Isolation from the Outside

Phase 1 – Transitioning From the Habits of a Civilian

Once Black Friday is behind them, the first month of Marine Corps boot camp is designed to acclimate recruits to the pace of training and becoming integrated in the military. The intended purpose of the first phase, as it is called, and all of boot camp really, is to transition young men into them to ways of a warrior culture free of the habits of civilian life. That isn’t saying that civilians are weak by nature, but there are certain qualities which are valued and respected in the civilian world that don’t mesh with the realities required of the military environment. In the military world, these are weaknesses. The remedy for this can be drastic, by normal standards.

Most people entering boot camp ask what the hardest part is to prepare for. In their minds, they assume the hardest part is running, or hiking, push-ups, or just being yelled at by Drill Instructors. The truth is that the most stressful and impactful change that will occur is the mental conditioning recruits endure. It won’t be easy to transition though. That kind of reconditioning is something that people don’t usually do perfectly with any amount of being ready for it.

During this first phase of recruit training, for the Marines anyway, communication lines are completely severed from friends and family over the three months throughout boot camp. There is no internet, no phone, no distractions. The only thing recruits get in the way of communication from loved ones are hand written letters once a week during the only “me time” they ever receive, during the first four hours on Sunday morning. Does it seem cruel and unnecessary? Well, I had just been married one week before I set foot on the yellow footprints, so I think I am best to answer.

There are no distractions. That must be membered. There can be no distractions.

One has to remember the psychological nature of good boot camp training. We aren’t separated for the join of our brass laden overlords. There is always a reason for it. The training can’t be interrupted by distractions from the outside world. In an age where people live entire lives connected online and engrossed in the lives of others, distractions whither any efforts for many people to achieve anything beyond themselves.

The Marine Corps is different. It seeks to isolate recruits from that, a sort of cold turkey weaning off of the distractions for the time where they have to adapt to military life. The isolation quiets their minds for a time and gives them focus. It helps engross new recruits into a new mentality, but for a few months it completely shuts them out from their friends, families, and the outside world. For a few months, the Marine Corps is your entire world. Recruits turn their focus instead to military routines. Drill instructors will set the pace, literally, by counting down every basic task “by the numbers” and recruits won’t even be able to refer to yourself by name. Marine Recruits refer to themselves in the third person. You will say, “This recruit” to refer to yourself rather than “I”, “These recruits” rather than “we” or “us”. This is done for the same reason that all recruits wear the same haircut and why the Marines don’t use unit patches or anything that distinguishes them from any other Marine besides name tapes. This plays into the erosion of individuality I’ve written about before. It is an engineered behavior with the intended purpose to build unit cohesion by repressing the civilian mentalities of individualism, egocentricity, and what might be unnerving to some, self-preservation. Such forms of psychological reconditioning are considered necessary to produce strong warriors capable of functioning as a team in the deadliest and most terrifying situations possible.

To elaborate on this point, let me give a personal testimony:

One thing that happens for everyone is that immediately upon arriving at boot camp you get to call home. It isn’t a real call. You have a short script where you basically say that you’re there and you’re alive. That is all. A few weeks in, though, our Senior Drill Instructor found out that we didn’t get ours. No one in the entire company did, for some reason. Someone in admin probably screwed something up. About a month in he made sure that we got ours. As a platoon we got to go down to the phone center and speak with our families.

I’ll never forget the day. It was July 7th, which just happened to be my 19th birthday. I called my wife’s phone. After a month of boot camp it was refreshing to hear her voice again. I told her that I would have to leave soon. The phone line would just cut off and that would be it, so we had to make the most of the few minutes we had. I think I got about ten minutes to speak. It was really a blessing. I have no idea what we talked about, but I remember the peaceful calm of hearing her voice. Jennie was like rain after walking in the desert.

As I knew it would, our time ran out. The line went dead. I was prepared for it, but still for a moment your heart breaks again just like it did the day you left. Regardless, I was happy. It isn’t often that a platoon gets to just have ten minutes to speak back home. There were a few tears that rolled down my face as I returned to the platoon. I know a few of the other recruits noticed. I was the only married recruit in the platoon, at that time almost all of us were just fresh high school graduates. I think they all knew how hard it was for me. No one ever said a thing to me about the tears, though. I was happy. It was my best birthday present ever.

It was a great present because of how very distant Jennie seemed to me at that time. As much as it hurt at times, I think it may have been the best thing for a while. I had a month with absolutely no communication with her, thirty-three days to be exact. The next two would see even less. She was on my mind often, but not as a constant. She was far enough away, and I was busy enough that I was focused on what was in front of me. I had to listen to the Drill Instructor’s guidance, focus on my rifle sights, on the marching, studying first aid, or on my weapon’s maintenance. I honestly don’t know if I could have fully been gained the full breadth of what I had to learn if I went back to her every night and had to show up to formation in the mornings. I don’t even know if I would have been able to do it if I got to call home whenever I wanted, knowing all the gossip of a town and people that were barely relevant to me anymore. After boot camp, I could call and say “Hi,” through all of my job training school, but not at boot.

