Posts Tagged ‘Corps Strength’

Corps Strength – Living Poor and Feeling Rich, or Living Rich and Feeling Poor?

Saturday, October 8th, 2016

First off, I apologize for being a little late with this month’s article. I just returned from a month’s deployment to East Africa: Comoros and Madagascar specifically. As part of my job here at the International Training center, a couple times a year we take our show on the road to do some training in other countries. While the travel is sometimes long (almost 25,000 miles for this trip, as I no shit traveled by plane, train, automobile, rickshaw, horseback and on foot), I still enjoy the experience. Mostly, as I think I learn more from my students (and their countries), than they learn from me and this time was no different. We held training every day on different bases, but I had a lot of opportunities to observe their own training and see a lot of the country. It was a busy month to say the least.

As I usually do on these trips, made some time to PT with my students. Their PT routines were the standard issue for Africa that I’ve seen for years; lots of running, calisthenics and soccer. The infantry guys also do a lot of humping with packs and running with weapons. We even humped a couple of mountains together. There are no weights, no cross fit, etc. type training to speak of. For the most part, they are in pretty decent condition, good runners especially. Tough, lean guys for the most part, this is nothing new.


Now as a trainer, I also take an interest in what they eat. Needless to say there are no special diets going on here. Many of these countries are only a few short steps from starvation, so eating isn’t thought about the same way as it is in the United States. Supermarket type places to food shop are far and few between, and are priced for rich tourists and a few high placed locals only. Everyone else gets their chow from open air markets. Very little refrigeration and NEVER any ice here; Fresh fish, butchered meat, vegetables, fruit and everything else is just piled on tables for sale. Loaves of bread are stacked like firewood. Rice and flour are measured out of the sack and there are plenty of live ducks and chickens for sale. If you’ve ever been to one of these markets you never forget the sight and smell of it. In other words this isn’t your local farmers market that sets up in your hometown square on Saturdays in the summer. This is everyday life and it’s as raw and un-sanitized as you are now imagining.


Now you think with these unfiltered conditions and simple diet these people would be on deaths door? I found the opposite to be true. Most of the people I saw were healthy, thin, muscular and hard working. Most doing serious hard physical labor every day to make ends meet, including the women and children. Not much of a welfare program here, you work or you don’t eat is the basic idea. Just for one example; Madagascar has one the largest brick making industries in the world, due to the rich clay that is everywhere. I saw tens of thousands of small brick making operations going on and with that I saw a conservative estimate of several million bricks, all of which are made completely by hand. I watched people of all ages making, stacking, curing and carrying these bricks. It’s no joke back breaking work, no shade either.


Their simple basic diet of real food fuels all this work, as I saw very little processed food of any type. The butter and milk we saw was all full fat and the sugar was raw brown. There was no fast food, other than soda, which is very popular. Even in the huge capital of Antananarivo (over 1.5 million people), these open air markets are the norm for the vast majority of the people. They do use plenty of local (hot) spices to jazz up the simple fare, but little else. We pretty much ate like the locals the entire trip and we didn’t get sick, nor get the shits the entire trip (we only drank bottled water, I’m not that brave, or stupid). Our rep from the Embassy told us that when local people eat processed food, and sleep in AC they get sick. They know this from when they hire locals to work at the embassy and the hotels.


The funny thing is that you also see very few overweight people. I saw lots of older people working, walking and carrying heavy loads along the roads with everyone else. The roads are very crowded with people walking and riding bikes. The other thing you notice when you meet the people is generally how happy they are? Families are together all the time, working, eating and living. They don’t seem to be burdened with stress and worry, even though their circumstances would be considered dire by any standard that we go by. They value family, their faith (I seen all faiths there) and enjoy the simpler things in life as most have no TV either. Now you could say that they are just ignorant, simple peasants and aren’t smart enough to know any better. So I guess you need to be educated and have 300 cable TV channels to be miserable? Ok got it.

After a few weeks you kind of take all this for granted, then I got on a plane backs to the states, landing in Atlanta. As soon as you land the first thing you see is the over whelming number of obese and obviously stressed out people in the airport. Not a few, but frankly a large majority and of course every few yards is another fast food place, most with a long line of fat bodies waiting to get their fix. It’s a sad fact that we are the richest people in the world money wise, but in many ways we are the poorest. Maybe we could learn some simple lessons from some of the poorest countries in the world. Stay active, if you don’t have a physical job, get some regular exercise. Eat real food, simple food from the earth, not a plastic box. Along with that relax a little and try to keep things in perspective, in the end nothing is more important than your family when you get right down to it.


