Saturday, June 30, 2012

Hire a veteran!

A while back I was asked to speak at the opening of the Cleveland 2012 Hiring Our Heroes job fair which took place yesterday. At first I thought to myself: "Why in the world do they want me to speak at a job fair? I haven't looked for a new job in over 20 years!"

Then I read an article here about why companies do or do not hire veterans. It discussed some of the barriers employers perceive in hiring vets and I was surprised at some of the misconceptions and concerns employers might have. After talking to the folks running the fair I decided I would address some of these and describe to potential employers the type of person they are likely to get when they hire a veteran. You know how I like to dispel myths. 

The biggest problem according to the article I link to above: It’s difficult to figure out how to translate military skills into applicable work experience in civilian life. - such as responsibility for a big project or management of a team of workers-  

Really? When I read this I laughed out loud. A Lieutenant has probably managed up to 40 or so troops in his platoon. A Captain is likely to have been a company commander managing from 150-200 personnel. That's like managing a small business!

On the enlisted side we have troops who came in as teenagers and by the time they are 20 years old have lead up to 15 or so troops in combat as a squad leader.  By the time they are 26 or so they are platoon sergeants training and leading 40 man platoons. It's kind of funny, on one hand we have a 20 year old leading 15 other guys in combat, making life and death decisions. Yet employers wonder if this same kid can handle 8 other guys working on a civilian job or deal with the stress of a deadline. 

But many veterans don’t know how to present their military skills to accentuate those talents.

Here's a quick translation from military to civilian lingo: you say management, we say leadership. In the military we teach that leadership is the art of influencing people to do things they may not normally want to do: "Like show up to work on time?" I said that and the crowd chuckled as most people are somewhat familiar with the consequences of being late in the military. But leadership, as I said, is about influence not simply barking like a Drill Instructor. The bellicose Sgt glaring and yelling at everyone within sight and hearing is another misconception employers may have.  Military leadership is not all done at the top of our lungs. If it were I think I would have burst a blood vessel by now. Positive influence, mentoring, and setting the example are all part of leading others.

All in all I'd say many veterans don't always successfully translate military lingo and experience into something civilians can understand. It's one of the reasons why they need to attend transition classes before they ship out. If you're in the military reading this I advise you attend these classes a year before you PCS. Sign up now.

More than half of the employers also expressed concerns about post-traumatic stress and instability after deployments.

There are a lot of popular misconceptions floating around about your service members. One is that every veteran must have some kind of latent PTSD and is a ticking time bomb waiting to shoot up the joint. Frankly, I've heard more about school shootings and post office gun battles than vets going on a rampage. Contrary to the popular media, PTSD does not make you unable to distinguish between right and wrong. It does not make you crazy or turn you into a monster. It's not something I think employers need to worry about. As a matter of fact, I'll wager veterans come to work with less emotional baggage than your average civilian of the same age. They've developed the emotional and psychological armor to deal with the real world. The big girls and big boys are the ones coming home. The idea we all come back unstable is an outright lie.

Employers also said another problem was a mismatch between the skills veterans have and the ones they need for civilian jobs.

Yes, they are pretty much all overqualified.  Again, I feel the biggest setback is translating military lingo to something employers understand. If, for instance, they understood seeing prospective employees have attended NCO School meant graduation from a leadership/personnel management course, they might look at vets in a different light. Companies usually pay thousands of dollars for their people to attend similar courses in the civilian world.

Another misconception about vets claims people only join the military because they have no other choice. It is contended they are less educated and live in poverty to begin with. The truth is military members are better educated and have more money than their civilian counterparts. Don't believe me? Ask the Heritage Foundation.

There are many intangible benefits to hiring vets. They understand concepts like teamwork, it's no longer just about them. They show up on time and understand commitment having shown it with their service. They are trainable, our military is capable of doing anything you tell them to. They are not a one trick pony. We can blow up bridges and we can build them. Not only are they capable of defeating their enemies on the battlefield, but they have rendered aid to strangers in Japan, Haiti, Pakistan, built schools and infrastructure all over the world.  They'll do what is expected of them and are willing to work.

