Friday, November 6, 2015

Marine rank: Sergeant

So my Marine has become a sergeant.
He is still himself, but he is not. I know that he is someone different with the men around him, with his wife and children, with his brothers and with me.
Here, at his ceremony, he stands out in his field:

"How the Marines promote their enlisted: The E-1 through E-3, the first three ranks are awarded automatically after certain periods of time. The Marines promote their E-4s (Corporals) and E-5s (Sergeants) based on something called a cutting score. Your cutting score is the number of points you have earned based on your time in rank, your time in service, your conduct at your job, your accuracy with the rifle, and physical fitness as well as if you have done any additional training in the form of MCIs. Since time in service and time in rank always go up, assuming you don't drop in your scores in other things you will eventually get a higher score every month and more every quarter." - Jon DavisSergeant of Marines, Iraq vet, weapons instructor.

According to Sergeant Davis, several things are important in getting the score up quickly. 1. The choice of jobs, because some jobs carry more points than others. 2. Doing pull-ups, because physical fitness also earns points. And 3. doing MCIs because the tests are worth cutting points too.


In the United States Marine Corps, two ranks fall under the wider category of noncommissioned officer: corporal and sergeant. Although a sergeant ranks above a corporal, which is an E4 rank, the duties of a sergeant are similar. The main difference is that sergeants are responsible for a larger number of marines and equipment than corporals are. Chron

As the highest ranking noncommissioned officers, sergeants are the backbone of the Marine Corps. They are the main link between each marine and the organization's leadership, and they are responsible for implementing the policies and orders given by officers. 
Sergeants are responsible for the training subordinates in their basic military skills and their respective military occupational specialties. 
Sergeants respond directly to their commanding officer for the performance of their marines, and must therefore ensure the members of their unit are properly motivated to perform their tasks to the best of their ability. 

U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Cody R. Nelson, a member of the III Marine Expeditionary Force combat shooting team, points his M249 light machine gun down range and listens to a range official during an international machine gun shooting match at the 2012 Australian Army Skill at Arms Meeting (AASAM) in Puckapunyal, Australia, May 9, 2012. AASAM was an international marksmanship competition that included 16 countries. (TSgt Michael Holzworth)
In the meanwhile, this is where my Marine loves to spend his time the most. On the range. Teaching and practicing, Sergeant or not.

Saturday, January 10, 2015


My Marine and his family are moving - to the other side of the world.
They will be there for three long years. At some point I'm sure I will get there for a visit. When talking walking long beautiful beaches with three amazing grandchildren, I'm on it!

The island of Okinawa is very small, 67 miles long and 2-17 miles wide. Don’t let that fool you, it can take hours to get places. Even though the distance between some of the bases is quite short, traffic can be heavy, the speed is slow, and the roads are very curvy which results in traffic jams and longer commutes.There are seven USMC camps on Okinawa. Courtney, Foster, Lester, and Kinser are for Marines and families to live. Hansen, Schwab, and Futenma are for Marines to live. Military Move Guide.
We have a very humid climate here because we are surrounded by the water and live in a sub-tropical place. The summer is HOT HOT HOT; more hot than Oklahoma and Vegas but if you are from Texas you’ll do fine!  Be prepared to feel moisture and heat when you step outside. The fall is very nice for it is very warm. The winter is mild usually in the 60′s. Spring 60′s and 70′s. People say May-June is rainy season but in my opinion it’s always the rainy season. Typhoon season is from June-Nov. Typhoons cause for a lot of wind and rain and the base will usually shut down. Everything here is built to typhoon standards, so when a warning is issued, everyone goes home. Some typhoons cause more damage than others, but with renters insurance, you will be covered. Military Move Guide.
The move to Okinawa is not considered a deployment, it is a permanent duty station (PDS). Deployment refers to locations the United States is conducting combat operations and there are no combat operations in Okinawa.

Base living conditions in Okinawa are comparable to those in the US and families have access to most things they would at home like Internet, shopping and exploring the area.

Capt. Ray Howard, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit embark officer, and his 5-year-old son Kelton sprint toward the finish line during a 3-legged race held at the MEU's Family Day celebration June 6, 2009. The Air Force manages more than 8,300 family housing units on Okinawa for all four services

