Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Here come the good guys!

As much as it pains me to heap praise on the Navy let alone SEALs, I have to admit I am rather jazzed about Act Of Valor. I haven't seen it yet but I'm just excited to finally hear about a film that doesn't portray military members as sociopathic, ignoble, baby killers.  So far I have heard nothing but good things about the movie from the average American. 

On the other hand the haters decry the film with statements like:

This is merely Navy recruitment propaganda!
To this I can only say: Since when is military service not a noble pursuit?

Well, name one noble thing the U.S. has done with its military this century? 
Operation Tomodachi. Gottcha!

Here's a quote from a Huffington Post article complaining the film isn't anti-military enough: "There are no corrupt officers, no damaged heroes, no queasy doubts about the value of the mission or the virtue of the cause."

Love the stereotyping as much as I do? It's okay to have a prejudice as long as it's aimed at the correct group. In this case, service members.

Here's another brilliant observation from the same article:
"The terrorists' international flavor presents a nice representative sample of U.S. enemies and bogeymen from the past half-century, though their most important trait is their inability to properly fire their guns."

Right, because Hollywood populates its films with henchmen who are also marksmen. This is why Rambo and John McClain have survived for five films.  Let's also ignore the fact that anyone who has ever fought our enemies can tell you from personal experience the bad guys tend to be lousy shots. Spray and pray seems to be their rifleman's mantra vice breathe, relax, aim, squeeze...

So go out to the movies this week and feel good about America for once. See Act Of Valor. See it twice since I can't see it out here .

If you want to see more feel good featuring your veterans go check out High Ground,  a documentary produced by Don Hahn and directed by Michael Brown. It premiered at the Boulder International Film Festival recently. Everybody has issues and obstacles in their lives. Our response to them defines our character.

Some climb mountains, others merely occupy space and steal good oxygen.

Go check it out!
America's 1stSgt

Monday, February 27, 2012

A day at the range... a day well spent!

Some familiarization fire with the .50 cal below. Being familiar with a machine gun is always a good thing and sadly I don't think we get to shoot them enough in training. Well, I certainly don't anyway.

Spending time going over the fundamentals is always on point. I am a great believer in fire team and squad size fire and movement ranges. If the squads can function as a unit then the platoons will be fine.

Just another ho-hum day in paradise.

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

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Self Defense Series III The Final Reckoning

As noted before, CSADD had asked if I would instruct a self defense seminar as part of their efforts to promote sexual assault prevention. I brought some of my MCMAP Martial Arts Instructors along as it's always handy to have a little high class muscle on hand. From what I can tell the class was a success and was a lot more fun for us than I thought it would be.

We spent about an hour discussing mindset, and general awareness as well as some possible scenarios. We also answered some questions then got into the actual kung fu with the Marines showing the ladies some techniques and letting them strike the pads. An Armed Forces Network news ninja was on hand to record the proceedings.


I'm particularly grateful for the video as it proves to a number of Navy husbands what their spouses were up to the night they went out to have the Marines "show them some moves." I'm proud to report my instructors were complete gentlemen. Of course, they understand the consequence of any other behavior is to be the subject of a live demonstration of interpersonal violence.

All in all I think we were a hit and I hope all the attendees were able to take something useful away from our short training session.  If you hear any stories out of the Middle East concerning American women gouging out some dirtbag's eyes after he put his hands on her, it might just be our fault.

Semper Fidelis!
America's 1stSgt

Saturday, February 18, 2012

What did they expect?

A friend pointed me to an article wanting my take on Liz Trotta's remarks concerning sexual assault in the military.

Normally I don't dip my toes into the black, miry pools of politics or political correctness. Everyone has opinions on the effects of mixed gender working environments as pertains to the military, which is exactly what they are: opinions. There were a couple of remarks made though that I thought went against some fundamental military leadership truths. Truths which can't be debated no matter your personal opinions on women in the military or the conduct of military members.

First let's address Liz's question: "Now, what did they expect?"

As for me, I expect Marines to conduct themselves in a manner which reflects the values under which we claim to operate. I expect them to rise to a standard of behavior far exceeding that of thugs and rapists. I expect Marines to take action and intervene in the event they see or know of such criminal acts taking place.  I expect them to know right from wrong. You may recall my discussion with Dr. Berkowitz on sexual assault this summer and his response.

I don't expect proximity to be used as a reason why service members are assaulted. If that's the case then society can't have integrated anything. It's almost as if she is suggesting service members spend their days dragging their knuckles along the ground humping the air like dogs because we are too feral to know any better. Does Liz consider us mere brutes? I don't appreciate the insinuation however she meant it.

