Posts Tagged ‘USMC’

K38 Rescue: Precept and Example

Thursday, March 8th, 2012
Shawn aboard "Jay"

Shawn aboard "Jay"

I sent Shawn Alladio a note yesterday afternoon. Here it is.

At least TRY to have a good time tonight, will ya? This is important.

Here is her response.

Shut up! LOL

 

USCG STAN Team training. Columbia River.

USCG STAN Team training. Columbia River.

 

That pretty much sums up what many of us feel, who are on the back end of rendering service, when accolades come our way.

Shawn was headed to an awards ceremony. I knew about it. Barely. It is not what we talk about. But a friend had reminded me, and I knew that Dr Andrea Neal, was down to see her in the midst of what for all of us, was an impossible week. And we all keep track of each other. Teams and families are like that. And it was Shawn actually, who taught me to always be watching, everything. Apex Predators. It is how anyone who is under her authority is taught to be.

Here is a basic element of K38 philosophy, that is an embed in our psychology. One of thousands. But an important one.

“Think like a victim. But act like a rescuer.” I am going to let that sink in. Volumes have been spoken and written on this.

Learning Flow

Learning Flow

 

Even now as I type this, I know that Shawn is headed up to Washington for work. I wish I was with her. We were up last year working with the STAN team at  the USCG Base at Tongue Point, and out on the Columbia River Bar. I liked it, and the Advance Helo Rescue Swimmer guys. It was good to us all, the time together.

Shawn Alladio, Serious instructions with K38 Mavericks Team

Shawn Alladio, Serious instructions with K38 Mavericks Team

I appreciate that Shawn invited me into her world so many years ago. With all the controversy of late, regarding the marginalization of women, and commentary surrounding a radio personality, who intentionally verbally degraded a female Law student on air, and a bunch of decrepit, corrupt politicians doing what they do, I was a bit taken aback, and had to figure out what the uproar was about.

I have an entirely different baseline about service, and women.

I have never had an issue placing myself under the command of a woman. Maybe because I have been under Shawn’s for so long, and her’s is efficient. So well run in fact, that she somehow finds herself in the unenviable process of having to deal with accolades from time to time. We ALL hate them. Any of us in service positions do them to serve. Though gratitude is great. (It is wonderful being appreciated) What we all aspire to do, is to educate, inspire and push OTHERS forward.

Here is the tricky part. When one leads by both precept and example, people lock onto the example first, and precept last. That is why frequently, our culture lends itself to the development of a cult of personality. But leaders, real ones, (politicians by their job description, are not leaders per se) know to actively resist iconization.

Precept and Example

Precept and Example

Why?

It weakens your team. You want a strong team, a vital community, that by it’s diversity and understanding and respect of each individual’s strengths and weaknesses, you may grow. That is our precept. Get it?

I learned a heck of a lot as a professional athlete (what I was, prior to being a businessman and a photographer-film maker). If one wants to be successful, you hone your strengths, refine those, but you train your weaknesses. Weakness is what kills your performance, and jeopardizes your goals long term. Shawn and I have been discussing this. I know she is writing on the subject. I look forward to the read.

Onboard Instruction

Onboard Instruction

In recent years, K38 Rescue, headed by Shawn Alladio, and a global collective of Rescue Professionals  trained by her, has raised a standard that did not formerly exist. This standard follows the design evolutionary process of the Personal Watercraft, PWC, or RWC (Rescue Watercraft), as we are now beginning to call these boats. A new generation of craft is about to come into our watery arena.

Shawn has applied her company assets as a civilian contractor, and as what I would call a Patriot, thrown everything into training with various branches of our Military and aiding in the development of the usage of the RWC in Military Rescue and various other ops. In a world full of bullshit artists who try to attach themselves and brand by association with the elite of our armed services who are water based, Shawn refuses to talk about it.

So I am.

Why?

Because Shawn by her service, has literally changed the course of History, in the usage of the personal watercraft for Rescue, and developed a detailed training modus that builds warriors out of boys who just liked fast toys. I know. I am one of them. Her understanding of, and education on Rescue theory, can revolutionize a life.

Shawn Alladio, Colombia River Bar

Shawn Alladio, Colombia River Bar

It has made a huge difference in mine. I have learned how to better, do no harm, as I go forward into a production. For eight plus years she has tolerated me, my lens and my Hawaiian hard headedness. I think she sort of fixed me. I needed that. I became a Rescue Boat Operator.  Never my plan, it is just what occurred over the years. I highly recommend it, in spite of the boot camp nature and long cold wet nights K38 training involves. In fact, after awhile you really begin to look forward to dark and inclement conditions. Tougher. More challenge.

