There’s a strange paradox in the Corps when it comes to regaling stories of the one and only thing that literally all Marines have in common: Recruit Training (otherwise known as boot camp). On the one hand, everyone has been there and can share common ground regardless of their further experiences in the Corps; on the other, there’s nothing more boot than a boot telling boot camp stories. The average Senior Lance Corporal would rather be literally anywhere else than listening to a fresh-faced 18 year old tell him about that one time when the Drill Instructor got so mad.

This could just be because everybody hates boots anyway, but it is strange considering we’ve all been there. Once you go on a combat deployment though, boot camp becomes a distant memory, and likely one of the least interesting things you’ve done through your experiences.

Don’t get me wrong, even senior Marines tell boot camp stories, but they almost qualify it first with:

“I know this is boot as fuck to talk about, but this one time at boot camp…”

Still, boot camp is a universally shitty experience for everyone. Actually, last night I was throwing this comic strip idea at a Marine I went on both deployments to Iraq with, and we concurred that we would both rather go back to Iraq than boot camp again. It’s not that you fear for your life in boot camp, it’s just that it really fucking sucks. That’s really the only way to describe it.

I’d like to take a moment to apologize for the issues with the ads we’ve been having. I’ve gotten complaints of people being redirected and such, which shouldn’t be happening. Also, auto playing ads shouldn’t be happening either. Both issues are being looked into and hopefully will be fixed soon. In the meantime, have a great weekend and remember what my First Sergeant used to say:

If it looks like shit and smells like shit, it probably is shit. Don’t be the one to step in it.

I imagine that getting coffee at a Starbucks is always a really strange feeling for Staff NCO’s used to having people at their disposal pretty much all the time. There’s an added flavor to “bitch labor” that none of the syrups and blends can really provide. Some say it’s simply a psychological thing that makes the coffee taste better, others suggest that maybe disgruntled Lance Corporals add various bodily fluids to each pot… but no one can say for sure.

As you might have guessed, this is a comic that was previously published in the Marine Corps Times newspaper. Did you know I’ve done over 200 comic strips for the paper alone? This, combined with the roughly 400 comic strips I’ve done for the website, add up to a staggering amount of drawings and jokes. I don’t sleep much, and like most Staff NCO’s I’m a big fan of coffee. Anyway, I’m putting this up today instead of drawing a new one because I’m just kind of exhausted at the moment and I have a staggering amount of work to do on the book still as I try to get it out the door.

Bear with me for the next couple of months, I’ve got a lot of big things in the works and I am but one ruggedly good-looking man.

Remember, comic updates are Tuesday and Friday (plus weekly Marine Times strips in the print edition)! Look forward to a new strip on Friday.

You cannot deny the Return of the Peacetime, Steward.

Okay so I’m sort of mixing Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones references here, but whatever.

I put up Tuesday’s comic and had this two part series planned despite President Obama’s State of the Union address later that night; where he mentioned that he is still seeking Authorized Use of Military Force against the Islamic State. Of course, only the future will tell if that actually comes to fruition, but regardless, there is a generational shift occurring both literally and more abstractly. While conflict still rages on in the middle east, it doesn’t appear that the Marine Corps is preparing for another 14 year war when you consider the current draw down trend. The Corps is shifting back into expeditionary mode, and away from regular deployment cycles.

However, with the President seeking AUMF against ISIL, one wonders if peacetime will ever really mean the same thing it did prior to 9/11. I remember growing up in the 90′s and seeing films with military backdrops, Marines standing around with little more than one or two ribbons to show for their service. The height of the war on terror was a great time to be enlisted, with up to $80,000 re-up bonuses and plenty of deployment opportunities to choose from. Those wonderful Bush years, where the funding flowed like wine, are gone.

This week we also got to see official confirmation of the next Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, SgtMaj Ronald Green.

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Naturally, the Facebooks and the Twitters exploded with questions about why a Marine with no combat experience was fit to lead the Marine Corps over anyone else. To me, this move made the Return of the Peacetime all the more clear. The hard men and women who fought and survived the brutality of Iraq and Afghanistan are no longer needed. As combat deployments disappear, the dichotomy of experience levels will continue to blur, with combat or no combat no longer being a relevant measure of potential or success.

Keep in mind, these are just jovial musings and observations on my part. I have no opinion on the man, I’m sure he’s a great leader.

Regardless, there is a cultural shift afoot, and short of starting World War III, there’s not much you can do to stop it. Garrison Marine Corps will come back in full force (if it hasn’t already), and without the looming shadow of combat overhead, things will just be stupid.

Welcome to the suck.

The garrison suck.

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Brace yourselves, shit is about to get stupid.

