On Setting The Example

There are always those who will test the boundaries just to see what you’re going to do. Many Marines like to test out their new leaders and see how things are going to be in their immediate future. I had been on deck for around a month in Cleveland when the one of the Marines tried me on for size.

Marine Week Cleveland, June 2012 – One of the major events during Marine Week was the mobile Vietnam War memorial where we posted colors every morning. We also conducted a wreath laying ceremony every day with different Gold Star mothers. Ensuring everyone was where they were supposed to be on time proved an interesting challenge. One morning we had a hard time tracking down the sergeant in charge of the wreath. He wasn’t answering his phone which naturally caused some folks to gyrate in histrionic fits. Turns out he got where he needed to be and no worries.

Although it all worked out that day, I pulled one of my gunnery sergeants aside. I asked him to remind the Marines they needed to be available and answer their stupid phones. Not a big deal.

Later in the afternoon I was back in the office. It was pretty much a ghost town as the majority of Marines were downtown except for the Marine stranded in the office on duty.

My cell buzzed with a text message from the wreath ninja which read: “I do answer my phone.”

There was no doubt in my mind I received this message in error. I could not conceive of a reality where a Marine would respond this way to a SgtMaj. It had to be a mistake. As a senior Marine it often falls to me to ensure subordinates understand why the things they have done are erroneous. I immediately called him back.

A battery of expletives rocked the building as I held my phone at arms length and roared my displeasure. Paint began to peel off the walls as I side stepped falling ceiling tiles.  The gist was a profane suggestion he violently remove his head from his colon. The alternative being I grab him by his throat and crotch and throw him over the horizon.

Normally this kind of story happily ends with the Marine in question crawling out of the blast crater, now wiser for the experience. In this case I later came across another Marine gleefully recounting the details of my on the spot “counseling.” He had been the Marine on duty on the day in question.

“We totally heard you SgtMaj,” the young Sgt beamed as I asked what he was talking about.

“Who’s we?” I asked.

“Me and a lady with her kids I was showing around the building.”


It turns out a single mother interested in signing up her 13 year old son for Young Marines had stopped by to see our facility. The Sgt was giving them a quick tour of the area when I had received the fateful text. I groaned as the Sgt gleefully retold the story word for obscene word. The idea a mother and her children were within earshot the whole time made me physically ill (it should be noted the entirety of Cuyahoga County is within earshot when I really get going).

As the local preeminent authority on proper conduct of Marines, you can bet I was rather embarrassed this poor woman and her kids got a peek behind the curtain. Defiling the ears of children is not something to be proud of and I was certain I’d be explaining this to someone in short order.

The Sgt assured me everything was fine and I had nothing to worry about as he continued his story. When the concussive blast of my tirade washed over them the startled 13 year old jumped and ran for cover behind his mom.

“Yeah boy,” she said to him with approval. “That’s a man talking right there. That’s what a man sounds like.”


Here’s hoping the rest of you don’t show your behind too much this weekend.

Semper Fidelis!
America’s SgtMaj

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  1. 1. Old Corps.
    2. The Sergeant Major can show his ass a bit and everyone is the better for it.
    3. Thanks for a great story.
    4. Last two posting also good.
    V/R JWest

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