It's bad enough the media delights in portraying the military as mentally disturbed sociopaths itching to indulge in a multi-state killing spree at the slightest provocation. Nice to know I can add leg humping to the list of psychological issues I must have since I'm a veteran.  

"You have this whole bureaucracy upon bureaucracy being built up with all kinds of levels of people to support women in the military who are now being raped too much."

 I certainly am on board with enduring less bureaucracy and have developed a distaste for so called "experts" securing their little cottage industries within the military. All I can really think to say to this: how much rape is enough?

She goes on to say she thought the mission of the military is "to defend and protect us, not the people who were fighting the war." This flies directly in the face of every leadership principle I was ever taught. It's like saying hospitals treat patients not doctors. Since when do we not protect one another? The most often quoted leadership principle in the Marine Corps is: Know your Marines and look out for their welfare. Though the primary goal of leadership is mission accomplishment the second is troop welfare. Seems pretty high up on the list to me.

I tend to view sexual assault as a societal issue vice a purely military one. As a nation we raise generations of young people through our media to be obsessed with sex then are shocked when there is sexual assault. I question the numbers as to sexual assault being up 64%. That doesn't mean it's not happening but it hasn't happened within my sphere of influence. What the military does right is have avenues for victims to report it. Maybe that's the reason. As far as it being endemic to the military only I don't buy it. I'll bet college campuses have more unreported sexual assaults than the military does.

But don't take my word for it. I expect to take some flak as a misogynistic troll for even having an opinion on the matter. To make sure I wasn't way off the mark I showed the article to a few lady leathernecks I know. I wanted to see what they had to say about this. For the record, I had already written out most of my thoughts on the matter before I asked any of my fellow Marines for theirs. To a woman, they all have their hate on for Liz. I'll let them tell it like they see it in their own words:

"As a civilian I was victim to such an unfortunate event. As a female service member, I have never felt safer around men than I do now. I believe there are more rape victims in high schools and colleges, not on the front lines."

I about laughed out loud when I read this. She and I had not discussed my thoughts on the issue so I'll chalk up the similarity of our remarks to our shared outlook as Marines.

"I've felt way more vulnerable in certain situations as a civilian than I ever did in the military."

"In the Marine Corps, as a female, I have never personally experienced or known anyone that have been victims of rape or sexual assault. The majority of the times I have heard of it happening have been in the [other services]."

Is it me, or is there a trend here? Keep in mind our perspective is mostly limited to our Marine Corps experience.

"I never feared the Marines I worked with. The idea of ever being sexually assaulted in the military only arose during safety stand downs when the ABC's of sexual assault were burned into our brain housing groups. I only met one person while I was on active duty who was a victim of sexual assault. And it was a male. I met him in the hospital at Balboa where he went for treatment after being gang-raped by his fellow shipmates. Five of them, if I remember correctly. So I know it happens. It's just hard for me to believe the numbers as reported in that clip. And I was often the only female in the units I was assigned to."

All the female Marines I approached with this were also quick to remind me men get sexually assaulted too. It's not as common, but men are not immune simply because of their gender.

"There was this one time, in Iraq, when the corpsman who rode in my truck grabbed my ass after a convoy. I was stunned. But I wound my fist back and towered over him, all up in face, and asked if he had lost his [cough!] mind. His smile quickly diminished and he kept his distance from me after that. I wasn't going to tell anyone, but my driver saw it happen and urged me to mention to someone so we could get a new corpsman because he was pissed and didn't want him in our vehicle after that. Neither did I. I tried to keep it hush, just doing the bare minimum in order to get a new corpsman, but when my 1stSgt heard about it she asked for all the details and then told the BN CO. He called me in and told me all the right stuff (if I had in fact felt victimized, which I didn't, his words would have been comforting). He explained why the [corpsman] needed to be disciplined, so he wouldn't do anything like that again, or worse. And he never came on the road with us again after that."

"I think it's unfortunate this [ahem!] has such a negative perception of the military. She speaks as if we're animals lacking human minds with the ability to reason and know right from wrong."

Let just take a moment to say it makes me sigh contentment whenever a young Marine thinks like I do. It gives me hope.

Trotta may have had a point to make; too bad it was lost in within the miasma of garbage pouring out of the hole under her nose. Her remarks only infuriated Marines I talked too.

"Had she ever been a victim of rape or sexual assault her ass would not have said that and she damn sure would have chosen her words more wisely." You go girl.

