“If any of you maggots got the brains or nerve to ask me a good question, I’ll answer it right here!”
Editor’s Note: Perhaps the most famous Marine in America right now is “The Gunny,” R. Lee Ermey, whose performance as a Marine drill instructor in the film Full Metal Jacket brought him to national prominence. Unlike most actors in movies, Ermey is the real deal, a Marine veteran who has actually lived much of the life he portrayed in the film. Today, in his appearances with the troops and his own TV show, Mail Call, Ermey is still a Marine who looks you squarely in the eye and tells it like it is.
Q: What’s your opinion on tactical handgun calibers for military and law enforcement?
The objective years ago—the reason we had a .45-caliber pistol as a sidearm—was that once our long guns melted down and we were completely out of ammo in a firefight, when the bad guys were coming over the trench after us, we could pull out the .45 and hit ’em center mass and take ’em out with one shot. Staff officers, NCOs, pilots, members of crew-served weapons—they had a pistol that could take down an enemy with one shot. Now we’ve armed our troops with the 9×19, and as far as I’m concerned we might as well have given them .22s. Special Forces, or Special Ops recon teams—the ones that can choose their weapons—choose .45 caliber.
Q: The .40 is sneaking in there now. The Coast Guard has adopted it, and there are rumors some Army Special Forces units are trying it.
The .40 is pretty good. It’s better than the 9×19. As far as I’m concerned, the 9×19 is good for one thing—target shooting.
Q: On long guns, what about the old M14 compared to today’s M16?
The M14, which was a .308, was a beautiful rifle. The M1 Garand was a beautiful rifle. But it was heavy. The ammo for both rifles was big; you couldn’t carry as much ammo. Whereas now, with the 5.56, the M16, the ammo is so much smaller you can carry two or three times as much. Maybe that’s why every time I see a documentary, the kids getting into a firefight with the M16, it’s like they’re hosing down an area, a spray of bullets. I don’t see anybody aiming. We taught differently back in the old days. We used to be taught to take dead aim and squeeze the trigger—to select the target and be precise about each shot. Because troops have such tremendous firepower at their fingertips with the M16, I guess they don’t teach that as much any more. But I’m still a believer that one well-aimed shot is the way to go. But I’m not in charge. So my opinion doesn’t have a lot of credence, does it?
Q: Is Marine marksmanship training better than the Army’s?
Marine training, across the board, is far superior to any other military that we have. And the reason being is because the Marine Corps is not as apt to care about political correctness. They will still raise their voice at a young man, they will punish a young man with pushups or sit-ups. They don’t train women with the men. I speak at many of the graduating classes for drill instructors for the Marine Corps. And those drill instructors are still poured out of the same mold they were 40 years ago.
You’ll hear a lot of old-timers talking about, “Well, these kids, it’s not like it used to be in the old days.” Nothing could be further from the truth. The training today is superb as far as I’m concerned.
Q: Gunny, you’ve been to Iraq a couple of times and to Afghanistan. How are our troops?
Motivation and morale are second to none! For the left-wing liberals who so dominate in the media to keep printing and broadcasting that we’re losing this war—nothing could be further from the truth. Obviously, the troops that are over there fighting the war seem to believe in what they are doing. I spend at least 150 days a year with the Marine Corps. I am totally impressed with the ranks, be they grunts with boots on the ground or the officers in charge of them.
Right now the Marine Corps enjoys a 75 percent re-enlistment rate. At the end of four years, they re-enlist for another four or six years. They’ve all been to Iraq once or twice, and know they’ll have to go back. Is there anyone in America so stupid as to think these young men and women would re-enlist to go over there and lose the war some more?
But the terrorists are looking at our government and seeing such in-fighting and thinking they are accomplishing their mission. That we’re going to cut and run sometime. To publish the fact that we’re going to pull out on such and such a date in ’08 would be the dumbest thing in the world. You don’t plan withdrawal until you win the war.
There are thousands upon thousands of terrorist wannabes just hanging back and waiting to see what happens. Now, the minute we pull out, the terrorists are going to be able to say the two greatest recruiting words in the world: “We’re winning!”
Q: What are these complaints from media about body armor?
That is a crock of crap. It’s just more propaganda. Why is it that the left wants us to lose this war so badly? The truth is there’s not one individual over there that doesn’t have body armor. And not only that, they’re not allowed outside the hooch without that body armor on, or they’ll be in serious trouble with their officers or NCOs.
Q: One of your main endeavors is the VFW’s Unmet Needs Program. Can you tell us something about that?
On my visits to the troops in Iraq I quickly learned the plights of many of our service men and women, particularly the Reservists and National Guardsmen called back to active duty. And more have been called back than any time in history!
We take these young men and women off their jobs where they’re making two or three thousand bucks a month and mold them into line Privates or PFCs and send them over to fight the war, and in the meantime they’re making about a thousand bucks a month now, and their families slowly sink into a poverty situation.
So we got the Mrs.’s up in North Dakota in the middle of winter driving kids to and from school on bald tires, the furnace stops working, they can’t fix it. So now the kids not only have to go to bed hungry, they’re cold too.
What they need to do is to go to Unmet Needs Dot Com (Unmetneeds.com) on the computer and push the Help button. We’ll get there. We’ll fix the furnace, we’ll put new tires on the car; we’ll rebuild the damn car if necessary. We haven’t turned one family down yet! Every penny donated, by the way, goes to the program—to the families.
For all kinds of Gunny memorabilia and DVDs, including DVDs, including “Full Metal Jacket” and “Mail Call” episodes, check out the Gunny Digital Px at px.rleeermey.com.