Ballet Dancer Turned Merc?

Jean-Claude Van Damme or Allison Barrie?

FOX News has an article on female body armor, an update over the old Improved Outer Tactical Vests (IOTV.)

Sure, the post is interesting, but more intriguing is the extensive byline of the reporter covering the story. Ballet dancer turned defense specialist Allison Barrie has traveled around the world covering the military, terrorism, weapons advancements and life on the front line. 

Ballet dancer turned mercenary? I thought that only happened in Jean-Claude Van Damme movies.

Who Should Read This

I want active-duty and retired military to read this blog
Their fangirls and fanboys
Drudge readers
Everyone in my blogroll
Athletes: fighters and batters, duffers and swimmers
Scientists, doctors, the engineers, civil or not
And lawyers, because they can blog
Frickin’ plumbers
Because tradesmen make the world run
I want men who work with their hands, women who carve
Any artist, especially novel slaves and starry poets
Kids, not too young, none under three
Peace marchers and those running contract guns overseas
I want shifty-eyed rug salesmen
(The carpets, not the toupees. Okay, the toupee barkers too)
Folks in the government, if there exist a folk in the government
Retirees and those in hospitality
But most of all
I want
You
To be my reader
Wait a second
You already are
Ignore this post.

Military Shorts

No, this post is not about those silky, green shorts the Marines wear. . .

On President Lincoln and military leadership.

F-14s. Go there. Now.

Game of ThronesRule number 1: Trust no one.

America’s 1st Sergeant on a hilarious Berkeley movie. (Read the third comment.)

Susan Katz Keating and the Afghanistan tragedy.

BZs to Team Six. And a prayer.

The real story behind that MISSION ACCOMPLISHED banner.

Man of Action.

Military acquisition from Lex.

Our talented, musical military.

There is a difference between a Bronze Star and the Bronze Service Star.

Us versus Al Shabaab, from the Girlfriend. For the Maghreb, go here.

Canoe U (otherwise known as The Academy.)

Military spending and a retired Petty Officer’s thoughts.

Islam, the West, and the military, from Zenpundit.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. . .about firearms. . .

Theo’s SEAL pic of the day.

Marines and ballet dancers. Nearly indistinguishable.

Corporal Dakota Meyer to receive the Medal of Honor. (I once passed a car in Pensacola, Florida with a MOH license plate. I rubbernecked, how could I not. . .)

25 Ways to Get 25Ks in 25 Days

Alright newbie, ready to jumpstart your blog with some serious page-views? Listen up:

1. Get linked by Instapundit and Linkiest. There are good Americans and then there are great Americans. Glenn and John are both. They will link you if your blogpost is good.

2. Very, very slightly irritating and known is better than Britishly polite and unknown. There is no stiff upper lip in the blogosphere. There is however a stiff uppercut and it is called no readers. And it hurts.

3. A white background with black writing seems to work the best at keeping your work readable.

4. Get in a blog war with a gruesome killer you have never met. Accuse him of watching the Gilmore Girls. Maintain at least two continents between you and him. Get ever so nervous when his Commanding Officer, a Marine Major, is the first to comment on the blogpost. After only fifty minutes of you posting it.

5. I generally don’t post Rule #5s. I have pubished two in my entire three-and-a-half week career. For the ladies (NSFW). For the brohams (NSFW). It’s up to you. . .

6. Write for yourself. The second I try to write a post for popularity, I freeze. I try to act the expert, I freeze. I relax, smile, and presto, it oozes out.

7. Sure, throw in all the techie neat stuff: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, SEO, feedburner, 1.21 gigawatt servers, etc. But if you don’t have quality posts, you are merely gussying up a hog, a hog that wastes your time. . .

8. If you are a milblogger, you have a built-in audience. Introduce yourself with an email to other milbloggers. Retirees will hook you up. Even folks in the Salvation Army.

9. Another tip for the milbloggers, go to your service. Lex set me up with my first uber-link. He too, is a great American, a retired Navy Captain. Er, this kind of Captain. If you are cab driver, join in a blogade with other cab drivers. Find your clan. Then branch out.