Granted, it does seem cruel to keep people away from their families when technology has made it so easy to put them within arm’s reach. The truth, however, is that it doesn’t make for good warriors. We don’t get to have our families when we go on deployment or to some war, so it is probably good to get used to that. Same for the families. There is a very hard reality, that part of boot camp is intense because recruits must deal with the isolation from the civilian world they knew. In its place they have to adapt to a new group of people that aren’t their family, but which will be surrounding them every minute, of every day, through the hardest tribulations and crucibles, as well as the victories and triumphs. Though the recruits may be isolated, they will never be alone. They will learn to act and think as a unit, one of their first real lessons in the arts of warfare.121226-M-VH750-061

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We Swear You’re Not Being Brainwashed – Welcome to Marine Corps Receiving

On this section of the series explaining the rationale behind why boot camp is so intensive we will be talking about Receiving and the first few days of boot and why they are so crucial to the training that will follow. Receiving is a period before training begins. You arrive at boot camp, but for the first few days or so, you don’t actually train. Officially, boot camp hasn’t actually started. Functionally, receiving phase is necessary for little more than getting your paperwork taken care of. You just do paperwork getting into the federal documentation system. You will receive all your gear and start your initial process into “getting ready” for bootcamp. Of course, it’s the way you do all of this that is important. The fact that boot camp hasn’t actually started shouldn’t imply that recruits are relaxed, just waiting around, or playing Madden on the couch by any means. The entire time recruits are still hounded, hassled, yelled at, screamed at, hurried, stressed out, and berated for at least part of every inch of every step they take by inexplicably angry men standing around every corner. There’s more, though.

Later in that first night, a recruit will go through the numerous immediate rites of passage that are part of the boot camp, and more broadly, the Marine Corps and military experience all together. That first night provides recruits with the rather impactful physical transformation and uniformity that will be necessary later on to build unit integrity. The first of which, is when they get the haircuts.

Why is the haircut so important? To be completely honest, it is part of the erosion of individuality. What? Yes, the erosion of individuality. Sure, the official response is that the military haircut is to ensure that military member’s gas masks secure properly (which is true), but in the indoctrination phase, it is necessary for that other psychological reason, repression of individuality and the building of unit cohesion.

Why should a warrior lose his individuality? Individuality is what makes him special and unique, right? It is what makes him valuable, right? It’s what the modern American culture is based on! While this is true, in theory, it can also be a problem if you are trying to make an individual into a team oriented warrior.

Individuality makes recruits feel special and unique. It makes them feel different and as if they might be above someone or something else, say, like being dragged through mud or forced to march fifty miles in the span of three days with no food or rest. They are better than the orders they might receive. Individuality makes people feel that, in some indescribable way, they are better than other members of the platoon. They are too good for the treatment that is part of the boot camp experience and transformation. You wash that away with uniformly matching haircuts and attire, and that sense of individuality erodes away. From day one, everyone is the same. In fact, during my time, being called “an individual” was an insult as it meant that you were a person who couldn’t put the needs of the others before your own. Yes, individuality is repressed as they will spend the next three months dressed the same, act the same, and look the same. It’s an important part of the transition. Eventually, individuality is encouraged again, later on after boot camp, such as the School of Infantry or their Military Occupational Speciality Training. As NCO’s it will be a major part of their Corporal’s Courses and Sergeant’s Courses, with senior members eventually moving on staff colleges, where the importance of individual leadership is central to their training. The military doesn’t want robots, but for those first few months, and beginning in receiving, it’s important to put the unit first in the mind of recruits. The best way to do that is make them all look as close to identical as is possible.

Now we move on to something else very important and why I say that it is “psychological” retraining. You go through the next few days running from place to place, doing this, that, this, that and you won’t even realize… you haven’t really slept in three days. Yeah, you will go through about three days without sleep upon arrival. The whole time you are completely exhausted while running on adrenaline or fear, and hearing over and over, that you are inferior. That is, inferior to real Marines, which you aren’t yet. You haven’t earned the title, after all. You aren’t thinking about it, but those little jabs at your personal self-image are sinking in. You are completely tired and these things build up. Without realizing it, you start to believe that these things which are being told to you are true, that there is a weakness in you and that you are less than the perfect person you could be. In your current state, eventually, your mental defenses will be weakened to the point you embrace them and that you must change to live up to the obligation you have taken up.

I want to say something that should be important to you as the reader:  The whole idea of getting people tired enough to accept subtle, but constant attacks on their psyche reads very much like brainwashing. Actually the clinical term would be classical and operant conditioning, but don’t worry about the fancy psychology jargon. The idea of it, brainwashing, conditioning, repression of individuality, mind games, or whatever you want to call it, scares a lot of people. They think about  military, and especially the Marines, using all these tricks to kill the humans inside and turn our children into some sort of mindless killbots. That isn’t true, I’ll be doing a piece later on why boot camp training isn’t brainwashing, but for now, I will agree that the techniques are severe. They’re much more severe than the stress from test day at a university and much more so than day-to-day stress at a job. We have to remember the fundamental mission of boot camp.

You have to train 18 year olds to run to the sound of gunfire and perform under fire and the threat of death.

When you are constantly being told that you aren’t good enough to be in the Marines, and constantly being reminded that you aren’t ready war… it is true. No eighteen year old kid fresh out of high school is. There are many habits that kids and civilians have that need to be unlearned for success in a life where matters of life and death are literal. Like we said, they have to run into battle, and that sense of self-preservation is damaging to the mission, the other members of their team, and in a way that doesn’t lend itself very easily to reason, themselves. When any individual isn’t fully involved in the mission at hand, they create an environment that decreases the chance of any of them getting back home. College will never provide a normal person with that dilemma and why “mind games” aren’t necessary for the creation of a normal office going, suite and tie wearing individual.

At this point we are still less than one week into bootcamp. Once they’ve accepted, whether cognitively or not, that they aren’t ready to be in war… that’s when they are ready to begin training. The recruits are about to experience Training Day 1, known as Black Friday. After Receiving and over the next three months, the recruits will face exercising in endurance, training in the arts of war, and learn to act and think as a unit. These are some of the more important things that are trained, but they can only happen once a recruit fully embraces the fact that they aren’t yet a warrior.

Continue on to Black Friday.

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What the Star Spangled Banner Means to an American

I’ll answer your question with another. Why isn’t America the Beautiful our National Anthem, or America (My Country Tis of Thee)?

