Update: Women in Combat Operations

This is an update to a earlier post I made a while back Women in Combat Operations in which I expressed some of my mixed feelings, both for and against the future of women serving in combat centered missions. In any case, I am glad that actions are being taken by the Pentagon and the Marines one way or another.

This Monday Gen. James F. Amos, the Marine Corps commandant, announced that actions were going to be taken by Marine Corps command to study how women would be able to adapt to the combat environment by introducing a select number of women into the  infantry officer school at Quantico, Va., and ground combat battalions that had once been closed to women.

This new effort will, as I understand it, focus on female officers. As my post said many of the women I dealt with in military were officers. One in particular stood out for excellence among Marines, male or female. I think this is an important prospect for the military. It will be putting the women who are the most dedicated, most ambitious and hopefully the ones who will serve the greatest example to future Marines, notably the women.

Although there is great controversy over this debate, much of it in my previous article, and it will likely be a very long time before we see a completely coed military, I think this is a good move for the Marines as they wean into a future that will have to incorporate women more thoroughly.

Those Drunken Rowdy Hooligans; The United States Marines!

I wanted to share my thoughts on a viral video going around about a few Marines that had a few too many. It stars the Marines of 3/5 Lima Company Weapons Platoon. According to some helpful notes at the beginning of the video we learn that the platoon was engaging in some after hours activity after an all-too-short liberty on what must be an all-too-long deployment. What happened next was a video of Marines in the middle of the rough and rowdy. I got caught up in the discussion that engaged as a result of the video and it got me thinking.

As I mentioned before, this video is about Marines getting into drunken fights on board a ship. It is filled with vulgarities and violence. There is also some ludity, and the entire 8 minutes is basically a huge ball of NSFW. If you would like to see the video you have been warned and can find the link at the bottom of the page.

Before you watch though, I hope you check out some of the points that some less informed viewers have already tried to make, and what an actual Marine has to say.  These are some points and some counterpoints that I want to share with all my readers on the real nature of the few and the proud.

1) “So this is our tax dollars at work.”

(One should also note that the school’s tax dollars seem to be wasted as well.)

Response: No, not at all. First of all,  the military doesn’t pay a stipend to get Marines drunk and act like fools. There is no National Monetary Fund for Jackassary. They didn’t buy their alcohol from a big keg right on the deck. They did however, buy it. With their own money.

What they did they did on liberty. Liberty is a basic privilege bestowed to the military to relieve stress and let off steam. Of course it is also where Marines stop off port and engage in some other extra-curricular activities. This is not an activity that is financially sponsored by the military and it isn’t actually a part of any mission. The ship is already at port and basically, it doesn’t cost anything to let the Marines blow off steam (legal considerations not considering). You can think of it as how much it costs you to let your dog out. It costs money to feed them, train them, and send them to the hospital, but it doesn’t cost you (or the U.S. taxpayer) anything to let the dog (Devil Dog!) out to play.

Now back to the topic of “their own money.”

2) “We pay them to do a certain job, and this isn’t it.”

Response: We pay them to do their job, and we don’t have any right to tell what to do after that. Sometimes I find it a little absurd that we believe that because we pay taxes that eventually get paid out to the military that we have some say so over how they spend that money. The simple truth is that they bought the alcohol with their own money and it is no one’s business what they do with it as long as what they do is legal. Of course at that point they are really just putting themselves at risk to be investigated by the same authorities that govern us, plus military authorities.

Let’s think of it this way. My wife is a teacher. She too works for the government. Therefore, your tax dollars go to your state government, which then make their way to the schools, and eventually to her checking account. If my wife decides to go to the bar and buy a drink, do you think that you have any say over her right to do so? Let’s take it a bit further. On Sundays, we go to church. There, we give them money…taxpayer money! So you see that your tax dollars are directly being used to fund religious activities! Unacceptable! Or is it? I mean what right do any of us have on how a government employee spends his money? We do not, just because we pay taxes.

3) “Marines and the military are supposed to hold the moral high ground.”

Response: I will give you this one, but with a reality check. While I am a fan of the sleeping and violence quote we have to really consider who we are dealing with. This video shows the extremely volatile nature of one of the most extreme cultures in the world. While the Marines are a bunch of drunk and disorderly hooligans, they are exactly the sort of unsavory individuals that are required to do those things we in polite and well-refined society don’t like to do ourselves. The average age of the Marine Corps is 19, therefore, they are young and immature. They are experienced in the ways of warfare, yet inexperienced in the ways of the world. They are asked to do great and terrible things in the most inconvenient ways possible. While it is a beautiful notion to believe that every rough man is at his heart a poet and philosopher, the simple truth is that they are angry, violent, and surrounded by people who bring out these traits in eachother.

