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!