It’s a good question. America the Beautiful has all the hallmarks of a good national Anthem. It speaks with joy of a bountiful land, rich in beauty and touched by the grace of God. It speaks of happy people and gleaming cities.  The song also cries out to the vast diversity of wealth, the vastness and the grandeur of the American landscape from sea to shining to sea. That makes for a really good anthem, and for most countries, that would be the national song.

America the Beautiful is, pointedly, a beautiful song which speaks on much of why America is a wonderful place to live and why so many have found happiness in it. It doesn’t, however, capture the American identity. The Star Spangled Banner, does.

If you travel to any other part of the world, you will find people proud of their land, proud of their history, and proud of who they are. The same is true for Americans, but what is different about Americans, is that they are not defined by that land. Most countries of the world define who they are by the land beneath their feet. America isn’t a commonality of ethnicities. It isn’t a fortune born from geographic chance. Being American is a set of ideals and has little to do with the beauty and bounty of our land.

Consider this, what does it take to be an American? It’s a lot easier than becoming a German, an Englishman, or Chinese. No matter where you came from, if you move to those lands, you will never be one of them. They may grant you citizenship, and that may even be easier than for us, but they will never grant you membership into their tribe. The word “nation”, by the way, originally meant an ethnically linked collection of tribes. Throughout most of the world, Nationalism, still means exactly this. In most nations of the world, you are who you were forever born to be. If you move from India to Cairo, you may be given rights as a citizen of Egypt, but no one will ever say that you now and forever more a real Egyptian. If you move to Japan, you will never be Japanese. If you move to Brazil, you will never be Brazilian.

America is different. All of us came from somewhere else. The only thing we actually have in common is an ancestry with a shared sense of drive, independence, a common desire to pursue prosperity, and to live freely. At one point, each of our ancestors made the choice to make great sacrifice and come to a distant country, work hard, and make something of yourself for the betterment of you and your family. So long as you are willing to do that, so long as you are willing to join our “nation” with the goal of improving it with a hardworking spirit, and defend it with an equal sense of pride and loyalty – You are an American.

Daniel Kamakura‘s answer to this same question sums this mentality well talking about his mother when she took the Oath of Allegiance.

What mattered is what the Oath meant to them: that they were now Americans–full stop. No ifs, ands, or buts. U.S. citizens, free and clear, without caveat or reservation, and entitled to all rights, privileges, and obligations thereof.

So one might agree, at this point, that America the Beautiful isn’t the greatest choice for an American anthem, as it doesn’t really describe the American experience and what makes an American. Perhaps another, perhaps, America (My Country ‘Tis Of Thee) would have been better? This one is also a beautiful hymn, lyrically masterful, and delivers both the moral virtues Americans hold dear, as well as pay homage to the land itself. Poetically, most would agree that it is superior to the current anthem, so what is missing?

For this, only a true understanding of the Star Spangled Banner can communicate what makes it stand out from all other songs about America, and any other national anthem in the world.

The Story Behind the Star Spangled Banner

The Star Spangled Banner commemorates an event, but more importantly, it commemorates a struggle. In the poem, the flag of the United States flying over a fort on some night during the war of 1812, wasn’t just a battle standard. It was more, still, than just a flag representing a nation weak, young, and learning how it might stand against an old empire with world-wide strength. That night, as we later discovered, it was a symbol of the American Experiment. The American Experiment was this ridiculous idea that people from around the world, people wanting to seek opportunity, to seek equality, to seek freedom of faith and freedom of opinion, and finally seeking freedom from oppression, may form a nation, a collective of tribes, tribes not born of race and geography, but of ideas and ethics. The American Experiment was audacious enough to suggest that people would fight for these flimsy self-evident truths, without the slightest command from the aristocracy; their moral and intellectual betters, the feudal lords or great emperors. It was foolish enough to believe it could endure against an old world so vast and powerful, that the sun never set on its reach.

The flag mentioned in The Star Spangled Banner has little to do with a piece of cloth waving in the percussion beats of bomb blasts. It just took such an event to show us what we were. My nation is a collective of tribes, bound only in a moral commonality, baptised in a joining together of wills, and tempered in a battle that tested it’s true value, and the value of its first champions. The Star Spangled Banner represents us. This hymn tells the story of an idea that stood little chance of hope, but still remained aloft. It reminds us that we often only only will see the virtues of our American Experiment, in the lights of its us of terrible struggle. More so, than this, The Star Spangled Banner reminds us that the ideas pioneered by the American Experiment are those worth fighting for, those worth enduring for, and which we may fearfully doubt in our darkest hours, but that, in the end, are themselves unstoppable, unyielding, and impossible to overcome.

The Star Spangled Banner serves as the eternal symbol of the American Experiment with no equal. No other anthem can capture this idea by just listing the virtues of a nation or the beauty of it’s land. No other anthem could capture a spirit of a people like a victorious battle hymn of a desperate time. Most of all, no other anthem could remind Americans, and the world itself, of what is required to maintain what that spirit stands for, and the inevitable legacy that struggle has given to all of us.

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Facts and Misconceptions about what is a Wounded Warrior.

Approximately what percentage of veterans have a service level disability?

USMC Cpl. Raymond Hennagir looks to pass the ball, during a wounded warriors practice inside the Karen Wagner Sports Center at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center to prepare for the Warrior Games.  For The News & Messenger
USMC Cpl. Raymond Hennagir looks to pass the ball, during a wounded warriors practice inside the Karen Wagner Sports Center at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center to prepare for the Warrior Games. For The News & Messenger

It’s really high, but not for the obvious reasons people suspect. The reason for this isn’t because we all suffered from some car bombing, like a few of the warriors pictured above. Those numbers are actually quite low relatively speaking. The reason is more connected with day-to-day type work environment disabilities. For most, it is simply the chronic bodily maltreatment over the course several years in the military.