One of my Reserve Staff Sergeants came back from Afghanistan last year and went looking for a job. He walked into some kind of counselor's office whose job it was to help folks find work. The counselor immediately advised the Marine he should just go on unemployment and not worry about a job for the time being. The SSgt stated he wasn't interested in unemployment, he wanted to work. The counselor continued to push the unemployment route until the SSgt thanked him for nothing and walked. The SSgt is currently in Officer Candidate School becoming a Marine officer.

The kind of people coming home from the service want to work for a living. They are not looking for employers to give them something for nothing. They understand values like fidelity, commitment, and integrity. In the Marines we like the say the Corps does three things: make Marines, win battles, and return citizens back their communities better than when we got them. There are some great citizens coming back to your community. Put them to work.

Semper Fidelis!
America's SgtMaj 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Setting the record straight.

Our shipmate NavyOne over at The Mellow Jihadi justifiably takes pride in the august traditions and history of his naval heritage. However, his revisionist take on events in our shared history is generally as disturbing as it is downright false. His latest post flatly accuses Marines of fighting with children. This couldn't be further from the truth.  We completely destroyed them and make no mistake about it.

He further states: "Back in the old days, the Marine Corps and the Navy used to scrap, to brawl, quite a bit. By my count, the Navy won 52.33% of all these fights." 

NavyOne fails to mention his figures are based solely on Navy/Marine pie eating contests, which I can attest Sailors are quite adept at.

Pie eating, Naval historians consider this a key factor in America's victory in the Pacific.
This tradition has continued into the 21st Century. The Department of the Navy will not tolerate a pie  gap as we face new threats across the globe.  The future may be uncertain, but America can rest assured her Navy can throw down some pie!

Navy SEALs prepare to embark on a perilous mission.
Sailors who excel at the consumption of pie are promoted to Chief and given a no shave chit. These individuals are particularly hazardous at sea. As a Lance Corporal I was on a submarine once and every time Marines would fill a passageway the Sailors would roll a Chief into the narrow hall to see how many of us they could crush to death.  Our only warning was the traditional "Make way!" whereupon we futilely pressed our lean frames against the bulkhead in a vain attempt to escape our fate.

In the end, we Marines must humbly bow our heads to our Navy brethren in recognition of their superior ability to consume prodigious amounts of baked goods.  It could be the cornerstone of our national strategy to keep America free. 

Semper Fidelis!
America's SgtMaj 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Honoring the fallen

You may remember Sandra Mendez from an earlier post. I had the honor of narrating a wreath laying ceremony at Voinovich Park during Marine Week Cleveland. Each day at 1300 we held a wreath laying ceremony with a Gold Star family member at the traveling replica of the Vietnam War Memorial. SSgt Drake and his crew manned the honor guard all week along with the Cleveland Police Dept.

Semper Fidelis!
America's SgtMaj

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Why Marine Week was not a recruiting drive

People who have fundamental issues with the Marine Corps as an institution or warfare in general do not bother me.  Falsehoods based on incorrect data, or misinformation, or downright ignorance do however. The only remarks about Marine Week that got under my skin were snide comments referring to the event as a week long membership drive.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Marine Corps recruiters are doing perfectly fine without a Marine Week. As a matter of fact, there is a waiting list to get in the Corps.  As of today if you joined you wouldn't get to boot camp until some time in September. We're not so deep in the hurtlocker for new prospects we had to pull a Marine Week out of our hat just to encourage enlistment.

 There is a misconception along with this which imagines folks join the military for the benefits package. This is something the Marine Corps has never sold as a reason to enlist.  We only sell the idea that maybe you could be one of us, or maybe not. Never will you see Marine advertisements hawking college credit, or the GI Bill, or any of that business.  Usually I tell people we do things that suck because others are unwilling or unable to do them. Being a Marine is awesome. The challenge is there, either you accept it or you don't. Our feelings won't be hurt one way or the other.

