36. How to Measure Your Life with Don Reynolds

August 03, 2022

36. How to Measure Your Life with Don Reynolds
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In this episode, Brock talks with Don Reynolds.

Don is a Sergeant Major in the Marine Corps with 22 years of service under his belt and is currently working in recruiting.

We discuss the past, present, and future culture of the marine corps including what makes the perfect marine. Don talks about how a dose of imposter syndrome is a good check for the chest bumping alpha culture of the military in general. Our world today has much faster feedback loops and that's evidenced in social media today; we talk through how that plays out in disciplining and leading the marines of today. 

The biggest topic we dive into is understanding what you want to be measured against in life. The military offers an extremely simplistic way to be measured. In the marines, you need to shoot, run, and ruck well. That isn't for some people, but for Don, that is a dream. 

You can follow along with Don on on Instagram


(02:15) - What makes the perfect marine

(05:25) - Understanding the competition within ranks

(10:00) - Balancing past performance with the need for readiness today 

(12:15) - The military's measuring stick

(21:40) - Drawbacks to short feedback loops in the military

(26:40) - Expectations of new marines joining today

(37:40) - Common complaints heard from the field

(42:00) - How to maintain standards but be open to change

(50:00) - The importance of having accountability

(55:10) - Balancing family life being career military

(01:11:00) - How the landscape of war has changed and how to adapt

Whether you’re in the service for four years or twenty, you have learned skills, led teams, and learned what it takes to execute under pressure. While those past successes are valuable, they don’t always translate to a life or career when you get your DD214.

Join Brock in breaking down the skills and strategies current and former military members are using to build a successful careers on the outside the service.

Get a weekly episode breakdown, sneak peak of the next episode, and other resources in your inbox for free at https://scuttlebutt.substack.com/.

Follow along with us.
• Brock: @BrockHBriggs    
• Instagram: Scuttlebutt_Podcast  
• Send me an email: scuttlebuttpod1@gmail.com


Brock Briggs  0:01  

Hello and welcome to the Scuttlebutt podcast. I'm your host Brock Briggs. And today I'm speaking with Sergeant Major Don Reynolds. This conversation revolves primarily around the past, present and future culture of the Marine Corps. We talk about what makes the perfect Marine and dissect a branch of the military that draws in people looking to be warriors. One of the bigger questions I've wrestled with during my time in and even since getting out is how you balance the chest bumping Alpha culture the military has. Don had a great response to that. 

And he says a healthy dose of imposter syndrome normally, something talked about very negatively, but he pitches as a counterweight to a big ego. We talked through a few other interesting topics, how to discipline and lead a new generation of Marines with faster feedback loops, and one I have not been able to stop thinking about since we ended our conversation over a week ago. And that's understanding what you wanna be measured against in life. 

One of my favorite quotes from Don said, the Marine Corps has been a bubble where my worth to the team was based solely around how fast I could move, how far I could rock and how well I could shoot. To some people, that sounds horrific. To others, it sounds incredibly simplistic and fulfilling. Don may have been in 22 years, but has yet to take his finger off the pulse of what inspires, motivates and drives our country's largest lethal fighting force. You're in for a treat today with a high quality Marine and human being. Enjoy this conversation with Don Reynolds.

Brock Briggs  

Don, thank you so much for taking time to chat with me today. I really tried to do some deep diving and backstory on each person that I have on the show. And from my reading of you, everything that you've written and everything that I just see, I don't know that I've come across like more of like almost the perfect Marine than you. The way that you talk really is so aligned with everything that I know that the Marine Corps talks about. And that wasn't my branch, but just from what I perceived over time. It really appears to me optically, that is you like you guys are one in the same. Would you say that that's true?

Don Reynolds  2:50  

I think I wouldn't say that. I know that there's, everything that I write and everything that I say has come from a place where I've either made that mistake and learnt that lesson the hard way. So you're getting a perspective that maybe I didn't have early on that, you know, that I learned. So no, I mean, I wouldn't say that I'm the perfect Marine in any regards. You know, I make a lot of mistakes. And you know, I know a lot of Marines, you know, in my eyes are the perfect Marines and you're always struggling to try to, you know, fit that image. But I try as hard as I can to represent the Marine Corps the right way and exemplify the things that they wanna see. And you know, that we advertise to the world. So but it's, you know, I'm a work in progress, just like everybody else.

Brock Briggs  3:41  

I think that that humility is part of what kind of puts the stamp on that for me, it's like, yeah, this is who I am. And this is who I’m just kind of striving to be. And I think that that's a powerful message and life to live. And I think that's an unbelievable example for the Marine Corps too. I don't know, you're now in a recruiting position, correct?

Don Reynolds  4:05  

I am, yeah, you got to think about our culture, right? So our culture has so many levels of Marines doing incredible things or no, just on a daily basis. So for anybody I'm very, you know, I come from the era where you could walk into the PX and you know, see a lance corporal, you know, double awarded Purple Heart. Or you know, I come from the era where you would read in the back a Leatherneck magazine, a corporal receiving the Navy Cross. So, I never will ever put my service out there or the things that I've done as like a benchmark for being perfection or look at me, look what I've done because I'm reminded every day. 

And you know, our service reminds us everyday kind of like there are people out there that are you better be wary of advertising yourself as being the best or the baddest or the toughest or the roughest or having seen the most, you know, so it's just something that I stay conscious of because, you know, there's probably a kid right now that's, you know, there are kids right now that are smarter than me, faster than me. You know, can process information quicker than me, you know, know their tactics better than me. So I just tried to fill my role.

Brock Briggs  5:14  

What do you think about it? The military culture, I won't even just like, put this just on the Marine Corps. I know that it's probably a little bit more so there just from my little knowledge of it. But what do you think it is about the military that really promotes that type of thinking, where it's this kind of a competition of like who's done the most deployments, who's got the most ribbons. It's just kind of this kind of like angry pissing contest in a lot of ways. 

Don Reynolds  5:50  

Because I think that, I'll speak about the Marine Corps. I think that there is something about the Marine Corps and our culture that draws alphas. And when I say alphas, there's Alpha females, there's alpha males, just that type A type of aggressive personality that wants to be challenged. And then when you are challenged and you meet that challenge, and you're proud of meeting that challenge. And of course, there's that self promotion of where you're gonna aggressively now talk about how you met that challenge. And you know, in our culture, we talk about the old core and the new core. And there's a joke in the Marine Corps about the old core is, whatever took place the day before you showed up. 

So in the Marine Corps here, you will hear a guy that's been in the Marine Corps, like one year longer than you talk about, oh, you should have been here last year. You know, last year was really, you know, glad, you know. The second you showed up, that's when the standard started dropping, you know, like you don't know, back in 2020, you know. So it's peculiar, but I think it's, a lot of times at the root of it, at the heart of it, it's just a tremendous amount of pride in the type of life that you live, the challenges that you face. So you know, and that kind of manifests itself into a lot of chest thumping, a lot of, you know, trash talking. And, you know, it can 90% of the time, it's a good thing. 

But it's kind of this weird thing right now, where I've noticed a lot of people that kind of, I don't know, for lack of a better term, they kind of like slag other people service, you know. So you'll have a guy that served during war time kind of slags the new generation of Marines. I get it all the time you get guys that served in previous generations of Marines. I call today's Marine soft and stuff like that. I think that's always been the thing. But I think that it all comes from a place where you're just everybody is tremendously proud of what they've accomplished, what they've been through, because, you know, that's what we advertised to the world, right? We're gonna challenge you, the Marine Corps, something different, you know. Like, if you're looking, we don't offer you much, except a rifle and a hard time, right? And you know, you're gonna come out the other end disciplines and a better person. So I think that's kind of where our culture comes from.