We argue that this kind of attitude and these behaviors are deplorable, yet we are also a country that has been at war for more than a decade. Many of the men you saw in that video have been in various theaters of those wars, many of them on multiple deployments.  Stress runs high in that culture and much is demanded of them, namely directed violence. I think it is a bit hypocritical of those who sleep soundly to condescend the Marines, because they weren’t violent in the way that makes everyday U.S. citizens comfortable.

4) “It’s just a Marine Corps thing.”

Response: You’re absolutely right. What most people don’t get is that this level of  roughhousing is what is expected and laughed at by older Marines. What you also don’t know is that along with the 8 minutes of video there is a story that every Marine knows is coming, and it actually does address many of the concerns that were mentioned before.

You don’t get this…

First, the Marines got out frustration that has been building for a very long time. The opening of the video discusses a lot of the general frustrations that accompany a long time at sea on a Marine vessel. Long times at sea, endless weapons maintenance, crappy bosses, close quarters, oh and also there is the fact that there are no women. This level of stress is something nine-to-fivers will never get, even if they have a really important report due on Monday. When you put the frustrations and stresses on a group of men this volatile and young under such conditions you have to expect some level of unsavory behavior. Otherwise you would see a total meltdown. You’ve got to let this stuff out.

Or This…

Second, the video does show that Marines are capable of bringing their craziness back to the barracks and not making fools of themselves in public. The fact that they managed to keep control until they got back to the ship does show one important goal of the Marines, to always show a good face. As for the video making the internet, well… I blame that on the cameraman, a semen, oops, seaman. We’ll just call him a sailor. Which brings up a good point. They actually had medical supervision. The camera man was a Navy Corpsman, a medic in the Naval side of the show. When you were getting drunk at the frat house, were you of such clear and responsible mind to make sure that before you got stupid you had proper medical supervision? Ok, that one is a stretch. But I do want to make one final point.

Without a bit of this. (Ok, these aren’t even Americans, but you know the moment they saw this they tried it out.)

We don’t know what happened the next day. The truth is this whole event probably happened between 2100 to 0000 that night (9:00 PM to Midnight). And I am pretty sure that they caught more attention than they would have liked. I am pretty sure I saw an officer towards the end of that display. That means at least one thing. They are not done hearing about this. If it were my platoon, we would be in formation until 4 in the morning while the command tried to figure out each and every detail of the night. Then the next day the punishment starts, the whole platoon. Cleaning weapons would have been easy. While this was a display of undisciplined and, in truth, embarrassing behavior, discipline will be achieved. If they are lucky they will lose all future libo, work like dogs for the next few weeks, and that will be the end. If they aren’t lucky a few will face Page-11 entries (which isn’t all that nice) and some might even lose rank. I can’t tell you  what did happen, but I know it was one of these. And now that the video has gone viral, I bet that it isn’t going to get any easier from upper level brass.

In closing, the Marines did go overboard. They did have a few too many, and they did embarrass themselves, and at least the public face of the Marine Corps. But what we in the civilian sector need to accept is that this is who they are, this is what we recruited them for. This is what we need them to be, and we can’t judge them too harshly against the standards we set for ourselves.

If you want to see the video, you can check it out here. I say again, not safe for kids or work.

What to Learn from Facebook’s Acquisition of Instagram

Facebook and Istagram

Reblogged from Bamcis Business Development:

So the key question is “Why would Facebook pay so much for Instagram?” What is the motive? What is the payoff? What will happen next?”A lot of people are saying many things about this purchase. The theory I hear floating around for the past couple of days is that Facebook got scared and decided to take out a major competitor with a cool billion. Wish I had such options. Others believe it is for the data. Still a few are tweeting that Facebook wants the photos for dastardly deeds of dubiousness.

“Delete ur instagram!! The Feds own it now!!” “I had a higher opinion of you Instagram.” “Soon as I delete my Facebook they decide to buy instagram #FML.” (actual tweets)

Some of these are theories are sensible, others ridiculous. There is one thing, however, that people who think in terms of pure competition, or downright paranoia, usually forget.

Facebook is about the code.

Let’s clarify. Yes, by making this acquisition Facebook did secure a hugely popular social media app. Yes, they did “defeat” someone who was playing the same game of sharing photos online. I admit and agree with that. I just don’t think that the reason for it was because Facebook was scared of anything.

Beluga Icon

Beluga’s old Icon.

Let’s look back at another recent acquisition by Facebook to see if we can see what their motives may be. My first witness … Beluga. Beluga was an app that was used as a social messaging application that allowed a person/group the ability to create a group out of their contacts and start a text-based conversation with the entire group. This application was absolutely fantastic for small work groups (called Pods), especially ones that didn’t mind bothering each other all day. I remember using it with my team and it was like it solved all my problems. When something important happened a simple text was sent and the whole team was aware of the change/question/update/major catastrophe. Instantly, no matter where we were or what we were doing, the team had the communication we needed. Until one day when the team got a text: “Facebook has recently bought out Beluga, and our service will be shutting down.” ( A single tear could probably be seen rolling down my cheek at that time.)

