Sunday, January 29, 2012

John Carter of Mars Workout! NCO PT session.

It is a well documented fact I like to PT the NCOs on occasion. Recently I took the Marines out to the NSA Bahrain soccer field for a little light body maintenance. Our workout was gleaned from the Man of Action. He gives specifics on how to conduct the John Carter of Mars workout. I've just got a few bad photos for you.

The John Carter of Mars workout is designed to emphasize the bounding power in the legs and hips. Mars has less gravity than Earth so John Carter spends his time leaping over the Martian landscape decapitating horrific monsters, battling larger than life foes, and rescuing Martian princesses. You can see why I appreciate his style.

John Carter and Tars Tarkas on a typical Saturday night on Barsoom.

Each exercise was done in a one minute interval with a 30 second break between each exercise. We did four total rounds for approximately 20 minutes all together.

The first exercise was vaults. With a rifle, each Marine vaulted over six jersey barriers continuously for one minute. In the photos you can see it is pretty dark out. This is because I have to get the Marines out there early before the Sailors take over the field so they can do toe touches and hip rotations. They get a little uncomfortable when Marines are nearby actually sweating.

The next minute we did sprint bounds. The object here was to use maximal effort to leap as high as possible and explode into the next toe strike. Unlike John Carter, we were not able to clear attacking hordes of Tharks.

Keeping focused on muzzle awareness was an additional challenge.

Following the 30 second break, broad jumps were next. This was another max effort exercise with max distance not repetitions being the goal. The addition of the rifle made it an interesting exercise.

After the first two exercises Marines reconsider the wisdom of attacking broad jumps.
Some mistakenly thought I said Planet of the Apes Workout.

Concluding the four exercise circuit were sprints. The object here was to get in five or six 30 yard sprints in one minute. Marines were reminded the "carrying handle" on the rifle isn't.

America's 1stSgt and another Marine consider blowing chow for time.
Bunny hops and jogging were grounds for massive amounts of ridicule and negative commentary.

As is my practice, after PT I bring the Marines in for some PME and general discussion on how a culture of physical fitness applies to small unit leadership and swashbuckling.

Me doing my thing.
All in all, not a bad session of physical training.  Just doing our part for the cause of liberty.

Semper Fidelis,
America's 1stSgt

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Self Defense Series II

Some thoughts on mindset, intent, and general awareness. I am still putting ideas to paper for my upcoming self defense class. One of our most important weapons is our brain housing group. With that in mind I put down some thoughts on the subject of mindset and awareness:

"If you look like a rabbit, and act like a rabbit, you will be treated like a rabbit - prey for all predators." 

I often talk to my Marines about comportment. What a great word. It has to do with how you carry yourself and what your body language is communicating to everyone around you. It’s been said if you look like food you’ll be eaten. So how does one not look like prey? More importantly, what does prey look like in the first place?

Last time I checked, bullies and predators did not select their targets from among those who seemed confident, alert, and willing to put up a fight. They seem to target fearful, weak, victims who appear asleep at the wheel.  

One of my pet peeves is walking around with hands in your pockets while in uniform. To me hands jammed firmly in pockets tells me your brain is switched off and unprepared for action. “Live” hands unencumbered by pockets tell me your brain is switched on ready to fight the forces of evil. Those who identify themselves as warriors should keep this in mind. For everyone else I will point out this is a great example of body language predators read.

Headphones, ear buds, and the like are another peeve of mine. Fortunately they are not a uniform item so in my daily duties it’s not an issue. When I see folks walking around the streets at all hours with their music on it screams they have tuned in, tuned out and are easy prey.

If vigilance is the price of freedom then I’d say the appearance of vigilance is the first step in protecting yourself. It would be even better if you were actually vigilant though.

I was taught about an incident in Europe where a terrorist cell was targeting American officers for kidnapping and/or assassination. The cell was captured before they could do anything but during questioning they identified which officers had been under surveillance. The terrorists had remarked a particular officer as being a hard target. When asked what made him so they said every morning this particular officer would walk around his car checking for devices or anything unusual. They decided not to target him because he was too alert.

When the officer in question was asked about his personal protection measures he was kind of surprised. What actually happened was there had been a number of tire slashing incidents in his neighborhood recently. Every morning before driving to work he would check his tires to make sure they hadn’t been slashed. So although he wasn’t looking specifically for a physical threat, the appearance of vigilance on his part convinced the terror cell to go find an easier target.