Trotta is all kinds of wrong in her perceptions of the military. Sexual assault should be dealt with swiftly and decisively. Our military is held to a high standard of conduct and America should demand we maintain that standard. Her argument is silly. She could just as well say that when you bake a fresh batch of cookies, are you surprised when someone sneaks some cookies for themselves? My answer would be: yes, if they're adults and I told them to keep their hands off the cookies. I expect them to follow orders and know right from wrong. Maybe that's too simple an analogy but simple is how I operate.

Semper Fidelis,
America's 1stSgt

Saturday, February 11, 2012

All the undead kids...

At the moment I am at a loss as to writing anything of substance. In the meantime, enjoy some zombie inspired lyrics as sung to the tune of Pumped Up Kicks by Foster The People. 

UPDATED: Some lyrics have changed since my promotion.

Sergeant Major is a gun hand
He’ll save the day soon, the undead won’t stand a chance
He’s got a fixed bayonet, attached to his rifle he’s a gunslinger kids!
Yeah, he brought a flame thrower gun
It’s pretty handy against those infected things, and you wanna know what?
If it weren’t for him you’d be infected too. 

All the undead kids with their blood stained lips
They better run, better run, outrun a jarhead
All the undead kids with their blood stained lips
They better run, better run, faster than my bullet

Sergeant Major packs a tomahawk
It’s covered in gore, and it’s encrusted with brains.
He can cure the zombie blight, with decapitation or a shot through the eye.
Killing the brain works every time.
Yeah a small outbreak is now a pandemic war, you can’t reason with the undead,
Then say, “I’ll be alright, it’s just a little bite, yeah?”

All the undead kids with their blood stained lips
They better run, better run, outrun a jarhead
All the undead kids with their blood stained lips
They better run, better run, faster than my bullet

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Liebster Award?

I know not whence this dubious "award" was spawned but it strikes me as some kind of modern day chain letter shenanigans. Nonetheless I see no harm in spreading the wealth.

What is this august award pray tell?

Hearts, there are friggin' hearts on my blog now.
Christina Fawn, who has been captaining Tin & Phoenix through the murky depths of the blogosphere, has seen fit to recognize the Camp of Praetorians with this envious distinction. Though the rules specify nominated blogs must have less than 200 followers, Christina maintains some of mine may be infected by zombie plague and therefore do not qualify as human followers. Thanks Christina! Not only has your out of the box thinking garnered me a blog award, but now the CDC has decreed anyone who stops by Castra Praetoria will be subject to a blood screening. How cool is that?

But it's not just as simple as that folks. There are responsibilities associated with being a recipient of the Liebster. They are:

     1. Copy and paste the award on our blog.
     2. Link back to the blogger who gave you the award.

     3. Pick your five favorite blogs with fewer than 200 followers, and leave a comment on their blog to let them know they have received the award.

     4. Hope that the five blogs chosen will keep spreading the love and pass it on to five more blogs.

     5. Eliminate infected blog followers by traumatic brain injury and burn the corpses to prevent cross contamination. 

Okay, so I made up #5 but the other four are legit so without further ado I present the Liebster too...

1: Marion's Meepings. What you say? NavyOne already awarded Pax this recognition? I care not! As America's 1stSgt I invoke my unilateral power to do as I see fit.  Despite her gastrointestinal faults, Pax is a generous mil-supporter and hat appropriator.  We shall choose to overlook her fascination with kittens and other cuddly things. 

2: CI-Roller Dude. CI Roller has been a reader of CP from way back. He has the perspective of not only a professional soldier but a police officer as well. You will notice the word "professional" before "soldier." I make the distinction on purpose. 

3: The SandGram. Taco did me a solid a while back accepting the 2010 Milbloggie award for best Marine blog on my behalf. I still haven't received anything from him so I can only assume he is safely keeping all my loot in anticipation of my return Stateside. Here is some video of him basking in all my glory...

TacoBell Accepting the Milbloggie from You Served Radio & Blog on Vimeo.

4. Hell In A Basket. Leslie is a frequent commenter and a passionate Soldiers Angel. Anyone who looks out for the tribe is worth looking out for. Perhaps this acknowledgement will inspire her to post something!

5. Insane Diego. be603 is another regular to the camp and although he is also an air winger we'll do what we can to not hold it against him. His son and heir is also a jarhead. This is a running theme in the Corps as the propaganda doesn't fall far from the tree.

There, I believe I have fulfilled all my obligations as a Liebstererer. Stop by these blogs and give them a shout. Because, you know, that whole lurking thing just creeps me out.

Semper Fidelis!
America's 1stSgt

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

They got ninjas!