Training is Living, Living is Training

Training is Living, Living is Training

So last night, this is what happened.

Shawn received an award, presented by the NSBC. Shawn Alladio was inducted into the National Safe Boating Council Hall of Fame on March 7th 2012. To illustrate how remarkable this is, understand that much older men with decades at the helm of other types of craft under their belts, would be typical inductees. Shawn, a female, and private contractor, and a PWC proponent, was being congratulated and honored on her command and the success of her vision. Important thing.

In her world, there really is no such thing as equality. Equality will drown and kill you. It is all about service and strength.

Here is the K38 Rescue blog. She is a member of NASBLA, and a woman whose love of the Sea and Ocean experiences are vast. I am really grateful for what she has done for my Community, the tribe of people who live in and around the water. The skills she mentors  in not only save lives, but enable us to set higher standards, in all that we do.

Headed down to Camp Pendleton

Headed down to Camp Pendleton

 

The only real reward for that, is in seeing others thrive, and coming home at the end of the day, to those who love us. But no matter how hard we train or how diligent we are, each of us acknowledges that it is grace that leads us home. I know someone who regularly falls asleep to this song.  The source of Grace is praise. I use it a lot. We all should.

Golden Reward

Golden Reward

Sliding into 2011: Year in Pictures

Friday, December 31st, 2010

Golden Reflection

Golden Reflections

This link is to a new piece by Zuri Star called Keep Holding on. It fits the New Year quite well.

It seems that all around us this past year there was friction. In fact, I found myself enmeshed in three massive battles, all at the same time. I did not author those. I simply said “no” to three entities I saw as abusive of my fellow man, community and Ocean Environment.

friction |ˈfrik sh ən|
noun
the resistance that one surface or object encounters when moving over another : a lubrication system that reduces friction.
• the action of one surface or object rubbing against another : the friction of braking.
• conflict or animosity caused by a clash of wills, temperaments, or opinions : a considerable amount of friction between father and son.

So as we close out 2010 here are a few things to lubricate the road ahead.

A fantastic treatise on “love”, from the eyes of babes.

How to change the world completely, one girl at a time: The Girl Effect.

Beauty that matters. Sent along by Fernando Ismerio. A stunning high speed (slow motion) look at the oceans.

Seth Godin on 2011

Best to use lubrication when you have something big to move.

Because as it stands, anything worth attaining must overcome the things that impede progress and the only lubricant that sustains that in our lives is love.

Perfect love casts out all fear. (John 4:18) Fear is a mind killer

Easily said.

Lubricate.

Do it.

The images below are a small selection that are my Year in Pictures gallery. Click on any of them to toggle through as a slide show. I am stunned at what I managed to produce in motion and in stills with the Canon 5d Mark 2 system. 3 Music videos. 2 reality show teasers. 6 commercial Photography campaigns. 18 editorial features, and a book and six covers. Then there is all the random wonderfulness below.

An Independent Nature

Sunday, July 4th, 2010
Americana

Americana

The United States Of America is founded on the tenets located in the US Constitution. All laws and the people who preside over the law, are based on this document. All Municipal and State laws are superceded and presided over by the Federal laws, based on this document. So no entity may pass a law that is not in accordance with this document. If you find that someone has. You not only have a right, but a civil responsibility to inform and if necessary, litigate that entity.

That is what is meant by the legal tort of Rule of Law, which dates back to Aristotle in 350 BC.

HERE. Know the Law of your land. Your liberty rests on you knowing this.

Those precepts were instituted by the biggest collection of social misfits that the world in Western Europe could produce in the late 1600′s. Wiki has a pretty good summary here. It is informative to understand the History of a thing, as there is power in that. Within it resides truth, for the most part. Though admittedly, History is written by the victors.

But a revelation of the true strength and character of the United States, lies in an examination of the nature of those individuals who had the tenacity to put their lives and their families on the line, and leave a vast history and legacy behind them in order to venture out to a new frontier in the Americas.

It all is summed up pretty well in this image loaned to me by the Dunbar’s of their son, who after severe stress in childbirth, had this to say, as he lay in Neo Natal Care, full of tubes. Kate Slaton Dunbar is descended from the people who settled the area in which I live.

When I saw this image, which her husband shot, I was surprised. To me, it seems sometimes like all of the world would love to snuff America out. This boy’s response is the basis for what our instinctive reply should be to ANY entity within or without, that attempts to rob this country of what we paid for in vision, obstinence, perseverence, bravery, and blood sacrifice.