10. You must must must have an error-free blog. Edit ruthlessly.

11. I like big links and I cannot lie. You other bloggers you can’t deny. Ask your favorite blogger for a link. Once they link, blogroll them. Then, ask them for a blogroll link. There are some great Americans out there. And Brits.

12. GoDaddy is a great service. Despite Number 4 above, I looked into them because their owner was/is a Leatherneck. I use WordPress with site analytics. I am not being paid to say that they are worth every penny.  (Unless, of course, they want to pay me. You listening GoDaddy?)

13. Pop culture generates its own targets.

14. Find the adventure in daily life. Talk to people. Then write about it. Don’t be too introverted. I don’t want to know that you woke up late this morning. I do want to know that you heard gunshots last night. That it sounded like a .308. I also want to know what neighborhood you live in to ensure I never visit.

15. Have a renowned blogger quoted by Rush Limbaugh be the first to link you. Become friends with this great American by commenting on her blog over several years. Then ask her (bleg) for a link. Then watch as she takes a ONE month trip to Europe and beyond.

16. Blog from the heart. You don’t as much find your heart as become it. (Yikes, that sounds like a boy band song. Still, it is true.)

17. Get Texas on your side.

18. Insult: yourself, the Marines, the Army, yourself again, the Air Force, the SecDef, Fwance, civiliansJohn Kerry, yourself again.

19. Bust fraudulent military charities.

20. Start your own blog now. Generate some content. Make sure it is well-edited and readable. Send me a link, no mater what the subject. I will read well-written blogposts on prairie dogs before I will read some knucklehead with my interests who can’t write. If you have a clear, well-lit blog (or a clear well-lighted one), I will find a way to link you. Twilight bloggers: post on more than just teeny vampires for a linky.

21. Show the Wiz behind the curtain. Not the wiz on the curtain.

22. Piss off a real jihadi. Read the note at the top left column of my blog.

23. Don’t worry about no one responding to your email bleg. Marketing research indicates that it takes hearing a product’s name three times to have it really sink in. www.themellowjihadi.com, www.themellowjihadi.com, www.themellowjihadi.com. When you send out your email, put your profession in the subject. As in: Question from a Taxi Driver about the Mellow Jihadi. I can’t not read it.

24. Always carry a pen and paper around with you to capture ideas.

25. Write lists, keep them concise and focused. Don’t go over 25 bullets. . .

Update: Thanks Linkiest for the link!

Calling out America’s First Sergeant

My realtor really screwed me.

The year was 2009 and I was stationed in Bahrain. I needed an apartment to live in and bad. One dusty afternoon found me and her tromping around Manama looking at one great place after another. The challenge? They were all out of my price range. She thought she could bargain her way down in price. No dice. The market was tight and they were all too thick for my wallet.

Late in the afternoon, we pulled up to a long, slender apartment at the edge of Juffair. It was perfect: in my price range, clean, fairly close to base. The one issue: the Grand Mosque was a left-fielder’s throw to the bedroom window. A one-hopper.

“Is it noisy living so close to the Grand Mosque?” I asked my realtor.

She laughed. “Oh no, sir. No noisy. The windows are quiet-proof.”

I was not sure what the term quiet-proof meant, but I rented the place and moved in soon after. The first night, at oh dark early, I was awakened by the muzzein’s call to prayer. I laid in bed like a city boy trying to shake a dawn rooster.

I was a flyer, so thankfully I deployed to Al Udeid Air Base in Doha, Qatar soon after. And I traveled back and forth between Bahrain and Al Udeid every several months. I had learned, by this time, to make a practice of going to bed early, to rise with the early birds. The wee hours of the morning also meant that every Achmed in the phone book was not clogging my apartment’s wireless. As far as the phone book goes, you ever seen that thing? Half of it was Achmeds or Mohammeds. Or both. Achmed Mohammed or Mohammed Achmed. I still got my copy if you don’t believe me. . .