The Basics: 
Okinawa, Japan - Eastern Asia
Capital - Naha
Bordered by – Island surrounded by Pacific Ocean and East China Sea
Language - Japanese
Climate - Subtropical summer 72.3F, winter 60.8F
National Disasters - Typhoons and monsoons
Religion - Shinto, Buddhism, Taoism, and Christian
Population - 127.63 million (2008)
Government - Constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary government (May 3, 1947)
Prime Minister Head of Government- Taro Aso
Sovereignty, previously embodied in the emperor, is vested in the Japanese people, and the Emperor is defined as the symbol of the state. Japan's Government is a parliamentary democracy, with a House of Representatives (also known as the Lower House) and a House of Councilors (sometimes called the Upper House). Executive power is vested in a cabinet composed of a prime minister and ministers of state, all of whom must be civilians. The prime minister must be a member of the Diet and is designated by his colleagues. The prime minister has the power to appoint and remove ministers, a majority of whom must be Diet members.
Natural resources - Fish and few mineral resources
Agriculture - Products--rice, vegetables, fruit, milk, meat, silk, fish
Currency - Yen 
Marine Parents blog

Friday, February 21, 2014

Every Marine a Rifleman

"Every Marine is, first and foremost, a rifleman. All other conditions are secondary."
29th Commandant of the USMC

Every Marine is trained to take up the rifle, but that is not the only weapon carried by corpsmen. They are trained on many weapons from handheld to those mounted on vehicles and more. Missions that involve urban room-clearing techniques require different weapons than those involving long-distance marksmanship.

"The basic infantry weapon of the USMC is the M16 assault rifle family, with a majority of Marines being equipped with the M16A4 service rifle, or more recently the M4 carbine - a compact variant. Suppressive fire is provided by the M249 SAW, which is being replaced by the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle, and the M240G machine gun, at the squad and company levels respectively. in addition, indirect fire is provided by the M203 grenade launcher in fireteams, M224 60 mm mortar in companies, and M252 81 mm mortar in battalions. The M2.50 caliber heavy machine gun and MK19 automatic grenade launcher (40 mm) are available for use by dismounted infantry, though they are more commonly vehicle-mounted. Precision fire is provided by the M39 Enhanced Marksman Rifle, which is being replaced by the M110 semi-Automatic Sniper system and M40A3 and A5 sniper rifle bolt action sniper rifle." Wikipedia

From the very beginning of their training, Marine recruits are instilled as partners to their weapons.

A Marine is first introduced to the rifle in recruit training. From the moment they place their hands on it, their drill instructors stress the importance of understanding the rifle by explaining the different parts, conditions and safety rules of the weapon.
The responsibility of maintaining a weapon can be overwhelming for some recruits. For many of them, it’s the first time that they’ve actually held and fired a rifle.
“Since it was my first time using a rifle, I was intimidated,” said Recruit Alec Kunesh, Platoon 3214, Company I, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion. “But the more I handle it, the more comfortable I am.”
Two weeks of recruit training are dedicated to teaching recruits the basics of marksmanship.
The first week, known as “Grass Week”, includes classes on trigger control, sight alignment, and breathing, which are the fundamentals of marksmanship. It also covers the different positions the recruits will be shooting in: sitting, kneeling and standing. They practice these positions for several hours a day to learn what works best for them and provide a stable position.
Week two is “Firing Week”, which is where recruits can apply what they’ve learned. Basic marksmanship-trained coaches assist them as they go through the course of fire that they will shoot on qualification day. It’s up to the recruit to apply the fundamentals in order to be successful, said Terry.
While at the range, drill instructors focus on maintenance and continue to instill weapons safety rules.Training and Education Command

"The Rifleman's Creed:  This is my rifle.  There are many like it, but this one is mine.  It is my life.  I must master it as I must master my life. Without me my rifle is useless.  Without my rifle, I am useless.  I must fire my rifle true.  I must shoot straighter than the enemy who is trying to kill me.  I must shoot him before he shoots me.  I will.  My rifle and I know that what counts in war is not the rounds we fire, the noise of our burst, or the smoke we make.  We know that it is the hits that count.  We will hit.

My rifle is human, even as I am human, because it is my life.  Thus, I will learn it as a brother.  I will learn its weaknesses, its strengths, its parts, its accessories, its sights and its barrel.  I will keep my rifle clean and ready, even as I am clean and ready.  We will become part of each other.
Before God I swear this creed.  My rifle and I are the defenders of my country.  We are the masters of our enemy.  We are the saviors of my life.
So be it, until victory is America's and there is no enemy."

This is not glorious, or beautiful. I did not choose this for my child, but he chose it for himself and I raised him as a hero -  I had no intent that my knight would take up such sword and armor, but can I allow myself to really be surprised? What choice do we really have in what we become? What weapons do we have to guard our hearts from who we really are?

I could not take up opposition against the structure that makes my child a Marine. I cannot stop those children from becoming warriors or the government from creating a warrior culture to give them homes for their needy bodies. It is human nature to need heroes and human nature to take up arms to protect our families. It is human nature to take lives and survive - or not.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Marine remembers Pearl Harbor

Here is a guest post from my friend, John Larson's, blog, The Magdalena Dispatch.

