Soldier Systems
Tactical Tailor
Categories About Us EmailArchives Home Tactical Fanboy Soldier Sytems Home

Posts Tagged ‘Corps Strength’

Corps Strength – A Little Shame with the Game

Saturday, September 27th, 2014

Here at the International Training Center we prepare foreign military personnel to attend follow on training in many U.S. military schools. We run prep classes for many different schools. Everything from Aviation to BUDS, EOD, dive school, Marine TBS, and lots of different technical schools. As you could guess the physical training we do varies widely, depending on what the follow on school is. However, the biggest hurdle we face with preparing these people isn’t running or pull-ups, it’s getting their heads in the game.

If you’ve never trained any international military people, let me sum it all up for you in a simple sentence; They’re not in the American military. This doesn’t mean they aren’t smart and/or courageous. Nor does it mean they are all overweight and out of shape. I’ve known (a few) that were some very tough bastards, who could out fight, and PT the average U.S. military member into the ground. What I’m talking about here is getting the majority of them to understand why we (as the American military), think that being overweight and out of shape is a bad thing.

For us it’s simple to understand; A high level of physical fitness is absolutely required to prepare our people for combat, and a trim physically fit leader sets the right example to his people. Trying to explain this obvious concept to some other militaries can be unbelievably frustrating sometimes. Some get it, many don’t. I recently had a Lt. (I won’t mention his country) tell me that he wasn’t worried that he couldn’t do a single pull-up, because he would soon be promoted to Capt, and nobody expects a Capt to PT? Really? I asked him wouldn’t you feel like a wimp that you can’t do a pull-up, ESPECIALLY as a officer? He looked at me like I was crazy?

I bring this all up to illustrate a simple point. Without any shame in the game it’s hard to motivate people to get in shape. The same thing goes for the civilian world. As our country has become more overweight and sickly (check the growing rates of diabetes, and obesity), there is also a new requirement to be more politically correct and nice about how we speak about this. When I came in the Marine Corps in 1981, overweight people were referred to by everyone as: “Fat Bodies”. I guess that was insulting, and frankly meant to be so to get people off their ass, and get in shape. Try calling somebody that today and watch what happens?

Of course it’s not because they eat fast food like they’re possessed, and shine a chair with their butt 24/7 playing video games. It’s due to stress, hormones, gluten, carbs, or maybe even a bad childhood? Give me a break please, I know better. People need to wake up, as we are headed for a crisis in this county, both physically and financially with the worsening health of our population (note the chart below). However we’re supposed to all feel better about being overweight and just accept it. Otherwise your being a judgmental dick? Well I for one think a little shame could go a long way. Just the Master Gunny in me I guess, but to me a fat body is still a fat body, and if you can’t do a single pull-up, you shouldn’t be in a leadership position. Sorry.
Be safe always, good when you can.


Semper Fi

Corps Strength – Prep Yourself

Saturday, August 30th, 2014

While I haven’t watched all of the “Prepper” reality shows that are all over cable TV nowadays, I’ll admit, I’ve watched my share. It’s a mindless guilty pleasure for me. Much of it seems staged for TV, but some of the people do seem sincere? I find it interesting (and funny) to see what some people are up to, but in any case as a Marine I do believe in being prepared. No, I don’t mean prepping for a Zombie Apocalypse, Alien invasion or an Illuminati takeover. I mean something that happens in the real world people, like having to evacuate due to a hurricane, living off the grid if you lose power/water and being ready to defend your property and family during civil unrest. These things I’m 100% ready for. Ready with the necessary supplies, a plan and I’m PHYSICALLY ready.

I emphasis that last part, because as one thing you see 90% of the time when you watch a prepper show is how way out of shape most of these people are? To be fair, not everyone, but the vast majority seem they’re more prepared to assault the buffet at Golden Corral, than deal with any real threat. Nothing personal, but It just seems silly to me that people would spend untold amounts of time and money on buying weapons, ammo, gold, storing food and water, etc, but don’t take a minute to maintain themselves in decent physical condition. So what you say? I mean if you have weapons, and can shoot, who cares? You may not care either, but I know better. Being out of shape in one of these situations can be a real problem, not just for you, but for those around you.

