DVs, VIPs, and other madness

A recent Terminal Lance cartoon reminded me of something which has always bothered me about very important ninjas touring the area.

See the full Terminal Lance article here.

At the Terminal Lance site the author laments the soul crushing histrionics Marines endure every time someone of importance has the slightest chance of being in a one kilometer radius of them.

The upcoming visit by the very important ninja is heralded by certain key phrases such as: “working party”, “police call” and “field day the $#@! out of the barracks.” These key phrases kick off a festival of sweeping, swabbing, spitting, polishing, and a general malaise of cleaning things which are already clean,  then cleaning them again.  Though I fortunately have never been party to it, this occasionally requires rocks to be painted for no discernible reason.

Upon the announcement, I always sprint immediately to the Career Planner’s office to remove the pistol from his mouth.  He would rather end it all now than be laughed to scorn later when he has to discuss reenlistment options to the battalion. Talking him down also gets me out of a full half hour of cleaning something.

As a Staff Sergeant working in an S-3 shop (operations and training), I recall our Major entering the office one day to let us know the Division CG was going to be in the area.

“SSgt, I need you to clear all that off your desk and square away your area.”  Statements like these drive the average Marine to fantasize about driving sharp objects into their eyes then roughly breaking off whatever is left sticking out. I have always striven to be better than average with my response:

“Absolutely, sir. The General would be pissed if it looked like work was being done in here.” Suffice it to say my fitness report from this particular Major was somewhat less than stellar. 

Belonging to an institution whose cornerstone leadership trait is integrity, this kind of response to the imminent visit by the very important ninja has always struck me as somewhat dishonest.  Don’t get me wrong, I certainly believe in maintaining a well policed area.  On occasion I’ll look around my own office and realize I need a flame thrower and a pitchfork to square it away. However, when Marines are ordered to use a floor buffer on a concrete deck, a small part of my soul dies.  

Now days I take some perverse pleasure in sending someone’s blood pressure through the roof with remarks like: “What are we doing, fooling someone it’s like this all the time?” It would seem to me if we need the area to be extra special double-secret probation clean when a VIP is nearby, then our daily standard of police is far too low. If we tolerate the overflowing dumpster the rest of the time we are just being inconsistent, lazy leaders.

Semper Fidelis,
America’s SgtMaj

/ / / /


  1. 1. Your last paragraph is exactly right.
    2. Have done it both ways -field days till 3AM and reasonable cleanliness at all times.
    3. Once had a Battalion CO who said he didn’t want his companies going nuts on Thursday night field days.
    4. Took him at his word. My First Sergeant was extremely dubious. Right, of course.
    5. Turned out the BN CO liked the notion of his companies knocking themselves out in preparation for his Friday morning walk through.
    6. Also, Regimental CO and XO very scary types (names you would know).
    7. Ranked with instead of ahead of peers, despite stellar work in other areas.
    8. Should have listened to Top.
    V/R JWest

  2. JWest, when not “going nuts” is interpreted as lowering standards I get dubious as well. Working long hours to get the job done right is one thing. Working long hours for the sake of long hours is quite another matter.

  3. At Swamp Lagoon, with 3/2.

    CGI coming down the pike. The grass in the various yards around the HQ and barracks’ had dried out so of course, there was the serious consideration of painting it an appropriate shade of green.

    Also, paint the sidewalks sparkling white and since the roads were dirty looking, work parties with hoses, detergent and push brooms could clean them up so the black paint would stick.

    None of that actually ended up happening, but steps were well underweight in procuring the paint and painting implements before it got kanked.

    I tend to advocate a daily 4 hour field day to start at 0800. This would mean no one needs be in their office until after noon chow. This would, necessarily, cut into the reams of useless report writing and other sorts of meaningless paper work that is generated to make the morning office hours appear needful.

    Which reminds me, how many rolls of toilet paper do you predict your command will use on the third Tuesday of next month?

    What is the status of your flypaper supply?


  4. SGM, I am sure we wasted millions of dollars in tax payer’s money by wasting time and equipment getting ready for somebody who never came….or trying to polish a turd (like the 1942 barracks)
    At AIT (Infantary school) in Ft Polk, LA…we tried to polish the floor of our barricks, but the old flooring kept breaking loose and killing soldiers. (not really).
    Then in Berlin, we often were told some VIP was coming and we’d spend days polishing the polish and he never came.
    I guess it’s just part of the job.

