Thursday, May 31, 2012

Backyard BBQ Love

Local news media ninjas, 19 Action News, have a summer contest where locals have a chance to win a backyard BBQ hosted by weatherman Jeff Tanchak.  Last night they kicked off the summer season with their very first winner,  Lance Corporal Greenaway of Independence, Oh. He is a member of 3d Bn, 25th Marines who recently returned from Afghanistan where he was attached to another battalion. I thought it was pretty cool of 19 Action News to select a young Marine veteran for their first summer BBQ.  Below is the only video I can find of the event. I say that because there was quite a bit more action than this clip lets on.

Best line ever uttered during a weather forecast: "...brawling over corn hole..."

Semper Fidelis!
America's SgtMaj

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Memorial Day Weekend After Action Report Part 1

Sunday night I was a guest on a local radio show called The Advocate. The host and I talked a little about Memorial Day, Marine Week, and other cool Marine stuff.  Listen below.

I am now a rock star.
Semper Fi!
America's SgtMaj

*UPDATE: You may notice only half the interview is posted right now. This is mostly due to my ineptness with regards to 21st Century technology. Will post the second half soonest.*

Sunday, May 27, 2012

This Memorial Day

Despite rumors to the contrary, Memorial Day is not a national BBQ celebration nor a festival marking the beginning of summer. I think it's ok to do those things on Memorial Day provided we take a moment to remember the sacrifices of our fallen who made it all possible. 

Sgt Joe Wrightsman above. His battlefield cross at his memorial below.
I'll be attending a few ceremonies this Memorial Day and speaking at a local VFW post.  A local radio show will be hosting me as well tonight at 8pm eastern time here.  The host is a retired Air Force Colonel. Hopefully he won't make me stand at attention the whole time.

It's a good thing to exercise our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness this weekend. On Memorial Day we'll take a little time to recognize our brethren who paid the price for it in full.

Semper Fidelis!
America's SgtMaj

Friday, May 25, 2012

Not looking forward to Marine Week?

Nonsense I say! Nonetheless, there are those who remain unconvinced we are actually the good guys striving to emulate positive values the Corps as an institution represents. Case in point, a recent letter to the edior in a local paper:

Differing opinions: it's kinda what we're fighting for.

In response, my CO also sent a letter to the editor. His letter is apparently too long to print in a hard copy format, but the paper has offered to post it on line. I say why wait? Here it is in all it's glory:

Letter to the editor
a response to ‘Not looking forward to visit by Marines’
Sister Donna Wilhelm recently penned a letter to the editor (“Not looking forward to visit by Marines”, May 20) that raised some interesting points I would like to address.
I am currently serving in the United States Marine Corps and have been serving for more than 26 years. During these years I have been blessed, humbled and honored to serve alongside America’s finest sons and daughters dedicated to the defense of our great nation.
Your Marines, this all volunteer organization, recognizes and respects the fact what we have in this great land was earned on the battlefields of old. These young men and women understand it is our duty now, as it was for the generations before us, to remain vigilant to ensuring nothing happens to our homeland on our watch, our tour of duty at freedom’s gate.
Let me be emphatically clear, there is not a service member in today’s all volunteer force, Marine, Soldier, Sailor, Airmen, Coast Guardsman who believes war is a game. We have lost too many brothers and sisters in the last ten years. The number of wounded both physically and mentally will take years to heal. The number of families either directly or indirectly impacted by a decade of war is significant. This fact becomes even more poignant as we prepare to observe Memorial Day.
The Marines are coming to town not to glorify war. They are coming to celebrate the unwavering support of our communities to her Marines. The Marines are coming to share the diverse backgrounds, unique experiences, and personal thoughts and ideas that come together to make the Corps a reflection of America and yes, the Marines are coming to share the rich tapestry of the traditions, history and esprit that is the Corps.
Marine Week Cleveland 2012 is a collaborative City of Cleveland, City of Brook Park and Marine Corps event. Mayors Jackson and Elliot and their teams have demonstrated how efficiently federal, local and military entities can work together to plan and execute an event of this magnitude.
Aside from all the equipment and static displays, and there will be many, the Marines will be visiting the Louis Stokes VA Cleveland Medical Center every day during Marine Week, Marines and our civilian partners are participating in community service projects across the city of Cleveland, City of Brook Park and beyond. We will continue our partnerships and mentorship initiatives with the City of Cleveland Recreation Centers. We have had General Officers and key civic leaders visit our students reinforcing the importance of academics. We will have Marines and our Navy Corpsman who have recently returned from Afghanistan on hand to tell you their story and to listen to yours. We will have Wounded Warriors here standing proud alongside their brothers and sisters. We will have the Gold Star families here reminding us freedom is not free. The Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve will come to provide guidance for those Veterans looking for work. Along with the Ohio Flags of Honor honoring all of Ohio’s sons and daughters killed in action in either Iraq or Afghanistan we will have the Vietnam Veterans Traveling Memorial here to honor and to ensure we never forget the price of liberty.
Sister Wilhelm asks if Marine Week Cleveland is something we want our children to see. I say the answer is YES. I am brining my own children downtown not only to climb aboard equipment and experience the sights and sounds of America’s Expeditionary Force but to see the men and women of the United States Marine Corps. I want them to feel that sense of pride for our modern-day heroes. I want them to see all the veterans who fought the fight to keep us free. These Marines and their families are positive role models that both our children and adults can learn from.  
Marine Week Cleveland 2012 will come and go. The one thing each must remember is the Marines will always be here. The support of our local communities to your local Marines of 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment will still be here. The veterans will still be here. And as a family we will endure through the challenges on the battlefield or here at home. 
Semper Fidelis,
Lt. Col. Michael P. Hubbard, USMC
Brook Park, Ohio
KAPOW! He must have one heck of a Sergeant Major is all I've got to say.
Semper Fidelis!
America's SgtMaj