No but really, this has been a long time coming. I think all of us have been staving it off in our heads, denying the Return of the Peacetime. We keep telling ourselves that maybe this Iraq thing will blow up, maybe the events in Paris will reinvigorate the war on terror, maybe there’s still one or two real deployments left.

It seems counterintuitive to think that we want to be at war, but as a Marine, that’s really all you’re here for. I can’t imagine being enlisted during peacetime, but I hear it’s awful, especially for the infantry. But let’s face facts, guys… it couldn’t last forever. This has been the longest war in American history, and because of it we have accepted war as a state of normality. Deployment rotations and training for the middle east have been part of the Marine Corps lexicon for the last 13 years. This is actually really unusual, the nation isn’t really supposed to be in a perpetual state of war. I think a lot of Marines really forget that fact. America was only involved in World War II for about 4 years.

The war culture is shifting, and it is fading.

Brace yourselves, Marines… Peacetime Marine Corps is coming.

You might have noticed that this strip is “Part I,” I’ll be revisiting the subject on Friday with another comic. (I was originally only going to do one, but I thought of two good ones, and I couldn’t decide which one I wanted to do more)

Most of the fun of making this comic strip for me is creative problem solving. I don’t talk about the process of making the comic much, though I probably should. While I was drawing this, I was trying to figure out ways to turn the outfit of Eddard Stark into Marine Corps idioms. I considered giving Abe an NCO sword, but then I was like “he’s a Lance Corporal, that wouldn’t make any sense.” Then I considered making the cape one of those weird bullfighter capes that go with the dress blues for senior enlisted, but then I was like, “Abe is a Lance Corporal, there’s no way he would have that.”

So then I just gave him a fur cape and a sword, because it wasn’t going to make sense anyway.

Before I forget, I want to leave you with this image of Gunny R. Lee Ermey and George R. Grifford. Gunny knows.

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There’s a lot to say about American Sniper. Clint Eastwood’s latest war drama based on the story of real life legendary Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle just got itself nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Film and Best Actor (Bradley Cooper).

There’s so much to say about it that I just want to get this out of the way now:

American Sniper is a solid war movie in nearly every regard, with tense combat scenes and heartfelt, intimate drama on the homefront.

With that said, let’s talk about it.

Be advised, past this point I’m going to be dropping spoilers like Chris Kyle drops bodies.

Things start off tense, with Chris and a Marine Lance Corporal (my favorite character) on a rooftop in the heart of urban Fallujah city. Chris is providing overwatch for a platoon of Marines in the street, going to door to door clearing the city. Suddenly, he spots a woman in black handing a child a Russian anti-tank grenade and sending him off to throw it at the platoon of Marines. Chris has to make a decision.

We are then whisked away to his childhood in rural Texas. We learn through some dialog with his father that Chris is an all-American, patriotic, fiercely protective and morally unflinching character. After seeing Chris grow up a bit, join the Navy and marry his beautiful wife, we’re taken straight back to the action at hand.

Being forced to take action against the child and the woman, Chris kills them both with brutal accuracy through the scope of his M40A1. The Lance Corporal next to him chuckles in amusement, while Chris is visibly bothered. After a brief, poignant moment back in his hooch where he relays the events of the day with a fellow Navy SEAL, Chris presumably goes on to kill 158 more people with no regrets.

American Sniper is a movie that is presented to you in a classical American truth, that assumes it is correct. It doesn’t ask any questions, and it doesn’t invite you to ask any. There is a lot to be said about the Iraq war and a man who is famous for killing 160 (confirmed) people, but the film really chooses to say nothing about it at all. Instead of a morally complex and possibly even abrasive character that we know the real Chris Kyle was, Bradley Cooper plays him with a cuddly, teddy bear-like goodness that I’m not sure makes sense in the grand scheme of things.

The film has also been praised for its handling of the subject of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), but I actually found myself unsure of it. Let me explain why.

When Chris returns home from his first deployment (over a total of four), we see him exhibiting some subtle signs of PTSD. He’s intensely nervous at home, he’s always in combat mode even when he’s at rest, he can’t stop thinking about going back to Iraq.

His wife tells him, “even when you’re here, you’re not really here.”

This is a statement that no doubt resonates with anyone that has ever been to Iraq or Afghanistan. However, it’s the reason why Chris feels this way that didn’t sell it for me. When his wife tells him this, she’s not making a profound or greater statement of the experience of going to war, Chris is actually just mentally preoccupied with killing the film’s two main villains.

Yes, there are two main villains in the film.

One of them is an al Qaeda leader known as “The Butcher,” who not only kills but brutalizes his enemies (and even their children). The other is a Syrian sniper known for his prowess as an Olympic champion (a note the film really wants you to know, even showing a photo of him with a medal around his neck at the Olympics when we see him at his home).