Now before you say it don’t give me this crap, that if its so great move there? I’m not going anywhere, not for money, free beer or virgins. I’m an American, who has fought for this country all my adult life and I continue to serve. I’m staying regardless, even if I have to the last man standing holding the flag. My point is that with all our wealth, all our greatness, I feel sometimes that we are rotting from within, and we could do better as a nation, starting with our health and attitude. Enough ranting for this month.

Be safe always, Good when you can.

Semper Fi

Corps Strength – The Real Benefit

Saturday, August 27th, 2016

As a member of the military, maintaining a high level of fitness is an obvious (should be anyhow), requirement. Of course the actual level will be determined by your MOS requirements, as rear echelon personnel aren’t going to be required (or given the time), to maintain the fitness levels of Special Forces folks, nor should they be. In the same respect Wild Land Fire Fighters and Search and Rescue teams must have a higher degree of physical readiness than your average fireman. Having said all that, what about everyone else? The overwhelming majority of people in the U.S. don’t have a physical requirement (like a PFT) to maintain as a condition of employment. So most will have their own standard to go by and this varies widely from absolutely nothing, to people who participate in triathlons, adventure races and other recreational sports that are extremely fit (and work very hard to get and stay there), regardless of age or gender.

Most of the people I know, are just happy to try and keep their weight down and do a little exercise/sports here and there for their health or recreation. I have a few friends that are serious weekend athletes, but not many. I think the attitude about fitness is more: I don’t really need much, I don’t have time for much, or frankly don’t think about it much. As a career Marine and now someone who trains others in fitness, my life has been much more focused than the average person on this subject, as it’s always been part of my job. So most people would say, that’s good for you, but I don’t need it.

However I will contend that maintaining a high level of fitness will add many collateral benefits to your life, even if you have no employment or sports related need. The most obvious are the overall health benefits that rigorous exercise provides. BTW, I’m not talking about weekend softball or walking around the block here, but a several hours a week no joke program. It makes it much easier to maintain a healthy bodyweight. It simulates your immune system, making you less susceptible to sickness and disease. Your internal organs operate more efficiently, giving you more energy and mental acuity. People who exercise at a high level also experience less stress and have an overall better attitude about their lives. All of these are well known benefits of maintaining real fitness and in fact, there are many more, too many to list here.

There is another big benefit that I experience all the time that isn’t as well known, but may be one of the greatest benefits, if not the greatest. That being the opportunity for shared experience with friends and family. I’ll give you a recent example. Last month I got some leave and went north to spend some time with my parents in Upstate NY. It’s been a long tradition in my family to spend as much of our summer in the woods as possible, camping, hiking, fishing, etc. With my two boys and their cousins growing up, the past ten years or so this has stepped up a few notches to some serious hikes and rock climbing treks. Due everyone’s busy schedule this years event was to be made up of myself, my nephew and youngest son. My nephew is presently enrolled the ROTC program at UVA and my youngest son is a competitive sport climber. Both are in outstanding overall physical condition in their early 20’s.


This past month they came up with a proposed plan that we backpack into the Adirondacks and make a one day “test of manhood” hike. The plan was to hike four of the highest mtns in NY State (to include the highest: Mt Marcy), in one big loop. Up and down four steep and rocky mtns in one day. Of course I agreed and we planned it all out and did it a week later. It was a ball buster that took about 13 hours, covering almost 20 miles and over 10,000 ft of vertical climbing; a good part of it was hand over hand scrambling. We pulled out at 0330, to be on Mt. Marcy at sunrise and got back to camp about 1700. It was tough and if I said I wasn’t tired at the finish, I’d be lying. The boys were tired for sure also, however it was fun as hell. Afterward we sat around drinking Maple Flavored rum and warm soda in the dark; tired, scraped up, sunburnt, bug bit and laughing about the times we busted our asses on the slippery rocks and the nut shrinking ice cold stream we swam in during the way. These shared experiences are something you cannot buy, and you could never do if you aren’t in good shape.