Over the years I’ve seen many people operate in harms way. Our military forces, contractors and internationals overseas, and people trying to deal with some serious natural disasters here in the states. Harsh conditions and high stress combined with very little sleep will beat your ass down like a five cell mag light. IMO no amount of weapons or dried food will help you deal with that stress better than just being in good physical condition. Being in good shape will help you stay mentally on point also. I’ve seen people in poor condition quickly become a burden to others in these situations. Look what happened to many people during and after Katrina? I’m not talking about special forces level fitness here (which couldn’t hurt), but just basic good condition, with a healthy bodyweight. That is especially true if you’re a first responder and have to work 24/7 helping others.


In my book Corps Strength I lay out a proven and effective PT program that will get (and keep) you in great physical shape. That’s without a big time investment, or any special equipment or foods. Actually it’s the perfect plan for someone of the prepper mindset, which is to be prepared. My simple point is that before you spend all your spare cash on another 1000 rounds of 5.56 or a box of Mountain House, prep yourself first. Get in shape, get your weight right and it will probably be the useful prepping you’ll ever do. Plus if the Zombies do show up, you’ll be able to out run them.

Be safe always, good when you can.

Semper Fi


Corps Strength – Age Is Not A Number

Saturday, July 19th, 2014

It was a typical summer night recently as myself and a group of friends and family sat around enjoying some great local beer. As it often seems to do with any group of people over 40 nowadays, the conversation turned to a rundown of everyone’s current health issues. These ranged from chronic back, foot, knee and neck pain to high cholesterol, high blood pressure, arthritis, high blood sugar, kidney problem’s, surgeries and all the various medications everyone’s on. After quite awhile of this medical “seminar”, a long time friend and career firemen turned to me and asked, “PJ, what about you?” During this I hadn’t said much of anything (rare for me). I answered honestly; “I’m fine I don’t have anything going on.” That drew blank (and kind of pissed) looks from everyone. “Well,” my cousin said, “He wouldn’t admit it if he had a problem.” That seemed to set everyone at ease that I couldn’t really be that healthy, It was that I just wasn’t admitting it? Yeah Ok.

The fact is at age 54 I don’t have any real health issues (knock on my wooden head), never have. Other than some bent up feet from years of Marine Corps life, nothing. Why? Luck? Good genes? Some of both I’m sure, but I have to believe that working hard at staying in shape all my life had something to do with it. Make no mistake, I’m no saint: I drank my share of beer, and experienced all the stress, lack of sleep and hard work that anyone will experience during a long military career. The difference was that I never really let myself go, never threw the age or rank card, I just kept going. At times I was ridiculed for PTing on the ship, or when we were traveling, on liberty or deployed forward. The fact is I still get this from people my age; “Slow down, what are you trying to prove?” “Your not on active duty any more.”

That’s right I’m not active duty anymore, I don’t have to pass a PFT or a weigh in (though I could easily) but the fact is I still have to live, and to live the way I want to, I need great health and real fitness. The point of all this? To make a simple, but important observation; to achieve and maintain health and fitness takes a long term commitment, and it doesn’t stop at a certain age, when you graduate college, retire from the military, or even when you sign up for social security. It’s an everyday, life long habit.

Yes, I know, we all are going to get old, and sick at some point, that’s life, and none of us will escape it. However with some consistent effort and a little discipline in your life, you can enjoy the benefits of a healthy, fit body for a long, long time, and this doesn’t take a lot of time when you get down to it either. In my book “Corps Strength” I lay out a simple and proven effective fitness plan that takes no more than about five hours a week, and can been used by anyone of any age to get and stay in great shape. It’s never too late to start. Its my plan to stay in the best possible shape until the day they plant my ass, and it doesn’t include any time for sitting round and talking about my health issues. What about your plan? Take care and be safe.

Semper Fi


Corps Strength – The Mirror Man

Saturday, June 14th, 2014

The other day at the schoolhouse, I had a student (mid level Naval officer), approach me for some advice on how to lose some weight. He wasn’t really overweight, but he wanted to shed a few pounds before summer. When I questioned him about his present routine, he gave me the typical international PT program of mostly soccer, and a little calisthenics. My simple advice was that he probably just needed to up his cardio a little. More soccer, or even better; do some running. I told him that would be the quickest way to drop the extra pounds he wanted. Well you would’ve thought I’d suggested he run a marathon everyday? “Oh no, I hate running!” He then added with a look of true horror. “I don’t want to get too skinny, and look like one of those African runners!” This was funny coming from him, as he looks like a typical middle aged white guy? Like an Eastern European version of Alan Bundy.

