Waiting for War to Begin, Marines Fight Each Other
Sun, 9 Mar 2003 18:03:47 -0800
"i married him because he killed well."
From: firstname.lastname@example.org [mailto:email@example.com]On Behalf Of R. A.
Sent: Sunday, March 09, 2003 11:09 AM
Cc: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
Subject: Waiting for War to Begin, Marines Fight Each Other
March 7, 2003
Waiting for War to Begin,
Marines Fight Each Other
By MICHAEL M. PHILLIPS
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
LIVING SUPPORT AREA 7, Kuwait -- To prepare to fight Iraqis, the Marines
fight each other.
Despite their laser-equipped rifles and top-of-the-line antitank missiles,
Marines still think of war as a charge into the enemy trenches -- fists,
feet and bayonets flying. So as they wait for hostilities to begin, they
regularly get down in the desert sand and beat each other up.
It's unclear whether the Marines will go hand-to-hand with Iraqi soldiers.
But the training "prepares them to employ violence as required to kill the
enemy," says Lt. Col. Michael Belcher, the 41-year-old commander of the 3rd
Battalion, 7th Marines, which is camped not far from the Iraqi border.
"Removed from here, you don't think about killing people on a daily basis.
Soon the Marines may have to."
The result looks like what professional wrestling would be if it were for
real: Marines choking, kicking and gouging each other to get into a killing
frame of mind.
It's a specialized type of martial art that all Marines have been required
to study starting about two years ago. It meshes perfectly with the Marines'
image of themselves as living rougher and fighting meaner than the armed
forces' other branches. "A lot of Marines coming to the fleet have never had
the experience of fighting another human being hand-to-hand," says Lt. Chris
McManus, a 28-year-old Kilo Company platoon leader from Manhasset, N.Y.
"This affords them an opportunity."
Here's how one workout went: At the end of a four-mile march into the
desert, 172 Kilo Company Marines paired off, sat down back-to-back, and, at
the signal, turned around and really tried to hurt each other. They pulled
ears and jaws, twisted arms and shoulders, grabbed throats and fingers, and
ground each other's faces into the rock-strewn desert floor of northern
Kuwait. Sergeants fought privates, officers fought enlisted men, everybody
"Get him in the trachea or the carotid artery!" 2nd Lt. David Fleming urged
one of his platoon members. Lt. Fleming, a 28-year-old from Lansdowne, Pa.,
who has a Bugs Bunny tattoo below his fresh smallpox-vaccine scab, is
usually a genial man. Not this day: "Pull his nose back so you can get your
arm around his throat," he told another Marine. The fighting stops in these
drills only when the two-minute round expires or when one Marine "taps
out" -- signaling that he can take no more.
The 165-pound lieutenant's trash-talk continued even when he found himself
pinned to the ground by his 206-pound platoon sergeant, John G. Ferguson.
"Bury my face in the sand and try to smother me," Lt. Fleming gasped,
reprimanding the staff sergeant for being too easy on him. "Get out of that
"I don't want to hurt my lieutenant," Staff Sgt. Ferguson, 29, of Aurora,
Colo., responded quietly. But next time he complied, grabbing his superior's
There are a few rules. No standing, for instance. All fighting must take
place down in the dirt. No eye gouges. Or biting. But inevitably somebody
gets hurt. In fact, that's the plan. "There's a difference between being
hurt and being injured," explained Gunnery Sgt. Brian Davis, 32, a battalion
martial-arts instructor from San Diego. "Hurting is good."
Across the sand from the Fleming-Ferguson match, the gung-ho commander of
Kilo's weapons platoon, 1st Lt. Rudy Salcido, 28, from Tucson, Ariz.,
battled the company's executive officer, 1st Lt. Brian Curtis, an intense
26-year-old, from Lander, Wyo.
Each grabbed the other's ankle, straining for leverage until both heard an
ominous pop. Lt. Salcido was carried off to a nearby Humvee. Everyone
thought he had a broken bone. He was still smiling, though, determined not
to miss the war. "Sir," he told his captain, "just give me a walking cast.
Don't leave me behind." It turned out to be just a bad sprain. He was back
on the job in a day and running again in a week.
Another Marine hyperextended his knee and ended up in the Humvee, too. Cpl.
John Trummer, 22, of Saranac Lake, N.Y., dislocated a finger while yanking
on his opponent's bloody nose and turned to the medic, Navy Hospitalman Aric
Lee, for a quick fix. "Go ahead, Doc," the injured Marine said grimly, using
the nickname all medics get, even the ones who aren't physicians. "If we're
going to do it, let's do it."
Cpl. Trummer braced himself against Doc Lee's shoulder, and the medic pulled
on the finger until it popped back into place. Doc Lee, 22, from Rochester,
Ind., taped the damaged finger to its neighbor, and the corporal went back
to the fight.
The hands and legs take a particularly rough beating. Staff Sgt. Adam
Walker, a slender man with a garden of tattoos on his arms, wrestled one of
his squad leaders. "I almost broke his finger," Sgt. Walker, 26, from
Hendersonville, N.C., reported during postmatch chatter. "I had to do
something -- he had it wrapped around my throat."
The martial-arts training "scares me," the company commander, Capt. Innes
Quiroz, 39, from Martinez, Calif., admitted afterward to his surviving
lieutenants. "I have a bad feeling about losing two guys, including a
lieutenant," he said.
He suspended further fighting for the day. But he sees the value of the
training, and the next day the melees resumed. The following week, the
Marines got a different kind of training -- hand-to-hand combat drills aimed
at perfecting kicks, punches and escape rolls.
One of the best fighters in the 2nd Platoon is Cpl. Adam Sanchez, a
6-foot-3, 205-pound Marine from Grass Valley, Calif. He wears a green
martial-arts instructor's belt over his fatigues, and specializes in
kicking. A small group of Marines gathered around him, in olive-drab
T-shirts and fatigues. A few carried thick black training pads, while others
had to use their sleeping bags and stuff sacks as protection from what was
The vertical knee strike, Cpl. Sanchez intoned, is "very powerful, very
deadly. You all know it's my favorite strike to use on the enemy. One
powerful knee should do the job, and then you can finish him off with
whatever other martial-arts moves you may know."
With that, he faced off with Lance Cpl. Joseph Allen, a 5-foot-4, 155-pound
Marine from Duluth, Minn., placing his hands on the back of Cpl. Allen's
head and driving his right knee into his stomach pad. Cpl. Allen staggered
back about six feet, shook it off, and returned to take another kick.
Next the entire group paired off to practice.
"Kill," Lance Cpl. Michael Dressler, a 20-year-old from Olathe, Kan.,
growled as he absorbed blow after blow.
"Come on, girl," a corporal goaded Lance Cpl. Allen, for not kicking
They practiced uppercuts to the jaw, hammer-fist punches to the neck and
horizontal kicks to the stomach, after Cpl. Sanchez explained what
horizontal means: "like the sun goes up and down on the horizon."
"We're Marines -- it's what we do," reflected Lance Cpl. Mark Fowler, 22,
from Lincoln, Calif. "When we get bored, we either fight or drink. We can't
drink here, so we may as well fight."
Then he turned to the next lesson: How to kill someone by punching him in
the carotid artery.
R. A. Hettinga <mailto: firstname.lastname@example.org>
The Internet Bearer Underwriting Corporation <http://www.ibuc.com/>
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"... however it may deserve respect for its usefulness and antiquity,
[predicting the end of the world] has not been found agreeable to
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