you in on a secret. I kinda am a bad $&!#@*." I continued to swagger down the hall having dodged another bullet. Whew!

In 2007 I was promoted to 1stSgt and given orders to 3/3 America's Battalion. The Company 1stSgt is the be all and end all of things pertaining to his company. The sun rises and sets on his command. Careers blossom or fall at his whim. He knows EVERYTHING about everything! I had no idea what I was going to do. Many of the Marines I was leading were combat vets who knew more about counter insurgency operations than I ever would. 

If there was one thing I had already learned in my time with the Corps it was if I took care of the troops they would take care of the mission. I also had some experience looking and acting like a professional Marine and set out to teach those in my charge how to do likewise. It also helps to go on a few patrols with the men and gain a reputation as a bullet magnet (also mortar and IED magnet).

After two combat deployments with 3/3 I have been with the Fleet Anti-terrorist Security Team Company in Bahrain for the last two years. We've been all over the CENTCOM AO and this past year have conducted three embassy reinforcement missions during the current unrest. My Marines have made me look pretty good with every task they've been given.

So, it is with some humility I announce the Marine Corps has seen fit to approve my selection to Sergeant Major. To which I can only wonder what the heck am I supposed to do now? Don't they know who I am? I can only hope to pin on the rank before someone in authority realises they are promoting some wise assed Lance Corporal to Sergeant Major.

I suspect someone's been tricked here and I'm not quite certain who it is yet.

Semper Fidelis,
America's 1stSgt