Corps Strength - Mirror Man

However I really wasn’t surprised by all this, as I’ve heard this type of reaction before. No, not about African runners, but the weird fear that many people have toward certain types of exercise, and what it will do to them. When it comes to PT people almost always tend to do what their good at, and avoid what their weak in. Meaning good runners like to run, not lift weights and visa versa. It’s human nature, and that’s fine if that’s what you’re happy with, and you don’t have an occupational requirement otherwise. I used to see this all the time in the Marine Corps; Great runners that can’t hump a pack, or climb a rope, and on the other end of it, big super strong guys that can’t meet the weight standards, or run very well. The solutions to these weaknesses may seem obvious, but suggest to a hardcore weight lifter that he needs more running, and to eat less chow to lose weight and he’ll look at you, like you have two heads. A skinny person will tell you; “I don’t want to lift weights, I don’t want to get too big.” While it sounds silly, these weird attitudes are common. Like the picture below, people don’t always see what’s really looking back at them in the mirror. Especially someone who was once overweight, or a small kid, its hard for them to see beyond that mental image and that in turn can lead to problems.

I have a good Marine buddy who is big into the weights, he is a decent runner also, but he had once failed a weigh in and was put on weight control. This put his future career as a Marine in serious jeopardy. I told him more than once that he needed to pull his head out of his ass on this issue, but he had this powerful fear (he would never admit it, but it was obvious) of reverting to the skinny kid he once was in HS. Which was ridiculous, as he was a tank at about 230lbs. After many years of this nonsense he came up for promotion to Gunnery Sergeant. He was very worried that he would be passed over because of his history of weight issues. Using a potential promotion as motivation, he finally bore down on his diet, and increased his running. Over about four months he lost over 30lbs, however his PFT score improved to a 290, (out of a possible 300), AND his weight lifting didn’t suffer in any noticeable way. He was a Fing beast at about 5′ 9″ and 195lbs (12% body fat). He was still pushing almost 400 on the bench press, looked great in uniform and got selected for promotion. After which, even he had to admit he looked and preformed much better at 195lbs, than he did at 230. Getting him to realize that he needed some balance in his fitness routine was 100% mental. He had to see what was really in the mirror.

The bottom line is for your best overall fitness, round out your routine and don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone to do it. In the end life is about maintaining a balance, and IMO the same thing is true about your PT. In my book Corps Strength I always preach for a balanced approach to fitness, which will require many different types of exercise to achieve. You may not look like Mr Olympia, or run like an African track star, but in the end you’ll preform at YOUR overall best. Try it.

Semper Fi


Corps Strength – Fitness And First Responders

Saturday, April 26th, 2014

Firefighters in action2 (640x480)

Recently I had a good friend go through a serious health crisis. This is a buddy that I’ve known since the 2nd grade and when I joined the Marine Corps, he became a firefighter. As I came up the ranks, he did also. Eventually he became a Battalion Chief in our city’s fire dept. Now my friend was an athlete in HS, but as he got older he rarely did any serious PT, nor did he watch his weight. He wasn’t a smoker, or seriously overweight, but one day not to long ago he went in for some minor chest pains and it was found that he had a seriously damaged heart value. In fact it was so serious, that he had to immediately have major open heart surgery and was medically retired from the fire dept. Within a few weeks, his career as a firefighter was over at age 54.

His family had no known history of this type of problem, but sadly his occupation does. When I was doing research for my book “Corps Strength”, I consulted many friends I had in Law Enforcement and Firefighters about their physical fitness needs, and I was surprised to find out that more firefighters died on duty from heart attacks than from any other reason. The life of a firefighter is hard, not just in the fact that they may be burned, suffocated or have a structure fall on them, but from the irregular work shift and sleep patterns, and the constant instant stress (alarm mentality) when responding to fire calls. If you combine that with being out of shape over many years, can cause serious physical issues, like my friend is dealing with now. I’m not a doctor, and I’m not trying to preach like one. However I do believe that a simple, consistent routine of balanced physical training, and a good diet of healthy foods goes a long way to preventing these problems. Exercise is a proven stress reliever and we know its positive effect on maintaining a healthy weight and heart.

