Monday, October 29, 2012

It's Kind Of A Big Deal

   Gilbert is in the bottom row, far right
   I am one proud wife! Last Friday my husband got his third stripe. Most people don't really know what this means. They don't understand the blood, sweat, and tuna fish that went into this.
   The Marines have their own style of martial arts, MCMAP (pronounced mic-map). MCMAP was started by the continental marines in the 1700's. It developed and evolved since then. Along with physical combat skills Marines are taught moral and ethical values, coping mechanisms and self control.
   It's not like other types martial arts. It's not for exercise, mediation or sport. It's not even like boxing or MMA. Both are brutal, but they have rules, and the ultimate goal it to knock out or tap out your opponent. In MCMAP the ultimate goal is to take out your opponent as brutally and efficiently is possible, so that they don't get back up. It is to kill.
   This point was made obvious to me years ago when Gilbert and I were laying in bed talking about the course he was going through. I asked him how I should defend myself if someone broke into the house while I was sleeping. He climbed onto me and showed me how to break a choke hold. Cool. But he wasn't done.
   "Then swing your arm under here, and if you have a knife stab here, while you push him off. Then you can mount him and stab him in the neck."
   I was shocked into silence. I was expecting some female empowering thing were I yell "STOP" while defending myself long enough to get away and call for help. But that wasn't the reason my husband was learning this stuff. He's doing it because if he is ever in a situation that he needs to use it, it's not going to be because of a break in. He'll be doing it because he is fighting to stay alive.

Now that you are slightly horrified, let me explain the process. Just like in karate, MCMAP has different levels, identified by belts. Marines graduate basic training with tan belts. After that they take courses to "upgrade".

   The order of the belts is on the left. On the right the ones with the snazzy tan strips are for instructors. The coveted red stripes are for instructor trainers.
   To upgrade a Marine has to attend an upgrade course. From a purely logistical standpoint these are a nightmare to plan. Marines have to take these courses in conjunction with their normal duties. So find a time when the instructor, and a large enough class are free, and then getting cleared to do it by your unit can take months. It's like waiting for the stars to align.
   Each belt has different skills and moves to learn. Fighting multiple opponents, disarming and using the opponents weapons, killing moves vs. capture and containment. There are also lectures and warrior studies (essays on people, cultures, battles...).

   And each belt level has a certain amount of hours that need to be completed doing MCMAP work. To go from a tan to gray belt it is a minimum of 25 hours. For the higher level belts it is up to 300 hours. These courses are not easy. In the last course Gilbert ran (meaning he was the instructor) he led his Marines on a five mile hump (hike) with a 30 pound ammo can, and a huge jug of water in his pack. That was just the warm up. After that they started the actual training. The point of this was to get then used to fighting when they are already exhausted. In most combat situations they are not going to be fresh as a daisy.

   They learn to fight in mud, water, sand and any other place you can imagine.

   That's just the training to get a belt upgrade. To become an instructor they have to go to a special 3 week school. And to become and IT (Instructor Trainer) they go to Quantico, Virginia and attend an arduous 2 month course. I say arduous because when Gilbert went he called and told me about a guy who got a compound fracture on his leg, on the second day! By the time he was done Gilbert had lost around 10 pounds (he only weighs a buck sixty-three normally) had tendinitis in both arms and legs, blackened both of his eyes, partially torn a ligament in his forearm, and been stabbed by a stick. Not to mention bumps, bruises and muscle fatigue. 

      He was telling me that to upgrade to third degree black belt one afternoon he had to take don his partner 180 times. Then his partner had to turn around and do the same thing to him. Can you imagine getting knocked on your ass 180 time in one afternoon? No wonder he can come home and eat ice cream with brownies, fudge, caramel, and whip cream. And sprinkles. While maintaining like zero percent body fat. Bastard.
   There are around 200,000 men and women in the Marine Corps. Out of those 200,000 less then 20 carry those three red stripes. And Gilbert is one of them.
   I can't properly express how proud I am of him. How in awe I am of his achievements. Good job Devil Dog. Your girls miss you! Only 53 more days until we see you again!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