Facebook Messenger's Icon

The new Facebook Messenger, powered and augmented much by the acquired capabilities of Beluga.

But what was interesting was watching what happened next at Facebook. Over the next few weeks you started to see Beluga like actions occurring all over Facebook. Facebook Messenger was launched. This allowed you to hold a messenger conversation on your computer, and also for the conversation to be sent to your phone via text. Ever notice now that if you comment on anyone else’s post or picture that you are now also updated every time someone else comments on it as well? These features and several others are the direct result of Facebook’s acquisition of Beluga, and not just Beluga’s talent, but their technology as well. Beluga marked the first acquisition of a start-up by the web giant where they didn’t just buy the talent, but also the tech that makes it work and it seems that this is what they plan also to do with Instagram.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, pictured in 2011.

I truly believe that Zuckerberg has something in mind for the little app with a big pricetag. We know that soon you will start seeing web savants start filtering every photo in their albums, but what else is going to happen? I’d like to remind you that all Beluga was intended to do by the original creator was to create a social based texting app. In the hands of Facebook it became much, much more, technologically speaking. It’s capabilities were augmented and filtered and refined and applied to numerous things that Facebook was already doing. That is what I think the Instagram purchase will produce in the next few months. As for Instagram users, well, bad news. While Facebook has recently said that it intends to keep the application alive for the time being, they also said this when they first acquired Beluga as well. In time they implemented the technolgy where they wanted it and shut down the simple service. Now people who loved Beluga are torn. They either had to migrated to Facebook and accepted some of the drawbacks and some of the new benefits, or they had to seek out other apps. In many ways the Facebook Messenger is too much and not enough. They took the old capabilities and broke them up and spread them out throughout the entirety of Facebook, but made it more difficult to do the one thing that Beluga specialized in, having a conversation with small groups without all the rest of Facebook. ( If you are looking for an app that does this I suggest Groupme, in a lot of ways it is even better than Beluga used to be.) Facebook has said that it will continue to operate the app independently. Don’t expect that to last long. Perhaps the fact that now more than 40 million people are on Instagram and that they are making such a potent disagreement with being forced into the Facebook super community will prolong its independent lifespan. Good luck to those users though.

What is coming out of a Facebook with Instagram capabilities?

As for the rest of Facebook’s users, they will get that huge boon to their photo sharing capabilities. But besides the filters and super easy uploading process, I wonder what else the Zuckerman clan will discover (or have been waiting on for some time) in the code of Instagram. What are they going to do with all that lovely code?

Let’s think real business here. I don’t think that Zuckerburg did this just to take out a competitor. I don’t think that it is even just about the new tricks that we will get to do in Facebook. Goofy as he is at times the kid is good at business. I truly believe that if he bought if for $1Billion he believes there is at least $10 Billion more in potential capabilities coming to his Facebook, not a bad thing for massively valuated company gearing for it’s first IPO

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What You Should Know About The Hunger Games

This is for everyone out  there who is thinking about the movie, but haven’t seen it or hasn’t read the book. More precisely, for those of you are thinking about letting your kids go. Before you get any further I am not about to tell you it is evil and wrong and shouldn’t be watched by anyone. In fact, I think the movie is pretty good and the books are even better.

What I will tell you is that if you are young person, this is one of those films that can change your view of the world. Even though it is a fictional story set in a distant future, it touches on some very deep, important, and disturbing ideas. These are ideas that at one point or another every child needs to consider and ponder before they can truly be ready for adulthood. But the ideas of this movie are very, very intense and can deliver to children who aren’t ready, a jaw dropping earth shaking set of ideas that could really bother them for some time.

So what are the basic themes of The Hunger Games? If you are going or letting your kids go you should know. Plus it would also be good to be able to hold some sort of an intelligent conversation about the thing everyone will be talking about for the next three months. Well here is one…

The central theme and the idea that literally drives 100% of the plot is about a world where children are violently murdering each other. Whether you are looking at it from the point of a girl’s struggle to protect her family, to how will these two young people will overcome impossible odds (really… only one is allowed to live) to the world they live in to the giant dude who has quite literally been waiting his whole life to kill the cute little kids. This entire plot is centered around a gladitorial match pitting young people against each other to the death, and not “Ha! I sunk your battleship! Now you’re dead!” No. More like arrow to heart, sword to the neck dead. And don’t kid yourself, these scenes are graphic enough that you get the point. There are scenes where children are slicing each other up, breaking each other’s necks and throwing spears at one another’s chests. It isn’t an “idea” of killing. It is some deep heavy stuff. Did I mention it’s kids doing the killing? Cause that’s important. It’s freaky.