My friend had successful surgery and is now slowly on the mend, however he could have easily become a statistic. His doctor told him that if he hadn’t come in for a checkup when he did, he would have probably been on a fire call and then without warning, suffered a massive heart attack and died on the spot. My friend and all other 1st Responders spend their lives helping others, but the bottom line is they also need to take some time taking care of themselves. After everything they do for us, they deserve it. Be safe always, good when you can.

Semper Fi

Corps Strength Newsletter

Monday, April 21st, 2014

You might be most familiar with retired MSG Paul Roarke AKA Master Gunz through his frequent ‘Corps Strength’ contributions to SSD, and by extension his book of the same name. Recently, Master Gunz has expanded his output to include a newsletter. Available via email subscription, the Corps Strength Newsletter features posts on physical fitness training, healthy eating advice, and outdoor/tactical gear reviews, along with plenty of humor and advice to keep readers motivated. A new newsletter is expected to be released roughly every two weeks, so sign up early so you don’t miss out.

You can sign up for the Newsletter here: Constant Contact – Corps Strength Newsletter

Corps Strength – Something Old, Is New

Monday, March 10th, 2014

A long time ago before I was born again as a Marine, I worked in a rock quarry. I always tell people this was my real boot camp. As an 18 year old working with a group of hard living red necks, Union men (Teamsters), and convicted felons (In one case a convicted bank robber and murderer), I learned fast about what being an adult, and working in a grown man’s world’s really meant. It was a real experience, and during those two years I learned lessons about life, leadership and work that no doubt helped me greatly throughout my career as an enlisted Marine. Running that circus was just one man. Anthony was the owner, a first generation Italian that was about 6’2, 240 lbs. To give you an idea what he looked like, it was rumored that he could pass a golf ball though his wedding ring. I doubt if he ever held a golf ball in his life, but I didn’t doubt that rumor. He was one of the most physically impressive human beings I’ve ever seen in person. All of the misfits working there respected the hell out of him and feared him to be honest (myself included); even the Teamsters gave him a wide berth.

When I first started working there I didn’t have a car, so as my boss lived right up the road from me, I often rode to work with him. The problem was that he was one of the true old school guys that believed in always being the first one to work. So I had to hump my ass to his house in the dark at about 0430 every morning. The rule was if I was there when he left I could ride with him, but he wasn’t going to wait for me. If I missed him I had to hitchhike to work, imagine that in today’s world? As you might guess, as a kid I often got up at the last minute and ran out the door to get there on time. I never had time to eat, so I would have to work all morning on an empty stomach. Hunger pangs would always catch up with me about halfway to work. One morning I made the mistake of asking my boss if he would stop at a diner so I could grab a quick take out breakfast. “Huh, breakfast?” he barked. “You haven’t done shit yet?” Needless to say, we didn’t stop.

The point here is that as big and strong as my boss was, he never ate at work, nothing but cigars and coffee all day. The fact was most of the other guys didn’t eat much, if at all either. The general attitude was that eating too much when there was work to do, would just slow you down. Keeping up with the fast pace of the quarry machinery meant only eating something on the fly at best. “I’m not paying you eat.” was another one of his common sayings. Looking back while this group of guys never did any “PT”, their wasn’t anyone there you would consider fat, most of them were between 30 and 50 years old, my boss was the oldest in his 50’s (I was by far the youngest). They were all physically tough, hard men, who would routinely worked outside in below zero weather, doing some very tough work 8-10 hours a day, longer during the summer months. Now contrast that with today’s health and fitness advice, you would think you can’t even do office work without eating a perfectly balanced meal or snack every 2-3 hours? Your metabolism will shut down, you’ll have no energy, you’ll gain weight, blah, blah, blah. To that advice I say: “Bullshit.” Like I say in my book Corps Strength; you’re not a baby and don’t need to eat like one. The fact is the multiple meal plan has been popular for many years now, and its results speak for themselves; the United States is at an all time high for obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.