  5. I don’t know if I agree with about the artificiality of emergency cleaning. Cleaning like crazy for “special” visits tends to be the way it goes for most people. It’s only obsessive-compulsives who keep a place exquisitely clean all the time (and I’ve known a few of those). The rest of us maintain, some better than others. Then, when the mother-in-law visits or the party guests are on their way over, we look around, despair, and move into action.

    A new logo for you: “Marines — it’s not just a job, it’s training for running an actual household.” (That ought to bring the kids into the recruiting station in droves.)

  6. America’s SgtMaj:

    Even though I already knew it, this post showed you to be my kind of leader. If you ever need a fat old man dragging up the rear on a mission, give me the word and I’ll be there.

    Paul L. Quandt

  7. I second Paul Quandt, SgtMaj! If you ever need someone whose only fighting ability thus far is whacking bad guys with a frying pan, I would be happy to serve under you.

    By the way, kudos on changing the website a bit to be in sync with your promotion. Looks good!

  8. The sideboys with shiny new float coats and cranials for the 3 sec dash by a VIP from the tailramp of the COD to the door on the island (head down and likely not even noticing the hand salutes rendered) always near made my head go ‘slodey.

    Never mind the phoney respotting of the deck to allow said VIP to reach the island in 10 steps or less.

    Nevermind the maintenance evolutions on broke down 20 year old birds needing to be “up’d” for the launch cycle that were interrupted for the dog and pony show (lost power due to the hokey respot of aircraft). Just. Nevermind. It don’t. Mean. A thing.

    Ours in not to reason why. Ours is but to do or die… and miss chow, stay late and field day after a 13 hour shift on the roof.

    Lordy I miss it. /heh/

  9. One of our bosses decided on a “clear desk policy” when he arrived 3 years ago – ie, everyone’s desks should be empty every night – no intrays, no notepads, etc. He was astonished when productivity immediately dropped because folks had to spend 5 mins every night shoveling stuff into drawers and 20 mins every morning trying to figure out where everything was… but he’d still walk through offices “out of hours” to check up on people.
    Fortunately he isn’t in charge of me anymore, or i would have done violence.

    PS liking the new banner/ask button. Wasn’t so hard, huh? 🙂

  10. Grimmy, ha! You can’t make this stuff up!

    CI Roller, in ’93 a Corpsman from our battalion wrote to Stars & Stripes about being thankful for waiting around for hours on Thanksgiving Day for an inspection. He was not very popular in certain circles.

    Bookworm, there is not a Marine in the world unprepared for a successful career in janitorial services after their first tour.

    Paul, you are too kind. I do need someone to empty my GI can though.

    Erika, if a frying pan does the trick then good for you! Not sure how well it fits in your handbag though. As for fixing the site, it wasn’t I who did all that tinkering.

    be603, you mean there’s work on the air side?

    Magoo, I have a feeling I might not make it in civilian land. As for banners and such, I have a teenage cousin with a 30lb brain who weaves the dark magic of html code “for fun.” You may lay laurels at her feet not mine. I am firmly stuck in the 20th Century.

    Bahrain’s Major, hey, I said I needed a flamethrower and a pitchfork to do it.

  11. Americia’s SgtMaj:

    Just get me a ride to your GI can and I’m your man. On the plus side, I may soon(?) get a real GI id card again. I am approval pending in the Coast Guard Auxiliary. Will get a card if Homeland Security gives me a pass.

    Paul L. Quandt

  12. Once had a CGI at El Toro when I was in charge of the HF radio section. Our site was at the north end of the runway with three generators and vans. A Captain drove up and asked me why everything was running. I said that Lt.Gen.Krulak’s plane was in the air and my radios had to be up.He said “Carry on” and I thought “of course you dumb s**t”.

  13. We do this periodically at work when an important client is supposed to show up. They usually never make it to the back shop where all the work really gets done. But then we get paid by the hour and our shop is really never very dirty, It’s just organized chaos.

  14. Ah,the old dog-and-pony show. I understand cleaning the area, not completely redesigning the office, as had been done before when the big-wigs came for a visit.

  15. All the hours I wasted in k-bay field-daying the field-dayed field-day so that the CO or XO could never show up and we still somehow failed and had to do it again. Fond memories there. Happily I do not recall that nonsense ever happening while you were at 3/3 K.

    On an unrelated note, congratulations on your promotion I can’t say that I have ever worked for a better individual, hopefully those guys at Quantico will wise up soon and just make you permanent Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, a pipe dream, I know



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