Monday, December 20, 2010

Merry Christmas From Afghanistan

Who said Marines don't have other talents? This Marine is awesome and the video is funny and moving at the same time. I will absolutely be thinking about the Marines who are deployed around the world during the holidays and encourage you to do the same. I have been away from my family for multiple holidays over the past 10 years and know what it is like to be away from them, patrolling on a desolate desert road thinking about the conversations being had around the table. This service is definitely a necessary sacrifice that I would happily do again in defense of our great country.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays!

We haven't done a bored Marines video in a while, so I dug this one up from last Christmas/New Years to remind us that, even in a deployed environment, Marines still find ways to have fun during the holidays.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

My thoughts on marriage and the junior Marine

Young Marines should not be married, either before they enlist or during their initial enlistment.

The simple fact is, the Marine Corps is just not conducive to healthy marriages in junior Marines.

One of the (many) topics I see brought up across the Internet by prospective recruits is that of marriage. Questions usually go something like this: “Should I get married before I ship to boot camp?” or “My girlfriend and I have been together for years, and we really love each other. Should we get married while I’m on boot leave?”

If they only knew what they were getting themselves into...

1. Marriage in the Marine Corps is hard work!
This should go without saying, which is why I feel the need to say it. Marriage in the civilian world is hard, and it’s even more difficult in the Marine Corps. Most junior Marines work nights and weekends, something young spouses rarely understand. My first year or so in my job was spent working close to 100 hours per week. I spent so much time at work I kept a sleeping bag rolled up under my desk because most of the time I could only grab a few hours sleep. Working hours like that left almost no time for a spouse.

2. Marriage in the Marine Corps is expensive!
Basic pay charts are available across the Internet. It’s easy to find out how much a junior Marine makes, and it’s even easier to see it’s not really that much. Money will be tight even when you add in the couple of extras you get being married, and that will be exacerbated by a general lack of financial discipline (I call it “gotta-have-it-itis”). When you don’t have much coming in AND you have a lot going out - THAT’S when you’re really going to see some marital difficulties. If the spouse works, that can certainly help alleviate some of the financial burden; on the other hand, it will also mean the spouse is often working while the Marine is not, further complicating their relationship.

3. Marriage in the Marine Corps is no place for kids!
It seems to me young adults are having more children more often nowadays than in decades past, and it’s no different in the Marine Corps. If you take the difficulties I touched on above and add the further complication of raising a child (i.e. can lead to even more difficulties between spouses and can be a financial drain), I think you can begin to see why so many of us who have been around the Marine Corps for a while STRONGLY advocate a Marine stays single at the very least through their first four-year enlistment or until they’ve earned the rank of corporal.

So young Marines don’t have a lot of time, and the time they do have is unpredictable and marked with deployments. They don’t have a lot of money, and the money they do get they often spend frivolously.

I’ve been through all of this. I’m on my third marriage (the best one yet I may add). Over the years, I’ve seen my fellow Marines rack up divorces like UFC fighters rack up KO’s, so I know my experiences are not unique. All of us could have avoided that if we had gotten and heeded this advice: JUNIOR MARINES SHOULD NOT BE MARRIED!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Marine Week St. Louis

On 11 November 2010, the Marine Corps announced that the next Marine Week will take place from 20-26 June 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri.  The purpose of Marine Week is to “connect our Marines to the American public”.  It is the opportunity for community members to see Marine Corps equipment such as the Osprey, to view music performances by the Marine Corps Drum and Bugle Corps, and to see performances by the Silent Drill Platoon.  More importantly, community members will be able to serve with Marines in St. Louis through service projects and the painting of a mural. 

Only 24 million Americans have served in our nation’s military, and about ten percent of these individuals were or are Marines.  There are currently around 242,000 active duty and reserve Marines.  The chance to meet a Marine and to discuss with him or her why he or she chose to become a member of the smallest and most elite service branch is the real opportunity presented by Marine Week.   There has been a great deal of discussion about the future role of the Marine Corps and whether the Corps should be downsized.  This conversation happens every few years, with the Marine Corps needing to again defend its role in America’s defense.  Come and see for yourself why Commandant Victor Krulak admitted in his book “First to Fight” that “America does not need a Marine Corps, America wants a Marine Corps.”

For more information about Marine Week St. Louis, visit the official website, follow Marine Week on Twitter, or RSVP for Marine Week on Facebook.   

Friday, November 12, 2010

Make it a reality - Service Members Safety Act of 2011

Law enforcement officers and Marines are both trained to handle various scenarios, often involving lethal force in self defense or defense of others. As a matter of fact, many current law enforcement tactics, techniques, and procedures come from the military sector.