Brock Briggs  8:12  

I told myself while I was in, I remember standing there in, it was a C-School that I was attending. And my course was being taught by these older civilian 20 year Navy chiefs and whatever who got out and didn't fall far from the tree, you know. They're at the schoolhouse teaching. And they're sitting there like giving us all this shit about, you know, how weak it is now and all of this stuff, how it would never, that never would have happened, you know, in our day and all this stuff. 

And I told myself, I was like, I will never do that. Because there, I can already tell that there was the feeling like by the time I was getting out to be doing that, it was like, oh, you should say this because it has changed. But I told myself, I'd never do that. What do you think is the recipe for balancing that kind of competitive nature that drives us forward and kind of, you know, pulls each other and boosts each other up, but also kind of brings in that humility element that you're talking about?

Don Reynolds  9:23  

I think you need to understand that, you know, as far as the military is concerned, if you have to rely on you know, past greatness or you know, stories from the past to make yourself relevant now, then that's a problem, right? So my wife was talking to me about this like last year, she was talking about imposter syndrome, right? So it's where you kind of step into a position or you step into a unit and you kind of feel very, very self aware. Like, you know, do I have what it takes to be here? Am I qualified? Am I this? Am I that? I think that that's a good mindset to have because that's gonna keep you honest and that's gonna keep you hungry every day, right? 

So yes, you should absolutely be proud of the accomplishments and the achievements that you've gotten during your time and service. But every time you step into a billet every new day, the past doesn't matter. It's all about what you've done today. So a lot of good can come with it. I mean, if you talk about, you know, beat your chest and talking about the accomplishments of the past, that's great if you can leverage that experience from the past and something relevant today for you know, your troops. Or the people underneath of you to learn from and effectively, you know, assist them in the mission in the here and now. That's what I think. I think that no one wants to hear. 

I was talking to my boss a while ago and it dawned on me, no one wants to hear. The Marines now, if you were to bring a combat reference about Iraq to the Marines now, that would have been like someone talking to me about Beirut when I was a young Marine, right? You can't even visualize what that person is talking about, right? So it's like, let's move away from this one time in Volusia, you know, and start talking about how, yeah, here's what you've been. Here's what you've done. What can you do for me today? How can you influence the next generation of Marines, right? What are you? What do you contribute to the unit now? What are you bringing to the table? 

And I think that that's probably the best way to balance it, right? Because you do, you will, you know, there's some experiences that you just accrue in the Marine Corps that will absolutely help you in future endeavors, right? But that can't be the end all be all. And the crux of your existence is, you know, you should have seen me 10 years ago when I was a squad leader and you know, Afghanistan. Well, that's not really what the Marines really need to hear, needs to see right now. What they wanna see is a sergeant major in 2022 that is there for them. And that, you know, is relevant and looking out for them and taking care of them and teaching them the things that they need to know in order to be successful today.

Brock Briggs  12:00  

Talking in like the same vein of like measuring and like, how Marines and like, I guess, military members are valued generally, you had a post that I really like. We're gonna talk a lot about your posts. I love your Instagram feed. You've curated a really great stream of writing and encouraging kind of mottos and mantras that I think people really cling to. So I'm gonna make several references to those and I'll be sure to include, people can check that out for later. 

But there's one post specifically, you said the Marine Corps has been a bubble where my worth to the team was based solely around how fast I could move, how far I could rock and how well I could shoot. To some people that sounds horrific. To others, it sounds incredibly simplistic and fulfilling. Originally, I was like, waiting for you to kind of start the next paragraph talking about how you're so much more than like, just a rocker or like a shooter or all of these things. And you're just like, no, like that's enough for me. That was so like contrarian, I guess, to a lot of the posts and stuff that you hear people talk about. They wanna be seen as like more than a uniform now. But that is enough for you. Can you maybe kind of unpack that a little bit?

Don Reynolds  13:25  

Yeah, a little bit. So I write everything. You know, this Instagram was, I was on recruiting and I was at a recruiting event. And one of my recruiters was taking a video and I was like, what are you gonna do with this video? And she said, I'm gonna put it on Instagram. I didn't even have an Instagram account. So one of my jobs is to kind of make sure that recruiters are effectively using social media, you know, what I mean. 

Or, because we have a pool program, you know, kids that are waiting to go to boot camp, right? And, you know, kind of advertising the defense that the Marines are doing, you know, promotes the service and gets the message out there. So, I thought it would probably be a good look to set up an Instagram account. So I started doing what a lot of people do. I was just taking pictures of recruiting events. My wife is a little bit more savvy towards social media. So she was like, stop. She's like, don't, your posts, she basically, she was like, your posts, right?

Brock Briggs  14:20  

So she's a little bit cringey.

Don Reynolds  14:23  

Yeah, she was like, so if I were you, you know, one why don't you talk about aspects of your career? You know, that might be more interesting. Number two is I would like for you to do that because my wife knows very little about my, you know, military service. It's not something that, I don't sit around the house and you know, tell more stories to my wife and kids and I didn't get married until I was 30 years old. So a lot of the stuff that I talked about took place.

Or you know, combat experiences ever took place long before I ever met my wife. So she was like number two, you know she can be like a kind of be like a diary, like I can keep it you know, maybe you know like reference whatever. It could be like a log you know that I could, maybe your kids one day would like to look at, right? Like I said before, I only speak about things I know about. I'm a very Junior Sergeant Major. 

And in the Marine Corps, you can do all the way up until your Sergeant Major. You will spend your time at the company level dealing with, you know, 150 guys small unit level. So I only speak about the things I know about. So with that context, all my posts kind of are geared towards I want the young Marine, like a kid that's, you know, in the barracks at Camp Pendleton to wake up in the morning and maybe read something I wrote. And that might motivate him to attack his duties that day, you know what I mean? 

Maybe if someone that's demotivated or kind of questioning, like, why did I even do this, you know? Maybe read something that I write to kind of puts it all in perspective, so. But at the root of it all, yes that's how I feel, you know. At the root of it all, no matter what rank you go into the Marine for, right? All the accomplishments, all the achievements, you're still expected to show improve every single day, right? So I may be a unit Sergeant Major, if I go out and booger the rifle range, it's gonna be big news, right? Because you have to be proficient, right? 

If I go out on a run and fall out of a run, big news, because you've got to be physically fit. We go on a unit hike and I can't carry my load from point A to point B and gotta get in the truck. Big news, because I'm the sergeant major. So at the crux of it all, and especially as a young Marine, when you think about all the things that in the civilian world that you know, someone that's 21, 22, 23 has to worry about whether it's getting a job or you know, classes of this that whatever, the average Marine in the infantry right now, he's got to worry about those three things. How fast can you move? How far can you rock? And how well can you shoot? It's incredibly simplistic. 

I used to sleep very, very well at night, knowing that my worth was measured in those three things right then and there, right? Hey, here's what I gotta do. Like it's very, very clear, very, very tangible. There's not a whole lot of worry. That's my existence. That's my contribution to the team. I found it simplistic and fulfilling. Some people may say, you know, if they're gonna summarize your work based on these three things, that sounds terrible. Hey, to each their own, you know. This lifestyle doesn't appeal to everybody. But for me and I think a lot of people, that's pretty refreshing, right? Because every single day, when you step in the door, you know where you stand.

Brock Briggs  17:17  

You said that you used to sleep well at night. Have the shooting scores and the rucking distances, have those kind of come down a little bit from the junior case?