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Marine Week Cleveland 2012!

Because Cleveland is awesome, they are hosting Marine Week this 11 -17 of June. If you miss it you just may regret it for the rest of your days.

Cleveland, Ohio isn't generally a place you think of when you say Marine Corps, but Ohio is one of the top three states Marines come from. Currently over 9,000 active duty and reserve Marines hail from Ohio.  Just south of Cleveland is the city of Brookpark, home to 3d Battalion, 25th Marines. In 2005 forty-six Marines and two Navy Corpsmen from this battalion fell in Operation Iraqi Freedom. I attended a fundraiser held in honor of one of fallen Marines last weekend and the outpouring of support staggered me. Suddenly, Ohio seems like the perfect place for the Corps to hang its hat and visit with family.

What can you expect to see at Marine Week? We've already been infiltrating the city with Marine Corps Sports teams as well as Marine bands and a number of Marine generals have been speaking at various engagements. During Marine Week itself there are going to be multiple events for the American public to attend. Have you always wanted to climb up on a HMMWV?  Or an Osprey? Helicopters? Giant robots? We'll have you covered. Okay, maybe not so much with the giant robots but you get the drift. You'll also get to hang out with Marines and test your fitness, check out the Silent Drill Platoon, Marine Corps Band, and witness Marine Corps martial arts demonstrations. I personally will be demonstrating proper bayonet technique against the undead and how to survive an attack by large mutated sea bass.

 The common misconception is that Marine Week is nothing more than a massive recruiting tool by the Corps. This couldn't be less true. We get plenty of press already thanks. Marine Week is a great way for the average American to make a connection with their Marines and gives us a chance to thank local people for all the support, faith, and love they have invested in the World's Finest United States Marines.

Marine Week Cleveland is going to rock! So until then, check out some highlights from last year’s Marine Week St. Louis.

Semper Fidelis!
America's SgtMaj

Monday, May 21, 2012

First day of school

My first drill weekend was a whirlwind introduction to the alternate reality that is I&I duty.

At 0500 Saturday morning my boss and I went to the airport to pick up a Marine general whose flight promptly arrived an hour late. After getting him situated back at our HQ I took off to meet all of my 1stSgts for breakfast.  They had come from their various locales (Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Akron, and Columbus) to the retirement ceremony of the previous SgtMaj the day before. I probably could have continued with them all morning but we had to get the general to his first engagement at the Cleveland Asian Festival. The general was a guest speaker discussing the contributions of Asian Americans have historically made to the Corps. He was a hit. Then we strolled through various booths and stages checking out the sites the festival had to offer. All I can say is Cleveland loves its Marines! We must have posed for 50 photos. Old jarheads came out of the woodwork to introduce themselves, some younger ones too. I have a feeling Marine Week is going to hit this town like a freight train considering all the energy coming from the Clevelanders I met this weekend.

Next we hit Progressive Field for an Indians game. Again the red carpet came barrelling out to greet us. We got to cruise onto the field and check out the dugouts then were escorted to our private box. There was a huge spread of chow and even a server on hand. 

Not too shabby...

We were able to get about ten other Marines from the battalion in the box with us and they all had a blast. All local boys, they were Indians fans of course. Suddenly a three man ensamble arrived to seranade us with baseball songs. 

The old timer on the far right had just turned 94!

All this may have been the toughest part of the drill weekend. I don't even like baseball and I thought it was awesome. 

