Friday, March 30, 2012

DVs, VIPs, and other madness

A recent Terminal Lance cartoon reminded me of something which has always bothered me about very important ninjas touring the area.

See the full Terminal Lance article here.

At the Terminal Lance site the author laments the soul crushing histrionics Marines endure every time someone of importance has the slightest chance of being in a one kilometer radius of them.

The upcoming visit by the very important ninja is heralded by certain key phrases such as: "working party", "police call" and "field day the $#@! out of the barracks." These key phrases kick off a festival of sweeping, swabbing, spitting, polishing, and a general malaise of cleaning things which are already clean,  then cleaning them again.  Though I fortunately have never been party to it, this occasionally requires rocks to be painted for no discernible reason.

Upon the announcement, I always sprint immediately to the Career Planner's office to remove the pistol from his mouth.  He would rather end it all now than be laughed to scorn later when he has to discuss reenlistment options to the battalion. Talking him down also gets me out of a full half hour of cleaning something.

As a Staff Sergeant working in an S-3 shop (operations and training), I recall our Major entering the office one day to let us know the Division CG was going to be in the area.

"SSgt, I need you to clear all that off your desk and square away your area."  Statements like these drive the average Marine to fantasize about driving sharp objects into their eyes then roughly breaking off whatever is left sticking out. I have always striven to be better than average with my response:

"Absolutely, sir. The General would be pissed if it looked like work was being done in here." Suffice it to say my fitness report from this particular Major was somewhat less than stellar. 

Belonging to an institution whose cornerstone leadership trait is integrity, this kind of response to the imminent visit by the very important ninja has always struck me as somewhat dishonest.  Don't get me wrong, I certainly believe in maintaining a well policed area.  On occasion I'll look around my own office and realize I need a flame thrower and a pitchfork to square it away. However, when Marines are ordered to use a floor buffer on a concrete deck, a small part of my soul dies.  

Now days I take some perverse pleasure in sending someone's blood pressure through the roof with remarks like: "What are we doing, fooling someone it's like this all the time?" It would seem to me if we need the area to be extra special double-secret probation clean when a VIP is nearby, then our daily standard of police is far too low. If we tolerate the overflowing dumpster the rest of the time we are just being inconsistent, lazy leaders.

Semper Fidelis,
America's SgtMaj

Monday, March 26, 2012

Heard in the clear!

As always, the best lines are rarely made up and must be experienced live and in person. Some new remarks below.

As time honored and respected those in the medical profession are, it's never a bad thing to ask pertinent questions concerning the qualifications of our care givers:
“What’s the root of the word nurse? How are we letting men do that again?”

Words are a mighty comfort to some folks:
"I mock you because I care."

A timely quote for those worried about what Mayans think or virulent zombie contagions: 
“The government might collapse and America descend into anarchy, but Marines will still have their 10 General Orders.”

Concerning health care, risk behaviors, personal responsibility, and integrity:
“If you’re saying you didn’t know smoking was bad for you, you’re lying through the hole in your trachea.”

Ladies dig confidence and, as a consequence, U.S. Marines. Deal with it:
“Marines dance even if they’re not good at it. I admire that in a man.”

Perception. It's always insightful to view yourself through a different lens:
“The 1stSgt doesn’t drink the kool-aid. He snorts it off an Eagle, Globe, and Anchor!”

It's fun to tease teenage family members who are clearly excited to see you but are unsure what to do about it. Hug? No hug?:
"You realize I can only express myself through physical violence right?"

At what was my final farewell I received a nice plaque from the Marines of FAST Company.

On the inscription it is not uncommon to put down a memorable quote or catch phrase of the individual being honored. It would seem they couldn't pick just one of mine and ran out of room:

"I'm not yellin' at you." - Usually some unfortunate soul has to poke his head in my office to relate some information I am not going to like or report bad news.  Sometimes I have to remind the poor messenger they aren't necessarily the focus of my ire. This line is usually followed up with: "I'm yelling near you."

"I hear ya talking." - Normally in response to any reassurance or boast someone is making about work, progress, or taking action of some kind.

