The E-9s are a salty bunch. They have been around. The Sergeant Major, Chief Master Sergeant, Master Chief and Master Gunnery Sergeant all went to boot camp before you were born. Some of them can still beat you at PT. They’ve been hardened through years of service and possess a depth of knowledge that is mind boggling. They are set in their ways and generally do not like change. When it comes to proliferation of social media, they are skeptical at best, and generally disgusted by its prevalence. Snapchat? More like snap your neck. Facebook? How about faceplant, drop and give me 25! Reddit? You better have read it in the manual warfighter!
1. Sergeant Major ain’t social
Sergeant Major is not social. He does not like you and he does not want to be your friend. He drinks black coffee from Reveille to Taps and takes 800 mg of ibuprofen every two hours from a Pez Dispenser he calls “Doc.” Privates and officers hurry past him, always avoiding eye contact. The only person who likes SGM is the Colonel. (The SGM doesn’t like him though!)
The last time Sergeant Major trusted the media, Ernie Pyle was a war correspondent. He gets his news from the daily intel update. SGM’s disapproval of social media is simply the result of him not being social and his disdain for the media. Once a young lieutenant tried to “set the record straight” and explain social media to SGM. SGM’s take-away was that social media is “internet mischief that leads to Article 15.” He’s not wrong.
2. The only TikTok the Chief Master Sergeant cares about is Time-On-Target.
A young Senior Airman serving as a Combat Controller asked the Chief Master Sergeant, “Hey Chief, you on TikTok?” Chief gave him a blank stare for a few uncomfortable seconds then responded, “If you mean Time-On-Target, it’s a little more complicated than that son, but that’s an AFFIRM. I’ve called in air strikes against the Iraqi Army, Al-Qaeda, ISIS and the Taliban all before you graduated high school. I’m encouraged to see you recognize the importance of this skill set. I will teach you well.” The Airman had the good judgment to smile and nod. You don’t want to correct a man this deadly on something so trivial. It's best to adjust to his world.
3. Master Guns doesn’t know what a Tweet is, but he can tell you about a Yellow Canary
A Yellow Canary is a page from the U.S. Marine Corps Tactical Field Message Book. In a Combat Operations Center (COC) or Operational Command Post (OCP) it’s the old school way of manually recording radio messages. The Radio Operator copies a message on the little yellow piece of paper, tears it from the Field Message Book, then passes around the battle staff.
The only other thing resembling a “tweet” Master Guns knows about is from the old cadence “Little yellow birdie with a little yellow bill, landed on my windowsill…I lured him in with a piece of bread…” (Today’s gentler times prevent the full rendition of this violent ditty).
You can try explaining to Master Guns Twitter is primarily a digital platform where celebrities and politicians voice their opinions on various matters and provide their “followers” with updates on their daily activities. If you do this, he will kick you out of the COC and you will be drug tested.
4. YouTube? How about mortar tube? Gun Up!
Master Guns strikes again. This old grunt lives out the cadence your Drill Instructor chanted, “Eat, Sleep, Marine Corps!” He owns a VCR and thinks the only videos worth watching are Heartbreak Ridge and Red Dawn. They used to roll their eyes when he talked about invading Russians, now they think he is a visionary.
He’s heard of America’s Funniest Home Videos, but the idea of any random hard charger putting a video on the internet sounds preposterous. Before the Lance Corporal can explain YouTube, Master Guns says “tubes?!” and begins to extol the value of mortars. 81 mm mortars are the Battalion Commander’s only organic indirect fire support weapon. The 60 mm mortars provide the Company Commander with rapid indirect fire support allowing the grunts to close with and destroy the enemy. Set up those mortar tubes, sink the base plates and GUN UP!
5. WhatsApp?! The appropriate greeting of the day is “Good morning Master Chief”
Don’t do it! Seriously, do not approach the Command Master Chief and ask about “WhatsApp.” He is from another era. He was born on the sea. He is saltier than a three-gallon popcorn bucket at your local movie theater. He cannot hear you. You do not speak the same language. He will hear “What’s up?” like you are “back on the block.” This slight will be seen as unprofessional and overly familiar. “The proper greeting of the day is good morning Master Chief!” You will not be able to bear the tongue lashing that follows. His coffee breath will be the lead punch on a string of profanity-laced, naval slang. You will miss liberty on the next three port calls and will find yourself chipping paint for the next 30 days before spending a month in the scullery. Don’t do it. No use in attempting to explain the messaging app. You want to send a message? It’s better to send a runner.
No one knows for sure if the E-9s are truly clueless about social media. Maybe they are so incredibly wise to its pitfalls they feign ignorance and avoid usage. They are too scary to ask so we are left to assume they are just crazy old men who are set in their ways. They are so odd, ornery and out-of-date. For years we had to listen to them grumble about “commies” and the USSR. Today we look at world events and read our news feed. Maybe the lifers are on to something…