Nationwide, law enforcement officers carry their duty weapon everywhere they go. Why? Because handguns are seen as the most effective self-defense tool the officer can keep on their body at all times, and they often find themselves in situations where they have to interact with dangerous people.

Many law enforcement agencies encourage their officers to carry a concealed firearm while off-duty, and I've even heard of agencies requiring their officers to do so. The logic behind off-duty carry is solid – it puts more armed trained personnel on the streets to respond to a given situation.

Much like our brothers in blue, Marines deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan keep their assigned duty weapon with them at all times, regardless of their occupational field. Why? Again, because when going into harm’s way, the firearm is the most effective self-defense tool they can keep within arms reach at all times. Just like America’s law enforcement officers, Marines are often called upon to defend themselves or others from dangerous people.

Unfortunately, when Marines return to the streets of America, their carrying of a firearm turns from an everyday occurrence to a “mother may I” proposition. Not only do they have to navigate the numerous and often changing base regulations governing the personal ownership of firearms, they also have to jump through whatever state legal hoops there may be in order to obtain a permit to carry a concealed firearm. And that's if it's even legal in the state in which they're stationed.

Here in Wisconsin, there is currently no provision to legally carry a concealed firearm (unless, of course, you are a law enforcement officer). My counterpart in Chicago - who holds a highly coveted New York State concealed weapon permit - has to deal with Illinois’ prohibition on concealed firearms as well as Chicago’s now-defunct outright ban on handguns. At least I don’t have to work and live around a city like Chicago whose weekend murder counts requires both hands to count.

I'm just one of many Marines in this state who have qualified numerous times on various military qualification courses, including those required of Marine and Navy military police/security officers. We’ve all received countless hours of training in handling various situations up to and including the appropriate use of deadly force.

In 2004, the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act was signed into law. This law basically allows active and retired officers to carry a concealed firearm nationwide. The Law Enforcement Alliance of America has the following talking points about the law (in the interest of space, I've cherry picked the pertinent points):

  • In a time where Homeland Security is paramount, H.R. 218/S.253 gives America countless additional trained and armed first responders at no additional cost to the taxpayers. There’s a long history of armed off duty officers coming to the rescue in life threatening situations H.R. 218 and S. 253 will make that reality even more plausible by expanding the areas where our officers can be equipped for the emergencies they are trained to respond to.

  • H.R. 218 and S. 253 give off-duty, as well as retired, police officers Right To Carry reciprocity throughout the nation in order to help prevent crime in our communities. All too often, current and retired officers come upon situations in which they can prevent violent crime and save lives. It is common sense they continue to have the tool of their trade available to serve and protect.

  • H.R. 218 and S. 253 will allow tens of thousands of additionally equipped, trained and certified law enforcement officers to continually serve and protect our communities regardless of jurisdiction or duty status at no cost to taxpayers.

  • H.R. 218 and S. 253 provide clear, uniform nationwide rules to replace the variety of local laws that create confusion and uncertainty as to whether an officer may or may not carry a firearm when he or she is off duty.

Every single one of those points which LEAA rightfully uses to explain why officers should be able to carry a concealed firearm are applicable to today's active-duty and retired service members. To that list, I would like to add the fact anti-terrorism experts across the country agree military personnel and facilities are high-priority targets for terrorists.

In the end, I think it's about time active-duty and retired service members be extended the same courtesy as active and retired law enforcement officers. This would put countless numbers of armed TRAINED personnel on the streets ready, willing, and able to respond.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Local range brings frustration

In my last blog, I talked about taking leave (aka vacation), and while it was definitely nice, it was also not without frustration. In this blog, I’d like to talk a little about the source of that frustration – McMiller Sports Center, the only public outdoor shooting range in Southeastern Wisconsin.

First, the good

Aside from the fact that it’s the ONLY public range in SE Wisconsin where you can shoot a rifle, McMiller Sports Center has an assortment of ranges from 25 to 300 yards. For $15, you can shoot all day long on pistol and rifle ranges up to 100 yards; for another $7, you can shoot all day long up to 300 yards. Considering most indoor ranges in the area charge about $15 per hour to shoot pistol calibers only at ranges up to 25 yards, McMiller offers quite a bargain for someone who wants to put some rounds down range.

A Marine’s point of view

Annually, every Marine is required to qualify on the rifle range, and staff non-commissioned officers and officers must additionally qualify on the pistol range. So as a Marine, I’ve been on my fair share of live-fire ranges (known distance, unknown distance, and otherwise), and I have to say I was disappointed with the only public outdoor range in Southeastern Wisconsin.