My brother in law (3 years younger than me) is very overweight and out of shape. A good man, but he never saw the benefit of trying to keep himself in shape. When we returned from the trip I watched him listen to his son’s story of our trip. I could tell from the look on his face he wished he could have been with us, but he also knew he couldn’t have made a mile of that hike. The bottom line is that he missed out on a wonderful opportunity to spend some “Man Time” with his son. Made me sad to see this, especially when I know with some effort over time, he could have gone with us. Of all the PT I’ve ever done in my life and trust me when I tell you it’s been a lot. Maintaining my fitness for nothing else than to not miss out on times like those, is far beyond the time and effort I’ve put in for it. In the end compared to your health, it may not be the best benefit, but it is certainly is the best reward. Back to Africa for most of Sept to train some people. I’m sure to have something to share with you from my trip. Till then:

“Be Safe Always, be Good when you can.”

Semper Fi


Corps Strength – It Is What It Is

Saturday, July 23rd, 2016

Recently the Marine Corps announced some big changes to their physical readiness program. There are some sweeping changes to the standards for the Physical Fitness Test (PFT), Combat Fitness Test (CFT) and the to the Body Composition Program (BCP). After reading the new order, I saw some things in there that I think are good and some things that aren’t so good. I won’t comment here on every detail, if you’re interested you can read it all for yourself at: USMC Fitness.


Over my 28 years on active duty, I heard a lot of complaining about the PFT and how it didn’t measure basic fitness (BS) and listened to even more whining about the Hgt/Wgt standards being too strict (more BS). However to try and improve things the Marine Corps added body fat % measurements to take in account different body types, and a few years back the CFT came out in an attempt to better evaluate “Combat” Fitness vs. just Physical fitness. IMO any “Combat” test that doesn’t include a timed forced march with full gear isn’t a real test of combat fitness, but that’s another story.

The real story here is the (under the radar) overall lowering of standards in the new order. I’m sure the Marine Corps would push back hard on that one, but if you read the details (like I’m prone to do), you find a very reveling statement in the Marine Times article on this by Brian McGuire, deputy of fitness branch for TECOM’s standards division. When asked why even have the addition of a new push-up vs. pull-ups option? McGuire said it was because the Marine Corps didn’t “want to create a manpower problem by having some female Marines failing.” If that isn’t a lowering of standards to allow you to keep people in that can’t meet a standard, I don’t know what is? I knew when they started talking about a pull-up requirement for female Marines, something like this was coming. IMO you were never going to be able to enforce a minimum pull-up standard for females. Those of us that were in the ranks knew it wouldn’t work. But since the order came out to open all combat MOS’s to females, you had to now come up with a way to make easier for them to get there. So here you go.

The other bad part of this is, that once you lower a standard for one group (females), to be fair you have to lower it for the guys, who can now also opt out of pull-ups, for the much easier push-ups. Now to be fair, they have put in an incentive that you can’t gain a max score unless you choose pull-ups, but that’s on the high end. The more important part of any test is what the minimum standard is, as not many people will ever achieve the max score, never did and never will.

It just may be the old Master Gunny in me, but my thoughts on this are simple; to maintain a superior fighting force you need high physical fitness standards, that’s high minimum standards. If you do some fancy adjustments to make things look better, but in the end you make it easier for those on the lower end to pass, it’s just a lowering of standards, to me it’s just that simple.

Recently I took a class of International Students up to MCB Quantico, VA for a tour of the base and several of the training units there. TBS, OCS, SNCOA and the Martial Arts Center. My students were impressed by everything they saw, (Especially the Marines themselves). As were leaving the Martial Arts Center there was some discussion about fitness standards and one (older) student made a remark that he didn’t think that it was fair that we would expect older Marines to maintain a high fitness standard, as they wouldn’t be able to do it? As we were passing a set of pull-up bars, I felt I needed to make a point about standards.

I took off my suit coat and challenged the group to a pull-up contest right there (in the 90 degree heat). When it what was over, the score was; old Marine in the tie – 18, next best student; Nigeria – 16. The point was this, either you can do it, or you can’t. If you can’t, then you don’t make the team and age or gender isn’t an excuse, sorry.


This week I’m off to climb some mountains on some well earned leave. Till next month, be safe always, good when you can.