I myself walk around with my head on a swivel. I like to take a look over my shoulder and see who is around me. This has become such a habit sometimes I look around but am not really looking at anything. Anyone watching me though will probably think I’m paying attention to my surroundings. I walk with my head up and my hands live and like most Marines have a swagger associated with the confidence of a fighting man.

The opposite of this is someone with their head down, shoulders slumped, hands in pockets, with ear buds on really trying to be invisible. That person looks like lunch. I'm not advocating people walk around like they are some kind of bad ass. There is a difference between that and being alert and confident. 

This is by no means all inclusive, I will likely speak more broadly on the subject in class than I will here. Just wanted to share some thoughts I'm working out. 

Semper Fidelis,
America's 1stSgt 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Ask America's 1stSgt: Call of Duty

Bookworm writes: "My son and his friends are addicted to Call of Duty.  They bandy around phrases about weapons and warfare, and seem to believe that they have actual knowledge and abilities.

Do you believe that these computer war games, with their incredible graphics, make a difference in what incoming Marines know or what they think they know?  I can see where the former would be an advantage (i.e., they come in with some useful knowledge), while the latter might be actually dangerous (i.e., they have just the right mix of ignorance and knowledge to hurt someone).  Also, do these games affect recruitment?  Are young men positively or negatively influenced regarding the military as a result of these games?"

I don't know anything about video games. I pretty much hate them because I suck in any virtual reality. Inevitably I throw the controller down in frustration because I can't get the cross hairs off the ceiling and can't hit a damned thing. Normally I storm off remarking I am better at this kind of thing in real life.

My parents had a friend once who told a story about her young grandson (I want to say he was 5 maybe). He was really brilliant with computers and video games. He was so good his mother tried to enroll him into a school for gifted children. The school did not accept him because while he was good at computers and whatnot he had spent so much time on them he wasn't even able to kick a soccer ball. His grandmother ended up taking him outside to play and sitting him down to work with clay. He was even unable to do common things other kids do with clay at that age. The point: finger dexterity and video game skill do not translate into physical capability.

Do you believe that these computer war games, with their incredible graphics, make a difference in what incoming Marines know or what they think they know?

Nope, young men always think they know something. They don't know jack. Not sure how in the world playing a game in the comfort of their homes translates to running in the 130 degree desert heat with 100lbs of body armor on when someone is trying to kill you. There is nowhere to 'spawn' another avatar of yourself and continue the fight. Ask your son to play Call Of Duty where they all have to quit playing after they die the first time. Not as much fun I'll wager. If anything I think the video game era makes recruits worse candidates. They spend a lifetime on the couch playing games and then join up and can't even run a mile.

As far as knowledge goes, even book knowledge has never been superior to practical experience. Even if they gain some technical knowledge of weaponry I really have a hard time trying to imagine what it could be. They certainly don't learn how much weapons weigh as they would never be able to physically handle all the arms they carry on them in these games. How is it possible for a human being to run around with a pistol, hand grenades, machine gun, sniper rifle, flame thrower, grenade launcher, shotgun, and an anti tank rocket?

Do these games affect recruitment?

I really couldn't say if they affect recruitment or not. I know active duty and civilians both love to play though. I believe Terminal Lance has a cartoon dedicated to the anticlimactic transition from video game to real world.

Are young men positively or negatively influenced regarding the military as a result of these games?

My XO told me a story about his last return from Afghanistan. He walked into a store and the overweight clerk asked him if he was military. Then asked him what it was like over there.

"Was it just like call of duty?",  he asked eagerly.

My XO, not really interested in describing what really happened, replied with: "Yeah, I was just changing magazines [reloading] the whole time." 

Clerk: "Aw man! I totally knew it!"

So I can say with some certainty that Call of Duty does not reflect the realities of war nor does any "skill set" gained by playing translate into real world ability. If anyone thinks they are "training" by playing games they are dead wrong.

Finally, playing Call of Duty doesn't prepare one for combat any more than Mortal Combat prepares one for the UFC.  I wonder what Mike Tyson would think about some fat kid who claimed he was ready for a boxing career because he kicked all kinds of ass at Punch Out?

Semper Fidelis,
America's 1stSgt

Friday, January 20, 2012

We got jokes.

My “shipmate” over at the Mello Jihadi has taken a turn at telling military jokes recently.  I feel obliged to return the favor. There are a number of versions of this story. This is merely the version I like to tell.