Is it unfair to compare the way a Marine Corps range is run with the way a public civilian range is run? I don’t think so. Every other public civilian range I’ve been on (and I’ve been on ranges in four different states) somewhat mirrored that of the Marine Corps and were head and shoulders above McMiller in both policies and the staff’s safety awareness.

Infantile policies

Here’s the sad part: if you look solely at the posted policies and procedures, it would appear as though they run a very safe range.

They certainly have overly cautious policies. For instance, they forbid “rapid fire”, which they define as any string of fire faster than one round per second. I guess that’s fine if all you’re doing is confirming your deer rifle is still shooting where it’s supposed to, but it completely rules out any other form of shooting practice including a follow-up shot on a deer. Frankly, it’s ludicrous to think firing two rounds per second (or God forbid three rounds per second) is somehow unsafe. Don’t hamstring those of us who know how to shoot safely just because one person at one time didn’t know what they were doing.

Here’s another of their overly cautious policies. During a cease fire, not only does every uncased weapon have to be unloaded and placed on the bench with the action open, but they also have to have a chamber flag triply showing they’re unloaded and safe. I heard one staff member say their insurance policy requires the chamber flags, which I find hard to believe. If your range safety officers are doing their job and checking every weapon to ensure it’s unloaded AND the weapon’s action is open AND shooters are barred from handling weapons during a cease fire, THEN the chamber flag is nothing more than an annoyance and another way to make a little extra money.

Speaking of RSO’s, the second time I was out there, one of them didn’t like the fact I was bringing four cased firearms to the firing bench. “I only like you to have two guns out at a time,” he says to me. REALLY?! It’s beyond me how either of those two “extra” firearms I wanted to bring out was supposed to jump out of the case, load rounds into a magazine, seat the magazine, chamber a round, remove the safety, and manipulate the trigger in order to discharge a round ALL BY THEMSELF! It’s not like I was trying to fire two firearms at a time, let alone four at a time, but I certainly was trying to save myself the hassle of lugging cased firearms back and forth more than I had to. Oh, and this was his personal policy not the range’s … must be nice to just make stuff up as you go.

Lowest common denominator

Do I hear you saying, “Staff Sgt. Thomas, those sound like perfectly reasonable and safe requirements.”? The problem as I see it isn’t in the details of the policies; the problem is, by instituting such infantile safety measures, the range is doing a disservice to the shooters in removing the shooter’s responsibility to be safe.

Rather than “dumbing” everything down to the “lowest common denominator” (an idea I find disgusting and potentially harmful in its own right), the range should INCREASE their safety standards to make each and every shooter responsible for their own safety at the range. By setting low standards, all you get is low performance; conversely, setting high standards results in high performance. Applied here, that means making every shooter personally responsible for their own safety which allows the RSO’s to supervise rather than bearing the brunt of the safety responsibility.

In this case, those high standards MUST start with the so-called “range safety officers”. While most of the guys who work there as RSO’s are nice enough, all the ones I’ve met are retired from professions which have absolutely NOTHING to do with the safe handling of firearms, and quite frankly, most of them only qualify as RSO’s because of some time they spent in a classroom back who knows how long ago.


The first thing management needs to do is get more RSO’s. I’m afraid one per firing line is just not enough when that firing line has more than a couple people on it. I’d suggest one RSO per a maximum of seven firing positions. That is NOT per seven shooters since a firing line with only seven shooters is likely to have the shooters spread out from one end to the other, and therefore, the RSO would have to divide his attention along the whole firing line rather than concentrating it in a seven-position block.

Management needs to spell out in detail a set of standard operating procedures which will be followed by every RSO on every firing line. They then need to find someone with some experience safely running a range who can train the RSO’s. Then, those RSO’s need to undergo recurrent training on established operating procedures. In the end, every firing line needs to be run in exactly the same safe and orderly manner no matter who’s running it.

Once the RSO’s are trained, I suggest mandating a period of instruction for EVERY shooter who wants to shoot on the range. This period of instruction would cover, among other things, firearms safety rules and range procedures, and this period of instruction would need to be completed every year before the shooter would be allowed to shoot.

