The following was written by Combat Artist Robert Bates:

Hey all, Terminal Lance Rob Bates here. Anyone who’s ever been to Afghanistan and had the opportunity to work side by side with Afghan interpreters should know how important Thursday is to some of them. I can’t speak on behalf of those who’ve served in Iraq, because I’ve never been there—but I can safely assume that if you’ve served in a line company, or in direct support of one in Afghanistan, you probably have your own Man Love Thursday stories to share.

This strip is loosely based on a true story. About 11 years ago while deployed with BLT 1/6 near Tarin Kowt, I remember waking up only to see from 10 feet away one terp resting his head on the bare chest of another terp. Both were lying in that pose while talking to a third terp who was standing in front of them. I can’t remember whether or not if this fell on a Thursday but, regardless of the day of the week, it was a pretty disturbing sight to wake up to.

I can’t say for sure who coined the name Man-Love Thursday, or how it all got started. What I can say, though, is that it’s a very real thing in that area of the world and in various parts of West Virginia.

Before I go, I would also like to share with you the art that I make. In addition to being a former 0311 Terminal Lance with two hashmarks, I’m also a freelance combat artist and a professional editorial illustrator. Follow me on my Facebook page, where I post regular unscheduled updates about the work that I make. Lastly, a here’s big thanks to Max for asking me to make today’s strip and for the plug-in.

Rah, yut, kill.

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Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had plenty of fun nights at Kahuna’s on MCBH Kaneohe Bay, but there’s a definite disparity between the E-Club and the O-Club. Of course, this is to be expected, as officers are shiny gods and enlisted are… enlisted.

I once had the pleasure of eating lunch at the Officer’s Club at MCBH. It was an experience, to say the least. Overlooking the beautiful MCBH Clipper Golf Course (one of the most gorgeous golf vistas in the nation), nothing makes you feel more like a lowly peasant than being gawked at by offended officer wives as a few Lance Corporals awkwardly made their way through the high-end Mongolian Grill and salad bar.

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It’s a stark contrast to the dive-bar experience of the E-Club, where you’ll meet an assortment of characters ranging from drunk Lance Corporals to… more drunk Lance Corporals. To be fair, karaoke and wing night make for a much more colorful and entertaining experience.

Still, the lifestyle contrast between officers and enlisted is always shockingly stark. I mean, I get it, officers are a big deal and enlisted are a dime a dozen. The military wants to retain good officers, so they treat them like posh royalty. It’s probably the only place where a bachelor’s degree gets you an automatic high-class lifestyle, even if you occasionally have to slum it with us lowly enlisted folk.

We’ve seen before what the effects of being blessed by General Mattis can do to a man, and unfortunately I fell victim to his Holiness’ aura of unbridled masculinity last night.

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This is actually not the first time I’ve been able to take a photo with General Mattis, but it is the first time I got him to throw up the “Lance Corporal Hand Signal,” which made me as giddy as a school girl.

Long story short, I was informed by the IAVA that General Mattis was going to be speaking at the 4th Annual Salute to Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans at the Marine’s Memorial Club in San Francisco. Living not too far from there, I decided it would be a fun night for me to crash the party (as an Iraq veteran as well).

After mingling with a few fans I entered the theater, where I was handed a question card to submit to General Mattis during his speech. This is what I wrote on the card:

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Yes, I have the handwriting of a 10 year old dyslexic, that’s not the point.

The questions were passed along the aisles and given to the host of the event to sort through and filter for the General. The host happened to be a retired Sergeant Major, so it came as no surprise to me that my question was most likely promptly thrown out of the pile. After answering legitimate questions from real people, such as whether or not he’s going to run for president and the threats that ISIS and Iran pose to the US (to which he gave very great answers), he asked the audience if there were any more questions that maybe didn’t get submitted to him.

I wasn’t going to, but a bunch of people around me started encouraging me to ask him my question, since they knew it didn’t get asked.

I stood up and addressed the good General, introducing myself and asking him if he read Terminal Lance and what his favorite comic was. He didn’t answer the second part, but he did say that he reads and enjoys Terminal Lance, and that humor and freedom of speech are important virtues to maintain in the culture.

He then quipped that if I made fun of him, he’d kill me.

By the time you read this, I might be dead (if not from elephantiasis of the testicles, then by possibly a lightning strike).

