Thursday, June 23, 2011

An Introduction to Marine Force Recon and the Rat Bastards

Anyone who has spent any amount of time with me knows I am a military history junkie. When the time came to create a group of heroes who would willingly run into a burning building and die or kill for the sake of the mission or the man next to them, a Marine Force Recon team fit the bill.

Up until about fifty years ago most militaries subscribed to the theory that having a larger force is the best way to win a war. During WWII, England developed Commandos, small raiding forces that could disrupt enemy operations from behind enemy lines. The US military recognized how effective they were and started their own Special Forces teams. The teams were really only an experiment that had never been tested until French Indochina became Vietnam and Vietnam became the clusterjam that was the Vietnam War. The experiences gained in World War II and the Korean War, with their large-scale operations and clearly defined front lines, heavily dominated the strategy and planning of the American high command at the beginning of the Vietnam War. As a result, most senior commanders were philosophically ill-equipped for the guerrilla warfare reality that confronted them. Eventually, commanders started to realize that the idea of throwing soldiers into enemy fire until the enemy ran out of bullets was a bad idea. They decided that a team who could sneak up on a target, carry out a mission and return to base before the enemy knows the target has been killed, captured or destroyed might be a nice toy to have.

In 1957 Marine Force Recon was born. Force Recon is a specialized set of Marines who spend their nine-to-five training to be an ultra-efficient cross-breed between Jack Bauer, Colonel James Braddock and Jason freaking Bourne. A Force Recon team consists of four to eight tough as titanium Marines who are sent into enemy territory knowing that they will have zero backup, zero air support and if they get stuck, no one is coming for them. The general consensus is that we basically know about only a miniscule percentage of the badass operations Force Recon has carried out in its career saving the world from terrorists, communists, vampire Nazis, and who knows whatever the hell else is out there trying to kill us, but the crap we know about is pretty much epic awesome. The military doesn’t have a public top secret mission search engine so what information I could find came from Medal of Honor citations.

During the Vietnam War an 18 man observation post staffed by Force Recon Marines and led by Gunnery Sergeant Jimmy Howard held off one of the most insane attacks in Force Recon history. Shortly after midnight the team found themselves deep inside enemy territory, surrounded by people actively trying to kill them.  A Viet Cong force of 300 attacked with everything from rocks to mortars. If this had been me I would have taken a moment to pee myself and cry for my mommy, but I’m not a Force Recon Marine. Reacting swiftly and fearlessly in the face of the overwhelming odds, Howard organized his small, lethal force into a tight perimeter defense.  Throughout the night, they were swarmed by Viet Cong trying to earn glory in combat or die for the cause. But, as George C. Scott said in Patton, “No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor, dumb bastard die for his country.” The Force Recon Marines were happy to oblige.

At some point G/Sgt. Howard was hit by fragments of an exploding enemy grenade preventing him from moving his legs. He basically said, “Whatev,” and continued to fight. At dawn, despite the fact that 5 men were killed and all but 1 wounded, his beleaguered platoon was still in command of its position. When evacuation helicopters approached their position, Howard warned them away, which is really saying something about the entire team. I can picture myself sending a 5.56 mm hunk of lead rocketing through Gunnery Sergeant Howard's skull just so I could go home and change my undies, but I’m not a Force Recon Marine. The Marines fought like hell to make the landing zone as secure as possible. Only then, when they’re position was secure and replacements could be brought in, did they evacuate. Of the 18 men who engaged the Viet Cong Battalion of more than 300 men, 12 survived. Four platoon members were awarded the Navy Cross and the other 13 received the Silver Star for heroic action. Gunnery Sergeant Jimmie Howard was awarded the Medal of Honor. The Marine unit killed 200 Viet Cong during the 12 hour attack.
*The Rat Bastards faces have been blacked out
for security reasons.*

These are the warriors that inspired my Rat Bastards. The Rat Bastards live by their own set of rules above and beyond the rules issued by the Marine Corps. 

They do not disrespect anyone, even the enemy. If someone has done something disrespectful toward a team member, the team exacts a punishment then they go on about their day. 

They protect each other and each other’s families. 

All will come if one calls. 

They do not have tattoos. Distinguishing marks are dangerous for people whose lives depend on not being seen or remembered. 

They respect women and children. 

They do not brag about their accomplishments and they don’t publicize their failures. 

The Rat Bastards do not use their real names. They are called by their Rat Bastard name. They are Shooter, Tongue, Switch, Doc, Martinez (not his real name) and Horndog. You will get a chance to meet all of them on upcoming Character Wednesdays!

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