Living is Training

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





Training is Living

Training is Living



Did I really just do that?

Did I really just do that?

Lanyard? Seconds and Feet.

Lanyard? Seconds and Feet.

Rescue One

Rescue One




Work Ethic

Work Ethic

My Southpark Moment

My Southpark Moment

Pass The Soap

Pass The Soap


250 Ultra X

250 Ultra X

Throttle is Relative

Throttle is Relative


Onboard RHIB

Onboard RHIB


Base Safety Officer, Michael Arnold

Base Safety Officer, Michael Arnold


Not Your Average Fashion Icon

Not Your Average Fashion Icon

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14 Responses to “Living is Training”

  1. ‘Do what you are afraid to do’…. I know Marines and Rangers who are simply ‘doing the job’, these men may be afraid with an assignment in the moment, but they DO it, and they get that job done. Private sector leadership should aspire to just 1/10 of the leadership and focus qualities of our Armed Forces personnel. The average American has forgot what the ‘Greatest Generation’ handed off to them to caretake for, but I have not forgot. I carrt WWII ret. Brigadier General’s Henry Huglins (deceased) Declaration of Independence with my person in all my travels for a reason. Out of respect for Mr. Huglin and what he stood for as a Patriot, a General, and a Father. His son Greg Huglin is a man of honor and I was gifted to witness the exchange of father/son/Warrior/Veteran/Elder during Henry’s last days, of which I am eternally grateful to have been there for my friends. David Pu’u is also another warrior I aspire to support, the connector of truth is often most unappreciated. People project away truths and cover them up with niceties and excuses, yet someone is paying the price so I can write this, have the freedom in this country to voice my beliefs, passions and disappointments. I am not worthy, nor many of you to stand near a warrior who has gone that distance, while we banter on what is wrong with this Country. The only thing that counts is WHAT you do for this country, through ‘service’. I am honored to work with the United States Marine Corps when asked, for ‘Marines Saving Marines’, ‘Marines Teaching Marines’, is something about one aspect of the bond of brotherhood many private sector folks could never ‘go that distance’, I get it. This generation does not put themselves on the line for another without compensation or assurance. Not these men, they simply ‘go. It is what they do and how they do it that matters. I ask myself the same. Ask yourself the same.
    Semper Spero

    ….thanks Puubeck for giving voice to this….. And thanks for the coffee. I’m awake now. :)

  2. John Donaldson says:

    Thank you for the wonderful piece and photos. Your work will make the star able to guide more people.

  3. Korina Kempf says:

    speachless….not sure what to think. Well I do, but I don’t. Makes me think I haven’t done enough and it makes me think what else is in me that I haven’t really tapped into. How much heart do I have? How much courage do I have, and how much am I willing to sacrifice? It’s nice to be reminded to think of others and the greater good of our actions, than the immediate…how will this serve me and only me while on my path in this lifetime. Not, how will my actions better the future, future generations and leave a mark in history or in the better of humanity as a whole. Especially being of a younger generation who is surrounded by the me, me, me……the mind set that you don’t give until you know what you’ll receive. Or….the righteous deserving. Our generation knows nothing of service and sacrifice. Yes, I have busted my ass to get where I am today, but now that I am here….what else can I do? The giving never stops giving, being fueled by something else that some of us never tap into.

    I agree. We need to keep challenging ourselves. I recently did my first round of ocean diving at the islands this week. Yes, I was nervous. Yes, I puked on the boat. Yes, I was scared, and yes I fumbled my gear like a rookie. But, I survived it. I faced a fear of the unknown. I had no intention of ever backing out and for some reason there is great peace in that. When faced with a job to do, and knowing backing out isn’t an option. Letting yourself down isn’t an option and letting other people down isn’t an option. It becomes easy. Just do it. There is peace in that. It becomes clear.

    My father knows what it is like to serve and so does my sister. Being sent off to Iraq for 8 months to serve. Once you leave the nest, the safety of our country…your ass is on the line. She was brave enough to do that and I admire her courage. I know nothing of laying down my life for government. Giving up your individual voice to join the chorus of others. I am slightly too liberal for that. I used to not respect military mentality, but maybe this is something for me to digest, explore and now ready to comprehend as I have matured and grown. So thank you for writting this. It makes me think….and I like things that make me think… now I have to get back to work and back to finding my moral compass…dusting it off and finding my way back home.