So, in May of 2010, at oh dark early, I was riding around the blogosphere and I encountered this guy. America’s First Sergeant. A Marine Corps E-8. He had this to say about one LT:

Take for example the sad tale of Lieutenant Navel Lint. This Navy O-3 was a fireball of scholarly and gentlemanly pursuits with a job to do. Unfortunately Lt Navel Lint failed to follow proper procedure. . .

. . .He’s a Navy O-3! He shouldn’t be treated like a recruit! Having skipped proper procedure, tact, or any common sense, Lt Navel Lint continued to go with blustering and bullying Lance Corporals in an attempt to have his way. . .

But that was not the worst of it. America’s First Sergeant mouthed off about Navy LTs in general:

Navy O-3s do not apologize for their behavior after all, no matter how despicable.

It was 0400 in the morning and I was steamed. Some jarhead was rattling his mouth about Navy O-3s. I shrugged it off, left his site, and continued my bloggy travels.

Later in the week, around lunch time, I needed some postcards. Off to the NEX I went. I found what I wanted quickly and swung by the DVD section to see whether anything new had come in. I had the whole store practically memorized.

I traipsed down one row and the next and stumbled across a Marine staring intently at a DVD. The title surprised me: Gilmore Girls, Season Two. If he had been looking to kick back to Season One, sure I coulda forgiven him, but Season Two? He was that elusive, slippery type: a male Gilmore lifer. Still, Marines were a mysterious bunch and I didn’t give it a second thought.

He turned and I happened to see his rank. E-8. 3 up, 3 down, with a lil’ diamond ring. E-8, same rank as that America’s First Sergeant guy. Wait. Just wait. Was it possible? I looked again and about dropped my teeth. I don’t wear dentures so my chompers stayed in, but indeed, America’s First Sergeant was standing in my kill zone. I was five feet away from unloading on him about his rant on Navy LTs.

But I didn’t. See, I was not entirely sure it was him. I bought my postcards and made a hasty retreat. Later in the day, I passed a desk of young Marines out near the gym: corporals, privates, and all in between.

“Hey Lance Corporal, does your First Sergeant have a blog?” I asked one of them.

“Yes, sir. He’s America’s First Sergeant,” he trumpeted proudly. “Wanna buy some stuff for our fundraiser?”

Groaning, I scanned their table. FAST Marine T-shirts and USMC coins. What was I going to do with Marine swag? Still, it was a fundraiser and I surrendered. Those misfits sold me a shirt and a coin for nearly twenty bucks.

Flash forward more than a year. I have never worn that shirt. It is locked away somewhere. So is the coin.

My challenge to America’s First Sergeant
You say: Navy O-3s do not apologize for their behavior after all, no matter how despicable. I say: On behalf of Navy O-3s, I apologize.

But you have to come here to accept my apology like a man. And in doing so, I will give away my FAST T-shirt to a future leatherneck. Any young high schooler or aspiring future Marine, I need for you to comment below. Parents, friends, acquaintances, milkmen, you can comment on behalf of your future steely-eyed killers. I will send, postage included, the T-shirt your way.

Of course, America’s First Sergeant has got to come around first. Perhaps he will also explain the Gilmore Girls thing. A nervous blogosphere awaits. . .

Update: the e-Gauntlet has been caught! Update II: Thank you Bookworm RoomTheo,
Milpundit, Kitchen Dispatch, Way Up North, and Susan Katz Keating for the links. Update III: We have a winner for the shirt! Standby for pictures. . . A big thank you to America’s First Sergeant. . .Not only a gruesome killer, but a good sport. Update IV: Get yer own FAST t-shirt here!

Green Berets

I am in line at gate security at Charleston Airport. Around me are a fair number of military folks, but I am not in uniform. But I do have a) military tactical sunglasses (the only ones I can’t break) b) military backpack c) a high-and-tight d) steely eyes*.

