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Terminal Lance #230 “Mandatory”


Anyone that’s been in the Marine Corps for more than twenty minutes has been told the classic, “It’s not mandatory, but you have to do it,” line by their senior ranking NCO’s and Officers. The definition of “mandatory” is as follows:


  1. Required by law or rules; compulsory: “wearing helmets is mandatory”.
  2. Of or conveying a command: “he did not want the guidelines to be mandatory”.
However, the Marine Corps version is more like this:


  1. Disregard this word, it doesn’t matter.
  2. People above the rank of E4 don’t know what this word means.
The most conspicuous of these events is easily the Marine Corps Ball. The annual birthday Semper Fidelextravaganza every November. Generally, birthday ball tickets run about $50-75 for a lukewarm plate of chicken, beef or vegetarian fare and the opportunity to hang out with people you already hang out with every day–only this time in a nicer uniform. When you put it like that (and most Lance Corporals do) it seems like attending something like this would be kind of irrelevant, annoying and stupid. This is where the Corps’ special rules on the word “mandatory” come into play, because as your Staff NCO will tell you:
It’s not mandatory… But you have to be there.
I would say that the Marine Corps doesn’t typically take it upon itself to brutalize the english language, but then again it is known for such atrocities as daggon and friggin’.
Infantry Marine turned Combat Artist turned animator turned bestselling author turned dad.

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