I won’t go so far as to say McMiller is completely unsafe. However, I did see some unsafet acts by shooters and a pretty lackadaisical attitude on the part of the RSO’s. Following this simple training plan, the range could really increase the safety of each and every shooter AND provide valuable safety training which those shooters (and RSO’s) can use every time they handle a firearm.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Succeeding in the Marine Corps

I am what we call in recruiting a “proof source.”  Proof to other women that female Marines exist and can be successful in the 94 percent male Marine Corps.  When I was commissioned at the end of Officer Candidates School (OCS), I prayed each night that I would find the strength to be an effective leader of Marines.  It never occurred to me that I already had that strength and had demonstrated it at OCS which was why the Marine Corps had offered to commission me.

Eight years later, after six years of active duty service, I speak frequently with women who are preparing for OCS or recruit training by phone and using a Facebook group that I helped to create.  I am now confident that I have much to share with them about how to be successful in the Marine Corps. 

These women worry about the same things as their male counterparts, things like how to get in shape for recruit training, whether or not they will have to dye their hair back to its original color, and what kind of food will be served to them at the chow hall.  But they have a worry that is unique to women; they wonder:  if I work hard and earn the title of Marine, will I be accepted and treated equally by my male counterparts?  They want to know if the Marine Corps is really a place where women can succeed.  
The answer is yes, and no.  I was recently very impressed with an article in the New York Times about the Female Engagement Team (FET) in Afghanistan.  This article really showcased the work of female Marines and the difficulties for females within the Marine Corps.  The truth is that women are needed for challenging assignments that only they can perform.  Once they demonstrate their proficiency as warriors, as the women of the FET teams have repeatedly done, their male commanders look at them as an asset, but commanders never forget that they are female Marines and therefore different from their male counterparts.
But maybe that is as it should be.  Although I want equal pay for equal work, equal respect for a job well done, I am not a man and I do not believe pretending to be one is required for success.  I am proud to be a female Marine and the Marines with whom I work appreciate the different perspective that I bring, just as commanders in Afghanistan appreciate the unique skills of the women on the FET teams. 

For Women’s History Month in 2009, we interviewed eight female Marines of different ranks, military occupational specialties, races, and family backgrounds.  We asked each of them the question “What is Your Advice to Women Looking to be Successful in the Marine Corps?”  They all said the same thing in their own way:  “be yourself.”  For women who want to be accepted in the Marine Corps I tell you this:  it is as easy as believing in yourself, which for many of us is one of our greatest challenges.  

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Time off is the best time to get back on track

Today marks the first of 10 days I won’t have to wake up at 0445 if I don’t want to.

Leave is one of the most underrated benefits to being in the Marine Corps, and you really only really appreciate it when you haven’t taken a chunk of it in a while. Sure, I’ve taken a few days here and there, but that was always to go visit the wife’s family. And while I love her family, the process of driving 8 hours (with a crabby 2-year old) only to be constantly on the go does not exactly constitute a vacation to me.

So this time, I’m taking time off for myself. I have a few things I’d like to get done, but I don’t have a rigid schedule, and if I want to just veg out in front of the TV for a few hours, I can do it with no distractions or regrets.

My stack of “must read” books has grown over the last couple months to the point I can’t keep up. Hopefully, I can knock out at least a couple to bring the pile down to a manageable level.

One thing I don’t like about this area of Wisconsin is the general lack of public shooting ranges. There are quite a few private shooting clubs that require some kind of huge annual dues payment in addition to “volunteering” a set number of hours each year, and that’s after you’ve made it through the “vetting process” and moved up the usually long waiting list.

In south eastern Wisconsin, there’s one public outdoor shooting range (McMiller Sports Center in Eagle, Wis.), so that’s where I’ll be headed at least one of the days I’m on leave. I have a Mossberg model 500 rifled slug barrel shotgun to sight in for Illinois’ deer season next month; a Savage .30-06 to continue breaking in; a new Ruger 10/22 to try out and a new-to-me Springfield Mil-Spec 1911 to put through its paces before going to the ’smith for some work.

I think I’ll probably take a motorcycle day trip somewhere. It’s going to start getting mighty cold here in the next month or two, so I want to get as much riding in as possible before putting the KLR650 up for the winter. Speaking of which, there’s some work to be done on the bike.

And of course, there’s work around the humble abode that needs to get done. The wife wants to rearrange furniture (yet again), so that’ll get added to the honey-do list.