Don Reynolds  17:27  

Absolutely not, bro. I still max mine and I'm 40 years old. I still do all that stuff. Well, because now I have a family. So, you know, balancing family in the military, right? It's, you know, your life is obviously more complex than what it was when I was, you know, just a young Marine servant or an infantry battalion, you know, somewhere across the world, right?

Brock Briggs  17:52  

No, I think that you make a really good point there. And I think that there's a larger conversation to be had, we don't have to get too far into it. But around choosing the things that you wanna be measured on. And if you, like you're saying, if you're content with these are the three things, then like you said, there's no question about where you are. Everybody in this, I'm guessing in those units, they know, hey, this guy, he shoots the best of all of us. 

And you know, they wake up knowing that he's the best until the next time you shoot or whatever. And I think that the people that are talking about wanting to be valued and kind of measured against different objectives than what the military brings, and the standards that they require, they probably don't belong there, to be honest.

Don Reynolds  18:49  

They step back even further and just say, like, take away the shooting, and the rocking and the and the, you know, the physical performance that I was talking about, specifically, and just say, you know. It may not even be the military, but like, in a world where kind of people are very passive aggressive or don't necessarily say what they mean, and you're left to wonder, kind of like, what do they really think about me, you know? For me, I found it very refreshing to step into an organization and know exactly where I stood. 

And you know, what people thought about me, you know, based upon a very tangible performance metric, you know. And then the other part about it is, this is for me, personally, I joined the Marine Corps, I was a very troubled youth, right? I was like, you know, I'd been in a detention center briefly and a problem with getting into fights. You know, I have rebelled against my parents. And when I stepped into this institution, where you know, I was a machine gunner with Third Battalion, seventh Marines.

And you have these Marines that are just, you know, your leadership, you know, like your platoon sergeants, and these guys are just the picture of physical fitness and discipline and you know, all the things that they exemplify. The Marine Corps that your drill instructor taught you about, right? You know, you got to have these exacting standards and, you know, to have one of them walk up to you, when you're 18 years old, and like, pat you on the back and say, good job, because their praise was, you know. They dished out praise, like, you know, very very sparingly but to have one of them look you in the eye and say, like, you know, great job marine or like, you know, you're doing a great job. I mean, that would like, that would just put you on cloud nine, right? You know, you're getting praise from these people that, you know, in your head exemplify everything that you wanna be. 

So I mean, for me, that was the Marine Corps. And that was an, you know, like an institution that I really was drawn to. But you know, for other people, it could be something else. But I just think at the root of it all, it's really great to be a part of anything where you know, where you stand. You know, what I mean, you know, what you have to do? And, you know, when people say things to you, like, good job, they mean it. When people look at you and say, man, you're really screwing up or like, you suck right now, right? You know, they're gonna be blunt, they're gonna tell you, right? There's no pulling punches. I like that. I like the honesty. I like the challenge.

Brock Briggs  21:09  

Well and it's a closer or a really short feedback loop. You know, when you do something that, you know, sends you completely off track, you know, right away, and it's like, hey, it's time to do something different. I think as like kind of a younger junior person, you don't really think about it in terms of like getting feedback really quickly. All you kind of view it as is like getting an ask chewing and you know, you don't like that. But with the benefit of hindsight, looking back, it's much shorter feedback loops on that. Are there any drawbacks to that?

Don Reynolds  21:43  

Yes, I think so. I think sometimes we make snap decisions, right? So we have, I don't know if they sit anymore. But the thing when I was a younger marine was like perception is reality, right? So it was like, if I catch you at an off moment and see you, I don't know, like, I mean, let's just take the most basic example. I catch, like you're walking to your morning formation, or you just jumped out of your car. And you realized as you jumped out of your car, you left your cover in the back seat. You know, the Marines are known for you gotta wear your cover, the second you step outdoors that cover gotta be on your head. 

And I just catch you with that moment, right? And I just start, you know, where’s your cover Marine, right? We would make, you know, and this is just a stereotypical example. But the perception is reality. And why call them out a uniform, you know, he's probably not a, you know, he's a “shitbird Marine” you know. So that snap decision process where it's instantaneous feedback, like, cause and effect, you do this, you suck, you know. Or you do this, you're good, right? 

I think that, especially nowadays, I think that kind of, if it's done by the wrong person, in the wrong circumstances and done too much. I think it kind of leaves a bad taste in the mouth of Marines. And it kind of feels oppressive. I think it kind of feels harassing. I think it kind of feels almost as if, you know, like the unit or the organization is out to get you, right? And people started to feel persecuted. So

Brock Briggs  23:16  

You used the term nowadays. I guess, compare and contrast, like what you were just saying, like, obviously, everything that you just described is not unique to like this time period that we're living in. Like, you could catch somebody out, like in that weird split second that like maybe is not a perfect glimpse of reality, you know, forever in our entire, like, military history like that isn't something that's new, but what is it that's different now? Is it just how people are accepting the feedback and maybe take it too personally?

Don Reynolds  23:53  

I think there's a lot of reasons. I mean, this is again, like this is just speculation. But I think that nowadays, you know, back when I was a young Marine

Brock Briggs  24:03  

You were just about to do it. 

Don Reynolds 

Yeah, I know, right?

Brock Briggs

Back in my day

Don Reynolds  24:09  

To tell a combat story, you say back and what I was gonna say was, nowadays, Marines have instant access to information and they can communicate with one another like that, right? So back, when I was a young Marine, if a senior marine came out, and blasted you or told you to do something, right? You took their word as gospel because there was, unless you were willing to go to like the base admin center and pull out an order and find a hard copy and like, read through, you know, whatever. You took what the Marine said as the gospel. I think what social media does is it’s allowed to spread information. 

It's also you know and in some aspects, been used in the wrong way to kind of like maybe take the perspective of leadership in the military. So we're now like, if I were to turn around and say to you, you know, Brock where’s your cover at? And you’re like, oh, here he goes again. He's just you know, that's what, you know what I mean? Because my buddy wants five. He's going through the same thing, right? You know what I mean? So I think, what's going on now. And I also think that, you know, generationally, everything is different, right? 

So there's different expectations. Every generation of service members has a different set of expectations when they enter the service. So if you were to take and go all the way back, you know, guys that joined during the Great Depression, were probably happy that they had a roof over their head, a bed to sleep in, and three hot meals each day, right? Anything that came with the military they were happy with, because the military provided that stability. 

As you go generationally, generationally, and you go all the way through, I think, this generation and previous generations have a different standard for you know, how they handle how, you know, what their expectations are for treatment, right? So like, it's not necessary. I don't think these in this day and age just annihilate a marine on the spot. They don't respond to them, you know what I mean? 

Like, you know, like the average 18, 19, 20 year old does not respond to the yelling and the screaming to the, you know, immediate reverting back to drill instructor mode over like a minor infraction. I think what they wanna do is understand the why behind things. So, you know, what's the problem? Why are you displeased with me right now? How do I fix this? You have to explain the why to them a whole lot more now, which is fine. Whereas I think in previous generations, they didn't. But I think there's multiple factors that contribute to that.

Brock Briggs  26:34  

While we're talking expectations, you're like, literally on the frontlines of bringing in this next generation into the Marine Corps, talking to these 18 and 19 year old kids probably every single day. What are there, aside from this, like that you're talking about of like, maybe getting in trouble understanding the why, what are their expectations going into service? And how was that maybe different than yours or your friends when you were joining?