Take my example. I am about as average as a Marine deployed to Iraq probably gets. I am not yet thirty, but I have to see a chiropractor regularly like I was fifty. My back issues started literally weeks after my second deployment to Iraq. We traced the cause to wearing an eighty pound flak jacket, supported entirely on my shoulders, for eight hours a day, seven days a week. Turns out, in the bullet proof vest industry, you have to have a balance between ergonomics and ballistic protection. In a risk/reward scenario, I prefer back pain. That injury rated me 10% service connected disability.

Another one came from hearing damage I suffered from being a rifle and pistol coach for two years, literally standing inches from weapons going off all day. We had hearing protection, but there is only so much the 25 cent softies can do.

That is realistically what happens to most of the military injured. The jobs are just hard on the body. That isn’t to say that all people are as lucky as I was. The records are very clear in that in the wars, so far, there have been 6,845 dead, and 52,300 wounded. That being said, what doesn’t help anyone is the almost criminal misrepresentation by news agencies such as the Huffington post, making numerous posts saying that because of injuries like this, a million troops are now counted as “wounded from combat” in Iraq and Afghanistan. Huffington has taken an extremely liberal definition of the word “wounded” by misquoting this definition from the International Business times:

“All that can be said with any certainty is that as of last December more than 900,000 service men and women had been treated at Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics since returning from war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

VA Stops Releasing Data On Injured Vets As Total Reaches Grim Milestone [EXCLUSIVE]

To be clear, if I were to break my leg tomorrow for something that happened six years after leaving the military, and go to a VA hospital to see if there is anything they could do to help me, I could count in this number. However, in the Huffington Post article: 6,845 Americans Died and 900,000 Were Injured in Iraq and Afghanistan. Say ‘No’ to Obama’s War., an article with the seemingly intended purpose of arguing against intervention against the ISIS ( the Islamic terrorist nation and their murderous tirade through the Middle East) based on half truths and misinformation. The writer, H. A. Goodman, blatantly links this figure of 900,000 wounded with the Pentagon quote that more than half to two-thirds of Americans killed or wounded in combat in both Iraq and Afghanistan have been victims of IED explosions” implying that upwards of 400,000 to 600,000 people were wounded by roadside bombings. Being that the actual figure of people wounded by roadside bombs is somewhere closer to maybe 20,000, as a veteran, I’m appalled by the way Huffington Post is misrepresenting us.

The reason for this rant on the HP is because they are doing a severe disservice to actual veterans by misrepresenting what is going on with us through their politically agenda layden postings. In other articles, they’ve expounded on this figure, stating that everything from a single episode of dizziness to actually being shot counts as being “wounded in action”. Meanwhile, public perception of ailments such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) has turned into something that makes people so aware of the problem, that instead of understanding the diseases and the realistic numbers behind them, people just assume we are all broken from the neck up. Also, being that somewhere around only two million deployments of individuals occurred in either Iraq or Afghanistan, this 1 million wounded number that keeps being brought up gives the illusion that fully half of all veterans nearly died or are seriously messed up from going to Iraq or Afghanistan. Since these veterans, in reality, faced less than a 1% chance of ever being injured in the war, it doesn’t help me if I go in for a job and have to face the silent prejudice of “probably has PTSD” because of poor reporting like this. This is the disservice that selective, agenda based reporting like this is doing.

Shame on you Huffington Post. Be better.


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Memorial Day is Too Depressing. Efforts Now Underway to Make it Fun Again.

To combat a recent downturn to consumer spending and overall citizen satisfaction surrounding the late May holiday season, the National Bureau of Consumer Mobilization has been working round the clock to figure out how to get folks back at the malls this Memorial Day and back on the lakes with overpriced boat rentals celebrating again as usual.

We met up with one such potential shopper, a teenager, avoiding the mall and instead, on her way to visit a local cemetery.

“Well, it’s important, you know? I mean, I used to go hang out and party and all, but then I read this thing that Memorial Day is actually about remembering soldiers who died and stuff and I just didn’t feel like partying anymore. Now, my friends and I go with those old guys from the Legion to put flags out and they tell stories to us and stuff.”

“It’s a major problem.” Says one local mother.

“I didn’t raise my kids to spend their whole lives thinking about things that make people sad and that I nobody really understands anyway. I mean, I know service people do stuff that is important and all, and that we should thank them for it, I guess, but they already get Veteran’s Day right? Isn’t it a bit selfish that we should give them a second day too?

Look, the wars are all over right? I mean we defeated the terrorists didn’t we? So it doesn’t really matter anymore anyway. I just want my kids to be happy and not worry about sad things that don’t matter anymore. Isn’t that what every mother wants, for her kids to be happy?

Online activists are also going on the offensive, fighting back against the attack on their favorite Summer day off from work. They’ve taken to social media to showcase their disdain towards the desecration of what they say the spirit of the holiday is all about.

“I personally don’t support war. I’m a pacifist. I think people who like war are just stupid. Don’t they know that war kills people and stuff? That’s why I think we should just stop glorifying soldiers and war with their own holidays. That’s why I want to see Memorial Day go back to what it was, about peace and happiness with friends. That’s something we should remember, right? I mean, aren’t I right?

Besides that, what exactly are all those kids doing with all those old men and war vets at cemeteries? Don’t they all have PTSD and stuff? Is that even safe? Doesn’t that sound creepy to you? It sounds like some weird death cult. Do we want our kids to be allowed to join a militant death cult? I mean, how much of this are we going to allow?

