Thursday, December 04, 2014

Bring it, Punks!

A cowardly group in the Middle East, using the tactic of terrorism to further their strategic aim of reestablishing an Islamic caliphate, has threatened to attack U.S. military members and veterans here in the homeland.  The FBI has responded by encouraging America's defenders to scrub their social media accounts of military mention.

Think about that for a minute.  

The greatest, most valorous, best trained, and most loyal military in the history of civilization is being told by their government to run and hide due to a dubious threat from a bunch of cowardly, amateur, warrior wannabes. 

The Colonel, who has skin thicker than the frontal armor on an M1A1 tank, takes great offense at that notion.

The Colonel is reminded of an early September day, thirteen years ago.  After he sat transfixed by the televised terror attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon for the better part of an unbelieving hour, the Colonel was jolted by the question from one of his subordinates, 

"Sir, what have we heard from higher headquarters?"  

It dawned, slower than sunup in late December (the Colonel ain't smart and you can't make him),  on the Colonel that the better question was: what had our subordinate commands heard from their higher headquarters?

The Colonel ordered a conference call with his subordinate commanders, ASAP.

Following an insane year heading up Current Operations for U.S. Forces, Korea, 2000 to 2001, the Colonel had leaped from the frying pan to the fire, taking command of the 6th Marine Corps District -- responsible for Marine Corps enlisted and officer recruiting in the Southeast in early July of 2001.  (Anyone who has ever served as a recruiter or commanded recruiters knows that it is the most intense job you'll ever have outside of combat.) The 6th MCD then had eight subordinate commands (Recruiting Stations) spread over Mississippi, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida.  Each of those commands (small battalions in their scope of responsibility and impact) was led by a major, each with upwards of 50 to 60 Marine NCOs spread over their territories in 2 and 3 man offices.  

When all of the Recruiting Station C.O.'s were on the line, the Colonel joined them and told them everything he knew at the time.  Wasn't much.  He still had heard nothing from higher headquarters.

The Colonel then asked for reports from the field.  The first major reported that his subordinate NCO's in charge of recruiting offices across his area of responsibility were reporting that the other services' recruiters (the majority of military recruiting offices are collocated) were being told by their higher headquarters to change into civilian clothes and go home.

The Colonel opined that some local commander must be over-reacting.  

Many of the rest of the majors quickly disabused him of that opinion.  It was happening all over.  The other services, in a greatly misplaced (in the Colonel's not-so humble opinion) sense of heightened "force protection" (a term that still sets the Colonel's teeth on edge), had sent their soldiers, airmen, and sailors running home when their nation most needed them visibly on the job.

The Colonel was dumbfounded and, for only one of a very few times in his career, speechless.  

One of the majors spoke up, "Colonel, I told my Marines to stay in uniform and stay very visible.  Should I have done different?"

That was the best military decision the Colonel had heard in the past couple of hours (if not his previous two decades + of service) and he told the major so.

"Gentlemen," the Colonel commanded, "stay in uniform and stay visible.  I'll be back in touch as soon as I hear anything from higher headquarters."  

It was a no-brainer command.  

The Colonel made a career out of 'em.

The Colonel is quite certain that the vast majority of U.S. soldiers, sailors, and airmen were disgusted at the order to get out of uniform and go home that day.

So, back to the present.

The Colonel is quite certain that the vast majority of U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines share his disgust with the suggestion by the FBI (in particular) and their government (in general) that they should hide from an enemy of their nation.

We will not hide.  

We will not cower.

We will not run.

Not from China; not from a resurgent Russia; not from a drug cartel; and certainly not from that passel of punks, ISIS.

Two words:

BRING IT!


               

Monday, December 01, 2014

Mississippi Pride

The last games of the 2014 college football regular season were played in a paroxysm of prideful rivalry this past weekend.  

Here at the shallow northern end of deep southern nowhere, the annual intrastate grudge match between the Colonel's Ole Miss Rebels and the Mississippi State Bulldogs kicked off Saturday afternoon with passion and potential perhaps at an all time high for an "Egg Bowl."

Both teams began the season with great expectations.   Halfway through the season both teams were 7 and 0.  

Unprecedented.      