Don Reynolds  27:07  

I think it's reverted back but in a different way. So I joined, I had no expectation of seeing war. War was like not even something that I even thought about the Marine. I picked the Marine Corps because I spent so much time in my principal's office. And she used to keep pictures of kids that have graduated and kids that have gone on to the military on her wall. So if you were sitting waiting to see her to get your detention or get suspended, you know, there'd be a line of kids. So you know, you'd be waiting for your turn. And I had no choice but to stare at these pictures. 

And the one thing that I noticed was the Marine Corps, their photo seemed to be the most transformative. I don't know what it was, but it was like, so you would see and I'm not bashing any other branches of the service. But if you would see the Navy kid, you know, it'd be like his senior portrait and then a photo of him from upon his graduation from the Navy. And it was like the same guy. But now he's in a Navy uniform. If you went all across the services by the time you got to the Marines, though, whether it was like an overweight kid and then his Marine graduation photo, he was like emaciated. He was like sunburn. 

And he had this look on his face that was like, half confidence, half fear, half constipation. You know, he's like, you're just like, what are they doing down there? So that's always intrigued me. So I picked the Marine Corps because I thought, you know what? It was like a leap of faith. It was like, I need to get my ass kicked back into like gear. I need something so like, I'm gonna join the Marines. I think during the GE Water, you know, OEF/OIF I think a lot of people just joined the fight for their country. 

But I think now that it's peacetime when I talked to all the kids that, when I say peacetime, we're in this quasi, you know, like, it's kind of like a hybrid environment. But I talked to all these kids now. And they say, almost uniformly, they use the exact same word to the exact same phrase to, they say, I wanna be a better version of myself, right? So you got to think about, you know, recruiters always talk about identifying the need. So like, you know, if I give you a whole bunch of tangible things I want but they're gonna identify, like the need behind that, well, like why do you want a stable paycheck?

You know, why do you want to actually, you know, they have 11 benefit tags. And you know, they go through like these key things that appeal to each person. I think that when I speak to them, they just want something different, right? And they're obviously walking into a Marine Corps office because the challenge, the discipline. I asked them, well, what does the word Marine mean to you, right? And they’ll say, badass, disciplined warfighter, right? They say, you know, and it makes sense because that's what we advertise. 

If you were to look at previous Marine Corps commercials, it literally is a kid getting off the back of an Amtrak on the beach and he's running across the beach with his rifle and he's all carried off and he's got, you know, he's got the force of the Marine Air Ground Task Force pumping. Every single thing in our armory behind him, right? Warfighting, right? And then the next thing they go to would be like a clip of the Marine Silent Drill. A Marine throws his rifle, right? So it's like warfighting and discipline, warfighting and discipline, like that's what we, you know, advertise to the world. 

So you wanna be a disciplined warrior, you know. And, you know, for the kids that don't pick infantry, they still wanna be a disciplined warrior, you know what I mean? And they feel like we're gonna be able to give them that, you know, regardless of whether they choose, you know, administration or, you know, turning wrenches on, you know, trucks or the many things that exist in our service. I think they're all walking into a Marine office for those two things, right? They wanna discipline and they wanna be, you know, wanna be looked at as like a warrior.

Brock Briggs  30:46  

Do you think that that messaging that disciplined warfighter, messaging needs to be or will ever need to be changed? Whereas we're talking about the kind of changing generations, people like appealing for different things. I've got several friends that are Navy recruiters and I've talked to several like senior Navy officers that are kind of at the forefront of a similar position as yourself. And people can't recruit for shit. Like they are really struggling to meet numbers and my partner is still in the Navy. And they're talking about giving up bonuses because they just can't retain people. And it kind of, it makes me question or want to ask questions about, you know, are the right things being advertised. And you know, what types of people that's attracting and I guess, this changing kind of regime.

Don Reynolds  31:48  

I can only speak about my recruiting station. And because, you know, I don't see the, I'm not like I said, I worry about what's around me, my sphere of influence, like what I can impact. So I can speak from my recruiting station by saying that there's a system in place now, where there's just very detailed screening of every man or woman that tries to join the military in general, right? So you know, a lot of medical documentation and things like that in order to finally process into the service. So that has slowed things down because the process has gotten a little bit more complex. 

So you know, right now, we don't, we're, you know, we're having difficulty meeting the numbers, but we have a whole lot of kids in the pipeline that are just waiting to get, you know, like the letter from the doctor or the things that they need to go through the Military Entrance Processing and become Marines. So I don't necessarily think we're having a hard time finding kids that wanna be Marines. I think right now, what we're just trying to deal with is a different processing standard that we've seen in the past. And you know, and to be honest with you, I just got done a three day mini bootcamp that I put off for my recruiting station. 

So kids across four states got into bands. We've got drill instructors from San Diego to come out. I set up like patrolling lanes, we can meet up, we did all sorts of stuff, right? And as much as and I talked about this on Instagram, too. As much as we, you know, people talk about generationally, you know, the changes or, you know, like they're soft, or whatever. I'm telling you, like, I still see young men and women that have the exact same mindset or want the exact same thing that I wanted 22 years ago and that probably somebody wanted 42 years ago, you know.

So I think we're still producing them, at least for the Marine Corps, because you gotta figure too. If you're pursuing the Marines, you're already like, you're not. The Marine Corps is pretty clear about what we represent. So when you walk into a marine recruiting office, you're obviously there for a reason. So I don't think that we may not be having the same so we have problems. We're having some difficulties, but we may not be incurring the same sort of problems that maybe other branches of service are facing. We're also smaller too.

Brock Briggs  34:05  

Well, who knows? Maybe all it would take is the Marine Corps getting up to the times on their tattoo policy, you know, catching up with the other branches on that. 

Don Reynolds  34:16  

I think that they're allowed to have sleeve tattoos now.

Brock Briggs  34:19  

Oh, they are? Okay. I might be a little bit out of date on that. I know that they were always kind of a little bit stricter on the standards of like, what was allowed and what wasn't.

Don Reynolds  34:32  

So they weren't at first. So like my drill instructors were just sleeved up. I mean, it looked like the drummer from Motley Crue, right? And you know, and I think that that obviously was a concern because they were sending you know, also, I think, you know, at that time period, like people used to say like, the only people with tattoos are like marines and sailors. And like, you know, like people from the harder side of life so I think then, people were getting out and was like, I was a Marine and and it's like, yeah, but you look like Tommy Lee from Motley Crue, you know, like, you know. 

So I think that there's probably some concern at the organizational level because like the Marine Corps, we believe, we have a document called Sustaining the Transformation, right? So it's like, I take you off the street, make you a Marine, your four years of service, you know, I'm gonna return you back to the world, set up for success. You're gonna be a better civilian. You're gonna be a better human being. You're gonna be, you know, you're going to contribute to society. 

And I think that there was a concern, like, we're sending, these guys are getting just sleeved up on deployment. We're sending them back out into the world and people aren't hiring them. But you know, obviously, tattoos are in style now. Everybody has tattoos and whatnot. So I think I'm pretty sure I should know this. But the Marine Corps has kind of allowed more tattoos I think so. Actually, I know they asked. So I think you just can't have them showing in your uniform. 

But again, check the order. I don't want anybody to say Sergeant Major Reynolds was on this podcast and said, like, you can get sleep. There's an order. And I'd also argue this. Everything that you do to your body is up to whoever's in charge of the service at that time. So if you wanna, like take, you know what I mean, hey, 20 years from now, or you could be joining the Marines now, and sleeves could be cool. And then 20 years from now, someone could not like them, or someone or you know, society, the trends could change, again, you're limiting your service. So why take the chance, you know, what I mean. Unless it really means something to you. I would probably advocate not getting a whole bunch of tattoos anywhere, regardless of what the policy is.

