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."