Friday, January 22, 2016

Brain-bucket Bounce

The Colonel learned early that being diminutive in stature was actually a marked advantage in his Marine Corps career.  

Always underestimated and overlooked, he flew in under the radar and capitalized on one of the more important principles of war --surprise

Being light on the hoof also had advantages in light of the Marine Corps' near-obsessive focus on physical fitness and appearance.

There were, of course, some obvious disadvantages to being a "short-round."  The Marine Corps prides itself on its thrift and under-reliance on technology.  Any motorized vehicle that carries people is untrustworthy in battle and therefore Marines must be able to carry everything they bring to a fight on their backs and over long distances.  There were occasions when the mission and the environment required so much gear that the Colonel nearly carried his own body weight on his back.  

Small wonder the Colonel's back tortures him today.  Payback.

But, the Colonel also liked to think that a short stature was a plus on the battlefield -- he figured he could keep his head down and out of the line of fire a lot easier than the 6 footers. 

When the Colonel went to Marine Corps Officer Candidate School (OCS) at Quantico, Virginia in the summer of 1977, he was very nearly the smallest candidate of the 250 in the company -- 5'6 and 3/4" (don't ever forget the 3/4) and 130 pounds dripping wet.  

Reaching things in high places was (and still is) a bit of a challenge.  
The Colonel vividly remembers trying to put away his pack on top of his wall locker the first few days at OCS. There was, of course, a certain way the pack had to be situated, with the helmet strapped on top. 

The Colonel had developed a practiced, time-saving (time was of the essence with a drill instructor breathing down your neck) method to get his pack onto the top of his seven-foot wall-locker. He would get the  pack and helmet all squared away on his bunk, pick it up, spin around, and pitch it up on top of the locker to land facing the correct way. 

Since the Colonel was in the last bunk bay in the squad bay, his locker backed up against a bulkhead and he could actually use a bank-shot of sorts to get his pack, with helmet riding on top, into position. If he got the pick, spin, pitch, and bank just right, the pack would land in the perfect position on top of the locker and not require further adjustment.  The Colonel would then be free to use the resulting extra seconds to attend to the next task for which the certainly insane drill instructor was screaming unintelligibly. This routine worked perfectly the first half-dozen times.

The seventh was different.

All plans and actions on the battlefield (and all of life is one big battlefield)  are subject to what Clausewitz (some dead German guy who, like most Germans, spent way too much time thinking about war) called "fog and friction." 

Even the simplest things are difficult under stress. 

Newton's laws of physics aren't nullified by a screaming drill instructor either. 

From the grave, both Clausewitz and Newton conspired to cause the Colonel to light up big-time on Sergeant Psycho's radar screen. This time, although the pick, spin, pitch, and bank was executed to perfection, there was a catastrophic equipment failure (thank you, Clausewitz) that introduced plan-altering friction and allowed inertial physics (thank you, Newton) to take over. 

The chin strap on the Colonel's helmet broke. 

Said chin strap had theretofore served admirably as the device with which the helmet had been quite securely affixed to the pack. 

Had been being the operative phrase in this case.

The practiced conclusion of the pick, spin, pitch, and bank of the Colonel's squad bay ballet was a combat-booted pirouette, executed at the moment that the pea-sized computer in his brain-housing group calculated that the pack's trajectory was such that it would bank and rest in inspection-ready position atop the wall locker. As the Colonel spun back to his bunk this time, he was struck hard on the top of his hairless noggin and driven to his knees. 

The Colonel's helmet -- its broken chin strap freeing it to follow Newton's third law -- had performed a half-roll and landed, round-side down, squarely on the Colonel's head.  Later, his buddies told the Colonel that the resulting "thonk!" was so loud and impressive that everyone in the squad bay stopped what they were doing... for a millisecond. 

A milisecond being the exact length of time one could get away with pausing without attracting the attention of a rabid drill instructor.

Would that the story ended there. But, alas, there is more. 

The Colonel rejoined the conscious world a second later, stood, and began searching for his errant brain bucket.  He remembered hearing/feeling only one "thonk!"  He hadn't heard a second "thonk" indicating that his helmet had hit the deck.  

Since he had been standing at his bunk, the Colonel assumed that his helmet had ricocheted off his head and landed quietly there. 

He looked on the bunk.

No helmet.

He looked under the bunk. 

No helmet. 

Then, the concussion-induced fog lifted a bit more and the Colonel heard the unmistakable bellow of an enraged drill instructor. 