Even before that I was never a fan of this plan. I don’t have time for it, and I don’t think its practical or effective. I rarely eat more than what you would call a “real meal” once a day and that’s at night. During the day I eat just enough to keep me going, and never a big lunch. This isn’t anything new; General Stanley McCrystal’s routine of not eating all day, but still running 7-8 miles everyday is well known, plus more recently the “Warrior Diet” has become popular. Its the same principle I witnessed years ago. So to be productive and help stay in shape just try eating lightly during the day, and have one meal at night after the days work is done. Like I often say, maybe something old is the new answer. Does it work? My old boss recently died at 89 years old and was still working hard almost everyday. Try it. Be good and stay safe.

Semper Fi,


Corps Strength – Hump Day

Saturday, February 8th, 2014


Here at the International School house we run different PT programs for almost every level of fitness. From BUDS, Dive school and Marine TBS prep to simple (easy) programs just to teach our students how to set up and run a basic PT program, and keep (try to) themselves in shape. From my observation of 100’s of these students over the last five years they have the biggest problem improving in two areas: swimming and humping a pack. Now I don’t teach swimming, we have a former Navy SEAL and a Dive Master that handle that training, and they can take a guy that can barley swim to what ever standard they need to pass (if the guy is motivated) pretty quickly. However, I oversee the 16 week PT program to prepare foreign officers to attend the Marine Officers Basic School in Quantico, Va. As you might guess the program is heavy on the basics: running, UBD, O course, and other combat fitness related tasks, but from all that the thing (as a group) they have the hardest time with is humping a pack, and we do a lot of it, as it’s a big thing at TBS. At least once a week we gear up and hit the trail, starting with about a 20lbs load for a mile or so and ending with a no shit 20 mile forced march with 50 plus lbs. The student’s hate it and it does suck, but humping always has.

Going back over many years of doing it, my experience tells me the only way to prepare for carrying a heavy combat load (especially up and down hills and/or in the heat) is to do it. While general PT programs and weight lifting does help, nothing will get you ready for a humping a pack, but humping pack. I have another TBS prep class starting this summer and I know I have to just grab my pack and get after it once a week to prepare myself. All the other PT I do won’t be enough. The upside is that when I add this weekly hike to my routine I always notice my running improves and so does my overall strength, which people like to call “Core” nowadays. It’s not really what you’d call fun, but I’m convinced that it has benefit for almost any PT program, especially if you’re in a job that bearing weight is a requirement, like a Firemen, SWAT cop or even a construction worker. In my book Corps Strength, I outline how to add these workouts into an overall fitness program. You don’t need actual combat gear. A good weight vest or military/civilian pack will do, and it’s pretty much mindless once you get out there. Good boots are must and you need to start out light, slow and short, gradually adding weight and distance to prevent injury. Plus it’s something that will get your ass outside of the gym for a change. Good luck.

Be Safe always, Good when you can.

Semper Fi


Corps Strength – The Deal With Supplements

Saturday, January 25th, 2014

Recently there was a medical study published in all the major media outlets, about the role of vitamins in health. It got a lot of press and much discussion on social media. The take away from the combined study was that supplemental vitamins are a waste of time and money in preventing disease, and/or improving overall health. While I’m no doctor, I find their results seriously flawed from a common sense, real world perspective. First off this study makes the base assumption that everyone is consuming a balanced diet, and from that you’ll get all the vitamins you need. Really? I think that’s a pretty big assumption. Who exactly eats a balanced diet everyday? Especially in the military. Plus like a lot of “medical studies” that I’ve read over the years on diet and exercise, this one was focused on various groups of people in a “control group”, with one the groups sited was men that are 65 years and older? This is not exactly a group that you’ll find serving in the military, working as First responders, or frankly a group of people that do hard physical work. The study did say that while they didn’t think a standard multivitamin was harmful, it wasn’t beneficial. Sorry Doc, just don’t buy it.