Ohio is one of the top three states the Marine Corps draws from with over 9,300 or so Ohio natives currently serving in our ranks. So again, Cleveland didn't really need the boost in recruiting. Were there recruiters around during Marine Week? Certainly, they'd be fools not to be. They are some of the hardest working Marines in the Corps. The numbers though, say more about Ohio than our recruitment efforts I think.
The Marine Corps has never had to come up with gimmicks, road shows, or free toasters to get Americans to enlist. The best recruitment tool the Marines ever had is a history book.

Semper Fidelis,
America's SgtMaj

Monday, June 18, 2012

Semper Fi Cleveland!

Marine Week Cleveland 2012 may have been one of the most positive experiences of my career. Although the conduct and professionalism of our Marines were a factor, I can honestly attribute our success to the enthusiasm and support of the people of Cleveland and surrounding communities. You guys are the greatest!

As someone who has spent fifteen out twenty years of service overseas, it was great to be back in the United States when I checked in to 3d Battalion 25th Marines back in May. Even before Marine Week began I was blown away by the support of the community for their military and the amount of love and fidelity the people of this area have invested in us.  It was a real privilege to showcase the Marine Corps for its citizens and provide a return on their investment.

Throughout Marine Week itself I couldn't even walk a block without someone wanting to shake my hand, slap me on the back, or take a picture.  One night a young gentleman asked how I liked Cleveland. "You guys are great!" I responded truthfully. "Well, you guys are better," was his reply. I couldn't disagree more with that assessment.

Let me say to the people of Cleveland, your Marines are great only because they come from great communities like this one. We are a cross section of extraordinary people like yourselves. Over 9,300 Marines currently serving hail from the Buckeye state and I think that is a testament to your faithfulness and character as citizens.

In the four years the Corps has been doing Marine Week you provided the largest crowds to date. Over 80,000 people attended the MAGTF demonstration over two days. Marine Night at Progressive Field enjoyed larger crowds than opening day. Your participation in events surrounding Marine Week are what made it the success it was.

Though Marine Week has come to a conclusion and many of the Marines are moving on, Cleveland's own 3d Battalion, 25th Marines remains in Brook Park. We are more excited than ever to be a part of this outstanding community.  You are not strangers to us. We'll be seeing you around.
Clevelanders should be as proud of their city as they are of their Marines. You have been awesome hosts and steadfast friends to us. Thanks for giving us something worth fighting for.

Semper Fidelis!
Sergeant Major Mike Burke
Inspector & Instructor SgtMaj
3rd Battalion, 25th Marines

Marine Week Closing Ceremonies

Some highlights from yesterday's closing ceremonies rounding out a successful Marine Week Cleveland 2012.

As for me, I had the honor of hosting the last official act of Marine Week by presiding over the relief of the honor guard at the mobile Vietnam War Memorial which had been jointly guarded by Marines and the Cleveland Police Department all week. Of the thirty six police who guarded the wall with us twenty one had prior service in the military.

Rather appropriately, we closed out Marine Week with a little rain in the evening.
Pfc. Nicolas Woodworth, left, Sgt. Joseph Tate, middle, and Lance Cpl. Richard Rooks, all with 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, retrieve the colors during the relief of the Honor Guard for the final day of Marine Week Cleveland in front of the Traveling Vietnam War Memorial Wall at Voinovich Park in Cleveland June 17.
A spectator renders honors during final colors at the ceremony.

More thoughts forthcoming on Marine Week and the awesomeness that is the great city of Cleveland!

Photos by Sgt Shannon Yount

Semper Fidelis,
America's SgtMaj

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Major League Action!

Pictures from Saturday's nail biting first pitch. Never has the drama of Major League Baseball been captured on film quite like this.  A couple of hours before the game I was able to throw a few practice pitches with the groundskeeper Brandon.  He got me dialed in just fine.

Donning Indians headgear, America's SgtMaj coolly approaches the mound.
Acknowledging the crowd, it's as if I were born for this!
The wind up made world famous by our photographer Lance Cpl Paul Peterson.
After throwing a burning strike right up the middle, I assaulted the Pirates mascot by crushing his filthy green trachea.
Many thanks to Jim Folk and the Cleveland Indians for taking care of all of us during Marine Week Cleveland! 