In any case, it was a really awesome night, it was a lot of fun meeting all of the Marines that attended the event and even had a couple of drinks with me afterward. The Marine’s Memorial Association is phenomenal for putting on the event and run by a lot of really great Marines. As well, listening to General Mattis talk is always a humbling and educational experience. The presence of such a powerful force of wisdom and stature is always incredible to be around.

For those of you wondering if he’ll be running for President… this is what he said about it:

“The qualities that you [Marines] see in me are not necessarily the qualities that would endear me to others.”

There aren’t many choices in the lives of the average Marine. Once you join the Corps, free will and all of those other great liberties you grew up with as an American go right out the door. Every Sunday, however, you find yourself making one of the only choices you have: what haircut do you want?

Granted, there aren’t many things to choose from as a male Marine, but each one has its own subtle sense of identity attached to it. What haircut you choose on the weekend says a lot about you; and in a world where everyone dresses the same, it’s often the only thing to say about you at a glance.

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The Low-Reg is the favorite of most infantry Lance Corporals simply because it offers you the most hair. This has given it a somewhat “rebellious” nature, as most people consider it the official “shit-bag” haircut. Needless to say, there is no realistic correlation between performance as a Marine and hair length, but you’d have a hard time convincing a Staff NCO of that. This haircut often looks kind of ridiculous–especially in uniform, where it gives rise to the infamous “duck-bill” while wearing the 8-point cover. As Abe mentions in the strip, it’s less about how it looks, and more about what it stands for: getting away with as much as you can.

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The Medium-Reg is my personal favorite, as it offers you a decent ‘do without sacrificing too much of your beloved hair. It generally looks clean in uniform but has enough hair to be styled in civilian attire without looking like a total tool. I rocked this haircut, even as the creator of “Terminal Lance,” simply because I liked to stay off the radar completely rather than being on it as a shit-bag. This haircut allows you to look like you give a little bit of a shit and still enjoy your life.

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This haircut is the favorite of most Staff NCO’s and officers, actually. The High-Reg is just higher than the Medium-Reg, but without being as far gone as the horrendous “High and Tight” (see below). Staff and officers love this haircut because, even if they’re relatively relaxed people, they have to give the impression that they’re more motivated than their subordinates (even if they’re not). A Staff NCO with a high-reg is probably a fairly normal person in real life.

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This is the quintessential “Marine” haircut, and it looks terrible on everyone. The only people that get this haircut are boots, Staff NCO’s that have succumbed to “Staff NCO Syndrome,” or boot Staff NCO’s. This haircut is also why Marines are called “Jarheads,” as it makes the back of your head look like a jar (or something). The higher and tighter, the more boot it tends to look.

I don’t make these rules, this is just how it is.

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Despite the general theory of higher and tighter is more motivated, people that shave their head completely bald are not necessarily motivated people. “The Bic,” as it’s known, is usually done by people who simply like the look it gives them, and it is also an easy haircut to self-maintain. Often, Marines will shave their head simply to avoid paying for haircuts every week. There doesn’t seem to be any known correlation between motivation and completely shaving your head. It’s also the haircut of choice for guys that are noticeably balding, since it generally looks better than letting your whispy, thinning hair grow out.

There are a couple of other haircuts not illustrated here, such as the “Moto-Hawk” and the flat-top high and tight. These were not illustrated as of press time because they look fucking stupid.

Also, I know I wrote a blog post similar to this a few years ago, but decided to revisit the subject with a more illustrated guide and comic strip.

Lastly, I just want to throw it out there that we have some women’s wear in the Terminal Lance Store now! Check it out, ladies.

So every day I check my Facebook page and my emails to find all kinds of interesting things. Sometimes I wake up to drunken rambles from the night before, other times I wake up to funny pictures from around the Corps. Either way, I often look forward to checking my inbox to see what crazy shit you guys send me.

However, there’s one category of stuff I really don’t care to receive, and that is pictures and shit with the intent of ‘putting them on blast’ or whatever you want to call it. Essentially, this is when someone sends me a photo of a Marine maybe doing something silly that someone else interprets as being a serious affront to their beloved Corps… or whatever. Most often, it usually involves a couple, male and female, with the intent that I should post this image and make fun of them for whatever reason.

 

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I received this today, and I scribbled out their faces for their own anonymity.

I just don’t get it.

What is the point of this?

This is literally just a cute photo of a couple, one of them being a Marine. He’s not being a boot, he looks like a nice guy, she’s cute, and it’s a professional photograph. There’s nothing here that is offensive, funny or even interesting from my point of view. What am I even supposed to do with this? Why did he send it to me?

