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  • May 1, 2009
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The Impact of Words: Part II

Last year I was the 1stSgt of a rifle company. This billet has probably taught me more about the impact I make on the Marines around me than any other I have held. Initially, I assumed that in this position I would be so separated from the Marines and their daily activities, my influence would not be as great. Of course, a leader in my opinion should make a conscious effort to insert himself into a Marine’s daily routine. I did, but didn’t notice the effect the things I did or said had on them until some time later.

In Kilo Company 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines I would refer to our operations and training as preparation to “Defeat Jihad”. When bringing the boys in for a little 1stSgt time, I would always talk about deploying to Iraq and how they were America’s finest and would defeat jihad six days a week and twice on Sunday. By the time we left Iraq, the enemy would know that U.S. Marines had been there and that our tribe didn’t take it lightly when others declared war on America, holy or otherwise. These speeches were always liberally laced with other motivational one – liners and comments designed get Marines focused on the mission. If you care to hear an excerpt, by all means, enlist at your local recruiting station now.

I had a DEFEAT JIHAD name tape I put on my flak jacket throughout our Mojave Viper training that the men thought was great and our mantra was a flexible tool that could take many forms. Everything was about defeating the jihad.

“You can’t defeat jihad with a rifle that filthy! Get this abomination fixed now!”

“How in the world can anyone be capable of defeating jihad when they can only do seven pull ups? Go get on the bar right now!”

This worked great in building unit cohesion and giving the Marines of the company a battle cry to rally on. Soon though the seeds I planted would bear fruit and I would begin to wonder what it was I had sown.

One day while using the head I noticed a Marine had taken a sharpie and scrawled DEFEAT JIHAD above the urinal. Great!

“Marines, I appreciate that you are picking up what I am putting dow,n but there is only one company in the battalion that says that. It kind of narrows it down when looking for the culprit, ya think? You brain surgeons need to use your heads for something besides a hat rack and stop writing on the walls!”

Personally, I took it as a sign that my ninjas were on board and was a little pleased with myself. Then I caught Marines with DEFEAT JIHAD written on their gear. The image of Marines patrolling through insurgent neighborhoods and goading them with DEFEAT JIHAD graffiti all over the place tightened my jaws some. Even I had no plans to sport my special name tape in country.

“Warrior, I love that you are drinking from the 1stSgt’s Kool-aid, but we are professional fighting men, not a street gang. We do not write trash all over our equipment. It would be unfortunate if I had to crush you to death.”

Crisis averted. Graffiti defeated. But the real body blow wasn’t to hit me until weeks later.

After Mojave Viper, the battalion flew back to Hawaii and the Marines were given two weeks of leave before we embarked for our deployment to Iraq. All was well. The men were a finely honed fighting force, toughened by weeks in the Mojave Desert and prepared to take on the challenges of Iraq.

When we got back from leave, Marines began asking me if I had seen LCpl Brown. I said I hadn’t and they would smirk and say that I should see him.

After company formation I had the Marines in a school circle and told LCpl Brown to get his butt over here and tell me what was going on. He took off his cammie blouse, lifted up his shirt and revealed a DEFEAT JIHAD tattoo written in three inch letters across his shoulders. Marines crowded around grinning in anticipation of my reaction.

Now at times I have had a particular facial expression my Aunt Sheila likes to call my “aneurysm face”. The going theory is that parts of my brain are shutting down during this in an attempt to protect itself from irreversible damage.

It was like I had been hit in the forehead with a sledge hammer and my eyeballs had shot out of their sockets only to end up dangling feebly at the end of their optic nerves. All I could think was, “Oh man, I did that.”

Indeed I did too; as sure as if I had had the tattoo gun in my own hand. It wasn’t the tattoo in and of itself that shocked me. Really it was the idea that my daily influence had inspired a Marine to write my words in bold ink indelibly into his skin which opened my eyes to the tremendous impact I hadn’t realized I could have on them.

Make no mistake; a company of Marines armed to the teeth is a force of nature. We were about to step on a plane to Iraq and I had them in the palm of my hand. The forces of evil were in for a rude awakening. But that is topic for another day.

Tomorrow; part three.

Semper Fidelis,

America’s 1stSgt

/ / / /

14 comments

  1. Aren’t you glad you didn’t start the mantra, “Fuck The Jihad”? Your inspirational comment would have made for a busy bunch of ninja troops.

  2. …and I thought it was cool to get my 40 4th graders hassling each other to “Look sharp!” when somebody was messing up their line in the hallway…heh…I guess I’ve been shown…

  3. Akelamalu, I wasn’t talking about tattoos. Get on board!

    T, exactly my reaction. Well, I think I did have some rather choice
    remarks but since I may have blacked during that period I don’t remember what they were.

    Red, it awed me that’s for sure.

    Southern, I’m not saying it was a bad thing. It made me realize the kindof influence I could have on them and the responsibility that came withit.

    Carp8DM, they have to start somewhere.

  4. Words go deep…
    That kind of impact is pretty amazing. I think your ninja’s are on board 1st Sgt.

    I vote that you post a picture of the “aneurysm face”. Your readers should experience that.
    …well,as long as it doesn’t give me a flashback and kick in BURKinducedPTSD.

  5. BURKinducedPTSD.

    Word on the streets is the AMA is about to recognize this as an official medical condition.

  6. Top,
    See, that was a smart Marine…if he had gotten his girlfriend’s name tattooed on his arm…then they broke up, what would he do?
    With a “Defeat Jihad” on his arm, …well…that’s something he can live with the rest of his life..and I hope all of your Marines live to a very old age and can tell your grand kids stories someday.

  7. J, I think you would have learned your lesson last time you were on the business end of the gaze of doom

    Hope, you are correct. I am now pandemic. Now everyone go wash your hands.

    CI, yes at least it was an origonal. I always roll my eyes at tattoos of names on people. of course, you all have my permission to tattoo America’s 1stSgt on yourselves.

    Trooper, if only I could get them on board about abusing alcohol. I would retire on the spot!

  8. The aneurysm face doesn’t work if you laugh even the slightest bit.

    I guess I did learn how to use an urban dictionary though…

    …you just give me BiPTSD. It’s official. I’m going to wash my hands now.

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