In my book Corps Strength I outline a simple and effective high performance eating plan that was reviewed and found sound by the head nutritionist for the U.S. Special Operations Command. This plan has helped thousands achieve and maintain a healthy bodyweight, and still preform at a high level in almost any situation. However, I still recommend that everyone supplement with a daily multivitamin as insurance. Not just to cover any nutritional deficiency, but to also help deal with the added physical and mental stress that is associated with the military, first responder and other hard working occupations. Not to mention those that PT hard and compete in athletics. BTW, I’m not talking about “mega/animal paks” of vitamins. I have tried those and I got urine that looked like OJ, and smelled like a salad bar. So I think most of those extra vitamins end up in your sewer system, and could be toxic due to the excessive doses of vitamins they contain. I’m talking about the simple one a day type. I take a Centrum multi, have for years, and in this old Jarhead’s opinion they ARE beneficial, especially over the long term. Plus it doesn’t cost squat try it. Big good and stay safe.

Semper Fi,

Corps Strength – Eat, Drink AND Stay In Shape

Saturday, December 14th, 2013

Now that we are right in the middle of the holiday season, it’s no surprise that most people are going to eat more and exercise less. This is the time of year that we all like to enjoy the great food and drinks at social gatherings and everyone is extra busy with shopping, traveling, etc. It’s all good, but one down side to all this fun is the well -known holiday weight gain. I recently read a study that stated the average American will gain about 5 lbs. between Thanksgiving and the New Year. Now that doesn’t sound like much, but the study also found that most adults never completely shed that excess weight and people who are already overweight, tended to gain more and lose less afterward. So it would make sense to try avoiding the increase in the first place, rather than trying to work it off later.

One of things I pride myself on in my book Corps Strength, is that when it comes to diet and exercise I stay away bullshit; I.E. scientific double talk, complicated routines and weird diets that no normal person can stick too. I only go with I know works from own experience, and what I seen with my own eyes, on those I train. Keeping in shape around the holidays is no exception. Having said that, it’s not impossible to fully enjoy the holidays and keep your weight in check. I do it every year, and I’ve never been known to miss a dessert or adult beverage.

First off, keep in mind that every day between Thanksgiving and Jan 1st isn’t a holiday. The fact is there are only a couple of actual “holidays” during this time frame. I know they’re at least a few parties in there also, but come on man, not every day and night. So get a grip Bad Santa, you don’t have a built in excuse to stuff yourself like a North Carolina deer tick, and skip PT for over a month. For the most part, you should stick to your normal routine.

For the days of a big get together I have a simple routine that I have followed for many years with good success. The first thing I do is get up early and go for a run. Whenever possible I like to do this in a local Turkey Trot, Santa’s Run, New Year’s 10k, etc. Every place I’ve ever been stationed has had one of these runs and you can take you family too. Even if you participate just by walking, it’s the best way to get yourself moving. In place of running I have also gone hiking, cycling, snowshoeing, skiing, hunting, etc. The point is to get some cardio (calorie burning) type of activity in to start your day. After which I have a light breakfast (skip the Breakfast Buffet) and I also eat very little the rest of the day. I’ve heard other recommendations that you should eat something just before a holiday dinner so you will start off kind of full and not eat as much. In theory that sounds good, but the fact is it never stopped me from eating like an escaped hostage at these things, and I doubt it really works well for anyone else either.

My plan is to go in hungry, but to just eat a little bit of everything, and I mean everything. Now at the type of dinners that my family has, this usually means dozens of different items. So I just will have a small portion of each, but in the end this will add up to a huge plate full. I find that I will eat less and be satisfied quicker if I go with the most variety. I also try to eat slower than normal, and enjoy the debates, gossip and other BS that you usually have at these things. I always stop at one helping and will save dessert for later when I will enjoy it more when I’m not so full.

Right after dinner grab someone, and go for a walk. This is the best way to settle your food. Doesn’t mean I don’t watch football, but at some point after the I will get a walk in.

As far as drinks go, try to go easy on the alcohol. 2-3 drinks of your choice, at the most. I go with 1 before and 1 after dinner. Now before you say it, as a career Marine trust me when I tell you that in the past I have drank much more than that at holiday events. Sometimes way too much. However time has granted me some hard learned wisdom on this subject, and I’ve found its better NOT to drink too much at these gatherings, for a variety of reasons, weight gain being the least of your worries in that respect.

The bottom line is; enjoy your time off and especially the time you get to spend with your friends and family. Just keep in mind that you don’t have out-eat and out-drink everyone to have a good time. You’ll thank yourself when you step on the scale Jan 2.

From my family to yours have a safe and Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Semper Fi