One thing to say

One thing to say

Independence Day. Think about that word.

independent |ˌindəˈpendənt|
adjective
1 free from outside control; not depending on another’s authority : the study is totally independent of central government | Canada’s largest independent investment firm.
• (of a country) self-governing : India became independent in 1947.
• not belonging to or supported by a political party : the independent candidate.
• (of broadcasting, a school, etc.) not supported by public funds.
• not influenced or affected by others; impartial : a thorough and independent investigation of the case.
• ( Independent) historical Congregational.
2 not depending on another for livelihood or subsistence : I wanted to remain independent in old age.
• capable of thinking or acting for oneself : advice for independent travelers.
• (of income or resources) making it unnecessary to earn one’s living : a woman of independent means.
3 not connected with another or with each other; separate : we need two independent witnesses to testify | the legislature and the judicature are independent of each other.
• not depending on something else for strength or effectiveness; freestanding : an independent electric shower.
• Mathematics (of one of a set of axioms, equations, or quantities) incapable of being expressed in terms of, or derived or deduced from, the others.
noun
an independent person or body.
• an independent political candidate, voter, etc.
• ( Independent) historical a Congregationalist.

If we truly stand united. Expect to stand alone amongst the Nations. Independent. Victory is never given. You have to earn and seize  it. That is us, from our inception. It is what we were. It is what we should be.

One of the single most powerful songs that I have heard. America. Samuel Shoemaker and the Shoemaker Brothers. It has inspired quite a bit for me in the month or so since I first heard them play it live here, in Ventura.

America the diverse, proud, obstinent, independent and free. It is our nature.

The following gallery is a memorial homage in honor of our obstinence, persistence, and our laws.



Collateral Damage

Friday, November 20th, 2009
Jacqueline

Jacqueline

 

 

I was 23 years old and saying a tearful goodbye to my wife of one month in LAX departures. As I slunk back in my seat moments later, and heard the soft thunk of the cabin door closing, I noticed Shaun Tomson sitting a few seats away. Dane Kealoha was nearby, and behind him I saw Mark Richards. We were all headed for Hawaii and what would be my first travel leg of the then IPS world tour. 

 

The next ten years or so of my life consisted of moments like that: traveling alone, or with some of my pro surfer pals from California. The goodbyes were frequently followed by amazingly wonderful hellos a month or so later. The stress on our marriage, though real, was manageable. We both had known what we were getting into. 

 

There is something magnificent about the bond between a man and woman committed to each other. It just feels sacred. My wife had never complained about my other mistress. The sea would always give me back. She knew that it would never do anything but wash me home. It was not an enemy, but part of our bond. We both got that about each other. We were able to share it. 

 

I bailed on my busy work schedule last week. The details of life sometime necessitate we take care of things like house, taxes, cars. I was resigned to a drive down coast to Encinitas to drop off a commercial job for a client, and trade in my 07 car, which had reached that crossroad of diminishing value that occurs at around 60 k miles. 

 

A very patient car saleswoman named Barb Shev, had borne with me as I decided to trade my car in on a 2010 version. I had dropped her a simple note hello. A query and in two e mails later and Barb had ferreted out a deal that gave me a good trade in amount on my car and a great price and financing on the newer model. But getting away had been almost impossible. I finally picked a day and resolved to  just drop everything else and go. I had bought a car before from that dealership, and it had been a straight shot, no BS in and out thing. I needed that. 

 

On the way out the door my girlfriend Donna (Hey, the marriage DID last 20 years. That is another story) asked if I was bringing a camera. I was not intending to. Like a bad school child, I stomped back into my camera room and grabbed a little Canon Rebel T1i and a 10-17 fisheye zoom lens. Why that lens? Because it was already ON the body. I was not into making more post production for myself. I already had six stills shoots and three motion projects awaiting my attention. No shooting was planned for me that day. But Donna knows me well, and she smiled as she saw me stomping out the door and kissed me goodbye. I was grumpy. I like my car. I hate LA freeways. Harumph. My shiny black Mazdaspeed 3 came to life with a smooth rumble at the touch of a key. It had been a seamless performer for 3 years. I had disassembled and reassembled it almost as a child would a model car. I like cars. I like speed. I know both quite well. 

 

Listening to AM 1070 for the traffic news, I found myself whizzing up on OC via I 5, and dialed my friend Shawn Alladio, who I knew lived there somewhere . She picked up. Turns out that the next exit was hers. In a few minutes I had found my way to her house and she met me at the curb, wearing camo pants, a Liquid Militia tee shirt, and a soft smile. 