At one point, State and Ole Miss were together in the top 4 of the preliminary new College Football Championship playoff poll -- thanks primarily to State's wins over perennial powerhouses LSU and Auburn; and Ole Miss' wins over Alabama and A&M.

Unbelievable.

The SEC, and the SEC West in particular, seemed to be turned upside down.  The talk at mid-season was that the Egg Bowl, not the Iron Bowl, would decide the West.  That certainly was the Colonel's fondest wish.

But the SEC West wasn't so much turned upside down as it was just settled into a rare equilibrium of really good teams from "top to bottom."  That kind of high-quality balance in a seven-team division of a "power-five" conference makes for some great football.

It also makes it nearly impossible for any team to get to the conference championship unscathed.   When you have a conference full of legitimate contenders, the likelihood is that championship-chances cannibalism will result.  

Does anyone really believe that FSU would be undefeated at this point playing in the SEC? 

But, most of the above falls under the rod and cone wasting category of MOTO -- Mastery of the Obvious.  Apologies.

What probably sets the Colonel apart from nearly every other football fan in the great state of Mississippi is that he doesn't hate the other Mississippi school (far too much hate already invested in Bama and LSU -- none left for State) and he has a fairly rigid (but not completely binding) "no-gloating" rule.

To call the Colonel "old school" would be an understatement rivalling Custer's "Troopers, things are about to get interesting."

The Colonel has never been a big fan of "smack talk;" never liked taunting; never liked "rubbing it in;" never thought much of outlandish celebration of a score or victory.

Well, he says "never," but the truth is the Colonel probably did a little bit too much of all of the above early in his formative years.  At some point in the last four decades of his "adulthood" (and the Colonel uses that term as loosely as a newborn's diaper deposit) the Colonel began to emulate the example of some really great leaders (his dear old Dad among them) and sought increasingly to veneer over his fanaticism with a liberal dose of sportsmanship.

For the LSU and Bama fans who may have stumbled across this post in a cyber Monday Christmas gift search for corndog sampler gift packs or pachyderm-printed bathroom tissue, the term "sportsmanship" does not involve the following (many of which the Colonel has seen in person on more than one occasion):

Cursing at and taunting a five year old in opposing team colors.

Screaming profanities at ladies in opposing team colors.

Killing trees on the opposing team's campus.

Throwing whiskey bottles at opposing team fans.   

The Colonel could go on, but you get his drift.  At some point we should all take a deep breath and remember the words of that great humanitarian and philosopher of the human condition, Rodney King: "Can't we all just get along?" 

For the record, the Colonel is more than just a bit disappointed in the Rebel Nation derision directed toward crushed State fans.  The Colonel is not a fan of the "#FailState" meme.  The Colonel believes we are better than that.  

Take the high road, Rebels.  Love is the greater force.  Leave the hate-generation to Coach Mullen.  Our coach says it best:  "We don't play out of hate for the other team; we play out of love for each other."

The Colonel really likes that philosophy -- it's the philosophy upon which was built the really great teams of Marines with which he served.   

The Colonel congratulates Mississippi State on their best season ever.  You should be very proud.  Heck, the Colonel is proud of you.  

State and Ole Miss have a record-setting combined regular season win / loss total of 19 and 5.  Wins in bowl games will give both Mississippi schools at least 10 wins in the same season for the first time, ever!

Next year, let's finish this the right way:  Egg Bowl decides the West. 

Mississippi First!

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Crumbling Empires

The "Gang of Five."  Five BLT 1/8 captains (Gregory, Foresi, 

Larriviere, Dupras, and Welsh ) on their second deployment
 to the Mediterranean together -- Italy, 1990
Twenty-five years ago, today, the Colonel was assigned as the Operations Officer (Ops O) for Battalion Landing Team (BLT) 1/8 -- a reinforced (tanks, artillery, engineers) infantry battalion -- that was the ground combat element of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, Special Operations Capable, aka MEU (SOC).  The Colonel was then still a captain, but selected for major.  He was in his third year of a demanding and exhilarating second assignment as a company grade officer with a Marine infantry battalion.  

The Colonel, and nearly a thousand of his closest friends, were on the second six-month deployment to the Mediterranean in as many years, having only returned from the last such deployment just thirteen months earlier.  He had been a rifle company commander on that earlier deployment -- leading a reinforced infantry company of some 200 hard-chargers assigned as the heli-borne raid company for the 26th MEU -- SOC.  