The TSA agent looks at me and we have the following conversation:
TSA: You military?
Me: Yes.
TSA: Army? Navy?
Me: Navy.
TSA: I am retired Army. And my Dad was Navy
Me: (Big aw shucks smile) Army? We will forgive you for that one.
TSA: (Clenched jaw) Green Beret, Special Forces.
Me: (Smaller smile): Oh, okay. (Looking at his rank, a two-bar TSA guy. Not sure what that means.)
(Strained silence)
Another TSA: Sir, we are going to have to put your bag through again.
Me: (Absolutely no smile) Roger.
(Waiting) (Waiting) (Waiting)
Another TSA: Okay, you are good.
Me: Thanks. (Swinging over to the Green Beret) Have a good day, sir (No aw shucks smile.) (I can be joint.)
Green Beret: You too. (Jaw still clenched.)

Lesson learned. Some airports are blacker** than others. And I had just stumbled into a den of operators. Come strong and bring it at Charleston Airport if you come through here. Or better yet, don’t say anything at all.

*On further reading, this did not quite work. Imagine a wink when reading the word steely. A little nod. . .
**On second further reading, blacker means black operations black.

Military Fraud or Military Friend?

The Wal-Mart in Vista, California allows a veteran’s “charity” to pass out leaflets in support of a program called Military Families and Veterans Global Transitions (MFVGT.) I have seen them several times before, sitting at a little table near the entrance, at this Wal-mart and others.

One problem exists with their literature: those are not American Soldiers in the picture. Their haircuts and camouflage lead me to believe they are European or perhaps Russian.

Scanning further, I look at the logos of the branches. The Navy logo is a little outdated. The new logo has a ship on it.  (Don’t call them boats, Navy surface guys get all bent out of shape over that. . .) This logo is one I have seen on items for sale at Navy Surplus stores. Still, this in itself is no big deal.

Looking down the page, the line: “Assist in our United Effort to grow our economy by creating new jobs” jumps out at me. United Effort is capitalized. It seems a little Chairman Maoish for my tastes.  And the phrase: “help them become productive citizens” sticks in my craw.  They were productive citizens in the military. . .

The president of the group is easily Googleable.  She does not appear to be a veteran. The email address listed Googles to some random guy living north of Los Angeles.  And it is a yahoo account, not an organizational email.

I surely hope I am wrong about this group. Their website lists no concrete details about their services, nor pictures. They have quite a presence at some of the local Wal-Marts. I have never been to the store without seeing them there.  If I am wrong in my suspicions, I will donate fifty dollars to their cause and will encourage you to do the same.

Update: Thank you to all who have contacted me for support or who have linked. We expect to have some developments soon.

Welcome to Guantanamo

0130 in the morning and I was out, asleep on my Navy mattress.   Through the glass of my window, bugs feasted loudly on the Cuban night.  Chiggers.  Or cicadas.

Suddenly my roommate stood above me, shaking me, yelling my name.  “We got to go, something’s happening down at the Camp. . .”

I shrugged into my uniform.  Not blousing my pants with my blousing strap, not lacing my tired boots.  We dashed over to the dusty duty van.  Through the trees, sirens sprinted at us and then ran away, down the road.   My roommate pulled the mini-van out.  I started to tie my boots, but stopped to click my seatbelt in.

Spraying tirefulls of dirt, we peeled onto the road, joining the sirens.  We doubled the speed limit.  I buttoned up my DCU top and pulled my Velcro nametape off.  We wound through the curvy roads, our tires squealing.  I flattened my collar and examined my uniform.  One side of my uniform read US NAVY and a bare strip of fuzzy Velcro, bare from the absence of my nametape, ran across the other.  “Sanitizing your uniform,” it was called.

My roommate did not slow at the gate.  He half-saluted the guard and pulled into the empty parking lot.  Our doors sprung open before the van even stopped.  We started out in a dead sprint.  My roommate had fifty bad pounds on me, but I struggled to keep up.  Gagging, I dry heaved, seconds away from barfing.