 

We do not get to catch up in person much. She owns and operates a global water safety company called K38 Rescue. One of the smartest, toughest, most fair people that I know. I am lucky enough to have had her tutor me in Ocean Rescue, PWC operation, risk assessment, and be my friend. She had been through a lot lately, and I was really glad to wrap my arms around her. I care about my friends. This one had been to hell and back several times recently in her work. A slew of awards for heroism had been the by product. But there had also been collateral damage no one saw but family and close friends. 

Shawn’s blog is here. Read it if you want insight into a very remarkable woman and her world. 

 

Coffee at Peets in a trippy nearby mall (I had been up since 3am working and needed a cup) had Shawn asking if I wanted company. 

 

So down the 5 we went, sipping our coffee and catching up. As we passed Pendleton, a powder blue Pacific glistened beyond the ocre brown of the coastal chapparal. Shawn asked if it would be okay if we stopped on Base after the car thing. She said that there was someone she wanted me to meet. I said sure. 

 

Barb met us at the door of a very quiet Penske Mazda, standing in the midst of other very quiet dealerships. She looked the same as when I had last seen her 5 years ago. She pointed out the shiny new black MS3 sitting next to my shiny older and rather sinister looking MS3. “There is your new car David. Want to go for a test drive?” And then she smiled as I declined. Barb knew I was likely on a mission. She helped. 

 

While Shawn chatted with her, I met with the same finance guy that I had seen 5 years prior and really just had a pleasant time. In a bit, all of us were hanging in the office and talking story as the paperwork got completed. It was comfortable. But my psyche was someplace else. 

 

In a short while, we were saying our goodbyes and I settled in behind the wheel of my new car. But I did not care. And I could not figure out why. Somehow I knew that today was not about getting a car. Shawn was sweetly enthusiastic as it roared to life and we eased towards Hwy 78 and Pendleton. I was quiet. 

 

Though successful, I do not make a lot of money. I spend most of what I earn on my career tools. I should have been amped. I love cars. Here was my old car, refined and brand new. A car enthusiast’s dream. But inside, it was all pensive brooding. Something else was up. I knew the signs. 

 

At Pendleton’s gate I said that we were there to see Mike Arnold, base safety Officer down at the marine Boat Locker. We knew that Mike was having a hard day. It looked like he may have lost someone to an incident earlier. Mike takes the Marines and their lives very seriously, and one lay in a civilian hospital critically injured. A phone call confirmed that he would not be meeting us. 

 

Shawn said that her friend Jacqueline would come down to the boat docks, near the Marine Yard where she occasionally holds training courses in Ocean Rescue and boat ops. “Do you think that you could take a picture of her for her husband? He is away on deployment.” “Yea sure, I brought a camera” I said. I thought about my odd choice in lenses. Oh well, it would be a snapshot. Something for him to hold close while he was away. It would do. 

 

So we nosed into the launch area. Shawn got out and immediately headed for the water, squatting down and holding her hands in it. A sharp breeze carrying the increasing coolness of a Fall ocean, contrasted against the warm yellow light of the late afternoon sun. 

 

“She should be here soon. She is a blond. You are really going to like her.” I heard her say, hands still in water and back to me. She was recharging. The ocean does that for us. Here is a very cool video that explains why. 

 

 Camera in hand, I took a deep breath of cool salt air. It was nice to be here again. In a few minutes I saw a bright red little Chevy rolling up on us, and lots of black hair blowing out the open window. “That’s her” I heard Shawn say. “That gal has brunette hair Shawn. No, blonde, no, blond and black.” As the little red car rolled up next to mine on the pavement, I noticed that it’s tires glistened shiny black, The bright red paint glowed. The windows glistened spotless and three stickers were placed carefully on the side and back windows. This woman kept her car up. You do not see that much from 23 year old women: being into their cars. It was Jacqueline. 

 

As Shawn introduced us, she explained the hair. “Like it? I just did it.” Her long hair was close to black in color with two near white pieces that framed her face. The choice spoke a lot to me about her. “Nice car” I said. She smiled broadly. “Thanks!” I take good care of it. It’s a 2005.” (It looked as new as my fresh one). 

 

I appreciate individualism in people. I saw it standing there in front of me in the form of a confident, relaxed, charming and attractive young woman. The saying “on the threshold of life” dropped in to mind, as I asked if I could take her picture. Still unsure or entirely motivated to do anything but a simple snap shot, I did not really understand what in the heck I really was doing at that exact moment in place and time. But a nagging feeling, which had been tugging on my insides had kept up it’s persistent tapping. What was this all about? 

 

With no clear direction I began to shoot around a little bit. For the past hour my eye had been drawn to a spot of wet sand nestled into the big brown rocks of one of the jetties that framed the launch ramp. I asked Jacqueline to head down to the water. On the way, I had joked about what I do. “Yea I order people to do things and they do them.” As we passed by that spot at the jetty, I said: “Could you please just stand right over there?” 

