…those cats were fast as lightning…

Quantico VA, Marine Corps Martial Arts Instructor Trainer Course, October 2001. Yet another opportunity to display character.

One of the training tools we use in the MCMAP program is the LZ Drill. The LZ (landing zone) is generally used for the take off and landing of helicopters but also provides a wide open space for a bloodbath combative training/conditioning opportunity.

LZ drills incorporate physical exercises and hand to hand combat techniques as squads of Marines move about the course. For instance, at a particular station Marines may be required to execute 20 hip throws  before moving to the next station (requiring everyone to endure 20 break falls as well). The catch is everyone has to move on line, in unison, and can only proceed via broad jump, walking lunge, bear crawl, you get the idea.  Failing to do so results in various negative consequences, the least of which is merely doing the station over.

But the sadism doesn’t stop there. Marines are notorious for making sure their buddies are “taken care of”. It was well known throughout my battalion back in Okinawa the CO of the Martial Arts Center of Excellence (MACE), then LtCol George Bristol, was going to be our next battalion commander. Many of my superiors knew LtCol Bristol and made sure I received proper handling. It was also a topic of interest among the instructor staff I was from the battalion their boss was soon to command.  In the bizarro culture of the Marine Corps, if Marines don’t like you they’ll beat the snot out of you. If they do like you then they’ll really kick the stuffing out of you and throw it in the air like confetti. Suffice it to say it took me a few days to do all the math.

My moment of clarity came while face down in a wet patch of freshly pepper sprayed grass.  Fists resting firmly on their hips, senior members of the staff openly debated my genetic origin and overall questionable performance. Low crawling my way to the next station I turned my head toward the SgtMaj of The Basic School who attended our training regularly.

“Someone called you.” I said. It was a statement. The SgtMaj immediately jumped square on my back growling: “You’ve got no idea son!”

This drew a bark of grim laughter from the assembled instructors including LtCol Bristol, who is considered by many to be the most prolifically profane man in the Corps. Some men merely use profanity. He weaved it seamlessly into his speech like a power loom.  At the time he was best described as a Gunnery Sergeant wearing silver oak leaves on his collar.  His approach to close combat was to seize people by the throat and crotch, then spike them into the earth like a javelin. While pealing themselves out of the crater, it would dawn on them a knife had been involved somewhere along the way.

Col Bristol: “Now rip his arm off and beat him with the sticky end!”

It looked like I was headed for another month or more of special attention. 

At one point in the drill my squad was running sprints up and down an embankment when I looked over at LtCol Bristol and said: “This is starting to suck a little bit.”

“Here, I’ll hook you up.” I was immediately swept over his shoulder and carried up the hill like seabag full of wet laundry.

A warm tingle of inspiration suddenly struck me. To this day I cannot honestly testify to what I was thinking other than some opportunities should be seized and damn the consequences. It could also have been that I figured if I was going to get thrown a beating I might as well earn my licks.

I shouted: “Yeeehaww!”, and repeatedly swatted the Lt Col on his behind as he lumbered up the hill.

Without a word he delivered me back to my squad at the top and stalked off to terrorize another squad. I heard my name being shouted from the field below by a lazy eyed Gunny on the instructor staff.

“%&$#@$& SSgt! You can’t spank a commissioned officer like that!”, he animatedly bellowed at me.  He threw an open hand over his head and shook it.

“You’ve got to use the back of your hand!” 

In the years since, Col Bristol never said anything to me about this event. Of course, neither has he ever missed an opportunity to call on me in order to demonstrate particularly murderous combative techniques. Live blade knife and bayonet demonstrations being his preferred method of instruction, I often walked away brushing the eyelashes from my shirt afterwards.

Semper Fidelis!
America’s 1stSgt

/ / / /


  1. Hi-yo Bristol away! *giggles* The mental image you painted will give me a week’s worth of laughing to myself while everybody around me thinks I’m nuts. Thank you!

  2. Lin, probably the reason we needed to make it more structured, easier on the furniture and all.

    Kanani, or words to that effect.

    Erika, “Hi-yo Bristol away?” Obviously I haven’t impressed upon you the lethality of the good Colonel. If he ever reads your comment guess who’s going to pay for it? Not you, as you’ll be safely tucked away in a straight jacket.

  3. *nods*
    *begins to see where your training style evolved from*

    oooh… sensing an opportunity to give Sunshine in to someone’s life… Think the LtC might like some Aussie Sweets sent his way?


  4. Don’t worry, 1st Sgt. – you will not have to answer to the Colonel for my remarks about him! I’ll still be able to hop, even in my straight jacket, and I will go give the Colonel my personal apologies. In Latin. And if that doesn’t work, I’ll throw in 10 Hail Mary’s, to be said by myself in honor of him, and I’ll ask the good Saint Michael to look after such a badass Marine. 🙂

    You know something, I’ll do that anyways. And I’ll include you in my prayers, too, 1st Sgt.!

  5. OK, i’ll rephrase my comment:

    Spanking officers? I thought you were a Marine, not a Sailor/Air Force person/Soldier/ Coastguard/Frenchman*?

    *delete as applicable based on your likelihood to question their masculinity.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *