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Your heart races as you blindly fumble your way through your pack past a bag of beef jerky, bbq sunflower seeds, and an empty can of Cope. Frantically you search for your Surefire, praying that the batteries aren't dead. With each passing second he's flexing on you, moving in for the kill. He moves with the smoothness of water flowing down a murky canal, cloaked in the inky darkness of the cloudy Iraqi night. You are in his world and he knows the terrain well, if not for catching a glimpse of him as the moonlight briefly broke through, you would already be dead. Finally you locate your surefire and hit the button. Nothing. Fudgecicles. Just then a blood-curdling squeal tears through the night not ten feet away..It sounds like a 13 year old girl that has just bumped into the Biebs at the mall...You recognize it immediately, McNeil. You rush towards his cries, tripping over your platoon mates as they rise up in their fart sacks. You find McNeil cornered up against one of the vehicles, a small red-lens light in one hand and a half-eaten piece of wheat snack bread clutched in the other. The enemy sits not a foot in front of him, dimly lit in the red light, ready to attack. You motion for McNeil to stay still as you begin to bring your rifle up, but then realizing you are much too close and not wanting to expose your position, you know you must find another way. You remember your training, all of the combatives moves, but you are not about to put hands on this nasty bastard. That's when it hits you, "You can hit him with a bat, you can hit him with a stick. You can poke him in the eye with your eye-pokin' stick'..Killing the Baby Seals! the cadence that taught you everything you need to know about CQB is about to save McNeil's life. You grab a large stick off the ground, and as you begin to rain blows down upon the hapless camel spider the cadence plays in your mind...'Way up north where the cold wind blows we're running out of money and we're running out of gold. So now I earn my living killing the baby seals...or in this case, Camel Spiders...God I hate this place.'
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You shift your weight ever so slightly from your left to right leg, careful not to lock out your knees. Behind your back you begin to feel pins and needles in your fingertips. It's 0915, and the CSM is late. 'Where the F*** is this guy' you think to yourself as you move your eyeballs to look up and down the hallway. The XO passes by reeking of Cool Water and ham, folder full of training schedules under his arm. 'Morning Sergeant' he says, 'Mornin' Sir' you reply. Suddenly the front door crashes against the wall and you hear the sound of heavy boot strikes headed your way against the freshly-buffed linoleum floor. Extra duty did a bang up job last night. Sergeant Major rounds the corner into the hall, walking like its Monday Night Raw and he's next up in the ring. You feel his steely eyes burn holes through the side of your face as you stare straight ahead, and you silently pray he doesn't notice the lose string you just remembered sticking out from your rank. He brushes past you, turns, and disappears into his office. Not a word said. Do you turn and knock? The door is open, just go in? Hellz no. You stay right where you are, and wait. 'Get in here' you hear him say in a much too calm manner, not good. You take a deep breath, go inside, and grab some real estate at parade rest a few feet in front of his desk. 'Napalm Sticks to Kids eh?' You brace yourself. 'You must be a special kind of stupid, Sergeant. Marching your guys past this place in the middle of got-dang spring calling that cadence when you know dang well every window in this building is wide open. It ain't 1995. Hell, it ain't 2005, Sergeant!' His flat-top is so perfect. You feel honored to bask in its greatness. He raises his voice: 'If I EVER hear you calling some BS like that again, I'll bust you down to E-4 faster than you can say stress card! You understand me!?' 'Yes Sergeant Major.' you sound off in return. 'And you better knock about 30 pounds off of that fat-body McNeil, he's a Whopper away from needing a maternity uniform, roger!?' 'Roger, Sergeant Major.' 'Good.' As the vein retreats back into his bright red neck he leans in a little and tells you to go shut the door and come back. Unsure exactly what is about to happen, you shut the door and return to the spot where so many souls before you had been taken. 'Relax' he says as he gets out his phone. Like a caged animal being released back into the wild for the first time you hesitate in the face of this prospective freedom, 'relax'. Slowly, you lower your hands to your side, taking great care to resist the urge to put them in your pockets. As he navigates the screen on his phone he continues: 'Look, I have been in for 23 years now and that cadence has always been one of my go-to's. But this is the new military, son. You can't call that crap anymore, especially not around the command. It's complete horse-honky, trust me, I know.' 'Roger, Sergeant Maj-' 'Here it is, hah!' He interrupts you. 'Check this out' Turning his phone around to show you the Inkfidel 'Napalm Stix' vintage tee. 'Now, this is how you do it! Old school, only those guys who have been in more than a day are going to get that, know what I mean?' 'Roge-' 'Ordered mine last night, tri-blend and made right here in America by Americans! Can't wait to hit hot yoga in this bad boy!' 'Hot yoga?' you think to yourself, you had heard Sergeant Major was a strange dude, but what was wrong with regular yoga? 'Go home and check out this site, Sergeant. If they make a cadence shirt you can pretty much assume I don't ever want to hear you calling it. Got it?' 'Roger.' 'Now, get out of my face!' he once again screams as you realize 'relax' no longer applies. 'Go!' he shouts, sending you rushing back out the door. As you walk down the front steps, half a smile on your face, you can't help but sing in your head: 'We shoot the sick, the young, the lame, we do our best to maim, because the kills all count the same....'
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As you run pass the DFAC the smell of delicious, sizzling bacon excites your nostrils and reminds you how starved you are. A few ranks ahead McNeil is making some weird half-goose, half-trumpet grunting noise as he struggles to stay in formation. Everyone knows that sound, for it is the death cry of the fall-out. Just as McNeil begins to slide to the right for his grand exit, SSG Briggs pops out to call cadence, and SSG Briggs is old-school. 'My girl's a vegetable!' booms Briggs as he begins to call out the most inappropriate cadence in the history of PT, 'She lives in a hospital!’ The company, as if overcome by the power of one million Pixy Stix, echoes the call back with a resounding thunder. The men are energized, alive, the pounding of their feet in perfect rhythm as they pick up the pace. Hell, even McNeil falls back in step, he may be trailing a 7-inch string of snot, but damned if he isn't going to make it. Yes, SSG Briggs gives not one Berghdahl about EO, SHARP or any of that other namby-pamby nonsense, he is a motivator of men, and the men love their vegetables.
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