I think I made my point on that. If it bothers you that Joker kind of killed people in a funny ways in Batman, than this is not something that you should let kids into. But here is something that you should consider: What value this does offer society is that it can help children understand some very important ideas, provided they have strong adults to guide them through it. The first is the concept of evil. Most children have a view of evil is that bad guy in the mask or the terrorist or someone so very dissimilar from them that they are instantly recognizable. Children automatically know that the slimy monster with two heads is evil. They know that Darth Vader as evil. They automatically know a Jihadist with an AK-47 is evil. What they don’t yet know is that evil is something that anyone is capable of doing. They don’t understand that even we, that is you and I and the children reading the books, are all capable of great and terrible deeds when put in difficult places.

Another story that captures this mentality and shares this theme is The Lottery by Shirley Jackson. The Lottery’s themes so closely match the story that one has to wonder if was an inspiration for The Hunger Games. The Lottery involves a town meeting where an annual lottery takes place. The people all scurry and talk and gripe about lottery and how annoying it is and how recent it was since the last one. They discuss how long it’s been going on and how other towns aren’t even doing one. They argue about tradition and meaning without the reader knowing what really is going on in the lottery. One woman is staunch supporter of the lottery and its meaning. In the end the men of the town draw for each of their family members and they then have a big unavailing. The woman from before, the one who was one of the advocates for the lottery, is the one chosen. She is unwilling and cries out about how now it isn’t fair. The townspeople then tell her to take her fair share like everyone else before… and then the townspeople, children first, stone her to death.

Both these stories touch on the idea that with no rational reason, every day people, our neighbors, friends and relatives are capable of unspeakable evil. This may sound far fetched, but it isn’t far from the truth. I was a Marine who served in Iraq. I have seen what can happen when people lose their rationality. When we see other humans as less than human and as evil, without truly understanding what has brought us to this point. History has also shown us this. What I am talking about is the numerous acts of world decimation that happen when good people unspeakable evil, because they lose their rationality. To see what I am talking about follow these links, but remember this, they are real, and did happen. Auschwitz, Rwandan Genocide, The Great Leap Forward. There are many, many more, but these three help serve my point best. They each are events that can still be remembered by many of good people doing what to them seemed right at the time, but which history will never ever forgive them for. Most still look back without ever thinking they actually did anything wrong. I note the fact that the commandant of Auschwitz, when interviewed, was quoted as seeming proud and unapologetic, because to him he had done a fine a job and had help Germany produce what was one of the most advanced industrial manufacturing super complexes in the world. This is what happens when people lose their rationality.

But you might know that something like a kids book can get that deep. Or that one should take it that far. But I did. And I think you should too. I think that it is important to use books like The Hunger Games and stories like The Lottery to introduce the real concept of evil. Not the kind of evil like the bad guy that the good guy throws into jail and starts again in the next episode, but the kind of evil of a starving person, or of someone who is truly scared, or the kind of evil of someone who follows a very influencial leader without ever questioning what is really going on. It speaks out that within our nature we are all good people, but we are capable of doing such very very hurtful, dangerous and deadly things if we think our life, or our way of life or even our convenience is put at stake.

So what do you do with all of this heaviness? I think it is important to ask yourself, or your kids, what they thought about it. Did it bother them (you should be worried if it didn’t) and what bothered them. Why? You should tell them about how people can be. That the story is real in many more ways than it is fictitious. And perhaps you should take the opportunity to teach them many of the ugly things that happened before they were born. It is my belief that you have to at some point wake kids up to the reality of the world in that sense. They have to learn and they have to think about, because someday these kids will be leaders and if they don’t understand what can happen, it will happen again. If you don’t teach kids about things like Auschwitz then future historians will be talking about some event in the future where thousands died in Ardmore, Oklahoma, or the millions who lost their lives in Bedford, Indiana, or of the holocaust at Auburn, Alabama.

So my point is, use the movie. In all honesty, it is pretty good. The actors do a good job, in my opinion of conveying some real emotion, namely terror. The filming was great and in all honesty, some of the most gore filled scenes were done in such delicate ways to not send the whole audience into shock. So visually it won’t freak you out as much as when the kids leave the theater. But all and all it is a good movie. Watch it with your kids. Think about these concepts and decide an age when you think it is appropriate for your kids to start tackling these difficult subjects. For instance, my wife works at a local elementary school. She told me that there about one in four kids is reading the book.  I feel that this is too young and that the books were meant for a much older audience, seventh and eighth graders perhaps. You might decide that your kids are ready.

The one thing I hope you take away from this article is this: This is not an ordinary movie. It is not an ordinary book and you need to understand it before your kids see stuff they can’t forget.

-Jon