Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Six Million Dollar SgtMaj

So after walking around for over a year with a torn labrum in my shoulder I finally got it fixed yesterday. My surgeon, the director of Sports Health for the Cleveland Clinic, also consults for the Cleveland Indians organization so I've been in good hands. Good thing I caught him before spring training. He gave me several pages of instruction on what I can and cannot do before leaving the hospital. I have no intention of defying medical science and am going to operate under the assumption the medical professionals know what they're doing. Besides, the wife would scalp me with a frying pan for deviating from their recovery plan.

In pre-op I was intravenously served a fine cocktail of Versed and Fentanyl. I immediately became very chatty with all the nurses and my Korean anesthesiologist who graciously forgave my butchering of his native language. I considered the nerve block he gave me a challenge and attempted to regain control of my disobedient limb. It flopped around the gurney more like a tentacle than an arm so I soon conceded defeat. 

Somehow I missed most of the actual surgery. 

In recovery I began to experience the joys of coming down off of anesthesia. Perhaps this was payback for my lousy attempt to speak Korean? I noticed they had lashed a block of driftwood to my side with a sling. This turned out to be my arm. It was still being defiant but I no longer cared. Coming down after surgery can best be described with the word: BLEH. I didn't feel any pain but wasn't as sharp as my usual self and had a strong desire to remain in a reclined position. I'm normally inclined to remain standing and strike various action poses as the situation warrants. Not so much this time.

Made it home where I was able to snack and watch movies all night. Mostly I just felt like garbage as the anesthesia ran its course. Finally drifted off to sleep and promptly awoke at 0400 when the nerve block wore off. Good morning! 

Scrambled eggs and pain killers: the breakfast of champions! Note the salt and pepper shakers. It's a mindset thing.  

Keeping my arm in a sling for the requisite 48 hours is wreaking havoc on my typing as well as a few other things. I'm not sure what's more embarrassing for a fighting man, not being able to put on my own pants or not being able to reach for my pistol on the nightstand. I've made some adjustments so if the zombies come I'll be able to make my stand from a comfortably reclined position. Fortunately I am equally confident using either hand when it comes to the war making. Now I just need to figure out how to mount a knife on my sling.

Apocalypse Kitty manning his post.

At any rate, all is well. I am blessed with the greatest nurse a fella could hope to have. She is willing and able to inflict grievous bodily harm to anyone posing a threat to my full recovery. I for one intend to keep my scalp intact.

Semper Fidelis!
America's SgtMaj

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Burundian Banzai Banana Bikers and Buyer Beware of Brilliant Butchers!

There are a number of collateral duties for Marines assigned to guard American embassies throughout the world. Among these billets are the Assistant Detachment Commander, Supply NCO, Bar Fund NCO (every Marine House has a bar and raises money for the Ball this way), Training NCO, and my all time favorite, the Mess NCO.

The Mess NCO is in charge of ensuring all the Marines are fed regularly and the larder is always full. Each Marine pays into the Mess Fund covering the purchase of all the chow and the cook's salary, if they have one. I hated this job. Keeping track of food inventory and handling the books drove me bonkers. I was not cut out to be a shop keeper I suppose.

Being stationed in Africa was great food wise. The fruits and vegetables were always fresh and never lacking in the marketplace. In Bujumbura, Burundi, we used to watch the Kamakazi Banana Bikers come screaming out of the mountains on their cycles.  Staring death in the eye with their hair on fire, bananas stacked eight feet high, it was a sight to make Evel Knievel jealous.

Other hazards braved by the Mess NCO include purchasing fresh meat. We always had a hard time explaining to our Burundian cook we were Americans, thus the lion's portion of our plate should be filled with meat not rice.  The mass consumption of beef and poultry kept the Mess NCO on his toes. In Buj we were fortunate to have a Russian butcher shop in the city. Mess NCOs from other detachments tended to buy meat from their local marketplace in no actual butcher shops were available.

There is a cautionary tale about Marines from one of the dets in Africa searching for decent butcher. Most of the stalls hung their wares out in the open air. Inevitably this would attract swarms of flies and offended the Marine's western sensibilities. Finally they came across a stall where the hanging meat didn't have so many flies buzzing about it. They came to the conclusion what he was selling wasn't as rancid as the others and began buying their beef solely from this butcher. Joy and happiness abounded.

