Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Out in Southern California, just a little east of south from San Clemente and almost due north from Oceanside there's a place, a beautiful place that's way out in the middle of nowhere, Edison Range. It was named for then Marine Colonel Merritt Edson who, along with Major Evans Carlson, developed the first "commando" battalions ever implemented in the United States armed forces. Seals? Rangers? We saw more than one Los Angeles gangbanger show the rest of us just what sort of whimpus dilictus he was in the training regular Marines went through.

They wouldn't have stood a chance in Edson's and Carlson's Raider Battalions. It was those guys, Marine Raiders, who developed today's Ka-Bar design.

They, Edson and Carlson, developed a tactical organization structure that's still in use today based upon what they called the rule of 3s. It's also been adopted by some civilian companies as their management philosophy. The rule of 3s states that we humans are most efficient when there are three, no more than four and ideally three, activities or points of focus we must pay attention to at any one time. It also dictates that all decisions be made at the lowest practical level. The Commanding Officer or First Shirt don't need to be deciding when to order paper towels and sandpaper for the head. Sandpaper? Anyone who's ever used it knows that for a fact.

The basic tactical unit is the fireteam, three men and a team leader, four men total. Those SemperFiGuys... they do everything by four. But we've also been witness to what they can accomplish in very short order haven't we. 1-2-3-4 is the count for calisthenics. That way we think we're only doing half as many as we actually are, and therefore don't get tired as quickly. 1-2-3-4 is even the count for cadence in marching. The only officially authorized cadence in the United States Marine Corps is 1-2-3-4-Left-Right-Left... um... okay, so there's always the exception that makes the rule. But we did use a four syllable scheme for the little ditties we sang while running in formation, ditties that actually rhymed:

I've got a gal
In New York City
She acts so fine
And looks so pretty

I've got a gal
In South Korea
She's got a case
Of ... uh...

Maybe I better get back to Edson Range instead of one Drill Instructor's version of Ricky Nelson's Traveling Man.

Edson Range... such a wonderful, beautiful place where we learned so many terrific lessons. We learned even more about the endurance capabilities of our bodies than down at MCRD, that the human body actually can survive a three mile duck walk, and quacking can take one's mind off the pain a little... at least until one reaches that threshold of pain when numbness takes over and we just keep going by sheer strength of will. We learned that when a Drill Instructor said we'd do side-straddle-hops or bends-and-mothers until he got tired, that was a really long time even if it was to the count of four. Recruit Mason, we weren't allowed to use rank because we had none and we weren't Marines until graduation day when we had earned the right to use the title, learned our Training Instructor had read Leon Uris' book Battle Cry when he, Mason, called his rifle a gun. Annis learned never to say he'd lost his bearing to that same guy upon becoming disoriented around the snapping-in circle... when he spent an hour looking for it, and calling for it. Mrak laughed, so he got to help. I was an air winger. So when our Senior Drill Instructor was screaming about that itsy bitsy, eeeeeensy weensy, barely visible speck of carbon on the face of the bolt of my rifle, and I smiled, mine was more aeronautical... as I went flying across the squad-bay, and the skid I went into upon hitting the deck was only stopped by the opposite wall.

He never did have much of a sense of humor.

But the most important lesson we learned was identified by an acronym, BRAS. Now this isn't the same brass we want our personal attorney to have as our champion in a courtroom, that causes that loud, deep toned clanking sound, even if it is a girl. Nor is it what many of our elected officials lack, especially congress and the republican elite. It's an acronym for Breathe, Relax, Aim, Squeeze.

Breathe - take a deep breath and upon exhaling;
Relax - stop moving, ensure one's position is stable and correct, then;
Aim - obtain and maintain proper sight picture, target at tip of the front sight and centered in the rear, then;
Squeeze - squeeze the trigger, don't pull, squeeze

Anyone who shoots knows just as well as we use a magazine in a firearm and not a clip, that we never pull a trigger. We squeeze it. A playful little pinch on a wife or girlfriend's nose can be be sort of fun. Grab that baby and give it a yank... the situation can get real ugly real quick. The same holds true with a firearm.

Think about that a little, the BRAS dealie not pinching noses. What if we change the context just a little and apply the same principle to other areas of life. My buddy Boo, the millwright so vociferously denounced by the republican elite for being one of those dastardly union dudes, from down in GA not BooBoo Bear the puppy, did exactly that when he was working to rescue his abused and neglected sons from 700 miles away. To be sure, he needed a reminder once in a while, but he always stopped, relaxed, got his goal back in focus, then stepped off on that yellow brick road toward victory for his sons. But his quest to ensure their safety didn't stop there.