The Joint Chiefs were touring a new joint base together when the subject of courage came up.

“Gentlemen,” the Army Chief of Staff said. “It is well known that Army Soldiers possess the most courage of any service member in the armed forces.”

This was received with knowing groans and dismissive hand gestures. The other generals had heard it all before. “Prove it,” one of them demanded. 

The Army Chief of Staff approached a young Army Lieutenant on duty. The Lieutenant crisply saluted and rendered the proper greeting of the day.

“Lieutenant, I want you to draw your side arm and shoot yourself in the head.”

Without batting an eye the young officer drew his weapon, placed it against his temple and pulled the trigger. BANG!

“That gentlemen, takes balls!” Beamed the Army Chief of Staff.

The other Joint Chiefs scoffed at this in derision and rolled their eyes. The word ‘weak-sauce’ was even used. 

“Fellas really, “ interrupted the Air Force Chief of Staff. “Everyone knows that Air Force pilots have  more courage than any two members of our sister services put together. I’ll show you.” They headed over the flight line where all the shiny new jet fighters were being polished with care.

“You there pilot, come over here.” The Air Force pilot ambled over the assembled generals with his hands in his pockets and chewing gum.

“I want to you take your aircraft, fly as fast as it can go, as high as it can go, then eject without a parachute.”

The pilot calmly climbed into the cockpit. His jet screaming off the runway into the blue, he pushed the very limits of the aircraft before ejecting into the open sky without a chute. Grimly, he plummeted to the earth without once uttering a sound before perishing upon impact.

“That boys, takes real balls!” , gloated the Air Force Chief of Staff.

The assembled generals responded with fart noises and cat calls demanding the Air Force Chief go make them sandwiches.

As they approached the pool area the Chief of Naval Operations stopped to note the Navy SEALs nearby.

“My friends, we all know the heart of a Navy SEAL contains the most courage of any war fighter on the planet.” He motioned for one of the SEALs to come join them.

The Sailor was a living Adonis with perfectly manicured eyebrows, frosted hair, and a flawlessly toned and tanned frame. His wrists and ankles were liberally adorned with friendship bracelets.

 Nodding toward a pool filled with sharks the CNO gave his instructions: “I want you to dive into that pool with just your knife and kill me all three of those sharks.”

Immediately the SEAL dove into the pool with a knife clamped firmly in his teeth. He expertly opened the belly of the first shark and with a mighty heave threw its body onto the deck. The second shark was nearly decapitated as the SEAL roughly sawed his knife through its gills. Impressively, he hauled it out of the water slamming it down next to the first shark without leaving the pool. Catching his reflection in a nearby window, he paused to admire his perfectly formed triceps. That’s when the third shark ate him.

“That was a fine maritime example of balls gentlemen.” The CNO’s pronouncement was met with cat calls and obscene hand gestures. They continued to harass the CNO while they waited for the Air Force Chief of Staff to finish dry heaving.  

Moving on, the Commandant of the Marine Corps noted a guard tower with a lone Marine Lance Corporal standing watch.

“Watch this.”, he said before calling out to the Marine some fifty feet above.

“Devildog! Hey Marine! Look down here!”, commanded the Commandant.

“Yes sir?”

“I want you to jump down here! Don’t use the ladderwell, just jump over the side!”

“Say again sir?”

“You heard me Leatherneck! I said jump! NOW!”

“You go to hell sir!”

Proudly, the Commandant turned to his astonished peers: “Now that, gentlemen, is balls!”

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

America's 1stSgt Wins!

Christina Fawn (formerly of Guts Glory and Glitter) launched her new blog with a book give away recently. I so totally destroyed the competition and won a copy of Dalton Trumbo's Johnny Got His Gun. Free books are always on point and I just got mine in the mail yesterday.

Tomahawk added to offset bow tying shenanigans.
 Books, gunslinging, road trips, juicing! There's something for everyone at Tin and Phoenix so go check it out!

We here at the Camp of the Praetorians were also recently added to MSgt B's List of Awesomeness over at his blog My Muse Shanked Me. He's an Air Force guy so it's no surprise he thinks so highly of us. Besides, any patched member of Monster Hunter International can't be all bad.