Semper Fi


Corps Strength – Step It Up

Saturday, May 28th, 2016

In my opinion one of the most basic measures of useful fitness is the ability to carry a load. No smart ass not that type of load, LOL. What I mean is the sheer physical ability to carry something from one place to another, this is nothing fancy, it’s just about getting that whatever, from here to there. Infantryman , Urban and Wild Land Firefighters, SWAT guys, lumberjacks, masons, etc, all have to deal with moving weight around and there are many other jobs that require you to lift and carry weight.


This straight forward ability is a real measure of overall body strength, endurance and durability. It also has a tough mental component as it can only really be developed through hard grind workouts, however as a foundation of fitness it has no equal. Now having said all that what is the best way to obtain and maintain this component of fitness? In the military forced marches with heavy packs is the go method to for them. Firefighters and SWAT guys train with gear and workers that have to bear weight do so every day as part of their jobs. But if your a person that isn’t in one of these occupations you can still gain a lot of benefit from doing some training in this area.


For myself and others I’ve trained, I’ve seen the best results (in the shortest amount of time) from stair climbing with a weighted vest. Now while from time to time I do some long hikes humping a heavy pack, but for really digging into this, I find weight vest stair climbing is the best. I’m not talking about running up and down stairs, which without a vest is mostly an aerobic workout, but deliberately paced weighted walking up and down stairs. One good thing about stairs is that they are pretty much every where; indoor fire escapes are in every building and outside there are parks, sports stadiums and many other places that have some great places to climb stairs. Here on base where I work there are several places, but my go to is a 44 step outdoor fire escape on the base auditorium building. Once a week I throw on my 40lb vest and stair climb. I walk without holding the rails on the way up, but do so on the way down to keep from busting my clumsy ass. Normally I will do around 45 laps in an hour (51 is my PR). Now that may not sound like much but look at it this way. The standard amount of steps per floor in a new high rise is 12. So 45 laps of 44 step is 1980 steps (counting up only), or 165 floors. Look at it this way, that’s the equivalent of climbing the 104 floors of One World Trade Center with an additional 61 floors. It’s a tough workout and though I normally run 2-3 times a week otherwise, this hour of stair climbing is a much harder overall body workout than running or lifting weights. My legs, back and hips are always sore the next day. It’s not easy, and at times a little boring, but I do it asI know it provides me a level of conditioning no amount of just running or gym work ever would.


The weird thing is I’ve had more than a few people attempt to caution me as too the long term effect of this workout on my back and knees, but I’ve been doing this exact type of workout for many years and never had any injuries from it. In fact it’s been the opposite, I think it has helped me prevent injuries by strengthening the core muscles and other tissue around my joints. I feel the immediate benefit when I go backpacking with my sons. We are doing some rock climbing and backpacking in the Adirondacks and in Yosemite this summer and I know by investing an hour a week in this workout will have me in prime condition for those trips. I highly recommend this for those who want to take their conditioning to a higher level without a large time investment. Start with a light load and short time and increase as you get used to it. Be sure to warm up well prior to and stretch out thoroughly at the end. Be cautious coming down, you don’t need to rush and I would recommend never to run on stairs with a weight vest, to easy to fall and get hurt. Give it a try, it’s not easy but well worth it if you are looking for a way for you to amp up your core fitness.

Be Safe always, Good when you can

Semper Fi


Corps Strength – The Choice Of Fitness

Saturday, April 30th, 2016

Most people understand that when you decide to make the military a career, it’s going to be hard on your body. It’s part of the deal we make with Uncle Sam; especially so for those serving in the combat arms of their service. Now if we’re lucky (and we work at it), we’ll make it to the end of a military career in one piece and without too much wear and tear on our old ass. Yes; aches, pains and some worn out body parts are unavoidable, however I contend that other than a real disability, you can still maintain a surprisingly high level of fitness at any age. Not always easy to do, but not as hard as some people may think either. I offer a recent example of why this is important for anyone who wants to continue to live life fully for as long as possible.

Over the past two weeks myself and an active duty Sailor deployed to Antigua to train some of their Army, Coast Guard and Law Enforcement personnel. The instruction was classroom only, focused on Force Protection, LOAC, ROE and some basic leadership topics. They were good students and the classes went well. We enjoyed some perfect caribbean weather and a relaxed schedule that allowed us plenty of time to see the island. Antigua is well know for its warm clear water and seafood and we got to do a fair amount of snorkeling. (My training partner doesn’t dive, so we were limited to snorkeling).