The lousy view.
We left the game early in order to meet up with our police escort who ensured we arrived at the Cleveland International Tattoo and Police Memorial Commemoration. Nothing like running red lights downtown in a major metropolitan city. The general was on hand to recieve the request of the senior drum major to begin the procedings. For the uninitiated, a military tattoo in this case has more to do with the tattoo of drums vice ink. Three and a half hours of fifes and drums, marching bands, singiers, and bagpipers representing various police agencies in the U.S. and Canada rounded out our evening.  I think the U.S. Army might have made an appearance too.

The 2d Marine Aircraft Wing band was on hand representing the World's Finest. The lights had gone out as the Marines quietly took their places on the floor. Despite the darkness the crowd could see that Marines in blues taking their positions and began to cheer. There were even a few "ooh-rahs" as the energy began to build. It might be my bias showing but the Marines smoke checked everyone else in the show. Don't believe me?

Let me just say again, the reception the Marines got from the Cleveland crowd was extraordiary. Ohio loves its Marines.

After the excellent program there was an after party at a nearby hotel. This, the general announced, we would definately be checking that out. This turned in to a four hour evolution of well lubricated police officers dancing in their kilts with the general holding court as every cop who'd ever been a Marine offered to buy him a beer.

Finally dropping off the general at his hotel around 0300 I remarked to my boss that I probably hadn't been awake for 22 hours straight since I was last in combat. Six hours later I was back in the office for day two to do the real work. Drill weekend was only half over!

Semper Fidelis!
America's SgtMaj  

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The big reveal!

Not that it's a major secret but on Friday I officially take over as I&I SgtMaj for 3d Battalion, 25th Marines in Ohio.

I & Uh?

Reserve units have Inspector and Instructor staff who are active duty type ninjas to, well, inspect and instruct the battalion.  The Reserve side of the house is a whole different monster than the active duty side so it will be an interesting duty to say the least.

So just to clear things up for those who I have lost. No, I did not join the Reserves.

If the battalion seems familiar to it may be because they made the news back in 2005. Here's a short clip about a documentary made about that deployment.

Semper Fi!
America's SgtMaj

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day!

It would be remiss of me to let this day pass without wishing all the moms a happy Mother's Day. Thanks for bringing us up right!

Because Mom makes America worth fighting for.

Semper Fidelis!
America's SgtMaj

Brute force and ignorance...

...will get the job done every time.

In my last post I mentioned our Operations Officer at CBIRF had said his Marines will do anything you need them to do. It's a true statement. If you give Marines a task they will figure out a way to accomplish it one way or another.

While a Sergeant I attended Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Defense School in Fort McClullen, Alabama. Ft Mac was an Army base which housed their NBC schools at the time (it has since closed down) as well as one of their basic training facilities. The Marine detachment there ran Marines through NBC school and Military Police training. It was summer of course. How I always seem to end up conducting CBRN type training under numerous layers of protective over garments during the volcanic months of summer remains a mystery I file under Cruel Twists of Fate.

As the senior NCO attending the course the envious job of class commander fell to me. The majority of the class were mostly just out of boot camp which meant every stupid thing they did was my fault. It also meant I was the first bulwark against which their various melodramatic issues crashed heavily upon. These ranged from bed wetting, marriage, monetary debt, mommy issues, unrequited love, sometimes all at once.

One afternoon we were receiving a period of instruction outside of the school house on the front lawn. Scattered about the lawn on slabs of concrete were tanks of various makes and models on display. Some were American and others were enemy tanks captured in various conflicts across the globe. 

As the instructors turned us loose on a quick break I told the class in jest I wanted one of the tanks picked up and moved over to another slab. One of the instructors, a fellow Sergeant, pulled me aside.

"Bro, you can't tell the boots stuff like that. They'll do it. I once joked with a class I wanted one of those Army Drill Sergeant hats to use for a potted plant. Next thing I know one of them handed me a Drill Sgt's cover he swiped from the dining facility."

"Come on," I said. "No way they actually believed I was serious about moving one of those tanks." He raised his eyebrows and inclined his head in their direction. I turned to see about fifteen or so Marine PFCs standing around a tank scratching their heads as if cogitating a solution.

"Get away from that tank clowns! Lay one finger on it and I'll break your arms off!"

Another example of being aware of the impact of your words. So be careful what you ask for, because your troops will surprise you when they strive to deliver.

Semper Fidelis!
America's SgtMaj

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Run Forrest! Run!

During the summer of 2006 I was a Company Gunny with the Chemical Biological Incident Response Force out of Indian Head, Maryland. Uh, you say? What in the world does a CBIRF do?