"You pickin' up what I'm puttin' down?" - Well? Are you?

"I ain't mad at ya." - Despite rumors to the contrary, I'm usually not. This isn't personal. It's business.

"Those dumb b!@#&$!" - I personally don't recall saying this often enough to rate having it etched on a plaque. But there are enough dumb b!@#&$ running around for it to be quite possible.

"Aloha!" - My go to response to the proper greeting of the day.  The beauty of this word is I can use it coming or going.

Semper Fidelis!
America's SgtMaj

Saturday, March 24, 2012

More Walking Deadness

In keeping with our weekend zombie theme, I thought I'd share these with you.

Here we have Ten Reasons Why The Walking Dead Should Just Kill Carl. With which I totally agree. When we all start hoping against hope that a rotting, undead, corpse takes a big toothy bite out of a little kid it's a sign of pretty bad character development.

Below is video by Cold Steel addressing the pocket knife through the skull technique of zombie slaying. Unless the virus somehow turns skull bones into sponges I'm not sure it would work out the way it did in the show. Enjoy!

Hmmm...spike hawk eh?

Semper Fidelis!
America's SgtMaj

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Thoughts on The Walking Dead Season 2

Been traveling recently and have noted 30 odd hours of airplane rides and layovers just may well be the catalyst which eventually sparks the plague of undeath.  Until that happens we just have to watch it on TV.  Which is just what I did yesterday catching the season finale of The Walking Dead while I lounged recovering from jet lag (I prefer jet hangover personally). 


If you're like me you usually spend most each episode verbally berating the characters for their idiocy and cast judgement on the writers for their inconsistent character development. I could spend this post pretty much venting my spleen on the poor judgement of the characters but everyone probably already does that. Besides, you can't blame fictional characters for being stupid just because the writers need a plot device. For example, at the end of the final episode Rick's vehicle runs out of gas and they lament they have no supplies, blah, blah, blah.  At which I wonder how they have nothing since they just left a highway loaded with cars containing whatever supplies and gas they didn't take at the beginning of the season.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Instead of doing that (well I'll do some of that), I'll just go over a short list of things you could expect out of me in a similar scenario and you happen to be nearby:

1. America's SgtMaj is the leader of the group.  Sorry, I'm an alpha male with 20 years of military leadership under my belt. Yes, 20 years of making sound and timely decisions trumps: "You're not the boss of me!", crybaby bull crap.  Resistance to my authority in an emergency such as the Zombie Apocalypse will be handled swiftly and with an amount of force equal to or slightly greater than the level of hostility displayed by dissenters.  This does not preclude me from abdicating my authority to someone I think might do a better job of it.  As a senior enlisted adviser in my day job this is pretty much what I do already. I find it interesting it has taken Rick two seasons to figure out what I know from day one of the apocalypse:

Having established this let us move on...

 2. No one goes anywhere without a buddy.  In the military this is commonly referred to as The Buddy System. This means no one goes anywhere alone. This prevents folks like Dale from wandering out into open fields at night to have his guts ripped out by a zombie who was there because dumb ass Carl was wandering alone in the woods yatta, yatta, the thing, the thing
"La-de-dah, I'm a big boy in a zombie infested swamp. What could possibly go wrong?"
As a side note, if your kids can't obey simple rules like not touching other people's weapons, or wander off all the time, I will spank their ass clean off. It's the apocalypse and we don't have time for lectures, only discipline.  Am I the only one who wants whiny little Carl to die? I was actively cheering for the zombie to get him in the swamp scene. Yes, where he lost a pistol which he stole from Daryl's saddle bags (a spankable offense in any reality).
3. Someone will be on watch at all times.  Military types will see this and groan, recognizing it for what it is.
Has binos and a scoped rifle, yet somehow never manages to see approaching hordes of undead.
 That's right, standing duty. One of my many gripes about the show is a lack of security and accountability of personnel and equipment. The person on watch will likely be stationed in the most tactically advantageous position to keep overwatch 24 hours a day. The watch will also be given a notebook to write down significant events of the day and to help enforce the next rule which is...