 

Jacqueline turned, looked me square in the eye and in a revelatory and surprised fashion turned the light on for me about the purpose of my day when she said simply, “There? That is where I said goodbye to my husband.” She appeared shocked that I could know. And as enlightenment came, direction and motivation dawned as well. I knew what to shoot, what needed to be communicated. 

 

Her husband Ryan was deployed on a ship, somewhere in the Middle East. 

He was a sniper. This spot was where something sacred had occurred between the couple. In ten minutes I had shot a series of images that communicated what was involved in that sacrament. Ryan would “get it” when he saw them. Hopefully others would as well. I noticed my eyes trying to tear up as I worked. Emotion indicates something to me. So when a subject evokes it, I know exactly what to do: tell the story. 

 

Deployments are three months long generally. Ryan comes home for a month. Then it repeats. That is three times a year when the soldier’s family gets to go through the process of separation. Now goodbye, that is not just a sweet au revoir. I questioned Jacqueline about it, as she explained what she and the other wives dealt with in their relationships and the comings and goings. The stories were heavy. The implications vast. The potential damage to relationships and people a clear and present sort of danger. She began to cry as the back story arose. 

This Video tells another soldier’s story. 

 

When you are just barely out of childhood and getting your feet under you as an adult, there is a steep learning curve. I had been where she was, having married early as well, and leaving. The glaring difference being that her husband’s job was as a merchant of death. And what he would be dealing with, is an enemy whose job was to snuff him out. That is war. Ultimate conflict, with ultimate expense. 

 

 The energy of that has a ripple effect that can sweep through the harbor of a soldier’s loved ones and wreak an incredible amount of damage. For the family, the constant loss and return and loss, can create what psychiatry calls separation anxiety and other maladies. Their life consists of maintaining a relationship in spurts. 

 

 At 50 I could maybe have a decent chance of surviving it. But at 23, it is an entirely different set of skills that one may not be in possession of, that can wreak havoc. You learn fast. Or not. But in reality it is all about resolve on both peoples part to get through to the other side of this phase in a career choice that it is difficult to see clearly with young eyes. 

 

The net affect of this process creates the bond of the military family. Everyone tries to link arms figuratively. Each supports and holds up the other. It was what Shawn and I were really there for that day. To show Jacqueline that we cared about her, Ryan, and them as a family. We were spiritually linking arms. It is much more difficult for a person to be knocked down when friends, family and country hold them up. 

 

Shawn had told me a story about a fighting group on it’s way into battle in the back of a helo. They had made a pact that should one of them fall, the rest would step up in support of the family of that member of the group. They had sworn on it. A short while later one of the group had been blown to his end. When those men returned home, true to their word, they formed a support group. It is called The United Warrior Survivors Foundation. The link is here. What the UWSF and several other groups do is offer support. They try to limit and contain the collateral damage of war. That collateral damage is the type of energy that can sweep through the cultural fabric of a nation with the effectiveness of a blast. So these warriors seek to soften the blow for the rest of us. Talk about nobility. 

 

Jacqueline loves her husband, that was very obvious. But more than that, she is committed to him, spirit soul and body. She is at war. They all are. She is present and accounted for. And her reality is becoming more stark, as she realizes that the next deployment already beckons. 

 

Collateral damage. The enemy is around us. We are at war. Think about what you support and why. I did, as I eased through the steel pulse of Friday night traffic on the 405 later, with everyone else bound for someplace else, and someone. 

 

I awoke the next morning, opened my carport door and saw my shiny new car sitting there and it finally hit me. I picked up my cel and dialed Shawn. 

“Hey. I have a new car.” It had taken me that long to really notice. But I have a new friend. That part is special. And an obligation. That part is sacred. 

Shawn Recharging

Shawn Recharging

 

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Shawn and Jacqueline: Edge of the World

Shawn and Jacqueline: Edge of the World

 

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 A Sniper's Wife

A Sniper's Wife

 

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Future Perfect

Future Perfect

 

Side by  Side

Side by Side

Living is Training

Thursday, August 6th, 2009
Double Cool: Discipline, Dedication

Double Cool: Discipline, Dedication

Many speak of the debt created in dying for a cause: “So and so died for this country.” But it is much more difficult and strenuous, to fight and live for one.  I am convinced that many of the vanquished would agree. Nobody embraces dying for a cause. Many will not live for one either. It seems honor is something increasingly rare in our commoditized culture. Have a look around. How many people do you see daily, whose moral compass swings by virtue of the gravitational pull of a situation, not being directed by word nor duty?