When all is said and done, I think this will be some of the best leave I’ve taken if for no other reason than I’m operating solely on my own agenda.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Youth unprepared for Marine Corps

I really feel like an old man when I start thinking about how things were when I was 18 or 19 years old. My wife has, for a couple years now, been pointing out grey hairs, and until recently, I never noticed them. I now try to joke about them and call them an indication of wisdom …

What got me to start thinking back about 15 years was a conversation I had with a MCMAP instructor whereby we seemed to agree the vast majority of young Marines have never been in a fight. Instead, they're brought up with the "zero tolerance" policy of absolutely positively never fighting; when confronted by someone who means to do you physical harm, you either give them what they want or cower in fear. Remember, there are some people who actually advocate would-be victims of rape shouldn’t fight back, and I'm sure these same people advocate never defending yourself when confronted by someone who means to do you harm.

So these "social nonconfrontationists" (that's my phrase since "social pacifist" is already taken) I'm sure also advocate the complete abolition of personally owned pots, pans, forks, knives, toasters, screwdrivers, hammers, machetes, firearms, and any other tool that could be used by one person to do harm to another.

These same "social nonconfrontationists" seem to believe the military does more harm than good, that it should be a peace corps of sorts frolicking into foreign lands just to spread good will and cheer and love.

So what does all this have to do with anything? Well, what I'm getting at is simply that today's young men and women - who I see as victims of these so-called "social nonconfrontationists" - have been turned into “sheep” and are not very well prepared for life in the Marine Corps.

(An aside is in order here - my usage here of the word “sheep” refers to the now-famous account by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman in his book On Combat. In short, the “sheep” are the average citizens who rely on others for their protection; then there are the “wolves” who prey upon the sheep without mercy. Finally, there are the “sheepdogs” who protect the flock from the wolves, and it is in this group I classify myself and most other Marines.)

Since 1775, the Marine Corps has been known as an elite fighting force, and most of us firmly believe America needs her Corps of Marines to be the ass-kicking "rough men ready to do violence on [her] behalf" as George Orwell put it.

I'm just afraid it's taking more and more to get today's youth up to that elite level than it did in times past. If we look to the first half of last century, boys often hunted on their way in to school and stored their trusty .22 rimfire or shotgun at school while they did the day's learning, not giving the firearm a second thought. Today, that act would get them arrested or possibly killed no matter what their actual intent. At the end of their day, boys of years past went home, often hunting along the way, to do their chores and homework. They didn't "veg out" in front of the TV, computer or video game console. They learned responsibility at an early age; they were given a set of expectations and held to them.

Parents need to stop coddling their children and let them get a little dirty sometimes.

I'm not saying we should all turn our kids into bullies or create an Underage UFC with kindergartners … but at the same time, there absolutely positively IS a time and a place for physical violence, and it's incumbent upon all of us to teach our children the moral compass required to discern when it's appropriate and when it's not.

In closing, I’d like to quote Grossman: “If you have no capacity for violence, then you are a healthy productive citizen: a sheep. If you have a capacity for violence and no empathy for your fellow citizens, then you have defined an aggressive sociopath--a wolf. But what if you have a capacity for violence, and a deep love for your fellow citizens? Then you are a sheepdog, a warrior, someone who is walking the hero’s path.”

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Military & civilians alike must take voting seriously

We are just over a month away from mid-term elections, and contrary to what some believe, some of us in the military pay more attention to politics than many civilians. The reason is pretty simple – just about every aspect of our lives is directly impacted by our elected representatives’ decisions since they control our pay and dictate the policies which affect our overall quality of life.

At my last duty station (New Orleans), I was saddened to hear my young Marines talk with such ignorance about the electoral process and the 2008 presidential and congressional candidates. After cursing their lack of civics education, I encouraged them to research each candidate and talk about their merits and shortcomings. (Don’t take that to mean I cursed THEM; I think we can all agree it’s not their fault they were shorted what should be an important part of high school education.)

I will admit I found it difficult, at first, to encourage their growth without introducing any of my own beliefs, but in the end, they realized I just wanted them to not only vote but, more importantly, to vote intelligently. As long as they did that, I didn’t care for whom they actually cast their vote.

That’s the message I’d like to stress here – voting is our civic responsibility, and we MUST exercise it intelligently. Blindly voting for someone – regardless of their or your party affiliation – is inexcusable in this day and age of instant information access. Within a matter of minutes, you can use the Internet to pull up candidates’ voting records, official viewpoints, videos, and speeches as well as news articles from various media outlets. And while that research doesn’t guarantee the “perfect” decision, you can at least rest assured you made an informed decision.

Our representative republic form of government is not perfect, but it truly is the closest to perfect in the world.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Financial responsibility worth its weight in gold

I’d like to talk a little this week about financial responsibility.

It seems just about every week a “news” story comes out saying the ailing economy is driving young men and women to join the military, and indeed, recruiters will talk to potential applicants about financial security (which is nothing new – they’ve been talking about that since before I joined in 1997).