The unmistakable bellow was coming from outside the open window next to the Colonel's bunk.

The unmistakable bellow was coming from three floors down. 

This is no lie. The Colonel's helmet had bounced off of his head, out the window of the squad bay, and landed, following an impressive bounce, at the feet of the company First Sergeant -- the senior and most feared of all of the officer candidates' tormentors.

Our names were on our helmets.

"Candidate Gregory!!! Get (insert appropriate unprintable epithet here) down here!!!"

Momentarily, the Colonel contemplated jumping after the helmet.

But, then, falling back on the candidate mantra, "they can't kill us," the Colonel raced from the squad bay, down the ladder well (Marines don't call them stairs), and came to the position of attention at the appropriate distance front and center of 1stSgt King. 

The Colonel believes it was the fact that one of his pupils was dilated and the other wasn't that stopped the First Sergeant's rant on the sorry state of American youth and my questionable parentage in mid-sentence. 

"Candidate, are you okay?"

The Colonel kept his story short -- just the facts -- and made sure he used the third person when referring to himself (Marines talk funny that way). 

"The candidate's helmet fell off the candidate's wall locker, bounced off of the candidate's head, and flew out the window."

I believe it was the phrase "flew out the window" that broke the hard-bitten combat veteran.  He grabbed the Colonel by the arm and barely made it into his office, and out of sight of anyone, before breaking down in uncontrollable laughter.

The Colonel learned two valuable leadership lessons that day.  

Stuff happens, and it's okay to laugh.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Project Predicament

The Colonel's Lady -- the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda -- has been down in her back the last couple of weeks.  She's feeling better -- the Colonel has been a good nurse.

But, the chores are piling up.

And, there's the annual late winter/early spring project season looming on the calendar.

No matter how effective the Colonel is at supervision -- and he's world class -- if his work force is lame, the chore and project completion rate bottoms out down around the speed of smell.

So, the Colonel has been reevaluating the project list for his vast holdings here at the shallow northern end of deep southern nowhere.

As much as he hates it, breaking ground on the cabin down on the shores of Lake Brenda -- to which the Colonel planned to escape when things got too hot (or too cold) up at the Big House -- will have to be pushed to calendar year 2017.  The Colonel's Knotty Room -- completed last year -- will have to suffice for solitude-seeking in the interim.

The Bridge over Caleb's Creek -- completed in 2010 -- requires considerable preventive maintenance, without which the Colonel's vehicular access to the western third of his vast holdings here at the shallow northern end of deep southern nowhere is in jeopardy.  As it is, the Colonel is practicing the so-far proven effective "high speed transit" across the bridge.  The comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda needs to inspect the underpinnings of said bridge and effect repairs as needed ASAP or her man and his rusty red pick-up may end up in a pile of timbers at the bottom of the ten-foot chasm spanned by the bridge.

In the interim, the Colonel has painted a crude Confederate flag on the cab of the truck and is practicing his best Beau Duke "yeehaw!"

Although ground-breaking for the Colonel's Cabin has been delayed, cutting the timber and milling the lumber for it must still be accomplished this year.  The Colonel, ever the loving husband, purchased a lighter weight chainsaw for his lady on her last birthday. 

So, even if her back is not at 100%...

But, listen, the Colonel is not the heel you may think.  He really does have the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda's best interests at heart.  Therefore, he has decided that the one and half acre garden will be significantly smaller this year.  

The Colonel is thinking that shaving the planting by approximately a quarter of an acre should account for his Lady's reduced weeding and harvesting capability this season.  The comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda has been notified, however, that the 2017 planting season quota must be increased significantly in order to maintain the long-term average yield increase required by the Colonel.


Everyone knows that if you aren't steadily increasing output in quantity and quality, you're falling behind the competition.

The same goes for great nations.  Expand or whither to inconsequence. 



Friday, January 08, 2016

Open Letter to Congress on Women in the Infantry

Senators and Congressmen,

I was commissioned in the Marine Corps through the NROTC program at the University of Mississippi in 1978 and served for over 25 years as an infantry officer.  I also commanded significant portions of the Marine Corps' recruiting effort on two different occasions.

The Obama administration is once again bypassing the Congress and enacting its social agenda, this time with regard to the Armed Forces of the United States.  The decision to open infantry (and other front-line combat units) to women will ultimately lead to the lowering of the physical standards and high levels of training that have made the US Army and Marines the world's measure of combat effectiveness.  It is inevitable that as women fail to meet the current high physical standards (particularly for service in infantry formations in the Marine Corps) those standards will be lowered to grant women admission.