A pastor of all people, asked one time: “How about you, will you die for what you believe in? Would you live for it?” He was crucified shortly thereafter. So I hold duty, and honor in high regard. I would not want to do what a Law Enforcement Officer does, or a Surgeon, or a Court Justice, or a Soldier. I am indebted they went, and spared me, and my own sons. To say I am grateful is an understatement of grand largesse.

We all have heard the famous quote by General George Patton, which paraphrased, says that no one wins a war by dying for his country, but by making the other poor bastard die for his. But what strikes me is this quote:

You cannot be disciplined in great things and indisciplined in small things. Brave undisciplined men have no chance against the discipline and valour of other men. Have you ever seen a few policemen handle a crowd?
- General George S. Patton Jr, May 1941.

A colleague of mine has a very unique position in the workplace. They (the company) are a civilian contractor, who on a regular basis trains military personnel.

What this means is that a government has seen fit to outsource for an expert to supply people whose bodies belong to that government, training which increases operating efficiency, and may help to keep them alive in the pressure cooker of human endeavor, that is warfare. The task carries a weight of responsibility with it that would be daunting for most people.

Shawn Alladio is a 48 year old personal watercraft specialist, Ocean Rescue Instructor, PWC racer, and master of training psychology. She is a 48 year old woman. Her hero(ine) is Joan of Arc. But unlike Joan, I truly believe Shawn is fire resistant. The number of hits she has taken is staggering. Harrowing, vast, incomprehensible endeavors, that are far past legend. They are in the realm of fairy tales. But having been involved in some, I assure you that they are real. I am one competent SOB. But I remain convinced that were I to have swapped places with her, I may have perished in some of her escapades. I consider myself to be on the receiving end more often than I would like, being a member of her K38 team. She gives. That is Shawn.

But it is not luck that has this middle aged woman with the physique and mindset of a Spartan, staying alive and thriving. It is conditioned response, education, and training. When you look at Shawn, behind the facade of the flirty, attractive, joke spinning female, is the eye of a hawk, and heart of a lion. I have never met anyone quite like her. So I spent a few years. I got inside her head. What I found was a capacity for service and a moral and ethical compass that could not point anywhere but true North. She will never die for a cause. She wages war. She lives for it. Shawn Alladio is as relentless as the Sea, and a perfect example of how love is far stronger as a force, than any entity in existence.

I slammed the boot of my car closed, having off loaded my gear into the Jeep of Mike Arnold, who had come to meet me just inside the gate of the Camp Pendleton Marine base. Mike had been in active duty as an infantryman and had been a drill instructor. His long list of service accomplishments were unknown to me. But I did know that he was a Tactical Safety Specialist now. The title meant chops, where they counted. Everything about Mike was measured, calm and precise. As I watched big paws slip across the wheel of the jeep as we headed off in search of the First Recon group that Shawn was working in the surf, Mike and I slowly got to know each other a little bit. Shawn’s phone was off, so she was in the surf.

An hour later, as Mike and I wrapped a quick walk and reconnoiter, not having found the group, I asked him something pointed: “So out of all your years of service, what do you have the strongest memory of?” The crunch of beach sand  and rumble of surf, played counterpoint to his answer. “I was in the first group to go into Afghanistan.”  He went on to describe the 79 day tour. “It was 98 degrees when we landed, and made camp. We lived on one liter of water a day and two rations.”  The 120 pound pack with all his gear for the tour in it was a constant companion. “By the time we left, we had seen 105 degrees and it was  18 degrees. It was just suffering. I don’t know what Hell is like, but if it is anything like that I am never going there”

I felt I knew what sort of man this was. They never snivel. Things just are what they are. The aspects implied, yet unspoken, of what this man had done in those 79 days bore elements of true deprivation and a discipline and dedication to duty that one rarely experiences in any civil occupation. I was humbled that he shared this. He could not know it, but he had just won me. I have a deep respect for a person being able to bear suffering without complaint.

Back into the jeep and off onto the south end of the beach, we came across a truck and three men who watched over a gaggle of PWC’s running in and out of a 3-5 foot surf. As Mike and I trudged up the beach, I spotted a PWC tracking seaward at speed, straight at a four foot line of whitewater. “Oh man, watch this Mike. This is gonna be good” Mike gave me a puzzled look. Seconds later the impact with the whitewater had the boat upside down and men in the water. From the sidelines I saw Shawn doing her energizer bunny dash to them , and I knew what she would be saying. It made me smile. They had the boat upright and all aboard in short order.  As an operator, I knew what they had just learned. That is what Shawn was there for.