The problem is these same young men and women are not taught anything about managing their new-found financial security. The vast majority of them don’t have a checking account, and of those who do, most don’t know how to balance it.

Various methods have been tried over the years to make young Marines smarter financially; there are correspondence courses as well as in-person training events by supposed experts.

But until parents start introducing their children to basic financial responsibility, we will continue to have young Marines in financial distress.

Often, Marine leaders only hear about financial difficulties when it’s too late to actually help. What we see is the Marine’s pride getting in the way combined with the Marine’s lack of financial savvy. When you add in quite a bit of “gotta-have-it syndrome”, you get Marines with tons of “stuff” and years of digging themselves out of debt.

Don’t think I’m talking from high atop a white horse either; I’m still paying for financial mistakes I made 10 years ago as a lance corporal and corporal. My credit rating is just now starting to rebound from some pretty bad errors in judgment, and now, as a leader, I am seeing young Marines make the same mistakes I made.

Parents, please teach your kids to responsibly manage their finances … at least teach them how to balance a check book.

Marines, while this won’t physically kill anyone, having huge amounts of debt will severely cripple a Marine’s quality of life which can lead to, among other things, poor performance, depression, and excessive alcohol consumption. Therefore, it needs to be one of those things on which we continue to train our Marines.

This is definitely one of life’s problems where an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Protesting military funerals - freedom of speech or abomination?

The Supreme Court is set to hear a First Amendment case that will undoubtedly have a dire outcome.

The case, Snyder v. Phelps, surrounds the protesting of military funerals by a religious group hell bent on using a service member’s death to further the group’s agenda.

As an American, I’m deeply conflicted by the possible outcomes. How could any Marine - much less one with almost 13 years in the Corps - be conflicted on such a topic?

On one hand, it appalls me that people will turn a fellow Marine’s funeral into a political stunt. After all, that Marine died serving his country, and there are people carrying signs at his funeral saying things like, “THANK GOD FOR DEAD SOLDIERS,” all the while asserting they’re exercising their First Amendment right to free speech?! That Marine died protecting their right to protest, and they thank him by protesting at his graveside?!

The protesters strongly contend a service member’s funeral should not be off-limits to protests. (Note - the actual court case does not seek to answer that question. It seeks only to address one person’s claim of damages as a result of offensive messages.)

I’ve seen talk across the wondrous Internet about establishing guidelines whereby protesters would have to maintain a standoff distance, and a couple weeks ago (Aug. 27), a court struck down a Missouri law prohibiting protests of military funerals within an hour of the start or finish.

Here’s my confliction: While it disgusts me to hear of these protests, it deeply troubles me that Americans would actually be talking about putting such limits on their own freedom of speech. See, if a limit is placed on protesting at a military funeral, it’s reasonable to assume that same limit can be placed elsewhere. Do we just say there will be no protesting at funerals in general? What then sets funerals above any other gathering? It can’t be the religious aspect, because prohibiting a protest at a religious gathering could then be construed as both a violation of the Constitutionally protected right to assemble as well as to practice a chosen religion.

In highly emotional matters like this, many people seem to struggle with separating the feelings in their heart from the rational thought required to reach a decision.

My heart aches every time I see a picture or video of a service member’s funeral being protested by people I believe to be misguided. At the same time, I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution, even if that means I don’t agree with the outcome.

Perhaps the protesters could use expend their energy lobbying the elected representatives who run the country. Regardless, this is one of those times when just because something is technically correct doesn’t mean it’s right. I believe the protesters do have the right to protest; however, I also believe they should honor the fallen warriors and their families by not doing so.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Video from 1 of our unique events

Here in Milwaukee, we're lucky enough to conduct a couple unique pool functions, and one of them is our annual "combat day" at a private paintball park.

More than 100 of our poolees from the Milwaukee, Racine, and Waukesha areas dedicated their Sept. 11 to learning basic squad patrolling techniques and formations, and then they put them into practical use during four scenarios on the paintball fields.

Each pool function I attend I'm reminded of the caliber of young men and women who enlist in our Corps, and this event was no exception.

One of the scenarios required a mock satchel charge to be placed within 1 meter of the other team's home base.

I stood on a ridge overlooking a valley to my left (the "blue" side) and the red team's base on my right. A protracted firefight ensued as blue players made their way through the valley and up the ridge toward the red base.