Relatedly, the sudden onset of awareness has had a drastic downturn in consumer participation in recent years. This is mostly thought to be due to bloggers and individuals sharing stories about their thoughts over social media, careless to the ramifications. In response to this devastating turn of events one local department store chain manager offered this response..

You know the annual Memorial Day Madness sale used to be one of our biggest days, next to Thanksgiving, I mean, Black Friday. This year, though, we’ve spent loads on marketing and even tried to hired some real soldiers to serve as models and to hold signs to get people to come shop with us. We’ve put a lot into making sure to hire veterans, you know. But none of it was working, so we had to resort to dressing our employees up in holiday camo as well, to help encourage more shoppers. All of it has just done nothing to help our sales. All the customers just aren’t coming to the malls anymore. They are all off sitting alone in quiet meditation, being thankful for what they have, like freedom and opportunity. That is exactly what we don’t want. How is anyone supposed to sell people on things they need like clothes and TVs when they are busy being thankful for things that are basically for free?

The issue of consumer apathy has grown so out of hand, the President of the United States, himself, has even weighed in, giving a special speech on this rain soaked afternoon.

I, ah, just want to begin with saying that I deeply respect all the troops out there and their families. That’s why I want to start off today by thanking all the troops and their families for that effort. Today is dedicated to you and America hopes you enjoy it.

That said, ah, it’s also come to my attention that a lot of people are upset that so many young men and women have died fighting in American wars. I can understand this. After a recent golfing trip, I recently read a report that said that over the last fourteen years, we, as Americans, have lost something like six or seven thousand service people, the largest number since any American war since Vietnam.

Now, I know that I didn’t serve myself, but believe me that no one has more respect for these people than me. Now, understand this, I’ve known many a veteran, particularly since taking office, and from them, I feel I can safely say this: abandoning our cherished traditions is not what these proud warriors would want. They wouldn’t want you to mourn their deaths; they would would want all of us to celebrate by getting out and enjoying life and encouraging our local economies with our business. That’s why I’ve given my support to the National Bureau of Consumer Mobilization towards a campaign for rebranding what has become a day which was once looked forward to by millions, but is now mired in the memory of unpleasant events.

The Bureau’s chief consumer analysts have been busy working on their “rebranding strategy” for months, with the mission directed by POTUS to hopeful have a much more productive and successful Memorial Day Weekend.

Our first plan revolved around making the holiday something everyone could enjoy. We also wanted to pull the focus away from the morbid reality of the day. So, to do that, we wanted to bring in a mascot. In much the same way that Easter and Christmas were rebranded to serve a larger, consumer oriented approach, we think that Memorial Day can be something fun for the whole family, as well. I mean think of how terrible life would be if women weren’t made to feel special on Valentine’s Day with expensive chocolates and jewelry, if children couldn’t look forward to mountains of presents to honor the birth of Jesus, or… oh wow, if we didn’t have the Easter Bunny and baskets filled with toys to water down what has to be the most depressing holiday in the history of religion. Honestly, it took a marketing genius to monetize deicide.

That’s why we’ve partnered with ad agencies to create Marvin the Memorial Day Mallard.

The marketing executive who is credited with inventing Marvin offered his thoughts on the newest holiday family icon.

Marvin is freakin’ sweet. Everyone loves ducks and mallards are, like, really American and stuff. We wanted to go with M’s because it’s an alliteration with Memorial Day, and buyers are so into alliteration. We also wanted an animal, because kids are into those, and also environmentalists. Since most of both of those groups are, like, against war and stuff, we thought that might increase our base of early adapters too.

We were originally going to go with “Milty the Mallard”, or “Milton”, because they sounded like a good old, like 1950’s name, like from when the big war was happening, or whatever. Then we were like, ‘Whoa, Milty sounds a lot like, ‘Military.” and we are trying to pull the focus away from that sort of business. Marvin is a funny name and we want Marvin to be about fun, not sad stuff like war and death. The holiday is still going to be about remembering and stuff, but instead of, you know, thinking about dead soldiers, we will just remember happy things. That’s really what we think Memorial Day was meant to be about in the first place, you know?

The inclusion of the flag was also kind of a big deal. We were thinking that if we are lucky, this thing might go international, like Santa, but that the flag would sort of ruin that if it turns out to offend too many people. Either way, we are looking forward to setting up Marvin in malls so that kids can get their picture with him, buy Marvin the Mallard dolls and toys, there is even talk of a cartoon series. It’s going to be epic.

Hopefully, these new initiatives can be taken and accepted by the broken people of the United States in moving on from their recent losses. Everyone is looking forward to a day when our shopping malls and beaches are back to the way they were before people started worrying so much about things that just don’t matter, not nearly as much anyway, as things like the security of our economy, the happiness of our children, and the freedom to shop. So in the words of Marvin the Memorial Day Mallard:

Marvin 3

Thank you all for enjoying this cathartic piece of satire nearly as much as its given me in remedying my veteran rage. Those who have followed me long enough know that every year I put out a special message reminding everyone to take a moment, that’s it, just a moment, to think about the real meaning behind Memorial Day. Yes, I want you to enjoy your time with family and friends, and yes, I even want you to barbeque, but we do need to have a national conversation about what the meaning of the day is all about. For those interested, here is this year’s message, available through one of my other blogs, shared with many other veterans, The Defense Quorum.

Jon’s Memorial Day Message 2015

I fulfilled my obligation this year and was proud of what I considered my best message yet. Having done that, I went on about my day. It wasn’t until I saw a facebook post from a friend, that my vet rage began to flare up. Having no other course to remedy myself than the exercising of my cherished First Amendment rights, I set towards creating the absolute most “passive aggressive post about how Memorial Day is not about cookouts but dead soldiers” ever. So, in that spirit, sorry to ruin everybody’s holiday buzz, but yes, indeed, Memorial Day is about more than you. It’s about all of us and what matters most, or should matter most, to all of us. That is the commitment and willingness of those who would sacrifice themselves throughout the generations, if for no other reason, than to allow us to be as stupid as we please on social media.