Brock Briggs  36:33  

Right. And it's probably not a bad way to go about it. 

Don Reynolds


Brock Briggs

You did some writing, I like got such a kick out of this post. And classic like senior enlisted fashion, like, I know that you have heard like every complaint in the book. Like you've been living it. You gave those complaints probably like early on. And now like hear them as like excuses or people talking about certain things. People saying like, you don't do tough enough training. 

But your retort to that was like, then people complain about being in the field. A complaint was talking about being a “operator” but then are like preparing like the morning of. And one of my last favorite ones, like Marines or I can't even just put Marines on this because I know that this is service wide. People were being treated like children, but then they can't come to work, clean shaven and like in a proper uniform every day. I'm guessing that those are really only the tip of the iceberg on some of the things that probably get your goat going. 

Don Reynolds  37:49  

I mean, it doesn't even, it doesn't get my goat. It's just like a culture war, right? And some in some circles or among some segments of individuals and I think probably in every branch of the service. But basically, it's a couple of reasons, right? It's to, you know, I think stress the importance of like doing the small things well, right? Because if you can't do the small things well, you can't do the big things, right? And it's also to just point out the fact that like, you know, there are young marines that have like really great insight into things because they see it. They do it every day, right? 

So like, but people that, you know, kind of do the things that I mentioned in that post kind of trivialized the rest of the group, right? Because you got to pick you know, you got someone's saying, like, this unit sucks. We never do any training, right? And then but then it's like, conversely, you have someone complaining about we're always in the field, you know. Or it's like, why do we treat us, you know, like, they treat us like children? Well, it's like, you know, I'm not for treating any Marine like a child, you know. But you're like, hey, I had to remind you to go brush your teeth or shave your face, you know what I mean? That's like, I have to do that for my five year old, right? 

So it was like, basically like calling out like, hey, look, I hear you. You know, there's a whole lot of if you want to, you can go on social media and you can find your little niche corner of the internet and just any branches of service just find a plethora of like, I hate the service. I hate my unit. I hate this guy. I hate that guy. I hate this. I hate that. You know. And if you were to read those, you would see that like each post contradicts the other it's like, I hate my, it’s in the same unit. It's like I hate this unit. We don't do enough realistic training. They don't treat us like children. They treat us like children. 

And then the very next post, you'll see a bunch of guys acting like children, you know what I mean? Or you know, you say you say like, if you wanna be treated right, you gotta remember that you got to do these things. This is what we got to do. This is kind of like the crux of why we exist, right? So it's our mind, right? And then the other part is I think a lot of us have violated those things on the posts, myself included. So it's not like it's not coming from a place of perfection. It's kind of poking fun at that one individual on the unit. It's also, like a knowing wink. 

I think a lot of Marines would read that and go, I've done that. You know, one of those things, right? I've done that, you know? But yeah, you'd have Marines like, you know, walking around, and they're, you know, like uniforms and tatters and you're like, hey, man, you can't walk around that uniform. And I said, how dare you tell me to get a new uniform? Like, I don't have any money. And it's like, but if you walked into the room, it's like, man, you've got like, more clothes than I do. You know, like, I would say this to my guys. I'm like

Brock Briggs  40:34  

That’s a wallet Jordans, you know.

Don Reynolds  40:37  

Oh, man like, I remember walking into, I used to love it. Because I still, you know, like, we inspect rooms on the week, during the week, and I'd walk into a guy's room and I'd be like, he'd have like a flat screen on the wall, like all sorts of games and I was to crack jokes. I was like, yo, can I hang out with you this weekend? Like, what are you doing this week? You now may be like, hey, I'm leaving this weekend. Hey, can I get the keys to your room? 

I'd love to come here and hang out. Yo, you have cooler stuff than me, man. You know, priorities, right? Priorities, you know, like, we're service that, you know, you make a living on your feet in the Marine Infantry, right? And if you're walking around in boots that are like, with holes in them, right? Like, where are your and you have, you know, 50,000 sets of Vans in your room? Like, where are your priorities? You know, where are your priorities? It's just honesty check, right? Where are your priorities?

Brock Briggs  41:27  

How do you as a leader, you specifically or maybe you can offer some like guidance. Or I want people to like be able to take something away from this. And I know that you have a lot to offer kind of in the leadership realm. How do you, as a leader, balance, hearing those types of things when you wanna be open to new ideas, but you also have like, you know, the people that aren't coming shaved everyday. Like how do you kind of square those things, maintain the standard, but also be willing to kind of move forward and progress?

Don Reynolds  42:09  

I think it's like a large, I mean, I'll answer that, but I think it's like a larger thing, right? So in the Marines, we talk about organizational discipline ties into tactical relevance, right? So like, it's like a taboo topic. I think a lot of people because we've caught up. A lot of times people will open their mouth and say things that don't really people don't wanna hear but like I've heard guys say, like, you know, it all went downhill when we stopped shining our boots, and you know, all sorts of stuff right? And that's not what I was for. 

Nobody explained to me why I had to shave my head or why I had to you know, shave my face or why I had to press my uniform or why I had to pay attention to the small details but I was able to see it when I went to combat, right? And it tied into the fact that like if I'm used to looking myself over and look at my Marines over before we came out in the morning and like presented ourselves for work. I was already that much better when I got ready to go on patrol in Volusia because you know, where you need to make sure everybody's got the mission essential equipment, right? I was able to see it. 

No one explained it to me, but I was able to see it just by virtue of my time, right? I think that what I tried to do now is I try to explain the why behind like, hey, here's the reason what, like, here's the reason why you've gotta do these things, right? And like not and if I don't shave my face, say shave your face because I said so. It's like, hey, do you shave your face? And it's like, oh, no sorry Sergeant Major. Just like, you probably need to go shave your face, man. And like, you know, like, let's talk about how, what do you do? What time do you wake up in the morning? Like, explain to me your morning routine. Like, how are you missing this? 

And then kind of explain like the “why” behind it because people now look at it. Like, I don't sweat the small stuff. Like, who cares if I shaved my face? Like I can shoot my weapon. And it's like, well, correct. But if you show me a sloppy unit anywhere, I'm gonna show you one that’s like not combat effective because you don't get to pick and choose which orders you wish to follow. You know what I'm saying? So if you set a standard where it's like, well, we don't stress that over here is like, well, no, you have to stress everything because that's a slippery slope to find yourself on, you know. So like I try to resign myself to the fact that like, hey, there's always gonna be people that are like, hey, come here, man. Like what's up? 

I also don't put my opinion in things like we have regulations. That’s it. Like I have a hindsight haircut, right? I don't make, my Marines get a hindsight haircut. I could give a regulation haircut. It could be a low rugged medium or I could care less. You have a mustache, great! Is it in Brax? Cool. Is your uniform serviceable? Great. I'm not here to be the uniform police. I wanna train. You don't I mean. Like I totally did not stay in the Marine Corps so I can harass people over haircuts and shaves. You know what I mean? And it detracts from the larger mission, which all Marines wanna do, you know, and if you're on Instagram, you see it. They wanna go train hard. They wanna do hard things, they wanna deploy, they wanna do cool stuff, right? No one wants to be getting harassed over the pizza box and ladder well, or, you know, the condition of the room, you know what I mean? 

