There’s an interesting paradox in the Marine Corps amongst combat units. Generally speaking, the smaller the weapon, the higher up you are in the pecking order. The issued M9 handgun plays an important role in this hierarchy, as it’s generally only issued to Staff and officers. Not necessarily because they need it, because they really just don’t want to have to walk around with their rifles.

Generally, while deployed on a FOB, larger base or otherwise, you’re supposed to have a weapon with you at all times. If you happen to have an M9 with a holster, you’re much more likely to select this 9mm chunk of metal over slinging your cumbersome rifle on your body.

I recall in the later years of the Iraq war, I was stuck in Ramadi awaiting a mission that kept getting delayed. A new rule had come around that all Marines would no longer sling their rifles on their backs. This promoted complacency, and all rifles would be on the front of the body at “the ready.” One day, I was walking from the chow hall–rifle slung to my back as always–and a group of Staff NCO’s strapped with pistols happened to walk by me. One of them, a Master Sergeant with what I can only describe as a swollen anus for a face, shouted to me, “HEY DEBBIL, THE RIFLE GOES TO THE FRONT OF YOUR BODY.”

I rogered up with an eye roll and an, “Aye, Master Sergeant,” and rotated the rifle toward my front to “the ready.” (Keep in mind, this is the big base, Camp Ramadi, Iraq, 2009. There was no chance in hell that I was going to need to use my rifle as I was leaving the DFAC)

After passing them and losing sight of them I slung the rifle back to my backside. The entire time I was thinking to myself:

It’s very easy to enforce this stupid rule when you don’t actually have to carry a rifle anywhere.

Generally speaking, the logical and possibly morally correct way to issue handguns is to give them to the Marines that actually need them. I’m speaking of course of the gunners located in your Weapons Platoons, those that carry 240′s on their shoulders and cradle SMAWs in addition to their rifles; mortarmen, etc. It’s a little thing that, until you’ve had to carry a rifle with you all day every day for 7 months, you probably won’t appreciate.

In unrelated news, check out this week’s Into the Mangrove for a comic drawn by yours truly.