I know you know this.

What you may not grasp are the implications for recruiting.  This action is being sold in part as a way to, paraphrasing the Secretary of the Navy's own words, "make the other half (women) of American society available to fill the ranks."  It will not.

During my tours on recruiting -- both during time of war -- the critical node was the recruit's mother.  Annual Youth Attitude Tracking surveys always found that American mothers are the single most influential person in a recruit's decision-making.  Those same surveys show that mothers are also the least likely of all of the influencers to recommend volunteering for military service.  And, a mother's influence wanes little even after a potential recruit reaches the age of majority. Convincing "Mother" that her daughter could join the Marine Corps without fear of assignment to a frontline combat organization was, and remains, a challenge of the highest magnitude.

As you well know, although today's military is touted as an "All Volunteer Force," it is in fact an "all recruited force." The vast majority of young men and women who enlist in the US military do so only after contacted by a recruiter and sold on the benefits of service. What you may not know is that a significant percentage of male recruits are assigned to duty as infantry against their wishes -- it is not one of their top three choices.  Opening infantry to women will inevitably mean that women who meet the minimum physical standards will be forced into infantry units.  Instead of opening up the female half of the population to recruiting, this will have the opposite effect.  Mothers will not be willing to allow their daughters to join if there is a chance they will be forced into the infantry.

It is time for Congress to act.  The Secretary of the Navy has given the Marine Corps less than 6 months to implement full integration of women in recruit training and assignment to infantry units.  You must prevent this.  

I'm counting on you. 

Very Respectfully,
Thomas E. Gregory
Colonel, USMC (Ret)

Thursday, January 07, 2016

The Beginning of the End

The recent liberal agenda-driven political decision to open American Army and Marine Corps infantry units to women, and the consequent decision by the Obama Administration to force the Marine Corps to fully gender integrate its recruit training (effective practically immediately) make perfect sense to anyone who has never served in an infantry unit in combat or in serious preparation for combat. 

Liberals hate the Marine Corps.  They view Marines as extremists.

They are correct in that assessment.

But the fact is: real Americans want an extreme Marine Corps. 

America wants the Marine Corps to set the bar; to send a loud and clear message to the Republic's enemies; to be the force on which it can depend without one moment's worry.

The Colonel does not mean to impugn the effectiveness of the other U.S. armed services.  They are very good.  But, they ain't the Marine Corps.

Search your feelings, my Army, Navy, and Air Force friends; you know it's true.

The Marine Corps is your daddy.


Thirty-seven years ago this week, the Colonel -- then a second lieutenant -- was assigned command of an infantry platoon.  Third Platoon, Company G, 2d Battalion, 2d Marine Regiment, 2d Marine Division, to be exact.  He commanded infantry units at every level from 40-man platoon to 3500-man regiment over the next two decades.

In between stints in Marine infantry units, the Colonel commanded significant portions of the Marine Corps' recruiting effort, as well as serving on joint and combined (with other nations) staffs.

The Colonel has served and trained with best in the world, here and abroad.  He knows that there is not a nickle's worth of difference between the young man or woman who joins the Marine Corps or the other armed services in this or any other western nation.  

The difference is the training.

Are there American warfighters better than the Marines at what they do?  Certainly!  The SEAL's standards and training produce men who man for man are better fighters than Marines (although, Special Operations Marines are quickly closing the gap).

There just aren't enough SEALs to really make a difference.

There are enough Marines, and they do make a difference.

Now.  But not for much longer.

Lowering the physical standards for service in the infantry, in general, and the Marine Corps, in particular -- inevitable, in order to meet the social engineering goals of the socialist politicians currently calling the shots -- will reduce American infantry to the status of less than world class.  

World class infantry wins wars, if allowed by world class political leadership. 

When the history of this Republic is written centuries hence -- those Chinese historians will marvel at the rapidity at which America rose to pre-eminence and then just as quickly forfeited its superiority.  They will marvel at the stupidity of American leaders, and issue stern warnings to their own leaders to avoid the same mistakes.

They won't.  The Chinese leadership of the 23rd Century will think themselves infallible after their nation rules the world for a 100 years.  They will begin to tinker with what made them great.

That's the way it has always been.


Friday, January 01, 2016

Calendar Chaos

If you live long enough -- and the Colonel has -- the arrival of a new calendar year begins to lose its significance.

Seriously. Why must we celebrate the passing of a day on the calendar that is so arbitrarily granted significance?