Setting up a long lens, I caught Shawn smiling at me as she flew up and over a line of white water, mother henning another boat as they worked inshore. In a few minutes I was lost in the ballet of it all. I scarcely noticed the quiet guy who was suddenly standing next to me. He was a Navy Corpsman.  I saw a backboard stowed nearby along with a pack and pelican case. The “when shit goes down guy.” A medical officer assigned to the group.

As I reeled off a series of images that illustrated the diorama offshore, I shifted my attention to this obviously calm and handsome guy. We began to chat. In short order I found that he had wound up heading into the military at the behest of a Mom who really did not like the fact that he spent way too much time surfing. We talked about girls. A pretty normal subject if you are on the cusp of testosterone overload, created from lots of physical conditioning. He told me a funny, albeit hair raising story about showing off for a girl and doing a back flip off his board and missing, striking his head. He broke his neck. The gal wound up saving his life.  I could see where his  Mom had been going. Into the military he went, and medical training was his modus.

As the sun began to drop, the surf training for USMC 1ST Recon came to a close. In short order we were all back in the Marine storage compound and I watched as the group serviced their boats methodically. Shawn had been busy. The men knew exactly what they were doing and it did not take long before assembly and final debriefing.

I like watching Shawn. She has a line of questioning she uses, which in a subtle manner, locates each person, spirit, soul and body. She files the information away and uses it as advance reconnaissance on operations, as training intensifies. That is how K38 does things. The training is layered much like the strata in a geologic formation.  The trainee on Monday is unrecognizable by Friday, such is the load they carry with increasing proficiency. I have found myself surprised after a session with K38. “Wow I cannot believe I just did that” becomes a daily refrain. And that is how it all works. Shawn is the catalyst and layered stress, is the refining fire. At the end, you have discipline of spirit, mind, body and boat. A modus is created that limits risk. In rescue, risk assessment is the name of the game.

To better understand the scope of watching a forty eight year old woman training fighting men, you may want to have a look at this link which explains exactly what First Recon is and does, if you poke around a bit. It gives one an idea of the warrior ethic, and mindset. Many of us liberal sorts, would never know otherwise. It is an idiosyncratic world to which Shawn has dedicated herself to serve. The job requires her as a leader, to do what her trainees do, plus go one step or more beyond. That is just one of the basic tenets of leadership. Think crucifix, and you will comprehend my point with greater alacrity. Discipline starts at the top.

A quick shower with the men (you read that right) and we were all off on dinner break at o dark thirty. Into Oceanside, Shawn and I went to a quick meal at a Mexican food takeout joint. As we got up to leave, Shawn asked if I had any extra small cash. She pointed out a gaunt man who had been standing around and busing the tables in the little greasy spoon. Social detritus, trying not to be that thing. I had not noticed, having never seen it before. But Shawn had and left some money at the table. Out the door and through dingy glass, I saw the man bus our table and pocket the cash. Shawn just gets it better than most, she sees, and always does.

Back on base, SSgt Fabre told me that my boat was ready for night ops so I went to my car and readied my gear, figuring I would be shooting from a PWC all night. Wetsuit, waterproof case, helmet, PFD, fin belt, etc.. I knew the drill. Checking in a little later, I asked which boat I would be using and saw Shawn’s sly smile. My first thought was: ooookay what is she going to do to me? (she is sort of notorious for jokes). “Hey there’s your boat” she said, pointing at one of the gleaming aluminum, red and white giant RHIB’s with two magnificent Mercs hung on the stern. I had been admiring the Zodiac built expeditionary craft earlier, and dreamed a little. My heart rose, then fell. Shawn smiled again and turned away.

I was afraid to ask. In short order my helmsman arrived and had me get aboard for a tow to launch, with my gear. In my mind I was Kenny from Southpark with the biggest Southpark smile. A little Southpark voice inside, kept going: “Really? Really? Noooo, really?” But I never showed it. Oh my God, they were letting me play with their toys, er tools. The Navy medical corpsman joined us, and in short order we were on the water.

The Mercs throbbed, and our bow sliced inky black, star and moonbeam strewn waters. In short order First Recon joined us and recovery drilling commenced. I used my Canon 5D M2 on a high ISO setting and used my strobes as little as possible, not wanting to destroy night vision for the Marines who diligently settled into work mode. we worked inside the harbor mouth.

After awhile I saw the boats raft up, and could hear Shawn give her echelon instructions. Offshore we went, as the moon sailed through a fog that seeped in on a faint salt laden southerly breeze. Every once in awhile as I stood at the rail of the RHIB at part throttle, I would see Shawn accelerate a bit. She was testing. Watching to see what the echelon would do, who would stay, who fall off. Recon work again, she filed the information away. Know your team.