But it's like, you gotta do these things in order to do larger things. So I mean, I have a lot of conversations with Marines about it. And I also inspect, you know. I don't do white glove inspections. But you know, in every unit I've been in, like, I'll just walk through in the morning, like, hey, man, pull your blinds. It's much easier for me to say, hey, man, pull your blinds and have the the units or your major come down and just start screaming and wreaking havoc in the company, you know what I mean? So it's like, just taking care of people, reminding them. It's reminding people to do the right thing. 

Brock Briggs  45:36  

How can people think about and focus on doing those smaller things? Because in the end, I think what you're saying here is that it's really the smaller things that kind of lead to success at the larger level. And you've got people that are, you know, like missing on little tiny things, uniform shave, whatever, but then like wanting to talk about like doing, talking, deployment stuff, and shooting and all this other stuff. You mentioned, Marines like cleaning the room or pulling the blinds or whatever. 

I remember this very vivid image. I was in my very first barracks coming off a watch. It was like three in the morning and I come out and there's like, all these lights on. And there's a corporal standing outside this barracks room and I like kind of, like, look around, and I'm like, what the hell's going on here? Lights are on whatever. And there are two Marines in their school, like all of their entire fucking barracks room is like out in the freakin’ grass. And they are like hand scrubbing the floor of their barracks room and I'm like, yo, what's going on here? 

Like, it's literally three in the morning. And he's like failed room inspection. And I was just like, oh, okay. In that moment, I was like, well, I joined the right branch. But later on, I was like, man, it's hard for me to get my arms around that. But I think that that speaks to the small stuff. So can you kind of unpack that like doing the small things to do the big things?

Don Reynolds  47:18  

Yeah, I mean, to speak about that, specifically. So that ties into a question that was asked previously, right? So you saw, I guess they failed inspections. So someone made them get on their hands and knees and do all sorts of crazy stuff to the room, right? And like so now, what I was saying, like so nowadays, someone will pull out their phone, right? And take a video of these two Marines being forced to, you know, screw up, you know, like, I envision Forrest Gump, you know, like scrubbing with their toothbrush, right? 

And then automatically, you know, like that goes to the peanut gallery where it's like, that's ridiculous. You know what I mean? Like, that's impressive. That's this subset, right? At the root of it all it is, right? So what's the problem? They didn't clean the room, right? So you clean your room, hey, you fail you know, I'll be back and you got two hours. I'll be back in two hours, right? The way that I think that you stress these things is like you don't, hey, I'm gonna make can you get on your hands and knees and clean this room? I'm gonna walk by so here's the mission. 

The mission was to clean your room, right? You failed. You obviously disregarded everything I said. So, you know, the company's gone. You guys have I'm not gonna keep you up all night. You got two hours. When you're done, let me know. I'll be back, you know. And if they pass it, they pass it and you know, hopefully they know. I think what people are counting on is that leadership now is so distracted or people are so distracted that you'll forget to come back or you won't follow up with them. So like when you demonstrate that you'll follow up. It's a real simple conversation. Hey, why didn’t you get a haircut? And they're expecting you just go. I gotta go, get away from me, right? Don't ever do that again, right? 

If you were to say to someone, hey at lunch, go grab a haircut and come back to my office. I just wanna make sure you got it done. They're gonna know you're gonna follow up. They have to follow these orders, right? So you don't like yelling and screaming, but they're used to that. That's the first thing we induct we like in indoctrinating Marines and is the first thing they get they do and solve the puzzle is getting yelled out, right? So every Marine has this thing inside of now where you start screaming they just go catatonic because that's how they got through bootcamp, that they learned that, right? So you're gonna yell and scream this kid's gone catatonic. He's just gonna get through, he's gonna revert back to recruit mode. 

He's not gonna be listening. If you just look at a kid and say, you didn't get a haircut. Do me a favor, man. Go to the bass barber at lunchtime, and just get any. Get that squared away and then come back and let me let me know you got it done. That's simple. And then they know the next week. He's gonna check. He's gonna make me come back. He's not gonna let this go. You know what I mean? So it's like, problem solved. You just got to demonstrate consistency, right? Like I will follow up, you know, for all things. 

I'm not gonna let this slide. I'm not gonna walk away. I'm not gonna forget about it. I'm not gonna yell and scream. I'm not gonna harass you. I'm gonna give you a directive. Go get a haircut. Let me know when you get it done. I'd like to see it. You clean your room, you fail, I'll be back in a little bit. I asked you to do something, you're not getting out of it, you know, it's on you to make sure that you know you wanna go, you wanna go, you know. You got all the things you need to do, it's on you to get it done. Mission type orders.

Brock Briggs  50:15  

How do you take that when there's nobody breathing down your neck? We're talking about this in the instance of kind of a junior to like senior person. But at a certain point, you know, when you're in, you always have a boss. But the breathing down the neck, I think kind of lowers over time. And even outside the service, like you don't have somebody kind of like directly holding you accountable. How do you like make sure that you're showing up every day to do those small things? Like you talked about with your family, spending time with them. You know, those little like hour after dinner or whatever, working on homework together, whatever it is. How do you continue to show up for small things when you don't have that accountability?

Don Reynolds  51:09  

I mean, my wife is my accountability. You know, to be honest with you, so people see me and I think they see my position in the Marine Corps and think that like, I probably run my household. It's the exact opposite. All right. My wife will not allow me. Okay and this is a good thing, right? My wife will not allow me to not be a present father, right? 

So I can honestly say like, I don't know how to not be present because my wife, I mean, like, literally, like, here, change the diaper. You know what I mean? Here, you know what I mean? And I'm not saying this in a bad way. Like, I get home and but she will not allow me to not be present. She will not allow me to not participate. You know what I mean? She will continue, like I coached my daughter's six year old girls soccer team. I've never once played soccer. I know nothing about soccer. Okay.

Brock Briggs  52:12  

But at that level, it's just showing up.

Don Reynolds  52:16  

I mean, that's another story in of itself because I'm a Marine, right? So I consulted other Marines. My CO at the time had played soccer, had coached soccer. So he gave me like drills and stuff. So I came with a schedule, right? 

Brock Briggs  52:28  

Oh, man! These are 6 years old and like, run, run run

Don Reynolds  52:31  

Right. Off with like dynamic warm ups. And you know, it was like, yeah, so basically, what it whittled down to was like, maybe two or three activities that I can keep them, you know. But you know, sometimes I think it helps for me personally, I've benefited from a wife that expects and rightfully so and demands that, you know. Like, when I stepped inside, when I crossed that threshold to the door, right? I'm there to be a father to my kids, you know, whether it's involved in their activities, whether it's, you know, take them to the park, you know what I mean? 

And I think sometimes she can maybe sense if, you know, work is getting to me or something like that. And she'll force me out of that, you know, to say, like you know, hey, do this do that. So, it's very much a 50/50 split in my house with my wife and the kids, you know. Like so I had the virtue of being married to someone who will not tolerate and will not, you know, allow me to not be a present father to my kids. So I don't know what that's like, you know what I mean? The other part is, I missed the birth of my daughter because I was in Afghanistan. And I had to wait five months to see her. 

And that was the slowest five months I've ever experienced, right? Because you're like, there's my first child and you just like, wanna hold her or you wanna do whatever. So for me, when my son was born. He's four years younger than my daughter, five years younger than my daughter. I was present and I wanted to make sure that I never missed a moment of his development, never missed a milestone because I had missed so much with my daughter. 

So I don't know how people cannot be present in their family when they go home. I mean, but that's my personal story about, you know, my role in the house. That's how I found a wife that you said, how do you take away when someone's, my wife is my boss when I come home, you know what I mean, in a good way, right?