About six weeks after he got his sons home from Kentucky Boo called all atwitter. "Reb!" said he. "What!" said me. He went on to remind that his plant had been bought by a Mexican company a couple of years previously, that they had received several humongous loans, purportedly for expansion, even as a foreign national owner, guaranteed by the US government, run by a republican congress at the time, maybe even a republican president by then. Once they got the money they filed bankruptcy and shut the plant down. It's been a few years so some of those details are a little fuzzy, but that's the gist of it. Sound familiar?

"Reb! They laid me off and shut the plant down, man. Now that I'm unemployed how am I going to keep the court from taking these boys away from me again?" So we went through a BRAS review just like when he was doing battle in the courts, with different context.

Breathe - slow down, take a few deep breaths and quit hyperventilating. Nobody can think when they're spanx are in a wad. It cuts off circulation to one of the brains, and there's really only blood enough for one at a time even on a normal day.
Relax - chill, clear that conscious mind, let go of all the tension, start collecting information, don't worry about organizing it, just collect to brainstorm later, get out of the present moment, split firewood or some other physical activity.
Aim - organize the previously collected information, brainstorm, collect additional information as necessary, make some decisions, develop a plan.
Squeeze - implement the plan.

We talked a while longer. I reminded him about the residential gutter work he did on the side to pay all those scheissters over the years and that he already owned the equipment free and clear. We talked a little about business as an independent, about getting beyond that paycheck mentality where we can't exist without a regular check with someone else's signature at the bottom. We talked about working like a dog, except one of mine, to build some cash reserves to hire others to work. Then we decided he'd think about all we had discussed and we'd speak again the next evening, and we did.

"Man, I just don't think I can do this on my own." said he.
"Whaaaaaaaaaaa..." I loved that Bruce Willis scene in The Kid and had wanted to do it to someone for a while.
"What's that for?" he asked, with me thinking I was really glad he was 400 miles away.
"'Whaaaaa, I'm not sure I can do it on my own.' Do you want those boys to go back to Kentucky to live?" I was raised with girls, and was married once. I know all about that guilt stuff. "Besides, what's the worst that can happen? You get unemployed? You already are buddy."

It was on, and I was even more thankful he was 400 miles away because he's a lot bigger and not nearly as pretty as me. In the end he decided to recruit one of the guys he used to work with and give it a shot. Before long they had a crew working for them, and then another, and another. In short order he had 20 or 30 people working and he was expanding with different products. Then it got to be February... "Hey Reb! How's the weather up there?" ... "Yeah, kind of chilly here too. I had to put a t-shirt on this morning."

Even today, with an economy like ours and a business providing services such as his, the first to go when money gets tight, his business is growing and thriving. But Boo also thinks a little outside the box.

BRAS... how many times do we see ourselves, or others, reacting emotionally, pulling or jerking that trigger, when we could've effected a much more positive resolution to a problem by having slowed down, developed a plan, and then worked that plan?

Our congress, actually all of government be it involving elected officials or appointed functionaries, waits until the very last minute to address many issues and the more conflict surrounding the issue the longer they hold it, issues economic for example. Why is there no plan to attack the problem? That's easy. They're incompetent. Not only that, when they can control the money and services they have all the power... in their minds. When they wait until the last possible moment to bring up an issue, or their proposal to resolve the issue, others tend to react, they don't act. Don't we.

Dr. Suzanna Gratia Hupp is a superb example of BRAS, and brass... kind of cute too. At Luby's Cafeteria in 1991, even as a concealed carry permit holder but without her weapon because Texas law didn't allow her to carry it in there, she watched both her mother and father be murdered during a massacre in which 50 people were shot, 23 killed... by a crazy guy. She went on a mission that included testimony before congress and serving in her State Legislature for 10 years. She got the law changed. She's also been known to make public statements such as "How a politician stands on the Second Amendment tells you how he or she views you as an individual... as a trustworthy and productive citizen, or as part of an unruly crowd that needs to be lorded over, controlled, supervised, and taken care of."