Once they established a foothold on the ridge, 5 blue players started formulating a plan to deliver the satchel charge to the red base located about 40 meters down a steep hill in front of them. With less than a minute left, the remaining two blue players finalized their plan of one running as fast as he could down the hill to draw fire while the other one ran behind and heaved the satchel charge toward the base.

After a quick count to 3, the pair leaped over the hill with puffs of smoke pouring from their paintball guns, bounded down the hill (ok, so the lead guy actually rolled a couple times down the hill but it still had the effect they were after), and delivered the satchel to the other team's base.

It took us a little bit of "encouragement" to get them going, but once this team put their heads together, they came up with a plan and effectively executed it to win the game. All of us who watched the action were incredibly impressed with their ability to perform under pressure.

Check out the video for some of the action:

Friday, September 10, 2010

Everyone loves bored Marine videos

As my first blog post here (here's a link to my bio), I thought I'd start on the lighter side.

Who hasn’t seen a bored Marine video on YouTube?! It seems like in between saving kitty cats and battling insurgents, junior Marines have a LOT of time on their hands and no better way to use it than making a spoof video or showing their ignorance.

Even the Marine Corps Times has a few blog posts highlighting their picks of bored Marine videos. (Be warned: MCTimes seems to be partial to the young lads dancing around with bare chests exposed doing horrible pop music covers.)

I know these videos cause senior leaders a TON of consternation - one comment on the MCTimes blog mentioned punishing the Marines in a video for not wearing the Marine Corps running suit properly. What those same leaders fail to remember is they most assuredly did the same type of things when they were junior Marines. I know I did some pretty crazy/stupid stuff when I was a junior Marine, and I was considered to be on the conservative end of the spectrum.

These bored Marine videos help show there still is a human side to Marines; in other words, they are NOT brainwashed in boot camp! If they were brainwashed, do you honestly think they would covering a 90’s Backstreet Boys song?!

So while MCTimes brings you examples of the “better” bored Marine videos, I wanted to show you a couple of what I think are some of the WORST bored Marine videos on YouTube. The Marine(s) who made these videos should be ashamed to watch them even if they're alone!

Marines Dance To Backstreet Boys -

How to become a Drill Instructo(r) -

Just so people don’t think male Marines are the only ones who create these videos, I’m going to include this video of female Marines made by a female Marine.

Jess and Becca rocking out -

A lot of Marines have gotten the dreaded “Beretta bite”, but the school-girl scream in this video is priceless!

Bored Marine in Iraq -

So those are what I consider to be some of the worst bored Marine videos. Feel free to share yours!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Moving to Blogger

We have moved this blog to our mirror site at Our podcasts are still available at As always, you can follow us at

Posted via email from Midwest Marines

Monday, August 2, 2010

Is the sky falling, or is the ASVAB uproar more about improving communication?

@NPR recently reported that Maryland no longer allows schools to administer the ASVAB to a student without parental approval. This legislation also prevents schools from releasing the test results to military recruiters without parents' or students' permission.  The Maryland Coalition to Protect Student Privacy, meanwhile, is advising groups in Wisconsin, Oregon, New Hampshire, Georgia, North Carolina and a few other states to require parents' permission before schools give students the ASVAB or release the results.


Of course parents absolutely have the right to know when their kids are taking the Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Battery in school! They should also know SAT and ACT testing schedules, as well as the Homecoming Game and Prom dates. If that’s not happening, then we parents need to initiate better communication with our schools (or we need to pay attention to those calendars the schools send us).

Now, is ASVAB testing a threat to privacy, personal safety, or anything else regarding our high schoolers? It does not appear to be.  Does its distribution save tax dollars and facilitate a more efficient recruiting process for an all-volunteer force? Perhaps.

It’s not a secret that ASVAB test scores are used to qualify for military service in general, as well as for specific jobs. However, many people don’t realize that ASVAB scores also provide career information for various civilian occupations and can indicate future success in college and vocational schools.

Yes, scores are provided to recruiters – not kidnappers, terrorists, or telemarketers – who may call your home.  Scores are also provided to the students’ schools. Before deciding that picking up the phone and declining a recruiter’s offer is not worth the hassle, consider that we citizens already pick up the tab for our recruiters to find a few needles in stack of needles:

·         Nearly 75% of the 31.2 million 17-24-year-olds in the U.S. are unqualified for military service due to illegal drug use, mental problems, too many dependents, criminal records, and physical and medical issues.


·         35% (about 1/3) of today’s youth ages 17-24 are unfit for military service due to weight and medical issues.


·         This leaves only 7.8 million American youth even eligible to serve their country – if they even want to. A majority of these youth grow up not even knowing that the military is an option, much less whether or not they’d qualify.

