This article contains explicit swearing. This article may offend you. This article contains the truth.
The Marine Corps has taught me many things over the past decade. I’ve learned how to command an infantry platoon of 40 Marines, how to accurately shoot an M-16A4 service rifle from 500 yards with no scope, and how to fight a section of AH-1W Cobra attack helicopters at night, on goggles, in a combat environment. I’ve met wonderful people who have taught me selflessness, compassion, dedication, motivation, and leadership, both up and down the chain of command. And the Marines United scandal has reinforced the notion that some people are better than others, even if we’re playing for the same team. For example, I learned the following words and phrases from Marines while I was on Active Duty:
“Rag-head” – anyone in the Middle East, but particularly Iraqis or Afghans
“goat-fucker” – anyone in the Middle East, but particularly Iraqis or Afghans
“on the rag” – a woman having her period
“FUPA” – Fat Upper Pussy Area
“BAM” – Broad-Assed Marine
“hot box” – when a cockpit contains only female pilots
“snatch” – a woman’s vagina
“cocksucker” – employed in a variety of uses meaning “asshole” in general, but also a gay male Marine
“butt-fucker” – a gay male Marine
“muff lover” – a gay female Marine
“leaf-eater” – a wuss, a wimp; someone who might be vegetarian, Liberal, or otherwise not a white, male, Christian, Conservative Marine
“Shitheadian” – generic name of a Middle Eastern enemy used during training operations (pronounced: shi-thade-ian, but clearly “shithead”)
“Fagmeister” – the first call sign written on the Ready Room (accessible to all) whiteboard for every upcoming kangaroo court
“he-she” – a transvestite, usually encountered in Southeast Asia on a night out during deployment
I’m sure I’ll think of more later, but this list shouldn’t be my peek into the “real” Marine Corps, the one not plastered on gigantic billboards across America of square-jawed young men wearing spotless dress uniforms. One team, one fight. Yeah, right.
While I was at basic officer training in 2007, my whole company was polled in an auditorium by a very senior general officer. We were asked if we would support repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Only three of us raised our hands. Three. In my nine years on Active Duty, I was horrified to see blatant instances of sexism, racism, and homophobia. Most of my interactions were with white, male Marine Corps officers. Not everyone shared these values. Not everyone who made light of the classes of people they disliked or fundamentally disagreed with made comments every day. And not everyone stood silent. Yet the pervasiveness of such language in everyday conversation still startled me. Startles me. With the passing of the recent order to allow transgender men and women into the service, I shudder to think how they will be ostracized.
Some examples of what I’ve already witnessed:
- There was a pilot in my squadron who made it known his personal mission was to kill as many rag-heads as possible in the Middle East as a modern-day Crusade for God.
- There was a pilot in my squadron who closed me in a room with him to scream at me that I was “not [his] fucking peer” even though we were the same rank.
- There was a pilot I deployed with who joked about “homos” being gross individuals that don’t belong in the military. We had an obviously gay Marine working two desks away. A week later, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was repealed.
- There was a pilot I deployed with whose call sign reflected the fact that he was worried he had contracted HIV from an African prostitute when he visited her during a port call.
- There was a range coach on the pistol range who joked that you should turn your pistol sideways and push the bullet downrange. He was an African-American Marine.
- There was a pilot in my squadron who, upon being called on as the newest aviator in the squadron to tell a joke, said this: “What do you call a woman in the South who can outrun her brothers?” Pause for effect: “A virgin.”
- There was a meme put up in a maintenance space in my squadron in 2010 that showed two Lieutenants, one male and one female, at The Basic School. The male is pointing to the left. The caption reads: “See that?! That’s the kitchen! Get back in it!”
There is a clear thread between multiple issues happening across the Marine Corps, from pilots’ lack of flight hours to the Marines United scandal: respect. If Marines respect one another as Marines and not as something different, strange, unknown, or “other,” these problems wouldn’t exist. Respecting your fellow Marine means not posting or sharing photos without their consent. Respecting your fellow Marine means not using terms like “FUPA,” “hot box,” or “on the rag.” Respecting your fellow Marine means not joking about what genitals a Marine was born with. Respecting your fellow Marine means allowing all aviators access to the minimum amount of flight hours, not just those about to deploy or attend Weapons and Tactics Instructor’s course. Respecting your fellow Marine means sharing duties evenly. Respecting your fellow Marine means respecting human dignity, whether you’re talking about Americans or Middle Eastern people. My first Executive Officer of my first squadron had a rule: If you wouldn’t say it in front of your mother, don’t say it here.