4. No one goes anywhere without telling someone. What a novel idea! Here's a crazy thought, what if the watch stander above wrote down where and what time each buddy team was going off to? I know, I'm just a goose stepping Marine SgtMaj set in his rigid ways. I guess this would also take away the plot device where everyone goes bat guano looking for someone, because all we'd have to do is ask the watch stander. 
'Nuff said.

5. We will have a plan.  This is something the folks on the show never have. Here is a basic idea of what I mean. In my group we would ensure all the vehicles are topped off with fuel daily (provided we have any) and are parked in such a manner as to facilitate the Get The Hell Out Of Dodge plan. The characters in the show are reactionary and they suck at surviving. Anyone tagging along with America's SgtMaj will know the bug out plan to include rally points and locations of caches containing emergency supplies placed sometime prior. In the last episode everyone just happens to show up at the spot where they lost Sophie. There was no prior planning on this just dumb luck. 

Other plans would include what we would do in order to defend ourselves against other people, and against hordes of zombies shambling out of the tree line. This leads us too...

6. This is what guns are for: Essentially, pistols are for fighting our way to our rifles. Rifles are for fighting our way to the vehicles so we can escape the insanely huge army of zombies eating their way through the countryside.  If there are more zombies than bullets there is no fighting to be done, just running and shooting things in our way. Notice I said: " our way."  Turning around and shooting undead which are not currently an obstacle preventing your escape is a waste of ammo and will only cause to trip and get eaten. Also, shooting from speeding vehicles generally results in a miss, particularly when only head shots count. Even the infamous "drive by" is done at a very low rate of speed if one actually intends to hit the target.

I could go on but I have lamented about this show before.  At any rate, it's been a little while since we discussed the zombie scourge. I know I feel better for it.

Semper Fidelis,
America's SgtMaj

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The New Face {and body} of Marine PT!

This weeks Marine Corps Times had an interesting article about physical training on the front page.  When reading this publication you must always remember it is no way endorsed or supported by the Marine Corps so keep that in mind. I actually have no idea what the article says or who the woman is in the picture.

A Marine from my old rifle company in 3/3 took exception to this Times cover and decided to take action. The Corps did not need a new face {or body} to represent physical training. It already had the perfect specimen! Ten minutes with photoshop and voila!

Yours truly banging out L shape pull ups in Karmah, Iraq.

Of course, no one wants to hear what I have to say about being fit for combat. Probably because the body builder in the previous photo has more experience than I do running around in 120 degree desert heat with 100lbs of gear on.  Anyway, I thought the photoshop job was hilarious and had to share.

Semper Fidelis!
America's SgtMaj  

Friday, March 16, 2012

America's Sergeant Major!

Now it's official. As of yesterday afternoon you may no longer address me as America's 1stSgt, at least not if you expect me to answer.  Below are some pictures of this landmark day in American military history:

The last time I report as America's 1stSgt.

Here I am somewhat disappointed to discover pinning on SgtMaj chevrons doesn't initiate an immediate download of knowledge and greatness.  I knew I should have brought my thumb drive.   

A dramatic change in camera angles denotes my new status.

 It will take some time to get used to being addressed by the new rank.  Every time someone says "Sergeant Major" I keep looking around to find one.  

The number one problem with getting promoted in the Corps is sooner or later they take your Marines away and give you a desk. I'm not so sure it's a fair trade.

Everyone had been asking me if I was going to change my on line handle after I was promoted. No one else is seizing the mantle so I'm sticking to it.

Semper Fidelis!
America's Sergeant Major

Monday, March 12, 2012

Debunking lies about the military

In the name of science a friend recently pointed me to an article in the New York Times in an effort to discover if blood could indeed boil. 

It's not my intention to belabor the topic of sexual assault in the military so I'll try not to beat this horse into the ground. If you don't think I take the subject seriously feel free to read my other posts on the subject.

The article starts off claiming sexual assault in the military is intolerably high. Can't argue with that. One assault is intolerable in my eyes. What the article fails to do is compare numbers with institutions outside the military, say college campuses, or the regular workforce. The author doesn't do this because then he wouldn't be able to insinuate your military is comprised of sex crazed savages moments away from raping their next victim. Sure would suck to accidentally dispel a myth by using hard facts. 