Carry on with the web surfing of the day!
America's 1stSgt

Monday, January 16, 2012

Self Defense Series

The Coalition of Service Members Against Destructive Decisions (CSADD) has asked if I would teach a Self Defense Seminar at the end of January as part of their sexual assault prevention program.  The Mission of CSADD is to positively influence military members behavior through resources and tools that promote good decision-making processes, enabling leadership development, and influence among peers at the junior level which, in turn, fosters both an attitude and atmosphere conducive to good order and discipline. In my case I get to positively influence a few military members and spouses by providing them with some simple tools to protect themselves from predators of various stripes.   

Personally, I don’t like the term “Self Defense.” The word “defense” conjures up an image of someone covering their head to keep from getting punched in the face. Those of us who identify themselves with a more combative warrior mindset tend to feel you can’t eliminate a threat if you’re too busy “defending” yourself.

Note the "defensive" posture taken here.  Not sure which is the bigger clown in this picture.

“The purpose of fighting is to win. There is no possible victory in defense. The sword is more important than the shield, and skill is more important than either. The final weapon is the brain. All else is supplemental. ” - John Steinbeck

In this case I’m not being asked to teach combat techniques to warriors. Using the quote above as a guide I asked myself what the purpose of fighting is to a woman walking home alone or loading groceries in her car. I imagine her purpose is getting home in one piece. So she doesn’t need to dominate and eliminate her attacker to “win.” She merely needs to escape and evade predators. So I suppose a survival mindset is in order and an accurate term to use for my purpose here.

The subjects I intend to cover include:

Mindset, Intent, and General Awareness

Target Areas of the Body


Expedient Weapons (weapons of opportunity)

I’ve discussed some of the above with some former cop friends and others with some experience in the field. Any advice from like minded types is welcome. Also, ladies, what kind of thing would you like to see from a self defense seminar?

Semper Fidelis,
America's 1stSgt

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Training Shots

With budget cuts looming we are getting creative with training events lately. To illustrate, here are some pictures of Marines rappelling off the roof of our barracks here in Bahrain recently. Thought it would be something to share with you all as we head into the weekend.

Nah-nah nah-nah nah-nah nah-nah...Batman!

On belay as a Marine approaches the ground.

Here our HRST master supervises a Marine on rappel.

Marine demonstrates the “L-Shape” position in order to show the HRST master he has control of his decent. If he doesn't have control we figure it out pretty quickly.

As a young Marine I always used to completely bust my rump doing the "L-shape" before rappelling down. For me it's just another one of those unnatural acts the Marine Corps forces you do to.  I suppose it builds character as well as callouses on the buttocks. Maybe we should issue some of those ballistic drawers for this?  

Semper Fidelis,
America's 1stSgt

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Wasn't your mom a nurse?

In the comments of my last post Kanani, referring to me and my father, asks: "Wasn't your ma nurse? The two of you must have driven her nuts."

Which happens to remind me of an incident I had in Kindergarten. You know, way back in the Old Corps. My family was stationed in Okinawa and I attended a Catholic school out in town.

One afternoon I was a victim to a freak accident involving a swing set, some poor judgment, and a sprained ankle. It was one of those times where an adult asks the child: “Why in the world did you do that?” Of course, never in the history of mankind has there been a coherent, logical answer to this question.

According to my father’s version of events, he picked me up from school with my foot wrapped in Ace bandages and I was perfectly fine. On the way home we no doubt seriously conversed about superheroes, sword fighting, and how U.S. Marines totally kick butt on everyone else (I was indoctrinated young).  This took a sudden and dramatic turn when we got home. I cried out for my mother as I crossed the threshold dragging my now useless and crippled limb behind me.

My father was nonplussed at my histrionics, but I maintain he was merely envious he hadn’t thought of it first.

Semper Fidelis,
America's 1stSgt

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Sick Bay Commando

Got a medical screening knocked out today. While I was there I decided it was a good time to mention all my current injuries plaguing me lately. Now I'm all lined up for a follow on litany of tests and probing. My favorite!

The Doc also prescribed me some meds. The Corpsman at the pharmacy called it some foreign name I didn't recognize. I asked her what in the world it was. She said it was an anti-inflamatory. I had never heard of it before and mentioned I rarely came into medical unless I was really busted up. She shook her head and said: "Yeah, you guys never do."

My dad was even worse. He wouldn't set foot in medical unless he was on death's door. Even after he retired he couldn't stand to be in sick bay. Once he was at an Air Force clinic in tremendous pain. He gritted his teeth and pounded his fist into the counter as he was waiting to be seen. Later he would remark: "I couldn't let the Air Force see I was in a hurtlocker!"