Commanding a rifle company was by far the most fun the Colonel had in his career in the Corps.  Lots of demanding and rewarding assignments followed company command, but no job was ever near as much fun.  

The Colonel had lobbied hard to stay in command of Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, Eighth Marines (C 1/8) for the second deployment, but as a major (select) he had been the obvious choice to fill the vacancy in the Operations Officer billet -- last filled by another Ole Miss grad, Mike Edwards.  That, and the Marine Corps has an unwritten, yet faithfully followed, rule that, "No officer shall be allowed too much fun."   

The 24th MEU had shipped out from the East Coast the middle of October in 1989, embarked on amphibious shipping -- an Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) consisting of an old helicopter carrier (LPH), and two smaller amphibs (an LPD and an LST).  The ARG had sailed slowly across the Atlantic and arrived in Rota, Spain early in November for face-to-face "Turnover" with the ARG and MEU finishing up their deployment and heading home.

After a few days of suffering through the outgoing BLT's briefs, the leaders of BLT 1/8 gladly bid farewell to their brothers heading home and leaned into the tasks ahead.

In those days, the Cold War was still frosty.  The Soviet Union was the enemy, and the Red Army/Navy and it's surrogates in the Middle East were still the focus of combat preparations for US naval forces patrolling the Med.  In particular, MEU (SOC)s, while highly prepared for operations at the lower end of the conflict scale, still kept the "Fight with the Warsaw Pact" playbook handy.  The main reason, it had always seemed, that US forces patrolled the Med, was to counter Soviet presence and influence.   

No one dared dream of a world in which the Soviet Union no longer existed.  The only way the Soviets were going away was in a nuclear winter, and that potentiality would also give the rest of the world frostbite.  The standoff with the Soviets was the framework of reality within which every American serviceman and woman planned each day, the remainder of their active duty careers, and the rest of their lives.

The Colonel's boss, BLT 1/8's commanding officer, was then Colonel, later General and Commandant of the Marine Corps, Mike Hagee.  Colonel Hagee was one of the smartest and well-connected officers with whom the Colonel ever served.  He was the first person the Colonel ever saw carry and use a portable computer -- a small suitcase-sized oddity.  Hagee tried unsuccessfully to teach the Colonel to use it -- giving up only after his student caused it to crash and lock up several times.

Twenty-five years ago, tonight, Colonel Hagee, his senior staff officers, and company commanders were bellied up to a bar in the Naval Station Rota Officers' Club.  A small television behind the bar flashed scenes of mobs of Germans destroying the symbol of Soviet domination -- the Berlin Wall.

The word "surreal" doesn't begin to describe the feeling those Marine officers were experiencing.  Never at a loss for irreverent comments and observations on any situation, this group of young men sat in stunned silence watching the wall crumble.

As the reality of the impending demise of the Soviet Union began to sink in one of the Colonel's brothers turned to their commander and asked the question on all of their minds, 

"Sir, does this mean we can go home, now?" 

It didn't.  Things actually got worse.  Chaos reigned, and has reigned for the twenty-five years since.

Today, Russia is resurgent and more and more bellicose.  

Today, China is a greater threat than ever.

The United States spent the last quarter century restructuring a military establishment from one focused on WWIII with the Soviets to one focused on fighting a nebulous war on terror.

The problem is that the United States, in the Colonel's not-so humble opinion, made a huge strategic mistake in restructuring to fight a tactic.  In 1991, the US actually used a military designed to fight the Soviets, with great efficiency and to great effect to eject Saddam Hussein's forces from Kuwait.  In 2003, the same capabilities dethroned Saddam.  In the Colonel's not-so humble opinion, the same Cold War force should have been used in a couple of short years after 9/11 to eliminate terrorism's center of gravity -- Middle Eastern regimes bankrolling the terror organizations.

Instead, the United States squandered the opportunity and frittered away blood and treasure with half-hearted limited objective campaigns.  

The United States should be the preeminent force -- one for GOOD -- in the world, today.  Instead, the United States is so weakened that a punk thug by the name of Vladimir Putin is rebuilding the Soviet Union.

The Colonel apologizes to his grandsons.  They will have to endure another Cold War.