Pearl Harbor is always a strange and horrifying story. I never have been able to understand the things human beings do to one another and the things that happened in the war that ensued are as terrible as any that have ever happened throughout history. From Bataan to Auschwitz, the world was black indeed.


For years Rudy Pina proudly flew the flag of the Marine Corps every day above his home in rural New Mexico. Pearl Harbor Day 2013 was last weekend, and I thought of my late friend.

Rudy Pina at home in 2007

He died at age 94 in 2012, but not before he shared with me many of his memories from being stationed at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
Enlisting in 1938, the Arizona native was a gunnery sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps whose unit was bivouacked at the time in tents near the harbor. But his recollections of the attack begin the week before, on Sunday, Nov. 30, at church.
“I had went up to church the week before, and sat in the back with another Marine,” he said. “In came a brand new ensign. He had just arrived on the base with his young wife.” After the services the officer approached Pina and his buddy, he recalled. “We got to talking and he said ‘You Marines doing anything? How would you like to take a tour of the island, show us what's what’?” Rudy said. “He said ‘Come with us.’ He and his wife drove us all over the island, up to Scofield Barracks and down to the rest of the island.”
He said their sightseeing tour ended at what Pina called “officers country,” a club not open to non-commissioned officers. “We drove up to a sentry, who was surprised to see us enlisted guys, but the ensign said it was okay,” he said. “So we came in, and sat down at a table. We only had 35 cents to drink with.”

Rudy said two nurses on an outrigger moored at the club invited him and his buddy to join them for dinner. “The ensign comes over and said, ‘we’re going to go,” and the nurses said, “we’ll take them home,” Pina said. “We stayed and ate and were swimming, and then dancing in our swimsuits until the place closed at nine o'clock.”

“We told them we lived down at Pearl Harbor, and they drove us down,” he said. The same sentry was surprised to see them this time with the nurses, who told them “never mind, they’re our guests." Before dropping them off at the encampment, Rudy and his buddy tore open their shirts and asked the nurses to smear lipstick on them as a joke "for the other guys to see." The other guys were duly impressed. "A friend asked how did we meet those nurses," Rudy laughed. “At church we said. He said he would be going to church us the next Sunday!"

The next Sunday was December 7.

"That morning everyone had a hang-over.” Rudy had been out jitterbugging the night before, and a photograph of him dancing with a young woman appeared in the Honolulu Times in the December 7, 1941 Sunday morning paper. He kept a copy of that newspaper.

"But I was up and ready to go to church before 8 a.m., but my buddy was slow getting dressed in the tent," Rudy said. Then..."they came from out of the north."

“The first Zero came in and just cleared the tent. I could see his face it was so low,” he said. “He had a big grin on his face." That plane hit the battleship California, which was moored at Ford Island. “Two more came in, and I grabbed a .50 caliber machine gun, and shot the third plane down,” Rudy said. “The guys went to where it came down and got to chopping on the pilot.”

He said while they were shooting at the planes, they were also waiting for orders. “They were dropping bombs and everything else. Sailors were running out in their skivvies. I told them, ‘go in the tent and get what you need’,” he said. “We dragged a couple of guys out of the water and we took some to the mess hall.”

Rudy said he finally got orders when an officer came up to him. “He said, ‘Pina get your ass going, we’ve got to get the ammunition out of here!' We pulled out and a Colonel Hall called ahead to arrange the delivery of ammunition to where it was needed around the harbor.”

“They loaded us up right away and I zig-zaged all the way,” Rudy said. “That was the way to drive the truck around. But one guy got a little piece of shrapnel.” Although the attack lasted about two hours, he said the rest of the day was spent with emergency and rescue efforts. “I had a motorcycle and was sent all over delivering messages and medicine,” Rudy said. “The bike let me get through places a truck or jeep couldn’t. They sent me all over.”

Rudy was also part of an effort to get medical supplies to Ford Island. “They had this tug to get to Ford Island,” he said. “To get there we had to go through a fire so it had four pumps going to get through. We got the medicine over there. They really wrecked that island.”

That was the beginning of the long war for Rudy, who was sent to New Zealand for combat training, and then to Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Saipan, Tinian, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa.

"Tarawa was the worst," he said. By the time World War II ended he had been wounded one time. "I did catch a little shrapnel. I was lucky."

His first tour of duty was in Shanghai, China. In early 1941 his unit was split, "one half was transferred to Manila in the Philippines, and my half was sent to Hawaii."

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Marine rank: Corporal

Another rank has come upon my son. Another proud day. I am surprised daily as his nature stays the same. His kindness and humor are as intact as they ever were.
Marines have a reputation (in San Diego at least) of being stuck up, proud of themselves and inconsiderate of others. Mine says he can be that way too, but at least I never see it.
The rank is one implying the command of a section or squad of others. As a Marine corporal an individual is a rifle fire team leader, machine gun team leader, light mortar squad leader and assault weapon squad leader.