My theory is he’s secretly in love with the girl in the photo, and upon seeing his “buddy” post a cute photo with her, he decided to “buddy fuck” him in any way he could by sending it to the big military FB pages, hoping that one of them would go “NICE MAN, SUCH A SICK BURN ON YOUR BUDDY THERE DUDE.”

I want to be abundantly clear about something here: I have zero interest in making fun of people for being people. Who cares if he’s a Marine? Taking a photo with his girlfriend? I don’t even see how this is “full boot.” There must be some grotesque and ill-informed definitions of the word “boot” floating around out there, but this isn’t it.

So why am I writing this post?

Because this shit really needs to stop. This whole culture of intentionally embarrassing your friends in front of hundreds of thousands of people for no apparent reason needs to stop. The problem is that the greater military community as a whole has embraced this idea of “putting people on blast” for even the slightest of slights. For a group that “doesn’t give a fuck,” a lot of veterans sure seem to give a lot of fucks about some extremely petty shit. If you find yourself sending Instagram and Facebook photos to big military pages and asking to remain anonymous while you throw your “friends” under the bus; I hate to break it to you, but you’re actually a fucking asshole.

Also, the next time you guys send me a photo of someone with their ribbons “backwards,” ask yourself if maybe the photo was taken in a mirror or with a front-facing selfie camera.

Seriously, I see this shit every day.

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There ain’t no party like a working party.

I actually had a different strip lined up today but someone sent me a photo that I had quite a giggle at and I couldn’t resist.

Some Staff NCO’s are especially talented at finding creative ways to fuck with you. We all know that yelling and screaming, knife-hands and physical hazing are just show boating. A good Staff NCO knows this and will find some way you didn’t even know existed to make your life miserable.

Case in point: When I was at Mojave Viper in Twentynine Palms, my section got itself into some trouble that our Gunny felt needed to be reprimanded. We had no idea what he was planning, but he grabbed our whole section and cryptically told us to meet some supply Marines on the road at Camp Wilson for a working party. We figured whatever, we were probably going to be cleaning up something stupid and be back in an hour.

The supply Marine took us to the outskirts of Camp Wilson and dropped us off in what seemed like the middle of the desert. Nothing was there except boxes of loose bullets and expended stripper clips.

Our task: put the 5.56 rounds back on the stripper clips.

This isn’t so bad, I thought to myself.

4 hours later in the Mojave desert sun, my fingers raw from forcibly handling so much brass and metal as we meticulously put each loose round back on the clips; I remember stopping and looking at my counterparts and simply stating, “This really sucks.”

There was no word, we had no idea when we were supposed to be done, but I found myself not even angry at Gunny anymore and simply impressed. This was a shit working party that I would have never even thought of–seemingly simple on the outset but completely miserable in its own horrible way.

10 Marines in the middle of the desert putting 5.56 rounds back in stripper clips.

Brilliant.

After thousands of loose rounds found their way back to their home, the sun nearly setting behind the California mountains, we were picked up and taken back to Camp Wilson.

Running into another Marine out in the world is always a weird experience. You don’t know if it’s the haircut, the goofy proper civilian attire, or maybe the farmer’s tan… but you know another Marine when you see one. You can sense it; feel the presence; smell the scent of Axe body spray and the PX; see the diagonal tanline across their face from their 8-point cover.

You know another Marine when you see one.

It always reminds me of taking my dog out for a walk. He’ll be totally chill, but as soon as he notices another dog, his ears perk up, his tail wags with anticipation and he lightly squeals in excitement. The two animals, separate in their daily lives, never having even met, share a bond.

Two dogs in a world full of humans.

…Then they sniff each other’s asses. What? They’re dogs, after all.

Ahh, Easter. The time of year when children hunt for painted eggs on the dirty ground and Catholics everywhere feel guilted into attending their annual church outing. I don’t really have anything profound to add here, but the moral of this story is that you should never trust Marines to paint or draw on anything.

I always wondered what it’s like to be a military brat. My family was largely non-military, so I never had the experience of growing up on a base and shifting around all over the country on a whim as a child. I imagine it’s not an ideal childhood, but then again, I don’t think anyone actually has that.

Regardless of your upbringing, you should enjoy yourself this weekend. Remember, if you drink enough on Saturday night, the easter egg hunts are a lot more fun when you’re still drunk.