PTSD and the experiences of being at war and coming home are a very complex subject, but the film does not treat them as such. Chris’ entire character conflict in the film is that he can’t let go of Iraq, that he can’t seem to “come home.”

That is, until he kills the two main bad guys.

Once he finishes off the Syrian sniper in a climactic, slow-motion, bullet-time kill shot, he gets on the SAT phone and dials up his wife (in the middle of a firefight). He tells her, “I’m ready to come home.”

What?

The film briefly deals with his struggles after he comes home from his final deployment to Iraq, but it’s kind of unclear what his conflict is at this point. His wife convinces him to get help, so he does. He informs the VA counsellor that he never had a second thought about killing 160 people, but the two Navy SEALs that were killed during his deployments are what he struggles with. Fair enough, so he spends the remainder of the film helping disabled veterans to fulfill his instinctual need to save people.

As we know, this ultimately leads to his untimely death at the hands of Marine and fellow Iraq veteran Eddie Ray Routh in 2013.

A very tragic end to a very incredible man who survived so much.

As I mentioned in the beginning, all in all, this is a very good movie. I suppose I found myself mildly disappointed that this wasn’t the prophetic end-all Iraq movie that I was hoping it was going to be.

If you’re curious as to how it holds up on technicalities, I’m not a Navy SEAL so I actually don’t really know. Having been to Iraq twice myself (and Fallujah city), I can say that for the most part Iraq looked and felt like Iraq. Otherwise, everything seemed technically accurate and authentic, or at the very least nothing glaring stood out to me as an Iraq veteran.

There’s one scene that I really wish would have been expounded upon, and that is when he sees his biological brother again after being separated by branches (his brother is an infantry Marine, while Chris is a Navy SEAL).

While Chris is returning to Iraq for the third time, his brother is just leaving and they run into each other on the flightline. Chris is happy to be back, to finish the fight with The Butcher and the Syrian sniper. His brother is happy to be leaving.

Chris grabs him for a big hug, his brother seems despondent and tortured.

“Are you alright, brother?” Chris asks him.

“Yeah… fuck this place,” he replies with a look of someone who has seen too much.

The film never shows his brother again.

TL;DR:

American Sniper is a solid Iraq war movie and you should go see it. The film was nominated for six Academy Awards, and rightfully so. Bradley Cooper gives one of the best performances of his career. In all honesty, I don’t think the film will win Best Picture, but I’d be surprised if it doesn’t get Bradley Cooper the Oscar for Best Actor.

I give this movie 4 out of 5 fucks.

That guy is back at it again. Well, that’s slightly incorrect, because he never actually left.

You see, that guy perpetually exists in every platoon, squad or team. He’s the one that just can’t seem to get it right. He’s the guy that fucks everything up for everyone and drags the rest of the normal guys down. There’s nothing he can do about it… there’s nothing you can do about it… he’s just always going to be there. Remember the next time you have some kind of awful 4 hour safety brief about something you’ve never even considered to be a real problem.

That brief exists for a reason.

That brief exists because of that guy.

Every time you have a packing list, a gear inspection, field day, a long liberty brief (the list goes on); just remember that he’s the reason you’re there.

He’s that guy.

In other news, last night I was able to attend a late screening of American Sniper in San Francisco; hence the late update today. I’ll be posting a full review later after I’ve been able to really gather my thoughts on it. Simply put, it is a good film. It’s an emotional barrage of well-paced action ladened with bits of home and suffering.

Lastly, don’t forget that the Terminal Lance 5th Anniversary sale is still going on all through January. Save 15% off your entire order with the coupon code “TL5TH” at checkout at the official Terminal Lance Store.

Probably one of the weirdest and most ubiquitous rivalries you’ll find amongst Marines is the honor of the shittiest battalion. For whatever reason, it seems to be something worth bragging about.

While I was with 3/3 in Hawaii, we occasionally came across 1/3 or 2/3 Marines depending on the rotation schedule. Seeing another battalion is always a weird feeling, it’s like some kind of alternate universe, with different Marines doing the same thing you are… only different. Like most things in the Marine Corps, the grass always seems to be greener on the other side here as well. Any time you’re able to spark up a conversation with a Marine from another battalion, it inevitably comes up that their battalion is much shittier than yours.

In fact, even in my travels to Twentynine Palms and Camp Pendleton, I don’t think I’ve ever come across a Marine exclaim that their battalion was actually the best. Everyone, no matter who you talk to, will claim to have the shittiest battalion in the entire Marine Corps. It’s a weird phenomenon, but Marines tend to take pride in their misery. No one could possibly have it worse than us (we are convinced), that even other Marines have to have it better.

