Source: Terminal Lance, 29 January 2010
For the Marine Corps, the Global War on Terror coincided with the rise of social media, also known as Web 2.0. While many senior military leaders saw this as a threat — the rapid spread of the Abu Ghraib pictures, the puppy tossing incident, and the Scout Sniper urination videos, seemed to confirm their worst fears — it also gave Marines a soapbox that they wouldn’t have had even a decade ago. The Marine Corps maintained a formal ban on social media until late 2009, calling it “a larger attack and exploitation window, [which] exposes unnecessary information to adversaries and provides an easy conduit for information leakage,” but saw that ban overturned by the DOD in early 2010.
Here are three blogs run by prior 3/3 Marines. For some odd reason, two of them are humor sites. Maybe there’s something in the water at Kaneohe Bay.
In March 2009, First Sergeant Michael Burke from Headquarters & Service Company began Castra Praetoria, a look at ‘America’s First Sergeant in the Twenty-First Century’. Now a Sergeant Major, he has continued to update it after his time with 3/3, most famously live-blogging during the Arab Spring when his FAST Company was sent to guard the American Embassy in Egypt. Sergeant Major Burke’s 2009 postings covered 3/3’s time in Task Force Military Police, a period of transition between Iraq and the return to Afghanistan. While 3/3 had maintained an official website before, and regularly uploaded pictures from the chaplain and letters from the company commanders, Sergeant Major Burke was the first Marine in the battalion to run an unofficial blog that covered the battalion’s activities.
More of a web comic than a blog, Terminal Lance was originally conceived by Lance Corporal Maximilian “Max” Uriarte aboard Al Asad airbase on 3/3’s 2009 deployment as Task Force Military Police (I personally got to see some of his preliminary artwork, though that’s the extent of my influence). While Uriarte had previously deployed in 2007 as an 0351 Assaultman with India Company, his 2009 deployment found him with Combat Camera in H&S Company where he was able to improve and refine his artwork. He began publishing Terminal Lance in January 2010, while still part of the battalion. While Terminal Lance aims to be a generic ‘Lance Corporal Underground’ website for the whole Marine Corps, some of Uriarte’s comics reference his time in 3/3, such as specific Staff Noncommissioned Officers, Mackie Hall, or being stationed in Hawaii. While other junior enlisted Marines had published online content before, they were primarily limited to YouTube videos. Uriarte broke new ground for both 3/3 and the Marine Corps with Terminal Lance, giving a voice to “the unwilling, led by the unknowing, doing the impossible for the ungrateful.”
While both Sergeant Major Burke and Lance Corporal Uriarte began their blogs in uniform, Paul Szoldra started his Duffel Blog several years after leaving the Marine Corps in 2010. An 0341 Mortarman with 3/3 Weapons Company who deployed to Afghanistan in 2005, Szoldra originally began his Duffel Blog in early 2012 as a way to drive up traffic on another website of his, CollegeVeteran.com. One year and 36,000 followers later, Szoldra and his team of writers are recognized as some of the preeminent satirists in the modern U.S. military.