Things Your SgtMaj Hates: The Lone Marine

I don’t like seeing Marines by themselves. It’s a bit unnatural in my mind.  I don’t mean they shouldn’t have some alone time, most of the time I’d prefer to be left to myself too. Somehow trouble follows the lone Marine though. 

Marines who are with their buddies generally fare better when a fight breaks out. They also don’t commit suicide in the company of another Marine.  In my experience it seems DUIs tend to happen more to Marines who are by themselves as well too.

I always used to encourage Marines to hang out with each other on the weekends in Hawaii by asking if any of them ever deployed to combat by themselves. They answered no of course. I’d then ask why in the world would they let themselves go out in bars and clubs populated by local thugs who wanted nothing but to mount a Marine’s head on his wall.

As a 1stSgt with FAST in Bahrain I tried to combat the impact of Marines being by themselves. I always told them we were not strangers to each other and to act accordingly. We were the only company of Marines on the entire island so if I saw a Marine eating by himself I’d ask where his buddies were.  Once I saw two lance corporals sitting by themselves at two separate tables. I asked one why he wasn’t at the other table. He replied that he didn’t know that Marine as they were in different platoons. I introduced them then made them sit together and finish chow.

The CO, XO, Company Gunny and I had a habit of going to breakfast together. Occasionally, I’d see a young Marine eating by himself and we’d all sit down with him. Being under so much scrutiny certainly spices up the average mealtime. Pretty soon the word was out.

My weekend routine in Bahrain was to hit up the breakfast buffet put on by MWR. For a couple of hours I’d read a book while gorging on omelets made to order, coffee, and a bonanza of fat pills. I was always satisfied to see groups of Marines sit down and eat together.

One morning a young lance corporal plopped his tray down on my table.

“Good morning 1stSgt, is it alright if I sit here? Marines don’t eat alone right?”

I put down my book and said he was absolutely right. We talked while we ate and the next thing I know I was host to a table full of Marines laughing and joking as they shared a meal. Not a bad way to spend the morning in the Persian Gulf I’d say.

Louis L’Amour said nothing binds men like sweat and gun smoke, but breaking bread together will do in a pinch.

Semper Fidelis!
America’s SgtMaj

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7 comments

  1. Sometimes in restaurants I’ll see a group of people sitting at the same table all busy in their own worlds tapping away at their cell phones while eating. What’s the point of organizing a get together if the participants will ignore each other? Even though I’m often and purposefully a solitary person, I really do prefer company when I’m eating. Since the military missions require cohesion among those participating, I can understand encouraging and enforcing adhesion outside of missions to reinforce needed behavior during missions.

  2. Dinner parties were always good chances to practice conversation and social skills. Also interrogation benefits like reading body language, detecting interest or non interest, emotional tones, and affecting people with body language and tone of voice doesn’t happen in a vacuum. People are needed.

    It is somewhat annoying when people lose things to say and they choose to go into their cellphone games. Their mind isn’t truly receptive to concentrated efforts. It also demonstrates a remarkable lack of awareness of where the exit/entrance are for when the place gets stormed. But that’s probably just me. It also makes them clearly communicate that they are socially uncomfortable and withdrawn, why else would they play cellphone games at a social gathering. Prey signs if nothing else. (This one is not paying attention and has been cut off from the herd)

    Being under so much scrutiny certainly spices up the average mealtime. Pretty soon the word was out.

    Quite funny and true. Word would get out, wouldn’t it.

  3. Interesting that you say this. At Bullseye, our local shooting range here in anti-gun Marin, you cannot rent a gun unless you come in with a friend.

    Several years ago, someone came in, rented a gun, and shot himself on the premises. Their insurance company has since told them that gun owners won’t make the effort to come to a shooting range if they’re planning on suicide, while non-gun owners are unlikely to commit suicide with a rented gun, if they come to the range with a friend.

    So your instinct, I think, is right on the money.

  4. Eight years in Okinawa, and I never went toe-to-toe with a single Marine out in the bars…you bastards.
    To this day I still believe that you guys have some sort of JuJu.
    As soon as a piece of furniture goes airborne, the number of Marines in the room magically triples.

    Hats off to the 3rd MEF.

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