There’s two possible conclusions you could draw from this:

  • The Marines are exaggerating and have limited exposure to other battalions.
  • The entire infantry just actually sucks to be in.

I’ll let you decide.

In other news, I mentioned on Tuesday that we’re having some specials in the Terminal Lance Store to commemorate the 5th Anniversary of this awesome comic strip. We’re now offering an exclusive “5 Year Anniversary” hashmark shirt being sold THIS MONTH ONLY.

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Also this month only, a discount code for 15% off your entire order. Enter the code “TL5TH” as a coupon at checkout to redeem.

Click here or at the top of the page to check out the official store!

Oh, lastly, I just want to add that I know people might be expecting me to talk about the terrorist attack in Paris. I feel like by now, everyone has already expressed or processed their anger and feelings over it. I chose to do a comic strip about it for next week’s Marine Corps Times print edition, which they were kind enough to publish online. You can read their story about it here and look for the comic in next week’s paper.

Can you believe it’s been 5 years already? In case you’ve been living under a rock in the mojave desert (which is totally possible with Marines), yesterday marked the 5th year anniversary of Terminal Lance! I know, it’s kind of insane. As such, Terminal Lance has been officially awarded a hash mark to commemorate the occasion.

Looking back, it’s both impressive and staggering what Terminal Lance has been able to accomplish over the last 5 years. The comic strip has always been so intertwined with myself that it only recently hit me that I’ve created something a little bit bigger than myself. Don’t get me wrong, I started small like anyone else. It seems like yesterday I was walking around the decks of Mackie Hall, placing freshly made Terminal Lance business cards into the card readers on the door; I put up fliers in the laundry rooms and common areas of various barracks around Kaneohe Bay, accidentally leaving them at the Semper Fit gym. I remember my first milestone of reaching 1,000 page views in a single day.

There’s a lot to say about about what we’ve been able to accomplish here, in this little corner of the internet. I say “we” because Terminal Lance doesn’t exist in a void. It exists only because of the people that read it, and without you all, there wouldn’t be a point to any of this. Aside from just being about having a good laugh, Terminal Lance was among the first outlets in this wide world of social media and internet that was able to openly criticize (for the better) and express the views of the lower enlisted on a large scale in the military environment. I’m proud of this accomplishment, because I never would have thought that I could create quite a stir in the military industrial complex simply through my art and anecdotal writing.

I get asked, more recently, what is next for me as an artist? The answer to that is complex, but the short version is simply:

A lot of things.

However, in the meantime, Terminal Lance is here to stay.

2015 is a new year, and with it there have been noticeable changes in the military environment as well as the social media scene. This year will be an interesting year to say the least. This year will see the release of my first full-length graphic novel, The White Donkey, as well as a brand new project I have not formally announced, but equally as big (if not much, much bigger).

So here is to you, fans of Terminal Lance and casual readers.

This is going to be a good year.

On a side note, keep up with the official Terminal Lance Facebook Page and Twitter account for announcements today, we’ll be having some specials in the store this month to celebrate 5 years.

Often before your first deployment you’ll see boots arguing about who is more “salty.” Of course, it’s a misnomer argument to begin with because all boots are created equal. It’s also important to remember that you’re always going to be boot to someone… Unless they’re an 1171 Waterdog.

This strip is one that was previously published in the Marine Corps Times newspaper, which is a weekly event. It’s been a busy holiday for me as I just got back last night from a 10 hour trek through Oregon and California to get home. Portland was fun but I’m excited to get back to work.

2015 is going to be a big year for Terminal Lance. Stick around and see for yourself.

Here at Terminal Lance we have a tradition of hazing boots for Christmas shenanigans.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t necessarily support needless hazing boots, but it makes for a funny comic strip. I was lucky enough to get some really great Marines as boots when I came back from my first deployment to Iraq, they were actually a little older, more mature, and generally didn’t do stupid shit. We were all actually pretty chill, because I treated them with some mutual respect, rather than hazing the hell out of them for no reason.

Anyway, it’s Christmas time and I don’t really have too much to say. Pay no mind to that whole “continuity” thing between strips, because there really is none. Abe was on leave in the last strip I did, but since there’s no ongoing storyline (unless otherwise noted), it really doesn’t apply here. With that said, it’s also important to keep in mind that The White Donkey effectively takes place in an entirely separate universe, so don’t think anything from the regular strip will apply to the graphic novel.

If you’re at home for Christmas this year, enjoy yourself! Savor the company of your friends and family for those that cannot. If you’re deployed this Christmas, savor the company of your fellow Marines. You’re all each other have. Being on deployment during the holidays sucks, I’ve done it, but with good company it could always be a lot worse.

Merry Christmas from Terminal Lance!