Brock Briggs  54:28  

Speaks to the value of finding a good partner. 

Don Reynolds


Brock Briggs

On the soccer field, I’m just like envisioning the parents, like why did we have a marine coach, the soccer team and you've got the girls out there like army crawling down the field. Like

Don Reynolds  54:44  

I thought about it because some of them, you know, had a hard time listening and staying on task. But, you know, obviously, to be honest with you like it's funny, right? Because you're at work calling the shots all day long, and you get home and a six year old basically tells you like, yeah, whatever man. Get lost! I'm not doing that. It’s funny, right? It puts you in your place.

Brock Briggs  55:02  

Yeah, reminds you who is in charge.

Don Reynolds  55:07  

There's a world outside of the military.

Brock Briggs  55:10  

There really is. We were gonna kind of like talk about the R word, I think towards the end of the conversation, but I think that this is like a good time to talk about it. Retirement, talking a lot about the value of family and what that does for you. You've been in 22 years if I've got that right. Are you thinking about it? What's going through your mind? What do you think about life after the service if there is one? I had joked with you before we started recording about I know that once a Marine always a Marine, so you don't gotta give me that. But yeah, what are you thinking about when it comes to that?

Don Reynolds  55:54  

I think that as you get older, as you know, you do a lot of time in the military, and each person hits their finish line sooner or later than others, you know. But I think it all stems around the fact you know, for me all guys with family, I think it all centers around family. But I had just, you know, actually, my commanding officer asked me, like last year talking about retirement and whatnot. And I said, you know, to me, I've always thought about retirement is that someday, if I ever think about, if being present at, you know, my son's Tee Ball game, right? Becomes more of a priority and eats at me more than going on a deployment or, you know, my role as a Marine, and that's probably time for me to call it quits. 

That may sound terrible, like your son's Tee Ball game is not a priority. No, it is a priority to me. But at some point, the poll on the draw, right? It's like a game of tug of war, right? So like right now, so you find yourself as you get a family and in the Marine Corps, right? You got the Marine Corps on one side, your family on the other, and they're pulling on that rope, right? And you've got that mark in the center to determine the winner, right? And whichever one pulls it right across the line is the winner, right? So like, right now in my life, that rope is being pulled and it's taught, right? Nothing's given, right? 

At some point, the family is gonna pull it across the way. And when my family does, when it becomes, you know, the overwhelming need and my family situation requires it, then it's time for me to go. But right now, family and work are balanced, right? Because my family situation is good. My family situation is such but I think that, you know, at some point guys will feel like, hey, you know what? I'd rather, I wanna coach Tee Ball. I don't wanna go on a meal. You know what I mean? And it's like, hey, that's good on you, man. You're great, you know? Thank you for your service. You had a great career, you know. It's time for you to go, much respect. 

But until you get to that point, you know, I'm not at that point yet. I think that someday soon I will be. That's my thoughts on when it's time to retire. I tell people too, that are getting now. You know, like young marines. My metric for that is because I deal with primarily infantry. I said, let me ask you a question. Because I was in this position myself, I said, so you're gonna get out? And they say yes. And I said, so put yourself in this situation. It's a year from now, you're in college, you look on this TV screen and see the Marine Corps has just gone and done some like big named operation, and you look at it and you see it’s your unit. I said, when you feel a tremendous amount of like, I wish I was there. If the answer is yes, I said maybe you might wanna rethink about getting out, right? Because I was in that situation, right? 

But if you could look at it and say like salute boys like Semper Fi, you know what I mean? I'll say you should write you letters, you know what I mean? Oorah! And go about your day and this is the right decision you know, because what I don't want. At the end of it all is that if you don't take either one of these, retirement, getting out, whatever. If you don't take this situation seriously, right? And like you talked about before we started recording I did too. If it's just a spur of the moment thing was like no thought and it's like I'm out and you just like walk in the door closes behind you. 

A lot of people find themselves with a tremendous amount of regret, a tremendous amount of regret. So when it is your time, make sure it's your time. You know what I mean? Don't get out based on emotion. Don't get out or don't retire based on, you know, present situation. Like, ah this unit stinks or I've got you know, a bad relationship with this one person. I'm leaving because you're gonna set yourself up for shoulda, coulda, woulda, you know what I mean? Regret, where could I be now? Make sure that when it's your time to go, you're at peace with that decision.

Brock Briggs  1:00:00  

Do you think that there are people that, you paint this picture of like this rope and it's, you know, staying in? And do you think that that the staying in the Marine end of the rope is ever driven by achievements? Or like not real? Like, I don't wanna say not real, but like, they're searching for some validation from the service that maybe just like hasn't quite happened yet.

Don Reynolds  1:00:33  

Are you talking about like a stereotypical careerist? Like, yeah, I wanna move up the ladder and I'll sacrifice everything else, just to kind of get up the ladder.

Brock Briggs  1:00:43  

A little bit of that. A little bit of this concept that I've kind of really come to be fascinated with. And we touched on it a little bit earlier about how there's always going to be somebody that's like, done more, you know. It's like the back in my navy thing or whatever. Or back in my Marine Corps, the day that you came in, everything changed. I talked to some people that kind of speak about this like achievement thing, that there's gonna be some day that they'll have done something and then it will finally mean something. Have you ever thought about that? Or do you talk to people about that?

Don Reynolds  1:01:26  

I think that if you ever tried to plan out your moves in the military, especially the Marine Corps, you will. It’s a fool's errand and I think that you will find yourself, you're never gonna get exactly what you want, right? So you have to step into the situation, being ready for anything. So like, I guess your point is, like, if I were to, like, hey, if I just get this one thing, then I'll be good. Well, that's kind of like a fool's errand because, you know, chances are, you won't get exactly what you're looking for. So if you're, you know, like, hey, I'll stay until I make Sergeant Major. Why do you wanna be a Sergeant Major? 

Well, because I wanna be a battalion Sergeant Major of an infantry battalion. Well, you'll get Sergeant Major, but you'll go on recruiting. You know what I mean? So it's like, I would say, you've gotta take a step back and start looking at like, do you wanna serve, right? Because I don't believe in condition based service. Meaning like, if you sign the contract, if you put your name in the hat for promotion, you've gotta be able and willing to take whatever comes out of that, right? So but if it's like, well, this doesn't quite line up with my goals, when it's like, well, then you should never have put your name on the dotted line because it's a contract, right? 

So I guess my thought to that would be, I think it's a fool's errand to maybe ignore your personal life or ignore a situation outside of the military if you're just chasing one thing, right? Because that one thing isn't just one thing. I wanna be like I’ll just take that as an example. I wanna be a Sergeant Major. Well, why? Because I wanna lead a battalion. Okay, well, you know, you understand that you may get promoted to that rank and go somewhere so far away from a battalion. How will you feel that? Are you still be with it? You still gonna be down for the college, you still wanna do your job? How will you feel if you don't get exactly what you're looking for? Think about that. You know what I mean? 

That's kind of like my thought on that. Because, I mean, there are people that and they're just in a tremendous cycle of disappointment because they put their eggs in one basket, you know. Here's what I want, you know. And it's like, well, that's, you know, really hard to come by in the military to get the perfect situation every single time. So if you're not with it, you're not committed, you're not willing to take whatever they give you and do a good job and, you know, do everything you're supposed to do, then, you know, you probably shouldn't try to pursue that.

Brock Briggs  1:03:39  

It's clear to me just by the things that you say that you weren't driven by that kind of sense of accomplishment and you're getting that sense of validation from your service just by being there. Is being a Marine, all the validation to you personally that you felt like you need it or in what way as the Marine Corps fulfilled that basket for you.