Taking advantage of this we went out a few times with the intent of gathering some lobster and conch. However the pickings were pretty weak around the close in reefs. Our students told us we needed to get a boat and go out to the more off shore reefs. Despite some promises, a boat was never produced. So a few days before we were scheduled to depart, I suggested to my partner that we just swim out to one of the reefs that was off shore from the base we were staying on. We had been told that this was especially good hunting as that area was off limits to civilians, but we had permission to go there.


He begged off as the the water between the base pier and the reef was about 60 feet deep and at least a 1/2 mile out as years ago the British had cut a deepwater channel for their larger ships. I had made open water swims of over a mile (yes, it had been awhile) before and I didn’t think this would be an issue, but he wasn’t that confident in his swimming ability so he decided he would rather stay near the pier. I was determined to try for some lobster and conch so donning my gear and grabbing a mesh bag I headed out alone. The water was crystal clear and piss warm with no current to speak of and I made it to the reef pretty quick.

From there I made dozens of dives to depths of up to around 20ft off the reef to gather up a bunch of conch but, despite a lot of looking, no lobster. After a couple of hours I had completely filled my bag and decided to head back. Now in case you haven’t done it, swimming with about 20lbs of conch isn’t easy, (they don’t float). It was a pretty tough and slow swim back. A couple of times I considered dumping the conch, but thinking of how good they would taste, I swam on.


Eventually I got back to the pier where my partner was waiting, empty handed. With some ice cold beer we cleaned up the conch and the next day the chow hall made us an awesome stew from the fresh conch meat and we had enough for our whole class. The obvious fact here is that if I hadn’t maintained my fitness at a high level, this great little adventure would have never even had a chance to leave the pier, (or I could have drowned on the way back) and this is just one example of how I’ve been able to take advantage of many opportunities like this over the years and that is not by chance, but a conscience choice.

The main point here to consider is that we will all make a decision on how we want to live our lives. This can be a un-conscience or conscience decision, but you will make it, one way or the other. You may decide that there are some things you want to experience and you know they will require a high level of energy, health and fitness to really enjoy. To choose this option will take some effort and discipline to get and stay in the condition you need. The second choice is easy, just kick back and become a spectator. No effort, no pressure, just relax, let other people have the fun. If that is good enough for you, fine, however It’s not for me, nor do I think its for most of the people reading this.

At age 56 I’m not going to deploy back to Iraq, but there is many things I want to do yet and they involve mountains, oceans, bikes, skis and kayaks. Not Tv’s, computers or hammocks. If you feel the same way, make a conscience choice and get your ass in the shape you need to do what you want to do. My book can help show you the way and honestly t’s not that hard, but you have to make the choice. BTW shining a chair with your ass isn’t a real choice for guys like us, but I’m guessing you know that already.

Be safe always, be good when you can

Semper Fi


Corps Strength – The Fitness Balancing Act

Sunday, March 27th, 2016


One of the most common mistakes people make when putting together a PT routine is a lack of balance. I have a good buddy I work with, who is our SET (Specialized English Training) instructor here at the international school house. A couple years back he pulled a tour in Afghanistan training Afghan officers english. While he was there, he decided to lose some weight and get himself in better condition. Now as a DOD civilian and never having been in the military, his go to PT was mostly playing sports like basketball and softball. Despite that he started walking and running around the airfield and he put himself on a strict diet. Slowly he got in better shape and lost weight, the fact is he lost a lot of weight. He went from over 260 lbs (at 6’3”) to 190lbs during his year deployed. When he came back home, his family didn’t recognize him. It was a great accomplishment and he was determined not to regain the weight.

So then he comes back to the states and even though he continues running, his reintroduction to a normal life and 24/7 access to food (and beer), had him gaining weight again, (another common occurrence). His response was to increase his running mileage. But despite running around up to 50 miles a week he couldn’t keep his weight down and he was becoming completely burnt out on running. Things then went from bad to worse when his back started acting up. Obviously too much running was causing it. I had tried to get him to vary his workouts, as I knew that just running everyday would lead to this, but as he had such good success before with running he resisted my advice and just tried to gut through it.