"A Corporal in the Marine Corps is a junior noncommissioned officer, and is equivalent in rank to the Army's junior NCO ranks of Corporal and Specialist. Corporals usually command small contingents of Marines in combat and operations, including four-man fireteams (which may also be lead by a Lance Corporal) or eight-man squads comprising of two fireteams.
"The Marine Corps specializes in small-unit operations, and as a result Corporals hold a significant amount of authority and resposibility in contrast to the lighter duties of Lance Corporals and Privates. Because of the responsibilities delegated to squad and fireteam leaders, promotion to Corporal is seen as a very significant accomplishment for an enlisted Marine.
"Promotion to Corporal is awarded on a rolling basis to experienced soldiers who achieve a qualifying composite or cutting score in a variety of assessments." Military Ranks

Arrotta’s tactical call sign was “India 14” which identified him as the company’s Forward Air Controller. (Courtesy of Joanne Schneider) 

Monday, October 21, 2013


After deployment, our Marines come home. Our hearts sing and we fly into their arms. We can only hope the changes wrought inside them are ones that will grow and meld with the family, slide quietly to the side; allow us to sing and meld with our children, husbands, fathers, sisters and brothers. We can hope to be whole again.

Homecoming: How hard is it?
And what have they missed, the first teeth, the first school, the children growing and expanding as our Marines expand their knowledge of the world. Their service, their hearts, their own childhoods all creating turmoil within.

Cherry Point
What else will they still face? Will they be greeted by the world at large? Shunned? Accepted? Thanked?

Above and Beyond Cakes

And they will continue coming home ... human. Some will come whole, some not. Some to fight on, some to stop. We will take them in our arms and our hands will feel their faces, hair, shoulders. There will be tears and happiness and sometimes loneliness. But for now ... they are home and that is what our smiles wait for. We will welcome.

Marines Welcomed Home

Sometimes we just wait.

Marine Homecoming

Monday, May 27, 2013

What use for children?

 Children: Friend or foe?

HIT, Iraq (Sept. 15, 2005) - Top photo, Lance Cpl. Randy B. Lake, a Battle Ground, Wash. native and radio operator with India Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment talks to some children during a patrol. (Official Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Adam C. Schnell). Bottom photo, It's about the warrior.

Some Afghan kids aren't bystanders
By Dan Lamothe and 

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan — When Marines in Helmand province sized up shadowy figures that appeared to be emplacing an improvised explosive device, it looked like a straightforward mission. They got clearance for an airstrike, a Marine official said, and took out the targets.
It wasn't that simple, however. Three individuals hit were 12, 10 and 8 years old, leading the International Security Assistance Force in Kabul to say it may have "accidentally killed three innocent Afghan civilians."
But a Marine official here raised questions about whether the children were "innocent." Before calling for the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System mission in mid-October, Marines observed the children digging a hole in a dirt road in Nawa district, the official said, and the Taliban may have recruited the children to carry out the mission.
The incident underscores a continuing problem across Afghanistan. The use of children by the Taliban — through recruitment and as human shields — complicates coalition forces' efforts to eliminate enemy fighters from the battlefield without angering civilians.
The New York Times reported that the dead children's family members said they had been sent to gather dung, which farmers use for fuel. Taliban fighters were laying the bombs near the children, who were mistakenly killed, they said.
Regardless, it's one of many times the children have been involved in the war. In a case this year, Afghan National Police in Kandahar province's Zharay district found two boys, ages 9 and 11, with a male 18-year-old carrying 1-liter soda bottles full of enough potassium chlorate to kill coalition forces on a foot patrol.
"It kind of opens our aperture," said Army Lt. Col. Marion "Ced" Carrington, whose unit, 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, was assisting the Afghan police. "In addition to looking for military-age males, it's looking for children with potential hostile intent."
There were 316 documented cases of underage recruitment in the war last year, most of them attributed to the Taliban and other armed groups like the Haqqani network, according to a U.N. report released in April. Eleven children, including an 8-year-old girl, were killed in Afghanistan last year carrying out suicide attacks, the report said.
Marines in Helmand say the Taliban regularly recruit children to serve as spotters, letting armed insurgents know when U.S. or Afghan forces reach designated points on a patrol so they can prepare an ambush.
An ISAF spokesman, Lt. Col. Jimmie Cummings, said insurgents continue to use children as suicide bombers and IED emplacers, even though Taliban leader Mullah Omar has ordered them to stop harming civilians.
Lamothe reported from Afghanistan. Gould reported from Washington.