I'm afraid I may have inheirited the same gene. Sigh...

Semper Fidelis,
America's 1stSgt

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Coffee II, The Second Cup

I didn't always drink coffee.  As a kid I supposed it was some esoteric elixir formulated to transform free spirited children into rancorous, chain smoking adults. For years I heretically considered it a bitter and obscene concoction. It took some time for me to accept the truth of its warm, loving, caffeinated embrace.

In Okinawa I was working in the Recon Operations Center on a midnight to noon shift when its deliciously insidious hold began to grip me. I had invested in a number of cans of Georgia coffee to keep my battery charged through the morning.

In Japan you can get nearly anything you desire in life from a vending machine: food, alcohol, tobacco, joy.  Coffee in a can is a big deal there. Georgia coffees come in various flavors and types as you can imagine. It's a smorgasbord of delightfulness.

My first positive encounter was with a cafe latte in a can. From there my life began to subtly change. Little did I realize the seemingly innocent latte was merely a gateway beverage. Soon a mere latte wouldn't suffice. I began to experiment with other types and brands: Emblem Blend, Platinum Blend, Mocha Kilamanjaro!

In Fukuoka, Japan I participated in a martial arts exchange with the Japanese Self Defense Forces. The Japanese have a thing about being good hosts. They will always ensure you are well fed and well lubricated. Well rested? Feh! That is something to do once you get back home.  After dinner and drinks we were informed this had only been the "first party" and we were moving on to attend the "second party".  The second party was more food and booze but also karaoke and booze. Surely this could come to no good I thought. We had to fight all day the next day! We were going to demonstrate bayonet drills with live blades! I mentally prepared myself to bleed out on the mat the following morning.

At 0500 a caravan of corpses carpooled out to the Japanese base. "Bring out your dead!" Some of us had even slept a little. Listless and lifeless I shuffled into a vending machine. Mmmmm...Georgia...

After knocking back two cans of Emerald Mountain Blend I conversed in run on sentences for two straight hours.  Demonstrating pistol retention techniques, my buddy claimed I nearly ripped his arm out of its socket when I threw him over the horizon.

To this day I am a fan of Georgia Coffee's wondrous powers.  A warm can of Georgia coffee is capable of generating so much joy it'll make you want to kiss strangers on the mouth.

Semper Fidelis!
America's 1stSgt

Monday, January 2, 2012

Coffee, the original energy drink

Hmmmmmm…coffee.  Just the thought of it makes the day that much brighter.  I figure we might as well start our new year like we start our day. That is, caffeinated.

On deployments the importance of brewing a magic mug of victory cannot be understated.  Waiting on gurgling, hissing, coffee brewing contraptions can be hypnotic.

Like a toilet flushing, its brown water swirls in your mind.

Many a morning I shuffled into the COC castigating young lieutenants for not having the great silver bullet prepped with its life giving nectar. Some of them were even under the mistaken impression that since they didn't drink coffee then they didn't have to make sure any was brewed. Fools.

Ever see a 2nd Lt try and talk over a caffeine deprived 1stSgt? In my experience it goes like this:

"1stSgt, if you want coffee made in the mor-"

Another fine Iraqi morning I loomed into the COC early, as I often did.  Surly, I pronounced their morning report and state of the COC was satisfactory upon discovering the silver bullet had already been fired up and was ready to serve.

America's greatest wartime invention.

As I poured myself a cup I noticed the color was off. It seemed rather light, almost like the color of tea. Had we been infiltrated by the English?

Interrogating the Lance Corporal radio operator who "made" the coffee, he assured me he had prepared the silver bullet as instructed. He had filled it with water and put coffee in the filter and everything.

I removed the lid of the silver bullet to inspect his work and sure enough, he had indeed filled the filter with coffee…beans. I cursed him and his addiction to sugary energy drinks as an un-American Communist plot. You'd think knowing how to operate a silver bullet would be a requirement to graduate boot camp.  A hip pocket class on the operation of the silver bullet ensued, complete with functions check. The professional development of young Marines is my responsibility after all. 

For the record, America's 1stSgt takes his coffee hot and dark. Read into that what you will. Like my shipmate NavyOne, I too do not wash my coffee mug.  This mystifies my CO but I have never caught him using my mug either.

More caffeinated musing later!

Semper Fidelis!
America's 1stSgt