How many of us have been suckered into working to elect a little person who drives a big vehicle to compensate for those diminutive physical or mental assets, only to discover they were going to attempt to use their elected office to control our lives? I most certainly have, because I didn't follow the BRAS protocol. Et tu? Richard Floyd is going to make sure there isn't going to be any smoking, there aren't going to be any abortions, and that gun owners will be able to pack a piece to work... even if the person who owns the joint doesn't want it on their property, if it takes every dime we've got. He isn't alone.

How many of us actually look at the little things, those little tell-tale things that give us clues about a candidates true character? We complain about those evil rich guys, then allow the establishment types to diminish the efforts and qualifications of the guy on the street... even if it is a girl. We get all twitterpated about an Andy Berke, one of those rich guys some will denounce for his birth status, while ignoring a Guy Satterfield, someone with heart, someone who's putting his own money up to pay for his campaign. But there are others who don't believe in using OPM, Other People's Money, exclusively. Larry Grohn has contributed serious personal cash to his campaign, but one might expect that of someone who volunteers at schools while others running for office are hoity toiting with the establishment. He puts his money, time, and efforts where his mouth is... in the community. Neither of these candidates is afraid to stand up and defend their position on any, repeat A-N-Y, issue.

On the other end of that stick are elected officials like the one who, after surgery paid for by our TaxBucks, was at a public event when a pretty young lady (a really pretty young lady, a really really pretty young lady, the sort who makes some old men wish they were their former slim, trim and athletic 30 year old selves with pockets full of cash so they could test Willie Nelson's theory of money) came over to give him a hug. At this Mr. Commissioner made such a big deal about how her hug hurt him she got upset and felt badly for causing him distrss. But we might expect such behavior from someone who doesn't have the fortitude, intestinal or otherwise, to debate his position on issues with his opponents when he originally ran for office or takes cheap shots at constituents in public, then runs around behind his wife. We also must consider that someone who operates on sympathy might be setting his constituents up for low expectations of his performance.

Perhaps Mr. Commissioner never learned the proper response when pretty girls want to hug us, whether it hurts or not... "Ow. Will you do that again to see if it hurts this time?" No red blooded American man would ever mind getting busted by a pretty girl.

And for the record... I would never want to be 30 years old again. 34, 35 maybe, but never 30. I was having to work too hard back then.

Our politicians, with all that staff, give us platitudes, nothing more. They tell us government is spending too much money, and they're doing what, besides voting for continuing resolutions, to stop it? Government is borrowing 43 cents of ever dollar spent, and they're doing what to halt that? The Fed is printing too much money, a trillion dollars a year, and what do they do but allow it to continue. Our own State Legislature will allow employees to tell their employers what they will do on that employers property, then besmirch and denigrate unions for doing the same. What's the difference? Where are those teams charged with developing solutions to the problems? Where is the BRAS, or even the brass? They tell us how tough they are while they're on the campaign trail. And after elections are over? They tell us how tough they are while campaigning for re-election, or that we don't understand the Big Picture, or we don't understand the complexities of the process, or that we don't understand anything else.

Perhaps Dr. Hupp is correct, that politicians really do perceive us, we who elect them to office then pay their salaries and benefit packages with our tax dollars, not to be "trustworthy and productive citizen(s), or as part of an unruly crowd that needs to be lorded over, controlled, supervised, and taken care of."

Having to spend more windshield wiper time lately, I've gone back to listen to some of my old audio books. Currently up in the rotation is "Where Have All the Leaders Gone?" by Mr. Mustang, Lee Iacocca. Arguably, his most often quoted passage from the book is this; "Am I the only guy in this country who's fed up with what's happening? Where the [heck] is our outrage? We should be screaming bloody murder. We've got a gang of clueless bozos steering our ship of state right over a cliff, we've got corporate gangsters stealing us blind, and we can't even clean up after a hurricane much less build a hybrid car. But instead of getting mad, everyone sits around and nods their heads when the politicians say, 'Stay the course.' Stay the course? You've got to be kidding. This is America, not the [darned] Titanic. I'll give you a sound bite: Throw the bums out!"

Reading those words has no comparison with listening to them in his own voice. But as great as it is to hear someone of his caliber state what so many of us feel, it's still a far distant second to those February days when my buddy Boo calls to ask "Hey Reb! What's the weather like up there?" Because then I get to reply "Whaaaaa, I'm not sure I can do it on my own."

It makes a body proud to see a Friend succeed, an American who truly believes those last four letters... I Can.

Royce Burrage, Jr.

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