According to news sources, Iran has a female ninja army comprised of 3,500 highly trained and lethal assassins. These cold eyed killers are stealthily waiting to perforate invading infidels with throwing stars while baffling victims with their acrobatics.  In addition to the traditional black clad ninja, they've got camouflaged ninjas, tiger striped ninjas, and invisible ninjas. No confirmation as to earlier reports of ninjas with laser beam eyes though.

This wanton, aggressive use of tumbling and sword jumping poses a clear and present danger to U.S. interests and is no doubt a major destabilizing factor in the region. I suspect the whole nuclear arms thing was merely smoke and mirrors to distract us from the true insidious threat of Iranian ninjas.

As a countermeasure, I have instituted a rigorous training regimen of Zumba for all the Marines.  I just pray it's not too late.

Semper Fidelis!
America's 1stSgt
Fleet Anti-ninja Security Team Company

Friday, February 3, 2012

...those cats were fast as lightning...

Quantico VA, Marine Corps Martial Arts Instructor Trainer Course, October 2001. Yet another opportunity to display character.

One of the training tools we use in the MCMAP program is the LZ Drill. The LZ (landing zone) is generally used for the take off and landing of helicopters but also provides a wide open space for a bloodbath combative training/conditioning opportunity.

LZ drills incorporate physical exercises and hand to hand combat techniques as squads of Marines move about the course. For instance, at a particular station Marines may be required to execute 20 hip throws  before moving to the next station (requiring everyone to endure 20 break falls as well). The catch is everyone has to move on line, in unison, and can only proceed via broad jump, walking lunge, bear crawl, you get the idea.  Failing to do so results in various negative consequences, the least of which is merely doing the station over.

But the sadism doesn't stop there. Marines are notorious for making sure their buddies are "taken care of". It was well known throughout my battalion back in Okinawa the CO of the Martial Arts Center of Excellence (MACE), then LtCol George Bristol, was going to be our next battalion commander. Many of my superiors knew LtCol Bristol and made sure I received proper handling. It was also a topic of interest among the instructor staff I was from the battalion their boss was soon to command.  In the bizarro culture of the Marine Corps, if Marines don't like you they'll beat the snot out of you. If they do like you then they'll really kick the stuffing out of you and throw it in the air like confetti. Suffice it to say it took me a few days to do all the math.

My moment of clarity came while face down in a wet patch of freshly pepper sprayed grass.  Fists resting firmly on their hips, senior members of the staff openly debated my genetic origin and overall questionable performance. Low crawling my way to the next station I turned my head toward the SgtMaj of The Basic School who attended our training regularly.

"Someone called you." I said. It was a statement. The SgtMaj immediately jumped square on my back growling: "You've got no idea son!"

This drew a bark of grim laughter from the assembled instructors including LtCol Bristol, who is considered by many to be the most prolifically profane man in the Corps. Some men merely use profanity. He weaved it seamlessly into his speech like a power loom.  At the time he was best described as a Gunnery Sergeant wearing silver oak leaves on his collar.  His approach to close combat was to seize people by the throat and crotch, then spike them into the earth like a javelin. While pealing themselves out of the crater, it would dawn on them a knife had been involved somewhere along the way.

Col Bristol: "Now rip his arm off and beat him with the sticky end!"

It looked like I was headed for another month or more of special attention. 

At one point in the drill my squad was running sprints up and down an embankment when I looked over at LtCol Bristol and said: "This is starting to suck a little bit."

"Here, I'll hook you up." I was immediately swept over his shoulder and carried up the hill like seabag full of wet laundry.

A warm tingle of inspiration suddenly struck me. To this day I cannot honestly testify to what I was thinking other than some opportunities should be seized and damn the consequences. It could also have been that I figured if I was going to get thrown a beating I might as well earn my licks.

I shouted: "Yeeehaww!", and repeatedly swatted the Lt Col on his behind as he lumbered up the hill.

Without a word he delivered me back to my squad at the top and stalked off to terrorize another squad. I heard my name being shouted from the field below by a lazy eyed Gunny on the instructor staff.

"%&$#@$& SSgt! You can't spank a commissioned officer like that!", he animatedly bellowed at me.  He threw an open hand over his head and shook it.

"You've got to use the back of your hand!" 

In the years since, Col Bristol never said anything to me about this event. Of course, neither has he ever missed an opportunity to call on me in order to demonstrate particularly murderous combative techniques. Live blade knife and bayonet demonstrations being his preferred method of instruction, I often walked away brushing the eyelashes from my shirt afterwards.

Semper Fidelis!
America's 1stSgt