  When I was in high school I made a bucket list. This was before calling it a ‘bucket list’ became cool. Some things were pretty basic; get married (check), have a baby (check, check, check), learn to drive a stick (uncheck). Some were a little more far reaching; travel to every continent, learn to speak all of the romance languages (Latin, French, Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese). But one was something that I’m sure at some point most girls held near and dear to their hearts; go to a ball.
  I’m not talking about prom where a bunch of horny teenagers get dressed up, try to sneak alcohol and hang out in the high school gym. A real ball. Like the annul Marine Corps Ball were a bunch of horny teenage Marines ask strippers to be their dates and then they try to sneak alcohol. No joke, the first ball I went to with my husband half of the dates were found at Toys Topless.
  But the MC Ball is more than young Marines trying to impress chicks with their smokin’ hot dress blues. It’s a night imbued with tradition. And it is kind of a big deal.
  Around this time of year I start seeing posts about the trouble finding the right dress, or complaints about the ticket price. You would be shocked at just how expensive this one night is. Dress, shoes, jewelry, make-up, hair, dry-cleaning his blues, new medals (these things are freaking spendy! You’d think if they earned the medal they wouldn’t have to pay for them.), and of course the tickets themselves. And that’s just the prep work.
  Next you have to find a baby sitter. This part is brutal. Most military wives depended on other wives to act as babysitters for those rare occasions when they can escape their children (and I do mean rare, until my oldest was three years old the only times she was ever away from me were when we visited home and my mom watched her while we caught a movie, or when my mom came to visit and watch her while we went to the ball.) So on a night when all your friends are trying to ditch their kids too, it’s a race to get a dependable babysitter.
  You have a teenager? Can they spell their name? Can they be trusted to get the kids out of the house in case of a fire? Great! What time will they be over? It’s going to cost HOW much? Do you accept kidneys?
  Finally everything is in its place. You’re in your dress, your husband looks like a prince in his uniform, and it’s time to go to the ball. So let’s talk about behavior.
  A friend of mine was annoyed that she had to attend a class on etiquette before this year’s ball. She has been a Marine wife for twenty years so she knows how to conduct herself at a function like this. Unfortunately many wives these days don’t have her class and common sense.
  Instead of looking for a beautiful, romantic gown many now go for a different look. You know the one were the combined weight of their self-tanner and makeup is more than the material of their dress?
  I don’t want to be catty. I truly think women get blasted enough, that we should spend more of our time lifting up other women, not dragging them down with nasty comments, but dang. Really? Yes military life is stressful, and yes this is often a couples only date all year long. It is a cause for celebration and relaxation. But it is still a work function. Not the time or place to audition for girls gone wild.
  This means, in my opinion, that it is not okay wear something that is too small for my five year old to fit into. It is not okay to talk, text and be disruptive through the ceremony portion of the night. It is not okay to make-out over the salad. It is defiantly not okay to get completely shitfaced and knock the CO’s teenage daughter over a chair (yes this really happened).
  Please don’t come up to my husband in a drunken haze asking to get your picture with him, just to spill your drink on his uniform. Please do not chew me out because my husband kept yours working late last week. Don’t be a harpy to the staff.
  Don’t pick a fight, or spend the night barfing in the bathroom. And please, please, please, do not drive drunk. You are smart enough to know it’s dangerous. Not just because of the risk of a wreck, but when you get caught, and my husband gets a call at 3am, he is not going to be a happy man.
  This should be a fun night. You get to dress up, have adult conversations and be a part of something most others will never have a chance to experience.
  Enjoy the location. I’ve been to some pretty cool balls. One held at a beautiful hotel on the Pudget Sound, one on the USS Missouri floating on Pearl Harbor, and the last one was at the Hilton Hawaiian Village.
  Offer to buy a drink for your (or your husbands) superiors. Laugh when you hear the youngest Marine in attendance was born in 1993 (Damn, I feel old). Enjoy a meal that you didn’t have to prepare, and don’t have to clean up.
  Stop by the table left empty in honor of all the lost Marines.
  Dance and be happy.
  Just remember when the night is over and your husband goes back to work the next day, each and every one of his coworkers will be talking about the girl who got drunk and booed in the middle of the Commandant’s speech. Don’t be that girl.