Even today, with supportive ASVAB testing and score distribution, our tax dollars finance:

·         The thousands of recruiters we Americans pay to scour this nation and its territories for the young men and women capable and willing to defend it (about 550 Marine Corps recruiters in the 13 Midwestern states alone).


·         The fuel, airline tickets, per diem, lodging, advertising, entry fees for college and job fair booths, and more used to locate and inform interested young Americans about military service.

The more time recruiters waste trying to locate the small percentage of youth who even qualify for military service, the more we pay. Isn't it easier, cheaper, and more efficient to permit our kids to take the test and our schools to provide these scores to recruiters? This way parents know what options are available to their kids, and they can simply tell recruiters "no thank you" if military service is not the right option?

Regarding privacy, it seems to me that more personal data is being collected each day by leading search engines and social media sites than will ever be collected from ASVAB test scores.  Unfortunately, many of these make it business-as-usual to sell that information to the highest bidder.

There are some great, non-evasive resources for parents to review and make informed decisions before supporting legislation that makes it more costly and time-consuming for their military to connect with those young Americans who, in fact, desire to be well-informed about their career options after both high school and college: Official ASVAB Website, About the ASVAB, The ASVAB Exploration Center.

If nothing else, please get the facts before deciding whether or not to support testing and score distribution to recruiters if the issue comes up in your area. Feel free to send us any questions you have, or contact our Midwest Marines recruiting station nearest you.

Posted via email from Midwest Marines

It’s rumored that a platoon of #MidwestMarines may appear (unofficially) in Kansas City Aug 8 at #RacefortheCure. Give ‘em a wave if you see ‘em this #weekend.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Quality finish punctuates great week at boot camp with #Iowa, #Neb & #Indy #Educators

The last 2010 Midwest Marines Educators Workshop ended today in an awesome way. The last event for our 74 educators was watching a company of new Marines graduate from boot camp in San Diego where four of the six honor graduates, as well as the best marksman and most physically fit Marine, were all recruited by the Midwest Marines!

Stay tuned here and on our webcast page ( in the coming weeks to see these educators in action and hear what they had to say about the trip. Educators and members of the media who are interested in attending next year's workshops between January and June 2011 should contact a local recruiter soon for more information, as seats tend to fill up fast. More information is also available at Captain Eric Tausch
Public Affairs Officer
US Marine Corps
From my mobile device

Posted via email from Midwest Marines

Sunday, May 2, 2010

#Appleton & #GreenBay, #Wisc families & future #Marines see boot camp closer than expected

Midwest Marines from across Wisconsin, northern Illinois, and Michigan's Upper Peninsula held their annual family nights last week. During these annual events, actual Marine Corps drill instructors provide a small, but intense taste of recruit training for those getting ready for recrit training and their families. A question and answer period helps calm anxious nerves -- for parents, anyway.

This video was shot in Appleton, Wis., April 29, 2010. 












Posted via web from Midwest Marines Webcasts

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

@MarinesTV New online documentary shows #MarineCorps drill instructors as you've never seen them before

27-minute documentary shows Marine Corps drill instructors behind the scenes. This is a must-see video for every young man and woman who will soon feel the chill of standing in front of the most influential Marine they'll likely encounter.

Watch it here: 200 potential Marine Corps officers from across the Midwest live two days of hell in Iowa April 23-24

Johnstown, Iowa's Camp Dodge will host 200 Marine Corps officer hopefuls from throughout the Midwest April 23-24 for a grueling two days designed to see if they even stand a chance of surviving the toughest leadership course in the country: Marine Corps Officer Candidates School (OCS).


We'll post webcasts right here so can feel the pain alongside these young men and women as they meet drill instructors, and endure physical fitness tests, land navigation, obstacle courses and what is likely these candidates' first experience with eating the field rations known as Meals-Ready-to-Eat.


Dubbed "OCS Preparatory Weekend," the annual event replicates the type of training and level of anxiety - thanks to drill instructors imported from OCS in Quantico, Va. - that these college students can expect to face in the near future. Candidates hail from Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Indiana, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin.


Posted via web from Midwest Marines Webcasts

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Midwest Marines Educators Workshop: Camp Pendleton slideshow

 Educators from Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and the Chicago area spent the day at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton as part of the Midwest Marines Educators Workshop in San Diego this week. Here is a gallery of some of the photos from today's events. To hear educators explain today's events in their own words, visit Midwest Marines Webcasts for today's update.

Posted via email from Midwest Marines