Just what is happening the the middle east that we don’t know about? It might not seem like much to you but the U.S. Central Command has cancelled the upcoming Marine Corps Birthday Ball according to a short article from State of the Union.  The reason cited is “unforeseen operational commitments.” Say what?

The Marine Corps is and always has been the smallest branch of our Armed Forces. Yes, we consider ourselves (I became a Marine four decades ago when things were raging in Beirut) a cut above. Other branches of course disagree and it’s part of a (usually) friendly source of rivalry and debate and most of us jarheads will readily admit that in the other branches, even if the whole thing isn’t up to our standards they have units that we’d gladly fight with.

Anyway, what you need to understand (as in why I’m writing this) is that the Corps was established on November 10, 1775. The mission statement has of course shifted over time but from the beginning it has focused on “the seizure and defense of advanced Naval bases” and that’s why we’ve been part of the Dept. of the Navy from the get-go. The Corps made it’s first amphibious landing (successfully of course) at Ft. Nassau in the Bahamas in the Revolutionary War, and no one, NO ONE has EVER repelled an amphibious attack made by the United States Marine Corps. And some of other country’s best have tried.

But getting back to my point, if you’re not a jarhead you’ll never fully “get” how special the 10th of November is to Marines. It’s the high holy day for the Corps. In modern times, sometimes some of the pageantry gets moved to take advantage of a weekend day but there are parades/reviews, and Birthday Balls (and lesser celebrations – I’ll get to that) held all over the world. I’m far from the only one who every year marked the day with a private celebration at home that included the main elements of the ceremony that takes place at formal Balls.

It’s a Big effing deal.

I mentioned noting the day in humbler ways. Not everyone including and especially those of us who’s active duty days are long past can attend a big Ball, with a fancy ceremony with Marines in their finest dress blues and their partners dressed to the nines even though we are welcome to buy a ticket to one. (If any are available!) Sometimes as I noted many of us get together in a small group, or even at home pull out a given year’s message from the Commandant, read General LeJeune’s message, and in my case read the chapter “The 10th of November” from Green Side Out. Cut a piece of cake or a brownie, and drink the traditional toasts. That chapter from Green Side Out I mentioned (it’s most humorous “sea stories” but some are serious) was written as Maj. Duncan was retiring and included a range of celebrations he’d seen/taken part it. Some better than others.

One from when he was in Vietnam when he made a point of going around to each of the small units in his company deployed away from the field command post to wish them a “Happy Birthday.” As he approached one (this was in the field and one had to be careful) he heard a Sgt. call his men to gather round. Recounting it the Sgt. told his group it wasn’t the fanciest birthday but it would have to to. He told them how proud he was to be one of them and how they should be proud of each other and being Marines. He noted a few who were no longer with them, and that when you saw guys like that doing what they did “You can’t help but feel a little love for this green son-of-a-bitch. He then took out his K-Bar (our traditional fighting knife) and cut a C-ration slab of “cake” (more like a nasty square cookie!) in half and as per tradition gave one to the oldest present and one to the youngest and sent them back on watch. Duncan slipped away, saying there was nothing he could add.

If I could write like Shakespeare I wouldn’t be able to convey the significance of November 10 to the Corps, and the fact that jarheads DO look forward to the formal ceremonies. Especially when there’s a formal Ball to attend where everyone gets dressed up and after the ceremonies are done and the dancing and drinking commence the real fun begins.  I “garrison”, when there’s a formal Ball the planning gets intense. Weeks worth of effort go into it, including for those who (as happened to me more than once) are part of the formal ceremony.

And that’s why CENTCOM, citing “unforeseen operational issues” cancelling festivities is potentially a BFD:

“Due to unforeseen operational commitments and the nature of our current mission, it is with great regret that we must cancel this year’s event,” U.S. Marine Corps Major Gen. Chris A. McPhillips stated in a letter.

The letter goes on to apologize to those who put in so much work planning formal celebration of the Corps’ 248th birthday. But rather than risk people wasting money on tickets, other expenses like a new outfit for Marine’s partners, or a hotel (so no worries about driving while wasted) only to have things cancelled due to a last minute deployment of a large force instead some smaller, less formal celebrations would take place instead. If possible. Now, this isn’t the first time in recent years the big stuff has gotten cancelled. Still, even though we’ve been assured no American boots on the ground in Israel there is the wider region to be concerned about and sh*t IS going down. The whole region is set to go off like a freaking powder keg and the Marine Corps is trained and equipped to rapidly deploy to trouble spots, and just as importantly work with the Navy which I  point out already deployed one carrier group to the eastern Med. and has another about to be on station.

The United States, along with others is trying to convince Israel to at least partially stand down, to hit the “pause button” and allow humanitarian work to take place, negotiate the release of hostages, and in general provide a chance to cool things down. Israel doesn’t seem to be listening, or if they are they are ignoring us and everyone else. Maybe today Blinken can during his visit get through to Netanyahu but I wouldn’t bet on it.

That’s why, despite the reassurances from the Pentagon that no U.S. troops will be deployed in Israel, and MARCENT’s (the Marine portion of CENTCOM) tone of “we’re just trying to be cautious and avoid folks having to try and recoup money on an event that might not take place I worry. We’ve seen attacks on U.S. Forces and ships since the mess Hamas started began. Iran might not be happy that Hamas started a war but that sure as hell doesn’t mean they won’t try to use the situation to their own advantage and carry out or sponsor attacks in places other than Israel.