However with his injury and burnt out attitude he eventually relented and we got him started on some weightlifting, calisthenics and a lot of stretching (something he hadn’t been doing much of), every other day. As you could guess his upper body was weak and he was very stiff, but we started slowly and he cut his running down in the process. With that he got his diet back on track, as when he was running a lot he felt he could eat anything and as much as he wanted, but he found out the hard way that you can’t out run a bad diet.

After about a month he had pretty much healed up and his weight was back down to 190. More importantly his attitude was reset. I wasn’t surprised, as I’ve seen the same thing in people that just run, lift weights, or just do any single activity for their PT program. You have to give your body and mind some variety if you want to maintain a successful long term workout routine and eating plan. We all like to do what we’re good at, however its been my long experience that people do better at their favorite activity if they throw in some different stuff on a regular basis. They often find out that they really enjoy something new once they give it a try. Like most things in life, keeping it in balance is the key to long term success. I’m off to Antigua for a few weeks to train some of their Coast Guard and Law Enforcement people and I’m sure I’ll see something there to talk about when I get back next month. Till then; “Be safe Always, Good when you can.”

Semper Fi


Corps Strength – Mindless and Mislead

Monday, February 29th, 2016


Here on NAS Pensacola, the International Training Center where I work, is located in the same building as Navy API. Which is the Aviation PREFLIGHT Indoctrination for new Navy and Marine aviation officer students. Every once in awhile we have a new Ensign assigned to us that is on Med hold for an injury. They’re assigned to help our staff with admin stuff while they heal up. To me they’re just kids, right out of OCS, or the Naval Academy. They’re always very bright, motivated and to me; fun to be around as I always like to hear their fresh (if not sometimes naive) perspective on things. Plus of course as the old Master Gunny, I feel responsible to help them out with what ever advice and guidance I think may help them going forward.

This last month we had a young Ensign who was with us because of an ankle injury. So he was sent to me to PT with. I told him he could PT with me, but PT goes at 0545 and he had to follow my routine. He was game and surprisingly (unlike most) he showed up on time and ready to go the next morning. We started off easy, as the point was to help him get back in shape, not break him again. He was in ok shape, but a little chunky, so over the next few weeks we slowly ramped it up. He made good progress, his ankle was fine and he could pass the PRT with no trouble. However, I told him that he needed to get his diet in order so he could drop the excess 10-15 lbs he was carrying.

At that, he proudly stated that he had just purchased a delivered meal plan (over $500, including supplements) that says he could lose that much weight in 30 days. I asked him, “Huh, don’t you have a degree in Systems Engineering from the Naval Academy? “Yes”, So you must be educated enough to realize that plans food is just over priced, processed crap? Don’t you think you can figure this out better yourself.” “Well” he said, “Your’re probably right, but I want some fast easy results, without having to think about it.” “Ok, so using that mindset, later if your squadron CO asks you to provide him with a 30 day training plan for his pilots, your go to answer is to provide him with the plan that requires the least amount of thought? The thought process here being that something mindless works best?” Blank stare, “Well I never thought about it that way? Not thinking at all was your mistake, as you were looking for something easy first, sorry to say life doesn’t work that way pal” The right answer to any problem is rarely the easiest. Now that doesn’t mean some effective can’t be simple, many times simple is the best answer, but in any case only the right thinking will get you there.” Mindless as a plan, isn’t a plan, it’s a disaster in the making.” From this I got the “Buy in” look I wanted and we went from there. As we say in the Marine Corps: “Never miss an opportunity to train.”

However, this was really no surprise as there is a whole industry built around this fantasy that you can get real lasting results from something mindless. These 30-60-90 day plans are very popular, they all tout great results without meal preparation, thought or much effort. You just send us money, follow our plan (eat the cardboard we deliver) and you’ll wake up 30 days later and be awesome. To bad it’s almost all just marketing Bullshit. You wouldn’t think that smart people would fall for this stuff, but they do to the tune of many millions of dollars a year. Does it work? For some it does, but I’m pretty sure for most it doesn’t for the simple reason is that its not sustainable for the long term. Like I always ask people, are you going to eat (take) that stuff for the rest of your life? The overwhelming majority of people can’t and because they didn’t learn anything from that “mindless” process, will soon be overweight and out of shape again.