 When directed, forward-deploy and/or respond to a credible threat of a Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, or High Yield explosive (CBRNE) incident in order to assist local, state, or federal agencies and Unified Combat Commanders in the conduct of consequence management operations. CBIRF accomplishes this mission by providing capabilities for agent detection and identification; casualty search, rescue, and personnel decontamination; and emergency medical care and stabilization of contaminated personnel.

Those of you familiar with military Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) used in chem/bio environments know how much fun it is.  Annual training for CBRN (NBC for you old timers) in regular units is generally considered an inconvenience at best and looked upon with dread for those who must endure it.

Your average MOPP suit (Military Overgarment Personal Protective, I think) consists of a charcoal filter snow suit, rubber boots, field protective mask,  and rubber gloves. Whatever the current temperature is it's about 10 degrees hotter in the suit. The normal overgarments are permeable, meaning things can eventually pass through the suit like air and liquids. By the end of any training scenario Marines are basically wrapped in a giant wet sponge.  

In CBIRF we had even higher levels of protection. The MOPP overgarment and field protective mask were level C if memory serves. There were also levels B and A. The higher the level the suckier it was to endure. Level A involved strapping on a Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) followed by climbing into a level A impermeable space suit like you see in all the outbreak/contagion type movies.  This super duper protective garment would bring out unbridled hatred in the Dali Lama. Nothing gets in sure. Nothing gets out either. The arms and legs of the suit pool with sweat. The face shield fogs with condensation that constantly needs to be wiped off in order to see. All dexterity is lost moving about in a large crinkling mass of plastic and tape. It's pretty much like wading around in a private hermetically sealed swamp.

Marines enjoying Level B protective gear. Bracing!
Of course, if you have a mission and no one knows who you are they'll never call you.  We always ensured CBIRF ninjas attended CBRNE conferences throughout the beltway as well as conducted cool demonstrations and static displays of our high speed equipment whenever possible.

A decontamination line.
 August of that year a blistering heatwave hit the nation. The height of the rising temperature occurred during a large multi-agency CBRNE conference held in a grass field in front of the chapel in Quantico, VA.  Various agencies were in attendance showing off their individual capabilities and gear. All sorts of command and control vehicles were on display as well as gadgetry of both the bang and zoom variety.

Representatives from each organization gave a brief on their capability to respond to a crisis armed with whiz bang technology and the heroics of their operators. Toward the end of the afternoon our Operations Officer, a Major, got up and described what CBIRF does. Up until then we had nothing on display and only a few Marines present. The Major briefed CBIRF essentially didn't have anything much different to offer in capability or equipment than anyone else. There was one thing CBIRF did deliver which no one else could. This was  over 200 U.S. Marines ready to respond and do whatever was needed of them. As the crowd rolled their eyes and gave him the "yeah, show me" look, he pointed over their heads and said: "As a matter of fact, here they come now."

Right on que the crowd turned to look  as two helicopters from HMX-1 thundered overhead carrying Alpha Company's "light" package over the treetops. We banked and landed in the field, the tails of the helos facing the stunned onlookers. When the ramps came down we sprinted off the birds with all our gear and mummified in full chem/bio regalia.

CBIRF ninjas disembark HMX-1 birds.
With temperatures reaching 115 degrees that day the Marines sprinted a couple hundred meters to set up their static displays for each section: Reconnaissance, Decontamination, Rescue, Extract, Medical, HQ. Later one of my buddies in the crowd remarked the onlookers were shocked. A Soldier standing behind him kept blurting in disbelief: "They're running in full PPE! They're running in full PPE!" That's right nancy, we were running with full PPE in 115 degree heat. We call it training like you fight.

Medical Corpsmen haul in their gear.
In a matter of minutes the static displays were set up with all the Marines and Sailors standing at parade rest still in full esamble. When the command "all clear, unmask" was given, everyone removed their helmets and protective masks to the applause of the now convinced crowd. 

Everyone pictured here is ankle deep in their own perspiration.
The rest of the afternoon CBIRF Marines showed off their gear to interested onlookers as I rotated them out for water and to change into a dry uniform.

Just another ho-hum day giving the American public their money's worth with the world's finest United States Marines.

Semper Fidelis!
America's SgtMaj

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Stand by for action!

At the moment I am settling into my new digs here in the home of the brave. In the meantime, stay tuned for a return to regular scheduled programing of swashbuckling, ninja assassins, and apocalyptic gunslinging adventure. No really, I'm still here alive and free of plague infection.

Artist's rendition of America's SgtMaj greeting his new neighbors.

Semper Fi!
America's SgtMaj