So from Jon’s Deep Thoughts to all of you, have a safe, refreshing, and thoughtful #MemorialDayWeekend.


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Chilling Insights of ISIS Leaked Files

An exclusive investigation by German magazine DER SPIEGEL shows that the stunning march of the Islamic State into Syria & Iraq was meticulously planned by former members of the intelligence services of Saddam Hussein.

The Terror Strategist: Secret Files Reveal the Structure of the Islamic State

The documents brought to light by Der Spiegel showed the sophisticated organizational structure which the Islamic State has been utilizing, one of modern secular origin, as opposed to one of classical Islamic design, and how that was necessary to achieve its unthinkable reach and murderous mentality. It pulls the discussion away from the religious fanatics narrative and focuses on a design built around legitimate military organizational theory, as well as one of an advanced mafia organization, and bridges the gap between fundamentalism and a criminal empire.

It was not a manifesto of faith, but a technically precise plan for an “Islamic Intelligence State” — a caliphate run by an organization that resembled East Germany’s notorious Stasi domestic intelligence agency.

This note rang a chord with me when I thought about who it was talking about. The article by Der Spiegel focuses on Samir Abd Muhammad al-Khlifawi, better known as Haji Bakr. He was a former high ranking member of the leadership of the Iraqi military under Saddam Hussein. After being purged from the Iraqi leadership, along with the rest of the Ba’ath party, Bakr went underground to join the Iraqi insurgency and eventually, made his way into joining the group that would become the Islamic State. He, however, was less religious than his peers, but carried on the legacy of the Iraqi Ba’ath party, one guided by the mission of uniting the whole of the Arab world into a single, unified Arabic nation.

His views were that of the Arab’s answer to Nazism and the supremacy of the Aryan race. Sympathizing with that mentality, and one of eastern military philosophy in general, the Ba’ath party, particularly of Iraq, mimicked much of the organizational philosophies of Socialist Eastern European regimes. The Ba’ath party’s leadership structural theory is descended from this same line of thinking. Saddam Hussein, a noted fan of none other than Joseph Stalin, built his regime around a government ran secret police structure to enforce his law and repress dissent with models formed by the Nazi’s SS, the Stasi secret police and the organizations capable of coordinating Stalin’s terrible purges in the Soviet Union from the Kremlin. Molded into a method workable for the Middle East, Saddam used these same government tactics to hold the majority of Iraq’s people in subjugation for decades.

With this model in mind, Bakr designed a secret service and clandestine operations arm of the Islamic State with stunning efficiency. Perhaps what surprised me most was the pernicious, methodical saturation of the IS into every major town they become a part of, and the methodical approach to take over in which they conquered these towns before a single Islamic State soldier ever arrived.

The plan would always begin with the same detail: The group recruited followers under the pretense of opening a Dawah office, an Islamic missionary center. Of those who came to listen to lectures and attend courses on Islamic life, one or two men were selected and instructed to spy on their village and obtain a wide range of information. To that end, Haji Bakr compiled lists such as the following:

  • List the powerful families.
  • Name the powerful individuals in these families.
  • Find out their sources of income.
  • Name names and the sizes of (rebel) brigades in the village.
  • Find out the names of their leaders, who controls the brigades and their political orientation.
  • Find out their illegal activities (according to Sharia law), which could be used to blackmail them if necessary.

The spies were told to note such details as whether someone was a criminal or a homosexual, or was involved in a secret affair, so as to have ammunition for blackmailing later. “We will appoint the smartest ones as Sharia sheiks,” Bakr had noted. “We will train them for a while and then dispatch them.” As a postscript, he had added that several “brothers” would be selected in each town to marry the daughters of the most influential families, in order to “ensure penetration of these families without their knowledge.”

I found this deeply disturbing because it really confirmed suspicions I had, but that I never really predicted were this involved and well organized. I operated under the assumption that there were advanced cell structures for the military units, and that there must be another internal structure for the religious adherents, but I was really unaware of how deeply they could infiltrate and saturate a village and a whole region.  The organization created for the ISIL “security” services is extremely advanced structure considering that most people still view them as little more than a highly effective gang of religious fanatics.

From there, the last thing I would mention that we gained from the report is the very clear understanding of how ISIL was able to grow so unchecked through the 20th century, non-religious aspects of this purely religious 7th century cult. The fact that they had advanced military and secular agents saturating their operations early on means that the group has been free to move and operate in a manner that is very un-religious, while also maintaining a very convincing religious face to recruit the faithful.

Some of these un-religious acts included the kidnapping of civilians for sale in the slave markets, forced prostitution, and ransom. There was also extortion, intimidation and blackmail made all the easier though local spies provided through the religious Dawah’s. Through this strategy, they were able to take over massive portions of Syria without even utilizing their troops stationed in Iraq. The military’s open operations also magnified the religious aspects of ISIL. It gave their fighters the capability to strike strategic victories, so much so that they were capable of flooding Iraq in only a number of weeks.

The religious fervor of their foreign mujahideen was also necessary. The report describes them to be mostly students from Saudi Arabia, office workers from Tunisia and school dropouts from Europe with no military experience. They were matched with battle-tested Chechens and Uzbeks to serve as the Non-commissioned officers of the army, and all serving under the command of well educated officers of the former Hussein Iraqi Army, all while serving in Syria. The important element is that they were not tied to the people of a region and could be relied upon to conduct the terrorist and mass criminal murders,  the organization is infamous for, unphased by national or ethnic loyalties or sympathies. These foreign Islamists are also crucial in that, once militarized, they go back to their home countries to spread terror or perform recruiting.