The fact is maintaining an effective long term exercise and eating plan does require some thought and planning. Relatively speaking it’s not that much, but some. Certainly much less than to takes to work a job, serve in the military or raise a family. In my book “Corps Strength” I not only lay out a simple and effective plan, but I go into all the necessary detail on developing the right thought process and planning that you need to make this work long term. You don’t have to be a new Ensign to learn something from the old Master Gunz; Mindless never works.

Be safe always, be good when you can.

Semper Fi


Corps Strength – IPAL

Saturday, January 30th, 2016

In my present position as an instructor at the Navy’s International Training Center (NITC) I teach many different subjects in several of the different courses we run here. However, my favorite course is the International Professional Advanced Leadership course (IPAL). It’s my favorite because frankly I wrote most of the curriculum, developed the Leadership Reaction Course and (to the constant worry of my Navy CO) run the PT program. I designed this course based on the model of the Marine Corps SNCO career course and it’s open to all branches of international military, LE and Intel services. In the last five years we’ve had students attend from over 60 different countries, that have all levels of military experience, training and physical conditioning.

Before our last IPAL class started we learned that we would have a student that was a 46 year old police officer from a small African country. Now I didn’t give it a second thought, however there was considerable worry and concern over this persons ability to handle our PT program. I assured the command that if he was just in good general health and had no physical limitations he would be fine as this wasn’t my first bus ride training out of shape, older people. However after several meetings generated even more concern from the head shed, it was recommended that he be given the “option” of attending PT, or not. I flatly dismissed that and I strongly reminded everyone that this course is first and last, a leadership course and it was inconceivable that we would allow one student to “Opt out” of what the rest of the class would be required to do, PT or otherwise. IMO this went against every basic tenet of leadership training I had every learned. It turned out to be a heated debate and I ended up having to standing on some desks in full Master Gunny mode to make my case.

In the end the CO sided with me and it was decided that he be required to PT with the rest of the class, BUT I was directed to be very mindful of his advanced age when we ran PT, (Advanced? I found this funny as they seemed to forget that the PT instructor was 55). In any case the students arrived and the one in question looked exactly as you might have guessed; overall thin, with a slight gut and no visible muscle tone. He was about 15 years older than the next oldest student. After questioning them (as I always do), about what their PT program was, it was apparent that this senior police officer had done very little in the way of PT during his adult life. However he was professional and actually seemed excited to have the opportunity to get learn about fitness and to participate in a structured program.

Now there is only so much you can do in six weeks and the overall goal of our program is train students in how to develop and maintain a PT program in their own country, not to bring them to a high level of fitness. However, while this isn’t Marine Boot camp or Ranger School, it’s no sissy program either. We run PT 3X a week for an hour each and gradually ramp up the intensity. The workouts are purposely structured to allow those that are in better, or worse condition to preform and improve at their own level. So there was no need to make special adjustments to the program for him. Over the six weeks he participated fully in all of the different sessions that we did. Yes, he was very slow (with some walking) on all the initial runs and he struggled with calisthenics. However, with encouragement from his classmates and staff ,he steadily improved. Along the way he lost body fat, gained strength and remained injury free. At the end of our course we made a Field Studies Program trip to San Diego. In between visiting the USS Theodore Roosevelt and MCRD San Diego we took a day off and made a hike up Mt. Woodson to the famous; “Potato Chip Rock” (see pic) just outside of the city. We made steep hike up the 3 mile trail with “Robo Cop” (this was the nickname the other students gave him) leading the way without a hitch. He remarked that he never would have considered doing something like this before he came to our course and felt that he was in the best shape of his life.


To the dismay of the head shed (and my great amusement), at the completion of the course he remarked at the final debrief that the PT program (and the hike), was his favorite part of the course. He also intended to continue his new fitness routine, AND to incorporate this with his officers when he returned home. Now the point of this story? It’s that people tend to seriously underestimate what can be done when it comes to getting in shape and improving their health. Especially if they’re presently out of shape, or haven’t exercised much in their life. This story is just one example of many that I have personally witnessed over the years. The fact is a simple and consistent exercise program can produce amazing results if people would give it a chance and it doesn’t matter how poor your present condition is or how old you are. Give yourself a chance and don’t listen to the doubters, especially if that doubter is yourself.

Be safe always, be good when you can.

Semper Fi