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.