Perhaps the most frightening thing I realized from this document was just how viral the organizational structure is. It is truly international in nature. It is absolutely imitable anywhere in the world where a large enough population of muslims can be found. It doesn’t need an Iraq or a Syria, or an Afghanistan to work. As the above map shows, it has the means to spread very far outside of the focus of the modern conflicts very quickly. What I fear is the exact same story happening wherever there is disorder in the Islamic world. The pattern starts off very peacefully, just an office with Muslim missionary. In a matter of only a few months, there are thousands of people fleeing for their lives as a nation descends into anarchy, held together only through terror of the fanatical army looming at their door, which no one saw coming.

It’s a very frightening, but enlightening article, one I feel everyone needs to read and understand to understand the depths of the conflict as it currently stands.


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How do I train myself like a Navy SEAL?

You decide that you wish to dedicate your life to becoming a professional killer and hunter of dangerous men. That’s how you start to become like a United States Navy SEAL.

I really hate questions like this, which I have received many times about how a person can absorb the military mentality, while never taking part in the military experience. They assume this mindset is just a collection of habits that are all about winning, efficiency, or kicking in doors, or general badassness. It’s naive because it always ignores the obvious point. These habits aren’t something the military or the individual warriors ever had to work to gain. They come with the willingness to make the only required step involved in the transition; you must decide to become a killer. Everything people who ask these question want: the dedication, the perseverance, the badassness, that is all an after effect of the mentality of one who has accepted the need to kill bad people, protect your friends, and come home safe. You can’t just take the good parts.

I’m not saying being a killer in this regard is a bad thing. Becoming a professionally trained gunmen in service of your country,  I think, is a honorable and necessary profession for the continuation of liberty and prosperity of free nations. Becoming one is a sacrifice that is deserving of respect, and admiration even, but you can’t just buy the CliffsNotes version to think and act like one. There are no shortcuts to being like a warrior. You can’t read a book that will make you like a warrior. You can’t meditate yourself into being a soldier. There is no workout that makes you like a Marine.  There are no training seminars that will train you to think with the precision and focus of an Air Force fighter pilot. You can’t go to the gym and do boot camp exercises to get ripped. There are no weekend “boot camps” that will give you a lasting “military mentality”. The warrior lifestyle and only this act of living as a warrior does that; suffering, sweating, waking up every day before the sun and living in deserts where people might kill you… waiting for the opportunity to kill them first; these underlying and unseen conditions cause the outward traits that others see as the “military mindset” or the “warrior mentality”.

Is that what you want for the perfect body? You would do all that to get a better review on your next quarterly eval? You think you can get by with just the condensed version? You can’t get the core values of the Marine Corps without being a Marine. You can’t become a SEAL without making it through their selection process. It is a whole body, whole mind, whole spirit transformation toward the goal of being ready and able to kill people as real warriors do. You join the military or you don’t. You become a warrior or you don’t. You become a SEAL or you don’t.

I mean, let’s get gut check realistic, here. Only about 20% of people in the world could even make it through Marine Corps boot camp. Less than eighty thousand a year even try. That isn’t a place you go to learn cool warrior stuff or a new way of thinking. This will happen, but not because someone gave them a class on it. It is a place where you are completely isolated from the everything that isn’t the Marine Corps. You won’t see friends, family, the internet, TV, phones, or even anything other than other Marines for three solid months. The Corps saturates every piece of your being during that time, to the point that when you finally go home, you wake up and your wives or girlfriends are shocked to see you instinctively standing at attention when the lights go on. I’ve enumerated the extreme environment before in What is the logic behind making military bootcamps intensive? It’s worth exploring to understand how very much you can’t just mine the methods for quality behavior modifications.

Even this, however, is nothing compared to SEAL training. I’m going to be honest, without all the safety supervisors around you during that training, all but maybe 1% of humans who took part in that training would die from the experience in the first few weeks. For the information of all those curious, these SEAL candidates are swimming across a pool with their feet and hands bound, while others are bobbing for several minutes just to deal with the reduced oxygen. By the way, the bindings are semi-voluntary. You must maintain the Velcroed cuffs while swimming through your own willpower. If you break them – you fail the exercise. Imagine that, you must forcibly make yourself swim across an Olympic sized pool, forcing yourself to swim like a worm. Fail twice, you’re done. Back to the fleet for you.

Is that intimidating to you? It scares the crap out of me, an Iraq veteran and Marine – a warrior class whose name is synonymous with water. What is the most important thing to understand about that exercise? This isn’t even real SEAL training. This is called INDOC where candidates basically just need to survive the tests to a satisfactory degree. If they can manage that, they are allowed to begin SEAL training at BUD/S. Early in BUD/S, they enter Hell Week, the official name of one of the world’s most terrifying training scenarios. This excerpt from Marcus Latrell’s book Lone Survivor describes the beginning of Hell Week in BUD/S.

I can’t remember the precise time, but it was after 2030 and before 2100. Suddenly there was a loud shout, and someone literally kicked open the side door. Bam! And a guy carrying a machine gun, followed by two others, came charging in, firing from the hip. The lights went off, and then all three gunmen opened fire, spraying the room with bullets (blanks, I hoped).

There were piercing blasts from whistles, and the other door was kicked open and three more men came crashing into the room. The only thing we knew for sure right now was when the whistles blew, we hit the floor and took up a defensive position, prostrate, legs crossed, ears covered with the palms of the hands.

Hit the deck! Heads down! Incoming!

Then a new voice, loud and stentorian. It was pitch dark save for the nonstop flashes of the machine guns, but the voice sounded a lot like Instructor Mruk’s to me—”Welcome to hell, gentlemen.”