Semper Fidelis!
America's SgtMaj

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Play Ball!

The Cleveland Indians have hosted your Marines for a number of games over the weekend. The amount of tickets I have personally handed out to the troops numbers in the hundreds. Here's what it looks like when Marines play ball.

Marine Night wrapped up with an awesome fireworks show the entire crowd stayed for. 

Would America's favorite pastime be complete without America's SgtMaj? I think not! Here I am throwing out the first pitch the next day.

For the record, it appears I threw a couple of miles faster than SgtMaj Barrett.
Think having Marines around isn't a good thing? Marine Night at Progressive Field brought in 29,375 fans. That's more people than Opening Day. My game brought in only 718 less than the SgtMaj of the Marine Corps and I didn't even have any fireworks like he did!

Semper Fi!
America's SgtMaj

Marine Week happenings

Some of the goings on here this week. We'll start with the Quantico Band.

Below Marines get to work improving facilities at Hiram House Camp.

Finally, another community project brought to you by the World's Finest. Because, you know, we're the good guys!

Last night was Marine Night at Progressive Stadium where the Indians stomped the Pirates. SgtMaj Mike Barrett, SgtMaj of the Marine Corps, threw out the first pitch. The crowd last night was bigger than opening day with over 34,000 fans showing up. I throw out the first pitch tonight. Not sure I'll draw as big a crowd.

SgtMaj of the Marine Corps and America's SgtMaj enjoy last night's ball game.

Semper Fi!
America's SgtMaj

Friday, June 15, 2012

Military Working Dogs

Both the Commandant and SgtMaj of the Marine Corps are on deck today. As you can imagine I'll be somewhat busy. In the meantime, enjoy some working dogs!

Semper Fidelis!
America's SgtMaj

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Smack talk on the field

Last night Marines and Cleveland's Finest went head to head at Browns Stadium. Local news types caught me and CPD's Sgt Steve Merrifield running our mouths on camera.  In the interest of full disclosure, Sgt Merrifield did his time in the Corps (note his badge) and his son is a Corporal in 3d Battalion, 25th Marines.

And in case you couldn't see the badge too well...

Cleveland Police with prior service in the Corps get their own cool badges.
Hey, they can win the games. We'll win the wars!

Semper Fidelis!
America's SgtMaj

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Media Blitz!

There is so much going on it is nearly impossible to keep up with. My CO and I were on a local sports show last night talking about the football game tonight at Brown's Stadium where Marines and the Cleveland Police will be facing off in a foot ball game.  If you are in the Cleveland area the game starts at 7pm and is free! Come watch Cleveland's Finest get crushed play a friendly game with the World's Finest.

Can you say ROCK STARS?
Speaking of the game...

Remember our friends at the Plain Dealer?
Here are two more articles from that august publication featuring yours truly:

Some hard core PT action.

A bit about dinning on MREs and a little zombie action.

 Semper Fidelis!
America's SgtMaj

Marine Week Kung Fu!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Day 2 of Marine Week rolls on!

More Marine Week goodness!

Semper Fi!

America's SgtMaj

Marine Week Day One

Forgive me if the writing is somewhat lacking this week. I've got that whole SgtMaj gig going you know. In the meantime, some images and stuff from day one of Marine Week Cleveland.

Atop Tower City overlooking Public Square you can see our colors.

Mural project downtown
A video of an Osprey landing in  Voinovich Park. You can see the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in the background.

Thrills! Excitement! Giant Robot battles! 

Semper Fidelis!
America's SgtMaj

Monday, June 11, 2012

Dear Cleveland...

Semper Fidelis!
America's SgtMaj

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Rock stars!

Friday I took a couple of ninjas to do a photo shoot for this morning's edition of the Sunday Plain Dealer.

Some of you may recognize the handsome profile featured here.
The Plain Dealer has faithfully been running a lot of stories about Marines for Marine Week. Check out the link here to read what they have in the special section for today. Stayed tuned for more news items as they happen.

One of my Sergeants looking sharp on the special section of today's paper.
Best front page photo EVER!

Semper Fi!
America's SgtMaj

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Marines Have Landed!

