In Bahrain any time a FAST Marine is seen doing anything resembling training with an actual weapon we always get a phone call from the Naval Security types. “There are Marines with rifles! THEY HAVE RIFLES!” Seriously? I would trust the average Marine with a rifle over most anyone else.
Lately my favorite thing is getting calls about Marines conducting physical training (PT). It is summer in the Middle East which means it is furiously hot and in Bahrain, humid as well. In deathly fear of heat injuries no one is allowed to PT when the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature is over 90 degrees. We call this black flag conditions. In the Marine Corps units generally cancel all non-essential physical activity outside. We immediately all go outside to conduct our own individual PT. I have never had any issues conducting my own personal training on a Marine base in black flag.
I have pointed out to anyone who would listen that the Marines are expected to fight in black flag conditions yet not allowed to conduct simple physical training. The initial response is usually the same: “But you can’t!” Sigh, never tell a Marine he can’t do something.
In World War II the Japanese commander of the garrison on Tarawa boasted “it would take one million men one hundred years” to conquer the island. It took the Marines three days.
Despite the massive heat wave striking the continent all the vendors and various response organizations spoke to the assemblage about their capabilities and whiz bang gear they had available. Our operations officer took the podium and began to talk about what we do at CBIRF. Essentially he said equipment and training wise CBIRF didn’t really offer anything different than any other organization. What we did have was the capability to get 200 U.S. Marines on the road in two hours who would do anything you told them to. This was greeted with some eye rolling and a ‘yeah sure’ kind of attitude.
Suddenly two helicopters from HMX-1 thundered over the tree tops heading toward the open field where the expo was taking place. On board were about 50 or so of us with full Personal Protective Equipment on either MOPP gear or Level A suits with SCBAs. The helos came to a hover and rotated 180 degrees so that their tails faced the crowd. The ramps dropped and we ran out on to the field with all our equipment.
A buddy of mine in the crowd told me later an Army officer standing near him exclaimed to some of his colleagues: “They’re running in full PPE! They’re running in full PPE!”
In minutes we had set up a full decontamination site, a medical triage site, static displays of all our rescue equipment, reconnaissance equipment, and all the Marines were in a formation at parade rest. On a fine August day in Virginia during a heat wave in full PPE, Marines again did what others were unwilling or incapable of doing.
This year Bahrain FAST Marines have stood over 90 days of fixed site security missions in full combat gear weighing up to 90lbs in black flag. We have not had a single heat casualty. This isn’t necessarily because we are tougher (we are), but as a culture Marines lean heavily on strong NCO leadership. My NCOs know the consequences of not ensuring their men drink plenty of water and keep any eye out for signs of heat related injuries. Plus (here’s the crazy part) we train in the environments we are expected to operate in so we are somewhat conditioned to it.
“But you’re being unsafe 1stSgt!’
Negative. Being a full fledged member of the Safety Gestapo myself my job isn’t to immediately declare we can’t do something simply because there may be a hazard. I will ensure there are procedures in place to help mitigate any hazards and if they are unsatisfactory then we will make the call. I am also not an advocate of making training miserable simply to train for misery. Operations become miserable all by themselves without any extra help so I am not a proponent of sleep deprivation training or any of that nonsense just to “get hard”.
Did I also mention that my Company Gunny received a “noteworthy” result as our Company Safety Ninja in our recent CGRI inspection? I think we are doing it right.
Sorry gang, needed to vent a little. Really, I love the Navy.