The Colonel bets that the two dozen of you who regularly waste rod and cone time perusing posts hereon have no earthly idea why our calendar year begins on the first day of the month of January.

Allow the Colonel to edumacate you.

The calendar we in the western world today use to track our comings and goings is but the latest in evolutionary refinements to day/season-tracking that dates back to them fellers who first dreamed up the crazy societal-suicidal concept of democracy.  The Greek lunar calendar was adopted by the Romans when they decided to one-up the Greeks in the known-world domination game.

But, there was a big problem with dating things according to a lunar calendar -- the lunar cycle is shorter than the solar cycle.

Yeah, the Colonel knows... the readership just dropped to one dozen.  He congratulates those of you who are still hanging in there --  you are princes among men and women above reproach, with a thirst for knowledge and a taste for the finer things in life.

That, or you have absolutely nothing else of any redeeming value to do with your time at the moment.

Because a lunar calendar caused the most important days of the year to occur on dramatically different dates each solar year, the Romans shifted to a 365 day year, and then this feller named Julius Caesar commissioned the creation of a calendar that accounted for the fact that a solar year (as far as we Earthlings were concerned) is actually 365 and 6 hours long.  This new Julian calendar was instituted in 45 BC and was the calendar of record in the western world for the next 16 centuries. 

But..., the Julian calendar had its own accuracy problem.

See, the Earth actually takes about eleven minutes less than 365 days and 6 hours to complete one revolution 'round ol' Sol.  Because the Julian Calendar added an extra (leap) day every four years, it actually gained a day every 400 years.  As a result, the Julian Calendar's date for the Vernal Equinox had slipped from 21 March to 10 March by the time the 16th Century rolled around.
So, in 1582, this feller named Ugo Boncompagni commissioned the creation of a new and improved calendar to account for the discrepancy.

Never heard of Ugo Boncompagni?  Well, he's the man who gave us the calendar we use today.

Ugo was the name his momma gave him when he came into this world on the 7th of January in 1502.  Later on, when ol' Ugo became Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, he took the name Gregory XIII.

His Gregorian Calendar (actually the brainchild of part-time astronomers Aloysius Lilius and Christopher Clavius) accounted for the discrepancy by adjusting in what years (leap years) an additional day would be added.  Whereas the Julian Calendar had leap years every four years, in the new Gregorian Calendar years evenly divisible by 100 are not leap years...

The Colonel knows what you're thinking: "Wait a minute, we had a leap year in 2000..."

Yep, even a Bama grad knows that 2000 is evenly divisible by 100.

Just so happens that Lilius and Clavius figured this thing so well that their equation called for years evenly divisible by 400 to remain leap years.

So, if you wanna see the next usual leap year not have a leap day you're gonna have to be alive at the end of February 2100.

Good luck with that.

In the 16th Century the Roman Catholic Church was pretty much the western world's universal authority on most things large and small.  On the 24th of February 1582, Pope Gregory XlII decreed in a papal bull (not makin' that up) that the day following Thursday 4 October 1582 would not be 5 October 1582.  Nope, to account for the discrepancy inherent in the Julian Calendar, nearly two weeks would have to be leaped.  Friday 5 October 1582 would now be Friday 14 October 1582.

A few predominantly Catholic European countries adopted the new calendar as decreed.

It took another couple of centuries before the rest of the Western World all got on board.     

This wasn't a very popular papal bull.

Most folks saw it as a way to cheat them out of earned wages.

Anybody with a birthday of 5 through 13 October got no cake in 1582, or the year in which their country eventually adopted Ugo's calendar.

Some major metropolitan areas (such as they were in those days) experienced calendar riots.

It's not as paradox-ridden as the concept of time travel, but the two- century long shift to the new calendar causes serious historians a bit of consternation when trying to accurately nail down the exact date of things that occurred in the late 16th to early 18th Centuries.  The Colonel won't bore you with specifics, and he sees some LSU grads' eyes glazing over...

The Colonel does, however, notice the quizzical look on the faces of some of the more inquisitive of you.  You still want to know why our calendar year starts on the 1st of January, don't you?

Yes, you do!

Allow the Colonel to edumacate you. 

Blame it on the Romans.  By the time of Julius Caesar, the Roman New Year had shifted from the spring equinox (as used in antiquity) to the first day of Janus (January) to coincide with the date on which new Roman Consuls took office. 

The Colonel won't get into the whole BC/BCE -- AD/CE accounting here.

There ain't nobody left to read it.