    I look forward to meeting such an amazing woman, thanks Shawn. I will ask myself the same.


  4. Rocky Darger says:

    As a former Marine, I know a Marine’s mentality. Shawn has a RECON Marine’s soul. God bless our Marines and Shawn, for all the things they do.

    To Shawn — Semper Fi.


  5. RXTUSMC says:


    My Friend you have nailed this one. Your observations are real and true ask me how I know? Knowing you, Shan Allaido, and the Recon Marines it must have been a good time. I loved the part when you talk about South Park I almost fell on the floor LMAFO “Now that’s some funny stuff right there” If that don’t make you giggle inside you need to go see a doctor.

    The Article is outstanding full of spirit and joy. I call this a must read.

  6. admin says:

    Thanks Rocky.

  7. admin says:

    Mike your generosity and service always shines through. Thanks for this.

  8. Ed Brenegar says:

    Honor. Sacrifice. Lost virtues of leadership.
    Today, leaders ask their followers to do the sacrificing. It is what authentic leaders do.
    I’m glad that Shawn and Recon 1 are prepared to make the sacrifice.
    Thank you for honoring them.

  9. admin says:

    Great Points Ed. I appreciate those that lead by example. It is a lot like Seth Godin says, people really do want too be led. But let us make those leaders our own. Personalize them, hold them to a higher account. We all need to consider our own acceptance of accountability. Not as easy as it sounds.

  10. admin says:

    Whew Korina. All this from someone who just worked through the rigors of a dive certification program so that she could go serve in another country, while working full time and commuting.
    Korina heads to Bali after we do, to work on a reef restoration project. This very capable, beautiful, thoughtful, pragmatic woman just continually surprises me with her skill, intelligence and great heart. One of those quiet ones who would never tell you she just spent all that she had on something she believed in. Bright light.

  11. admin says:

    Thanks John. It is encouraging to read your comment. Exactly the point.

  12. admin says:


    Shawn just told me a little of your service history. To have you read this and comment, is an honor and I am very grateful for such an educated perspective. Semper fidelis indeed. Shawn is off to train handicapped athletes tomorrow. Monday to Idaho for a Law Enforcement swiftwater course. We just enjoyed the Ventura County Fair parade this morning. She and Donna were in it. All smiles and flags and celebration.

  13. Korina, your choices and resulting actions are brave because you have ‘movement’. Forward thinking can only result in forward movement, otherwise the squirrel cage of humanity stalls in place fast, going nowhere but expending a great deal of energy, wasted. Keeping the blood ‘life force’ primed is a fountain of youth. I believe being engaged in a cause wrapped in truth is that which creates protection and change. This spirit of engagement generates or benefits beings for living life well, sounds a bit like you eh?

    Rocky-You were my champion years ago, sitting in your office, my mind was wide open and still is to you. You taught me a lot and never realized that to be true. Folks just do not appreciate the value of their words gifted towards others and how easily a person shifts perspective. It is like a magical touch, but the maestro is blind to the effects in others.

    John, you are a driving force for truth, the only problem is our society doesn’t always favor truth in the governmental level, it prefers to indemnify incompetency to protect the weak, rather than defend the strong, yet you cast a long shadow as you cut light. I have always believed in you.

    Mike, you are a guardian I aspire to learn from and glean insights into the qualities that surround leadership, strong leadership. I understand that ‘look in your eye’, and no words need be exchanged. This is a gift.

    Puubeck you are a collector. You gather souls. The life you manuever is one of a master painter holding a pallete of many colors, hues and textures. All are people who have a story to tell and you help them have a colorful voice by chasing Corvairs down Main Street.

    Ed, I know you are a catalyst for awareness in human form, I am one of many who hold my breath waiting to hear what new insights you prick to the hungry minds, mine being one of many.

    Live Well-and God Bless America.

  14. admin says:


    You are such a savant. You get people in a way few leaders I have ever met do.

    Here is the deal. This is our country. Lets own the place. We place the leaders. Lets choose well.

    In reading through these comments I sense the reverence and respect of each towards the other. It is a great honor, all of this. Because this moment, it is all we have, and as Shawn points out, hereein is a collection of souls who I believe are capable of overcoming any and all odds. Semper fi indeed you bright lights. Semper fidelis.

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