What, you say? The article clearly states: " estimated 17 percent of women in the general population become victims at some point in their lives..." This is erroneous. Data out of Central Michigan University estimates 56% of all women will be confronted or hurt sexually. This would indicate to me sexual assault in the military is far lower than the average. Again, those hard facts sure do ruin wishful thinking.

 The article goes on to say there aren't enough prosecutions within military courts either. Perhaps the idea is to insinuate the military as an institution is complicit in sexual assault because of this fact. Thing is, as I understand it, prosecutors nation wide have a hard time prosecuting these cases. According to Stephen Thompson they are the weakest link in the system actually.  Notice again this is in society at large not just in the military. But hey, it's easier to turn a blind eye to a societal issue by claiming it's solely a military one.

As much as I was disappointed in the article I was amazed at some of the comments and the ignorance displayed therein. I quote some below:

"In the moral stasis in which soldiers place themselves to kill, not to mention the extreme agitation that combat produces, it's hardly surprising that (mostly) women might be attacked (mostly) by men." Moral stasis? Seriously? If anything moral values are stressed more than in regular society.  And since when does having been in combat cause an inability to know right from wrong? Here's a clue, it doesn't. What this person is really trying to say is:  "I'm not surprised because you have to be a morally corrupt individual to be in the military in the first place."  Folks, combat does not turn you into a monster. I know some of you really wish it did but I'm here to tell you it is simply not true. Sorry.  I also doubt that a willingness to risk your own life to confront the enemies of your nation is somehow a sign of evil intent. Despite recent events, those in the service who conduct themselves less than honorably and without compassion are an aberration not the norm.

"Our volunteer army collects too many from the bottom of the class, too many seeking employment, too many losers. And it is not democratic." Bottom class? I guess it gives them an excuse to look down their nose at us if they assume we are socially beneath the average citizen to begin with. Every Marine I know would invite you to the parking lot to discuss which of you is the loser. By the way, last time I checked, having a job makes you NOT a loser. 

Perhaps you are unconvinced your military isn't comprised of low brow groundlings incapable of critical thinking. There are studies which showed post 9-11 war time recruits were in fact better educated than their civilian counterparts. Heresy I say! It also dispels a few other myths and is worth a look.

Not democratic? Combat is not a democratic process.  I can see it now: "Marines, by general consensus we have voted against conducting a bayonet assault today. All in favor of smoking dope in the barracks instead, say 'aye'. " We'd have never made it past the revolution that way.

"Soldiers must be obliged to fight, not chosen from those so desperate they enlist." I have NEVER met a Marine who joined up because they had no other choice. By the way, the article I link to above also notes most recruits are wealthier than their civilian peers. 

"All things equal, the armed forces, with its very low pay and job requirement to go and do violence, is not a preferred career choice, on average, for anybody who is pacific or is better educated... don't you think?" I think if you actually believe this statement you are an uninformed bigot.  Yes you are.  Funny how on one hand we are low paid thugs on one hand yet on the other completely overpaid and need our funding cut. Please make up your mind. Compared to the civilian sector we actually get paid a little more if I am not mistaken.  As concerns education I have met a number of enlisted types with masters degrees. Many Marines earn a degree while serving in the military. Imagine that! Working your way through school! I know, you'd rather take out a bunch of loans then demand the government wipe out your debt and hand you a job.

"I think we need to understand that in the present context, there will be more sexual violence (than in the greater society) in the armed forces." Based on what evidence may I ask? This lie is predicated on the lies that military members are less educated and inherently more violent than the more educated, classier, enlightened citizens they protect. Also, the numbers aren't necessarily greater in the military. The service actually has more avenues to report sexual assault than in regular society. 

