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Looking at bodybuilders is a glance at the human form “in extremis.”  The dedication and discipline is clearly to be admired; much focus and single-mindedness go into the workouts, nutrition, and peaking for competition or the photos that adorn fitness magazines.  But for professionals on a martial path, there is no place for the show – only the function.  No one – in mortal combat – will stop to admire the vein-choked bicep or the diamond-cut calves.  Similarly, a firefighter who is already heavily “geared up” will not want to pull the additional 25 pounds of photo-ready muscle for multiple trips up ladders in a rescue or burning building.  In some metro-sexual realms, the adage “it’s not how good you are… it’s how good you look” rules the day with excessive man-grooming products and tailored clothing.  At the other end of the gene pool, the professional sticks to this phrase:  “it’s not how you look…it’s how you do.”

Marine Corps Reconnaissance has long been considered a proving ground for hard young men to come who want a physical challenge in an almost cloistered brotherhood.  Many a “blunt force object-oriented” Marine has tested his mettle there in both selection and the Reconnaissance Indoctrination Program (known by the acronym RIP and more commonly known within the Recon Community as “the INDOC”).  It is a time to suffer in silence; to realize that each day is going to be a maximum day (a common week is known as “Seven the Hard Way”); and that the two words that can never be uttered aloud are “I quit.”  Those who complete the RIP and go on to the Basic Reconnaissance Course, Airborne School, Combatant Diver Course, and Survival-Evasion-Resistance-Escape (SERE) School come through the “pipeline” and usually finish looking very un-bodybuilder-like:  thin (or “railed-up,” a common Recon term), walking gingerly from chewed up feet from long patrols and hiking, and tatooed with “bite marks” from the rubbing of the heavy rucksack and field gear.

Over the years, Recon Marines come to realize that their survival comes with the fact that “it is easy to be hard – but harder to be smart.”  Tough talk and braggadoccio have no place there, for every man who claims the title Reconnaissance Marine has already proven that he is tough.  The young come to prove they can be there; the older hold their place in the circle and maintain the standard.  What has come to pass in combat since WW II is that a six man Recon Team is far more lethal than many a larger unit; a phrase uttered by enemy in Viet Nam stated that “six of them (Recon Marines) equals 60.”

They are swift, silent, and deadly.  They come in all shapes and sizes.  But one commonality bonds them all:  they have HARD FEET for they move on foot; a STRONG BACK for all they carry is on their back in a rucksack; and they possess a GUNFIGHTER’S MENTALITY, for if they pull a weapon they know how to use it in a deadly efficient manner.  They are not bodybuilders – they are body users – in a myriad of missions and assignments.

When you have those three ingredients – hard feet, strong back, and gunfighter’s mentality – you don’t pose for pictures or manscape.  You just do what the moment demands.

I pray they always will…


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