USMC: From the Halls of Montezuma to the Mores of the PC

I was in the car earlier today shouting back at a local newsreader delivering yet more bad news from my radio, when a military recruiting spot interrupted my deranged soliloquy. The ad was rather uninspiring—learn life skills, be a part of a team, blah, blah, blah—so naturally I assumed it was just another ho-hum plea for warm bodies by Army, Inc. But I about blew a jarhead gasket when I heard the pitchman wrap with “We’re the Marines and we’re looking for a few more to join us.”

A few more to join us? Sounds like an invitation to a party. Which is actually timely given today’s breaking news that the Corps will allow “Marines” to sashay in their Dress Blues in San Diego’s deviant gay pride parade this weekend.

Today there are many—too many—brave Marine warriors in harm’s way. I have no doubt that the young men we’ve sent to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan are as brave and tough as their forefathers at Khe Sanh, the Frozen Chosin, Inchon, Iwo Jima, Tarawa, Belleau Wood, the halls of Montezuma and the shores of Tripoli. But they are so because they answered the recruiting call of an uncompromising Corps committed to making better men of them—a Corps that epitomizes manliness and the warrior ethos. There is a very distinct reason why the Corps has always attracted the best raw recruits and turned them into the best warriors. And it isn’t because of a commitment to fad, social experimentation or political correctness. The Corps has historically promised nothing more than grueling training and the opportunity to be the “first to fight” in the bloodiest wars—which, in turn, produce an esprit de corps without equal among fighting men.

It has long been claimed—mostly by Marines—that Army Gen. John J. “Black Jack” Pershing, who led the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I—famously inquired, “Why in hell can’t the Army do it if the Marines can? They are the same kind of men. Why can’t they be like Marines?” The answer is that the Marines have never looked “for a few more to join us.” They’ve always just needed “a few good men.”

That Wacky WAC

Kicking off National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, acting Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Jessica L. Wright said that she wacposterstarjoined the Women’s Army Corps in 1975 back when having a drink at the post club was the norm. “But in our military now…we don’t condone drinking…We don’t have those social things like we used to, because it’s just not who we are.”

I went into a public ‘ouse to get a pint o’ beer,
The publican ‘e up an’ sez, “We serve no red-coats here.”
The girls be’ind the bar they laughed an’ giggled fit to die,
I outs into the street again an’ to myself sez I:
O it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, go away,”
But it’s “Thank you, Mister Atkins,” when the band begins to play
The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
O it’s “Thank you, Mister Atkins,” when the band begins to play.*

So, lemme get this straight, Jessie—er, I mean your Honorableness. We condone the deployment of young Americans to countries that pose no threat to the U.S. in order to kill “enemy combatants” in said countries. And we condone young Americans getting killed and maimed in said countries because their slaughter somehow ensures our freedom. And, while we’re at it, we condone massive “collateral damage”—that is, the killing of civilians (last conservative count is around 150,000 in the wars in Iraq and Carrie_Nation_1910Afghanistan), not to mention the maiming, orphaning, etc. But, we absolutely do not condone drinking among our warriors? Or “social things” like Enlisted, NCO and Officer Clubs? Who is this DoD Carrie Nation and for whom does she claim “we?” Certainly not the troops she once supervised. Is this what diversity and affirmative action have wrought? A military so politically correct that young men can’t be encouraged to unwind with a beer in their own clubs because hops turn boys into rapists?

We aren’t no thin red ‘eroes, nor we aren’t no blackguards too,
But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;
An’ if sometimes our conduck isn’t all your fancy paints,
Why, single men in barricks don’t grow into plaster saints;
While it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ Tommy, fall be’ind,
But it’s “Please to walk in front, sir,” when there’s trouble in the wind
There’s trouble in the wind, my boys, there’s trouble in the wind,
O it’s “Please to walk in front, sir,” when there’s trouble in the wind.

Many moons ago when yours truly was making his way through the nearly year-long crucible that is Marine Corps training for infantry officers, the O’ Club was a welcome refuge within hobbling distance of the barracks after a tough week in the field—and, yes, within stumbling distance on the way home. While at the club, my fellow lieutenants and I not only relaxed, but bonded over the successes, failures and comedies of the week past. If we were lucky, a senior officer would join and regale us with personal combat stories, which would always prove to be as valuable as any lessons learned in the classroom. Later in my brief career the O’Club and its enlisted and NCO counterparts would provide even more critical relief in the various crap-holes around the world to which my Marines and I were deployed. Sometimes the clubs were nothing more than GP tents in the middle of the desert or the jungle.

Post clubs, however, are not the only vessel in which soldiers, testosterone and alcohol are mixed into a fine warrior grog. The Marine Corps, for instance, has a proud tradition of Mess Nights, Dinings-In and Marine Corps Birthday Balls. Speaking of the USMC birthday, let’s not forget that the Corps itself was founded in a watering hole. On November 10, 1775, the Continental Congress commissioned Capt. Samuel Nicholas to1775-Tun-Tavern raise two Battalions of Marines. So, what did the good skipper do? He set up his recruiting office in Tun Tavern, a brew house in Philadelphia. Where else?!!

Regardless of the venue, soldiers have been blowing off steam, reveling, carousing, contemplating, congratulating and commiserating over booze for millennia. Rather than a deviancy to be quashed, this type of social behavior is integral to military cohesion and is still very much a part of “who we are.” But, Ms. Wright says no drinking for young warriors enjoying some down time before they’re asked again to kill or be killed. Instead, we provide them new “social things” like sexual assault prevention and response training, LGBT sensitivity awareness, Gay Pride celebrations and various other programs provided by today’s don’t ask, do tell military. All of which are no doubt critical to the WAC-in-chief’s mission, which her bio claims is “overseeing the overall state of military readiness.” Ready for what? The next drag queen sock hop?

So, I guess in today’s military we expect that the intense camaraderie necessary for combat can be forged among young warriors over coffee in a fluorescent–lit conference room at 9PM on a Friday night following a lecture on sexual harassment after a grueling week of physical challenges, mental endurance and sleep-deprivation? But to me that sounds like it would pretty much drive a young man to exactly the type of behavior Ms. Wright is trying to prevent.

Meanwhile, in the real world, two more women Marines have flunked infantry officer training. But I’m sure the undersecretary is working on a plan to address the USMC’s archaic, patriarchal, intolerant physical standards for combat training.

*Tommy, Rudyard Kipling, c. 1890