One fine morning the Mess NCO got an early start. He arrived at the marketplace while his favorite butcher was setting up his stall. As the butcher hung up his goods he took out a can of insecticide and sprayed down the fresh meat. A brilliant plan to keep the flies off the product if there ever was one.

The lesson: if the bugs won't eat it maybe you shouldn't either.

Semper Fidelis,
America's SgtMaj

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A vignette featuring Legionnaires.

The rousing tales of time spent as an embassy guard are as numerous as they are various. The rock star status embassy duty bestows on a Marine is one of the best kept secrets of the Corps. Not everyone is so easily impressed by a high and tight haircut though. What follows is an incident between a buddy of mine and some French Foreign Legionnaires one night in N'Djamena, Chad. I have never been to Chad so stop speculating about my involvement.

 Sgt P (as we'll refer to our hero), with a few Marines from the embassy detachment, was patronizing a local club. Also in attendance was an entire platoon of Legionnaires. Denim overalls and flannel was Sgt P's idea of proper attire, dress blues being about the upper limit of his fashion sense. It was a distinct look which no doubt caught the attention of the largest Legionnaire present who decided to brace the goofy looking jarhead he saw at the bar. 

The massive Legionnaire was, by all reports, built like an arch. In comparison, the Marines were somewhat diminutive. His shaved head shone down on Sgt P's mere five foot eleven inch, 200lb frame. The Arch directed pointed statements at him concerning his questionable pedigree and the generally low regard Legionnaires held for Marines and Sgt P in particular. Mon Dieu! Anyone who'd ever met Sgt P would know he was slow to anger. I can imagine him shrugging his shoulders with a frown, indicating his complete disinterest in the Arch's opinions. Despite this, Sgt P was under no delusions  on where the conversation was headed.

The arithmetic surrounding Marine logic makes it a peculiar science. Sgt P's math went along the lines of: "Well, if I'm gonna take a whooping' I might as well throw the first punch." He punctuated this thought by firmly planting his fist on the Arch's temple. Sacre bleu! The entire platoon leapt to their feet as the Arch hit the deck like a sea bag full of wet laundry and cannon balls.

It would not be unreasonable to assume the night ended in an orgy of shattered glass and broken furniture. But again, the logic of fighting men isn't the same as the average person. Though we've been told violence never solved anything, in this instance peace was achieved in one blow. From then on Marines and Legionnaires were fast friends and drinking buddies. Go figure.

Semper Fidelis!
America's SgtMaj

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Navy Recruiting

If you've ever been to port in Bahrain, you have to admit this is true:

I'll let you Soldiers and Sailors debate this in comments. My shipmate NavyOne will no doubt have something to say. Below is a photo of the NavalOne himself on his way to the Officers Mess where good times are had by all.

Just like a Sailor to wear a non-regulation back pack in uniform. Typical.

Semper Fidelis!
America's SgtMaj

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Ringing in the new year with steel on steel!

While some chose to ring in the new year nursing a hangover, those of my breed chose the path less traveled by. On this path rang the clash of swords, the grunt of physical effort, and the thunder of pulsing blood!

Clang! Ok, so they were plastic training swords. Perhaps Clack! is more accurate .

As has been my habit in the past, I've been spending quality time at the Spartan Training Center in Sedona, Arizona.  On this particular day we were training Western style swordsmanship.  After some warming up by way of going over some basic sword strokes we donned a protective mask and spent the afternoon dueling. Wielding basket hilt swords we thrust and cut at each other like gladiators.

By the way, that's me on the left. SgtMajorus Maximus.

The mask is the only protective gear we use in this type of training. There would be no value in the exercise if mistakes weren't a little painful. Being run through or clobbered on the head with a plastic claymore is good negative reinforcement. Timing and distance is everything. I have the bruises to prove it.

John Carter has nothing on us!
Not only is this great weapons based martial training, it's a substantial too. We did two minute duels with 15 seconds rest in between. After ten minutes my lungs were on fire and my stomach subtly reminded me what we had for breakfast. Then we did it again. Fatigue makes for the difficult execution of a proper hanging thrust or moulinet cut.

Nothing like a sword thrust to the liver to remind you you're alive!
This isn't a mere fencing or kendo type of "combative" sport. At the Spartan Training Center it's all about the real world application of a given weapon and the human combative behaviors which drive it.  You can learn more about the Spartan Training Center and Integrated Combative Systems here. Or check them out on Facebook.

Marines may be the only kind of people whose vacation is more martial than their vocation. Go figure.

Semper Fidelis!
America's SgtMaj