For the next couple of minutes there was nothing but gunfire, deafening gunfire. They were certainly blanks, otherwise half of us would have been dead, but believe me, they sounded just like the real thing, SEAL instructors firing our M43s. The shouting was drowned by the whistles, and everything was drowned by the gunfire.

By now the air in the room was awful, hanging with the smell of cordite, lit only by the muzzle flashes. I kept my head well down on the floor as the gunmen moved among us, taking care not to let hot spent cartridges land on our skin.

There was indeed no mercy in Hell Week. Everything we’d heard was true. You think you’re tough, kid? Then you go right ahead and prove it to us.

The rest of this section is gripping and one of the best summaries of SEAL training I have ever read. To leave you with a last glimpse of what Hell Week consists of, I’ll leave you with the official first paragraph on it from the US Navy SEALs official website.

Hell Week is the defining event of BUD/S training. It is held early on – in the 3rd week of First Phase – before the Navy makes an expensive investment in SEAL operational training. Hell Week consists of 5 1/2 days of cold, wet, brutally difficult operational training on fewer than four hours of sleep. Hell Week tests physical endurance, mental toughness, pain and cold tolerance, teamwork, attitude, and your ability to perform work under high physical and mental stress, and sleep deprivation. Above all, it tests determination and desire. On average, only 25% of SEAL candidates make it through Hell Week, the toughest training in the U.S. Military. It is often the greatest achievement of their lives, and with it comes the realization that they can do 20X more than they ever thought possible. It is a defining moment that they reach back to when in combat. They know that they will never, ever quit, or let a teammate down.

Hell Week | Navy SEALs

Now, as the reader, evaluate if you are at all willing to undergo this level of voluntary suffering to become a more productive human. I want people to take away from this that there is absolutely nothing you can do to emulate this. Nothing. It doesn’t leverage to just take the exercises of the military, absent the reasoning behind it. Rote actions without the mentality guiding them won’t help you to get out of bed faster, to do your homework on time, work out more, or succeed at work and life. Those who have made the transition do have these traits, but they are after effects of a lifestyle, not something they had to work to develop. They just happen when you decide to be a warrior. They happen when you decide you want to be a professional killer. Anything less is meaningless.

So what can you do?

I wanted this answer to serve the purpose that people who want to somehow absorb the warrior spirit without becoming warriors themselves are doomed to failure. Worse they are doomed to a false confidence borne from naive belief that they can take only part of the training, absent the whole person transformation needed to fully realize it. Anyone who wants to better themselves, therefore, should not do so by copying self-help guides and go to work out sessions called “boot camps”. They won’t make you a warrior.

Becoming an elite warrior, however, isn’t necessary to gain success by learning from the military. Creating elite warriors is something the US military does exceptionally well, but as I have said at length, isn’t something the common person can just absorb, however, that isn’t the only thing the military does extraordinarily well. Do you know what is the single most important part of warfare, something overlooked by everyone who hasn’t been there? Getting the right troops with the right gear to the fight. No other organization in the world has mastered the science of movement of goods and people, like the US military.

Take, for example, the destruction of Saddam Hussein’s regime. In one night virtually all major military assets, government leadership buildings and key strategic locations were either destroyed or under US and Coalition control at virtually no loss of life to civilians or Coalition forces. It took way more than just the SEALs to do that. That campaign involved a global coordination of military assets of the greatest technology, the most elite warriors, and units stationed from around the world to occupy and secure the nation. Bombers were flown from Missouri, Special Forces were directed from California, the Marines were called in from Japan, while Army soldiers were brought in from Germany as the Air Force guided planes and missiles from Italy and beyond. This doesn’t even include the efforts of coordinating with the UK, and other allied forces. In less than a month Saddam Hussein’s regime was completely annihilated and before year’s end, his Generals and the family’s leadership would be dead followed by the dictator himself being found filthy and unshaven in a desert hovel, to be tried for his crimes against his own people. Never before, has such a military operation been achieved so quickly, so completely, and with such a minimal loss of allied troops and civilians.

The US military has invested countless hours and the majority of its funds ensuring that their international logistical network is ready to perform complex operations in uncertain environments while experiencing extreme stress and at the risk of countless millions of dollars and untold thousands of lives, as well as to ensure that it is perpetually capable to do just that. Their academies have pushed the academic study of military strategy and tactics to dimensions completely unimaginable by masters of the art like Napoleon or Clausewitz. This science and art, has applications far beyond the battlefield. There is very little fundamentally different about shipping ten-thousand pounds of food to troops in the field than shipping tons of steel to factories in Pittsburgh or Brazil. Wisdom from one can be used to augment the other.

The way militaries organize themselves is also extremely efficient if your goal is mission success while facing constantly changing landscapes. Military structures create strong, yet flexible organizations through small-unit leadership. They are able to adapt to both industry-wide disruptions and competitor behavior through a common mission and culture. Focus on small group leadership, such as exemplified by the Marine Corps rifle platoon, has made billion dollar companies able to scale their operations by more aptly putting the right people in the right places within the company to maximize productivity.

Why is this useful? These techniques are things that can be copied. I’ve shown this in my series 7 Things Businesses Should Learn from the Military about Training that some elements of military leadership are useful, but more complex than general badassery. In that example, the topic was training and can mean things as boring and non-cool as annual re-certification schedules – like the military does. While I would love to dive into all this now, it is simply outside the scope of this answer. In the coming months, I hope to share more thoughts on how businesses and individuals can implement military organizational theory to better their lives and productivity. If you would like to follow that discussion, please follow my blog JDT. As for now, though, know that trying to pretend to be warrior won’t help you reach your goals. Looking in that direction will only let you down, exploring the rest of how the military wins wars… that will take you places.


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