Here is the thing about Shawn: she is fast. Having a background in racing and winning, she reads water at speed better than anyone I have ever met. A lot like a drag racer. She was soft peddling. I have seen her light it up, made her do it the first time. She is amazing to watch when she throttles the 250 KZ and hooks the pump up, and keeps it in the water, converting all the ponies into forward motion.

Into the night and miles offshore, First Recon worked and the dolphins decided to join us. Pretty special. Part of the night’s deal apparently. The medic and I had some time to chat.  He told me about chasing pirates off Somalia. The soft spoken man described a rescue his group had accomplished, reclaiming a boat full of refugees, abandoned by their captors, left at sea to die, who were in the last stages of dehydration.

He spoke with increasing enthusiasm about his onshore African work with his group, building support systems for impoverished villages. I heard the story of his entourage of kids, who would follow him around. “Each day I would get a lunch with two sandwiches. In all the time we worked on relief I do not think I ever ate one. I would separate them and give them away, and the kids would follow me all day long. If I ever make a lot of money, I know how how I will spend the rest of my life.” And there it was: servitude. Honor. Grace. I am not going to mention this guy’s name. I do not think that he would want that. But his heart for his country and being an ambassador of our Constitutionally mandated moral code, was not what the uninitiate, myself included, would ever expect.

Later back in the Marine yard, First Recon broke it all down again, boats were left clean, fueled and ready for service. We headed to Ryan Levinson’s condo where his wife waited up. It was 2 am.

Dawn came quickly and we met with Michael Arnold again for some breakfast. Shawn eats. On the table in the midst of the post meal carnage I saw a pocket US Constitution. She always has it. Go figure. Perfect. She is so used to me holding a camera I doubt she realized I had captured her. The image is below in the gallery.

We went back on base, to turn in her paperwork and there was a muster. Marines stood around on a yard. As we followed a staff officer to the office from out of the group came a taunting voice: “Hey, are you giving your parents a little holiday tour?” Being an older brother I recognized the taunt and laughing I immediately wanted to tackle the guy, and give him the wedgie from Hell. Shawn simply spun around looked at him and exclaimed: “F you, I will kick your fing ass right here right now in front of everybody.” I was teary eyed, stifliing myself so hard I thought I was going to pop. The yard was quiet. On we went.

Soon I was in my little Speed 3, turbo gliding towards the 405 and holiday traffic. Tomorrow was the Fourth of July. Independence Day. Imagine being on a boat, headed towards a strange land, a new world. Now imagine you may need to kill all that stand in your way, yet be strong enough to adhere to your strange special code, that truly does make you a minority in our civilized world. Would you die for that code? Would you live for it?

Could you?

I am glad I do not have to answer those questions. I mean I do, but I don’t, truly. Neither do you most likely. But in a society that has turned everything into dollars, will you choose to take a stand and live by the laws others lived and died for, out of duty and honor? Would you enforce those laws in word and deed in your own community, if you saw others endeavor to violate them? Do you love this country? Really? Lets see. Because somewhere right, now a forty eight year old mother with a tattered US Constitution in her pocket, shows us all, how to be a patriot.

The following video is a long one. It says a lot about honor to me, and gratitude. I made myself watch the entire thing and my perspective changed. I am a surfer from California. I needed to see this. Just as I needed to see and hear the things I had on Pendleton. My mind raced with all that I had just experienced in 32 hours, as I spun through the holiday traffic and lines of motor homes, headed to beaches everywhere. I cannot imagine what a Marine knows. But I am going to try.

Yes I am, because I was……

This piece says a lot. I heard it played at my Father in Law’s funeral. He was a Marine. I get it now. Twenty years later, I see. I hope you don’t take as long to get it as I did.  I value peace in a deeper way now.

Thanks to Tony Luna for passing thing to me. A good thing.

Conscientious Subjector

Conscientious Subjector

Breakfast

Breakfast

Recon

Recon

Training is Living

Training is Living

Trust

Trust

Did I really just do that?

Did I really just do that?

Lanyard? Seconds and Feet.

Lanyard? Seconds and Feet.

Rescue One

Rescue One

Marine

Marine

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Work Ethic

Work Ethic

My Southpark Moment

My Southpark Moment

Pass The Soap

Pass The Soap

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250 Ultra X

250 Ultra X

Throttle is Relative

Throttle is Relative

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Onboard RHIB

Onboard RHIB

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Base Safety Officer, Michael Arnold

Base Safety Officer, Michael Arnold

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Not Your Average Fashion Icon

Not Your Average Fashion Icon

© 2009 David Pu'u. All rights reserved.

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