Three minutes ago, I was asleep.  Two weeks prior, I had been manning a desk at Fort Meade.  My only source of Gitmo knowledge then had been intense movies.  “I want the truth,” Ensign Cruise said.  “You can’t handle the truth!” Colonel Jack Nicholson roared.  Or had Cruise been a Lieutenant?

At the sallyport, a Private First Class I recognized shook his head.  “It is not good, Sir,” he said.

We pushed through and a cluster of my guys, linguists, stood at the door to our long mobile office.  “Three suicides,” one of the Iraqis told me.

Three?  It was going to be a long night.  Welcome to Guantanamo. . .

Update: Welcome Council Members of the Watcher of Weasels! Might I offer you a proper greeting?

Petty Officer or Colonel?

Imagine you are Petty Officer Third Class in the Navy.  Should you deploy to some sandy paradise, chances are your collar insignia will resemble the device on the left.  These are the fearsome crows of a Navy E-4.

Take a gander at the other rank, on the right.  Yes Shipmate, that is the insignia found on a full-bird colonel.  An O-6.  That particular photo was borrowed from an Air Force uniform website.  Where our friendly Air Force brethren go to buy glow belts and rank insignias.

Now picture yourself on an Air Force flight to Al Udeid Air Base in lovely Doha, Qatar.  You are minding your own business, perhaps snoozing and dreaming of Twilight (with an occasional, annoying Justin Beiber cameo) when the plane bounces gently to the ground.

The melodious voice of an Airman wafts throughout the cabin.  “All O-6s, please deplane at this time.  All O-6s, please deplane.”

Of course, you ignore the announcement.  Remember your collar is the splitting image of the device on the left.

An Air Force Master Sergeant slyly taps you on your shoulder.  You yawn and turn to him. “Sir, please follow me,” he instructs, as courteously as a caddy at the 19th hole of Leisure World’s Par 2.

You follow the Master Sergeant, because a) You are a Navy professional and you were taught to instantly pounce and execute orders b) You are still groggy from that terrible dream of Beiber and his unsat haircut c) The man is an E-7 and you are an E-4, despite the fact he is sirring you.  (You take the sirs to be an Air Force thang.  What little you know of “thangs” comes from a bumper sticker you saw at an Air Force base.  “It’s an Air Force thang.  You wouldn’t understand.”  True, you don’t much understand thangs (thangs are not your thang), but you pretend and follow the mysterious Sergeant anyway.)

It is at the point of hiking your backpack onto your back that you notice your Master Chief behind you.  All Navy Master Chiefs are issued a second brain.  I myself, am not a Master Chief, so I can’t prove definitively that this is true.  But ask any Master Chief, he/she’ll tell you.

“This way, sir,” the Air Force Master Sergeant says to you, our hero.

By now, you have wiped Beiber from your eyes.  “You don’t have to call me sir,” you tell the Air Force bubba.

But your Master Chief is quick, wily.  He smells victory and engages his special Master Chief brain.  “Ah sir,” he responds with a little nurturing pat, a Jedi encouraging his Padwan.  “They are waiting for us.”

You follow the Master Sergeant down the metal steps of the plane onto the hot tarmac of Al Udeid.  Wordlessly, the Master Sergeant hands the good Master Chief the keys to a new Ford Explorer.  Black.  Which you and your new, best friend, the Master Chief, enjoy for the full three months of your deployment.  True Story.

Note to all Air Force personnel in theater: Petty Officer Third Classes are not Colonels. Should you extend full-bird courtesies to one, he/she is not going to complain.  Please study your basic rank recognition to avoid this understandable, yet embarrassing, mistake. Parting tip: if the Colonel looks to be about 23 years old, good money says he is not an O-6.  (Unless his last name is Custer.  And you don’t want to be around guys with that name on the battlefield anyway.)

Update I: Be sure to check out the next chapter of this adventure! Petty Officer or Colonel? Part Deux

Update II:  Welcome Neptunus Lex readers!  (Welcome also to Bayou Renaissance Man readers!)