"I would imagine that if our troops feel free to assault other troops, the freedom they feel to assault civilians in the countries they are stationed is high as well."  Your imagination sucks. This is just another lie based on a lie. We have what are called Rules Of Engagement. This means we have to follow rules in combat that the enemy doesn't. So we are not "free to assault other troops"  at our pleasure nor do your Marines blatantly assault civilians without consequences. Many times we are the ones preventing the civilians from assaulting each other for heaven's sake.

Do people in America really think this way about us? Seriously? It disappoints me to see a society supposedly open minded and dead set against prejudices, stereotypes, and such would cling to such misinformation. Of course, if you point your finger at someone else and scream loud enough, maybe no one will see how screwed up you are.

In the end my blood was only left simmering. I'll leave it to you folks at home to blow your tops. 

Semper Fidelis!
America's 1stSgt

Friday, March 9, 2012

Keeping it all in check

As a leader you like to imagine you make a positive impact on those within your sphere of influence.  In the past I have discussed the impact of words and their consequences. Every once in a while you hear from a Marine you knew and are reassured you might have done something half right:

 "I used your class on the promotion warrant from your blog. My Marines loved it! They said it's one of the best classes they ever received."

Or perhaps one of your old Marines is now an instructor at The Basic School and reports back  a conversation overheard between Warrant Officers: 

"America's 1stSgt is a machine. He's very intimidating..."

One of my NCOs recently returned from the Sergeant's Course he attended for six weeks. He had been assigned to write a paper on mentorship and based it on me. My chest swelled with pride believing I had such a profound influence on a Marine NCO. This swelling quickly spread to my neck and head as well.  

It was the worst grade he received during the entire course. I deflated like a whoopee cushion. 

And to think hubris was nearly within my grasp! 

America's 1stSgt

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Fair winds Neptunus Lex

I am saddened to hear of the passing of mil blogger Neptunus Lex, retired Navy Captain Carrol LeFon. Though I only bantered with him briefly in the comments of his blog near the beginning of my own blogging escapades, it is evident he had quite an impact on those around him. It's the kind of impact most leaders only ever dream of making on those within their sphere of influence.

 Read more here.

It was my privilege to be counted among the Bloggers In Arms he linked to.  Today we close ranks and remember one of our fallen and pray there are those with the valor to fill the gap.

Semper Fidelis,
America's 1stSgt

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Childhood heroes: Not my John Carter

   John Carter, Jeddak of Jeddaks, Warlord of Barsoom may be the literary character with the most significant influence on my young mind as a child.  It is safe to say my heroic ideal of slaying dragons, rescuing maidens, and thwarting villains across the galaxy can be directly attributed to my early introduction to his comic books.

My earliest memory of John Carter is this comic book cover. Awesome!
   John Carter, Conan, and Tarzan were who I wanted to be at a very young age. I recall my mother reading their comics to me before I was able to read myself.  Later, armed with plastic swords I would weave a tapestry of steel and blood across the landscape of the living room and down the hallway. Evildoers and their henchmen fell by the hundreds as they were repelled from a fortress of pillows and blankets.  Gun play and swashbuckling ruled the day!

  Eventually I graduated to reading the paperback books. Although my first one was a Conan novel I quickly got into reading John Carter again and actually finished that series before I finished Conan.

I consider Michael Whelan's cover art as "my" visual of John Carter and Barsoom.
   After being introduced to Frank Frazetta's art through Conan book covers I was delighted to find plenty of John Carter art by him as well.  And yes, this is pretty much how I see myself at any given time of day.

This is me after giving a negative counseling in the office.

A1S on patrol in Kharmah, Iraq.
   Decades later I find myself a somewhat accomplished adventurer and student of the sword and firearm much like John Carter himself (alas, I come up short in the Martian Princess dept).  Now Hollywood is all set to quite possibly wreck my entire childhood in one fell swoop. Here is the pretty boy they have playing the role of John Carter:

Not once have I ever imagined looking like this guy.

This rugged character, on the other hand, is much better suited to take on Tharks and other denizens of Barsoom.

While I'm hoping the movie will be a decent adventure film I'm bracing myself for disappointment. Considering Hollywood's track record for wrecking cool ideas, I'm not holding my breath.  Ah, maybe I shouldn't be such a hater.

America's 1stSgt