This weekend we are wrapping up preparations for Marine Week Cleveland. Even now Marines are infiltrating the city as we set up the awesomeness that will be the fourth annual Marine Week. Ninjas, pirates, and the undead are all fleeing the city in terror.

What can you expect? Check out the schedule of ruggedness here.

As for me, I will be on the radio this morning on Q104 (104.1FM) with an outfit called Fee's Company. Yesterday was a photo shoot for the Sunday edition of the local newspaper The Plain Dealer.  We've done a few stories with them including some light body maintenance (heh-heh) and how to serve MREs. My other big highlight this week will be throwing out the first pitch at the Indians game June 16th. So tune in and I'll try to get it over the plate!

Will continue to post events as they happen. Stand by for action!

Semper Fidelis,
America's SgtMaj

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Cantonese pugilists what? It's all in the name.

When asked the title of my blog or how to find it I often simply tell folks to Google "America's SgtMaj" and see where that gets them. They'll find me. This doesn't stop the eventual questions when folks are looking up my site: "What's the name of your blog again? Castrate who?" Sigh...

Recently, the Public Affairs Officer assigned to our battalion for Marine Week has taken a perverse delight in sticking his head in my office to ask: "It's Caligula something right?" He's been joining me for SgtMaj PT and paying for it dearly. 

I figure it's my fault for never clearly explaining the blog's title. So look, it is called Castra Praetoria. This would be Latin for "Camp of the Praetorians." You recall the elite bodyguards of the Roman emperors? Those Praetorians. Think Roman Special Ops Ninjas and you'll get the idea.

Yes, I know they are sometimes known in their later years for conspiracy and assassination. However, in the first two centuries of their existence the Praetorians contributed greatly to the strength of Rome by protecting its emperors leading into the Pax Romana. 
  Here in the 21st Century Camp of the Praetorians we prefer to reinforce the ideal behaviors of the modern warrior. As pertains to studying past warrior cultures, we emulate those aspects which reflect an innate sense of ethics, integrity, and morality. All the garbage is discarded as a component of behavior we disdain in our daily comportment.

That and the expedient elimination and removal of the undead is what we're all about here.

Semper Fi!
America's SgtMaj

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Memorial Day After Action Report II

Sandra Mendez is a Gold Star family member. Her brother Lance Corporal David Mendez fell November 12, 2005 in Amiriyah, Iraq while assigned to 2d Battalion 7th Marines.  The Mendez family immigrated from Guatemala City to Cleveland in 1991. From the early age of six young David knew he wanted to be a U. S. Marine. A portion of United States route 42 and state route 3 is named in his honor.  

In her desire to remain connected with her Marine family, Sandra maintains close ties to her brethren here at 3/25.  She is no stranger to the Marines and Sailors of our battalion. This week she paid us a surprise visit and brought chow! She really is family!

Just getting back from a vigorous session of light body maintenance, I joyously greet Sandra in the galley.
Young Marines attack the chow line while it is still hot.
Chicken in mushroom sauce, spanish rice, salad, fruit, and lumpia (yay!) were all on the menu for lunch. The ladies had slaved away all morning in our galley so they could serve up a treat for their Marines.

America's SgtMaj samples some lumpia. Quality Control is important!
When everyone had gotten a heaving plate of home made goodness, Sandra asked to speak to assembled Marines.

"You guys are my family."
She told us about her brother and how as soon as their family settled in America he had wanted nothing but to be a Marine. As she now considers all Marines her family she chooses to honor his memory, particularly on Memorial Day week, by doing something for her extended family in his name. Knowing her tribe well she cooked up a storm of grub and we spent the afternoon greedily stuffing ourselves like pigs.

Aargh! Gold Star cupcakes! Who can resist?
Gastrointestinal jollification aside, Sandra's visit was a welcome treat.  I haven't often had the opportunity to rub elbows with my extended Marine family, my people, my tribe. It was a great way to kick off the Memorial Day work week and I am honored the likes of the Mendez family would name a jarhead like myself one of their own.

Semper Fidelis!
America's SgtMaj