So, maybe I’m being alarmist. But looking at the whole middle east chessboard and how hard we know the Biden administration is working to keep the war contained to Israel proper I can’t help but wonder what our Intelligence is telling our leaders that we don’t know about.

Don’t go panicking, but keep a watchful eye in the days and weeks ahead. Because those Marines in the title pic will, instead of being readying their Dress Blues for next week will instead be tending to their “782 gear” – and instead of marching in some parade instead be disembarking from a plane or troop ship mostly looking like what you see – geared up to fight and headed right into one.

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    • If you want to know why I so often rip on John Kelly maybe you understand a little better. Remember the hundredth anniversary of the Armistice that ended WWI? (I assume like me you’re old enough to remember when it was known as Armistice Day) Days of events leading up to Nov. 11 took place in France with almost all the world’s leaders in attendance. Trump of course showed his ass every bit of the way, including at Normandy with all those crosses of WWII veterans buried above an invasion beach laid out. Then, the day before the main event a ceremony was held at Aisne Marne cemetery a hundred kilometers north of Paris.

      If you know your WWI history that battle which happened in June at Belleau Wood turned the tide of that war and did more than just knock the Germans back on their heels. The Battle of Belleau Wood was the Marine’s first major action in that war and they were instrumental in the defeat of the Germans as it unfolded. You know the term “Devil Dog” that is applied to Marines? “Teufelhunden” (the German word for it) was what the German forces called us. It was brutal and ugly as major battles are in war which is always ugly. But the Germans got whupped and they came to regard the Marines coming at them with fear.

      We (the allies) took serious losses but the Germans more so and that was the beginning of the end for them as months later the Armistice was signed and went into effect “On the Eleventh Hour, of the Eleventh day of the Eleventh month. So, it was fitting to include the battle that turned the tide of the war in the ceremonies marking the hundredth anniversary and despite gray skies that “drizzled” the world’s leaders showed up at Aisne Marne where the dead of Belleau Wood are buried. Except, as you know TRUMP blew off appearing and giving remarks as he was expected to do. The day BEFORE the main ceremony in Paris on Nov. 11.

      Belleau Wood is one of the most iconic battles and pieces of history in Marine lore. Having the world’s leaders at the cemetery where those Marines (and others) were buried on Nov. 10 was fitting, and particularly meaningful given the 10th is the Corps’ birthday and Trump didn’t give a f**k. He was more worried about his duckass hairdo frizzing, and it’s not like he’s ever had any respect for anyone who served this country in uniform, much less died doing so. John Kelly was as Chief of Staff with him but also in large part because as a jarhead Kelly knew both the signficance of the battle and how meaningful it would be for the United States Marine Corps to be recognized at the place where the dead of the battle that turned the tide of WWI were buried. On the Marine Corps Birthday!

      I will never, ever forgive Kelly for not punching Trump in his fat mouth, dumping the messiest substance in the room over Trump’s hair (and some of Trump’s blood from a busted lip and nose) and walking outside to tell journalists he was resigning on the spot and why. I’ve had plenty of others tell me they feel the same way.

      Anyway, as I said at the end of the article I wouldn’t panic but I do think given the situation in that region this is significant and that people should be more concerned than during typical times of unrest in the middle east. I’ve had the sense from the outset that there are strong concerns this could escalate far beyond anyone’s wildest fears. I’ve little doubt that a rotation of various degrees of alert status for Marine units has been established so that within a few hours they can be deployed into harm’s way. Wish them, and counterparts from other services (not just the Navy) well because those under CENTCOM will NOT be enjoying a “Happy Holidays” this year. Nor will their loved ones here back home.

  1. In the 17 years I was active duty Navy, I don’t recall the Marine Ball ever being cancelled. I never attended any, but was aware of them.

  2. The US shouldn’t be “asking” Israel to pause.
    Just cut off their allowance and stop giving them bombs.
    Bibi is our bitch and it’s time he was reminded of that fact.

  3. If you believe that Hamas started “this” war, then you need to go and fight over there.

    Why don’t we first try recruiting volunteers for that particular war? Since there’s been a problem recruiting new members, doing so now would be a good thing, right?

    There’s nothing like fighting a war with true believers. And you can use some of those billions of $$ to pay these volunteer volunteers more money. It’s what true believers deserve, right?

    Let’s get Kraken.

  4. My husband is retired Navy. Active Duty for the first 15 years of our 35(so.far) year marriage. Dad wasca,Marine but got a medical discharge when he broke his ankle. The earliest ancestor who.immigrated from.Ireland was a blacksmith in the Union Army during the War in which the South Lost its Collective Mind.

    This is worrisome.

    P.S. Never did a Navy Day Ball. Ben refused to dance in cracker jacks unless he got to do.Gene Kelly’s routine with Jerry. We mostly avoided squadron functions (I found Navy “traditions” to be pretentious, almost as bad as some of the Catholic church’s, and after 17 years of Catholic schools, I still tend to thumb my nose when in am told I.must do.X because it is tradition).

    I could see sending in SEALS and marines to rescue . Hamas is monstrous. Still.In feel sorry forcall.civilians on both sides who just want to.live normal lives. hostages


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