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5 phrases Marine grunts hate

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U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Jesus Sepulveda Torres.

Everyone has a pet peeve, something that gets under their skin, like the old man in the neighborhood who yells at the kids walking across his lawn. Mild irritation can quickly boil over into mad rage after repeated exposure from unknowing offenders. The military is not immune to these vexations which vary widely among various occupational fields. Service members are proud of their achievements, associations and subcultures. They look at other MOSs with either amusement, condescension or disdain.

Listed below are 5 phrases Marine grunts hate hearing

Down range

The phrase “down range” emerged as a euphemism for combat deployments to Iraq or Afghanistan. Much like “the world” was used by those serving in Vietnam to refer to life back in the United States, “down range” emerged as a unique phrase amongst today’s generation of veterans. On live fire ranges where weapons are employed in training, “down range” is where the targets are emplaced. It’s where the impacts hit, where the danger exists, the areas which are most unsafe. The phrase “down range” makes sense etymologically, it just comes off a bit cheesy, forced, and amateurish. There may be a place for false bravado, especially when one must stir up courage within themselves to face combat, but this phrase is annoying. Grunts simply say Iraq, Afghanistan, or generically “in combat.” Ironically “in zone” doesn’t seem to irritate.

The sandbox

Just like “down range” using the phrase “the sandbox” to refer to Iraq/Afghanistan is something that elicits eye rolls and clenched jaws among grunts. Yes, we know both hostile locations are primarily dominated by large expanses of dry, arid, barren swaths of dirt; but please…just don’t. Again, it makes sense. We go there, get our toys and ourselves dirty, but it’s just too on the nose. The only thing worse than “the sandbox” is to evoke another generation’s lingo and try applying it to ours, rendering “The ‘Stan.” If you do this, you will come off like the 1994 Pauly Shore movie, “In the Army Now.”

list of phrases marine grunts hate
I Marine Expeditionary Force photo by Sgt. Mark Fayloga.

Lock and load

The phrase “lock and load” is straight Hollywood action movie vernacular. Like the character Sergeant Barnes in the 1996 Oliver Stone film “Platoon,” it may sound badass, but that’s not what professionals say. One must concede that the command “Make a condition one weapon” does not evoke a bloodthirsty war cry and a fighting spirit, but combat is rarely like the movies. The only people who say “lock and load” are those who haven’t touched a weapon since basic training. If you keep your mouth shut you can pull off the silent professional image. The minute you rattle off overused, martial machismo soundbites, you bring unwanted attention and ridicule upon yourself.

Basically, a grunt

Please, for the love of Chesty Puller! Never, ever say “I’m basically a grunt.” It doesn’t work that way. You either are or you are not. What you do is important, relevant and necessary. You don’t have to dress it up. We all know when the chips are down you will pick up a rifle and keep the wolf at bay…but that doesn’t mean you are a grunt. Serving as an infantryman may sound awesome and entitle one to a measure of bragging rights, peacocking and an inflated sense of self-worth but it comes at great cost. (Insider secret: it sucks). Akin to saying, “I’m basically a grunt” are those who say, “We are the grunts of the Air Wing” (Stinger Missile Gunners, you know who you are). Stop that! If Motor Transport Operators said, “We’re basically the pilots of the asphalt” Pappy Boyington and the Great Santini would roll over in their graves.

I wanted to, but they wouldn’t let me

People who raise their right hand to serve know they may find themselves in harm’s way. It can be argued that many actually long for the call. This desire shouldn’t be viewed as psychopathic, rather it’s a reflection of a warrior’s mindset and a desire to protect. Given that understanding there’s no need to utter the phrase, “I wanted to, but they wouldn’t let me” when seeing another service member with a combat action ribbon or similar uniform accoutrements. Giving voice to this sentiment shows a measure of naivete at best and repulses the hearer at worst. Grunts are often cynics and may rebuff you with a curt “No you didn’t” in response. In the same way, don’t use this phrase to tell us how you “almost became a grunt” which is generally followed by a humble brag about how smart you are.

The 5 phrases Marine grunts hate to hear listed above may not be justified, but they are at least explained. You may either take heed and keep the peace or use them at will to provoke your grunt buddy’s ire. Should you choose the latter, a few crayon nibblers will calm him down, you nasty POG.