Lastly, this is obvious, but if you found yourself in the Air Force and really excited about my recent announcement that I was going to be changing Terminal Lance over to “Terminal Airman,” you’re going to be sorely disappointed. April 1st is a day of pranks, and every year I try to do something fun. However, hell hasn’t frozen over yet, so don’t expect me to draw Air Force cartoons any time soon.

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This weekend I had the pleasure of visiting not only Washington D.C. for the first time, but the Marine barracks at 8th & I as well. It was kind of a surprise visit, I didn’t even know we were in the neighborhood until it was pointed out to me what street we were on, but the Marines there were gracious enough to invite us in and show us around a bit.

Before anyone in charge at 8th & I gets their panties in a bunch, I’m just gonna mention that none of the Marines secretly asked me to take them with me.

This is a cartoon.

In my head (which is a scary place) I just imagine it’s nerve wracking to be around the Commandant all day, every day. Being a regular Lance Corporal in a line platoon out in the fleet, you spend about 90% of your day avoiding higher-ups, and they’re not even literally in charge of the entire Marine Corps.

I did actually ask if I could meet the Commandant, since he was on deck, but they wouldn’t let me knock on his door. Understandably it was a surprise visit and I didn’t really expect much, I was just happy to even be able to get a tour by the adorable Lance Corporal Garrison.

Getting stationed at 8th & I was his destiny.

Getting stationed at 8th & I was his destiny.

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For those of you wondering where I’ve been the last few days, I was fortunate enough to be part of the Student Veterans of America’s first student vet art competition! They asked me to be an official judge and flew me out to D.C. for the weekend so that I could attend the gallery opening. I have to give the biggest shout out in the world to the SVA for not only their incredible hospitality toward me, but all of the veterans that came out to the gallery show as well (free beer!).

I also just want to say congratulations to the competition winner Jonathan Gherkin for his amazing work.

It was really awesome being able to meet so many veterans and active duty Marines (and other service members) over the weekend and I had a ton of fun talking to all of you–even though I was severely jet lagged for the whole weekend.

On Friday I actually got the chance to meet the Marine Corps Times for the first time–even though I’ve been working with them for the last 4 years or so. While I was there, they filmed a brief interview with me that you can check out here.

Myself and the Military Times newsroom.

It was a pretty crazy and awesome weekend and I’m happy I got the chance to check out D.C. and 8th & I. If I had more time I might have tried to visit more places, but my trip was pretty short and I needed to get home to finish this monster of a book. Comic updates might slow down a bit over the next month or so while I try to focus on the primary task at hand, but I assure you that I am still alive and things are moving.

 

I mean, realistically, this would be a way cooler toy than the current officially licensed USMC offerings.

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Like come on, we’ve been fighting the war on terror for like 14 years and this is some weird, pseudo Desert Storm shit. What am I supposed to do? Use my imagination?

I miss the barracks sometimes.

I know that’s a weird sentence, but I love how full of life it is on any given night of the week. By life, I mean drunken, shirtless Marines shouting obscenities at each other and getting into random brawls. This isn’t just a Friday night routine, this is an every night routine.

Terminal Lance has always been a place for Marines to talk about actual Marine shit. Not just the war stories, but the every day life of being a Marine. Something that always bothers me about Hollywood depictions of the Marine Corps or otherwise is that it’s always about the deployment. Don’t get me wrong, that’s generally where all of the stories worth making a movie about happen–I went on two of them to Iraq myself. However, lets be realistic for a second: I spent a total of one year in Iraq between two deployments. That’s one year out of a standard four year enlistment. Three quarters of my time in the Marine Corps was spent back in the rear, like most Marines, doing every day shit like standing by in the barracks and cleaning weapons at the armory.

I’m not saying we need a movie about drunken barracks brawls, but I do feel like the prolific war porn we’ve come to expect from every movie about the military creates false expectations and representation of the military lifestyle.

Anyway, that’s a long way of saying I want a Marine Corps toy that accurately represents the drunk barracks Marine. Maybe it could even come with an OOD that he pisses on from the 2nd story catwalk.

On a completely unrelated note, I watched Starship Troopers again for the first time in a long time. I think it came out when I was in 4th grade or so. I just want to say that this guy is a POG, Jodie, blue falcon motherfucker.

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One more thing…

I’ll be at the Student Veterans of America “Warpaint” gallery unveiling in Washington DC on Friday. I think you have to RSVP, it might be too late, but if you’re going I guess I’ll see you there! Click here for details. I’ll be in the area until Sunday.