Don Reynolds  1:04:20  

Because this has been the purest thing that I've ever done. Like I said, I walked into the Marine Corps, like I was late, you know, I wasn't really, no academic achievement. I had quit playing sports. And this was something where I stepped in at the ground floor and they made me earn everything, right? And then that whole like I said, before, like looking at people that you put up on a pedestal like you know, I post about people like this and I will say some names, but it's like statue on Fowler

Or you know, Gunny Dagunhaul like all these people. Well, I don't know anything about their personal life. I don't know who they were outside of the uniform. I know to me as an 18, as a 19 year old, and you know, impressionable, young man, those people and who had chosen the Marine Corps, those people stood out to me as the metric for everything I wanted to be, you know. And so for me just to and the Marine Corps in general, when I think Marine, I think I've just no excuses, right? You've devoted your life to something where there's no excuses, results, hardship, challenges, all these things. 

So for me, being a Marine is enough to say that I was a Marine. I was a Marine successfully, you know what I mean. I had an honorable service, like to me, means everything in the world. So I am happy with just being a Marine, right? And that's because at the end of the day, when you get out of the Marine Corps, you get out of the service in general, you sit down at the VFW. I don't think anybody cares what level you served at, you know what I mean? Like when I sit down, I say I was a sergeant major and they’re gonna look at me and say, like, what were you like? Division Sergeant Major? Were you a, you're just a Sergeant Major, right? What's your story? 

You sit around with a bunch of guys or girls and you tell stories, right? That's what your service entails. So to me, I've always been just happy with being a Marine. And like to this day, I still remember this one thing. When I went to Parris Island, it's like blazed in my head. When you're standing on yellow footprints, I know that sounds corny. I know that sounds taboo. And I know like any Marine who’s currently in the service right now would roll their eyes. But I remember everybody was screaming at me, right? 

And there was a sign right above the door when you walk in, and it says, through these portals, past prospects for America's finest fighting force, right? Everybody there that I had seen when I got off the bus, the drill instructors, whoever, even the person that issued us our clothes, right? Who at the time was like 110 pound female, right? Like, literally, she was like 110 pounds. She was not even like probably 90 pounds. She was tiny, right? She was walking on top of a table throwing trousers at us, right? Based upon our size, like, yeah, like, just like, issued on our clothes. I was staring at her. 

And she said, keep eyeballing me and I'll kick your goddamn head off your shoulders, right? And I sat there and said, oh my God, even this 90 pound female was a badass, right? And I was like, everybody here is such a badass, right? And to me, that first impression of correctness, of just being just military professionalism, almost to like, to the point of being like a fanatic, right? Like, everything about them is correct, has always stood out to me, has been a hallmark of marine and I'm proud to say that I was a Marine.

Brock Briggs  1:07:49  

I think that that's super inspiring and insightful of you to kind of like notice it for even not even being out and living in kind of like a different status, but you're exactly right. Anytime that service comes up to at least in my experience, nobody cares. Or it's not nobody cares. They care. But anything that you accomplish, not only does it not mean anything to them, just your service is enough. And I think more people need to hear that and take it to heart.

Don Reynolds  1:08:30  

It's on you, right? Like the only people that are haunted by this is the individual. So like I say to guys all the time, like never have a shoulda, coulda, woulda story, right? Because like that's always, you know, how it works in the military, maybe the Marine Corps. The second someone says, well, I would have or I could have, or I should have, whatever they're about to say next, you go like, aha yeah, right? Because it's like, I was gonna be a chief, but my unit and it's like, ah huh what really happened, right? 

So I feel like the only people that really care about what they did in the service are people that maybe fell short, they're haunted by something, or troubled by something, or they acted in a way that they now regret later on. So like, that's the only thing that I would say like getting out of the service: just make sure that you have no regrets, right? Like if you're a kid in a unit right now, and you may not like your unit or, you know, you may feel like, what's the point or we have this thing in the Marines like drop my pack, right? You know, Marines will say that, well, I was, you know, I was motivated and then this guy showed up, so I just started like, what's the point? I dropped my pack. You will regret that. 

Once you leave 5, 10 years because I get message. I get messages from people that I served with 15, 20 years ago that are, hey, I'm sorry for being such a, bla bla bla bla bla, you know, 20 years ago. You're like, bro, I forgot all about you. He didn't forget. He thinks about it almost every day, right? Because he's, you know, because like he's matured, right? I would hate to be that person. So if you can stand to change that and just the one thing I can tell you before you leave the service, like give everything you have so that you don't walk out the door and are hit with this tremendous amount of guilt or regret or embarrassment. 

Five years down the line when your brain matures, or you put some time and perspective in between yourself and the service, you're not haunted by these memories of like, hey, the one time I raised my hand and swore that I would be, you know, accountable for myself, I would accomplish the mission and I would do whatever, you know, the Department of Defense or the, you know, United States of America asked me to do, I reneged on that commitment.

Brock Briggs  1:10:36  

That's not something, that's something that will keep you up at night. I can almost, I can promise anybody that if they have to think about having not left it all on the table. I have one last kind of subject I'd love to discuss with you. You have, if I've got this written down here, right eight deployments across at almost every corner of the globe. It looks like I would and over like I said, 22 years. And we're not here to rehash war stories or anything like that. But I want to hear from you how you've seen the landscape of war change in the last 20 years. But throughout your experiences and maybe what you think the next 20 might look like.

Don Reynolds  1:11:37  

I don't know. I think that I had a moment where I was in an infantry battalion, it was 2016. And we went to Camp Pendleton. And they were running through scenarios. It was basically like a counterinsurgency thing. And they had Afghan roleplayers there. And they were going through a scenario with like a suicide bomber. And I was like, I was now their first Sergeant, so like an EA, right? And I was like, I was watching the training from a rooftop. And it was like deja vu, right? It hit me. And I was like, this is kind of like a weird thing, right? 

So like imagine a Vietnam veteran watching his Marines prepare to go back or prepare for Vietnam type scenarios 20 years after he did it, right? So I thought it was like a deja vu moment. I don't know, I think that if you were to look at warfare, I think that the only thing that we can, we absolutely know to be true is that we have to be prepared for anything, right? So like, you know, we had a Cold War, where we, you know, in the 80s and whatnot, where we prepared for a war against a major, you know, European land force and we ended up fighting a counterinsurgency in the desert, right? 

So I think what we need to do, I can't, I don't really know what the future of warfare holds. But I what I do know, though, is that I think we need to capture everything that has transpired in the last 20 years. We need to pass down what's relevant. We need to remember what's relevant. We need to incorporate that into our training so that we are ready for whatever comes our way. It could be a low grade insurgency. It could be a lot of things. My biggest concern is like a enlisted guy in the Marine Corps is not necessarily where we're going, but how to make sure that the people that we're going with are ready, you know what I mean? 

Because no matter where we're at, it's still gonna be a human being. It’s gonna be a young Marine behind that rifle behind that machine gun. So if you strip it down to that, I think that a lot of the stuff that we're doing, if we just continue to work on the basics that we have, I think that no matter what campaign we go to, I mean, obviously, it's gonna be some things, but it's a good blueprint and a good baseline for success. And that's kind of what I think about on a daily basis. You know, I've read the news. You know, I try to stay abreast of current threats and whatnot. 

But at the end of the day, whether it's, you know, this country or that country, what does that mean on Monday morning when I wake up and I face my rifle squad? And we're, you know, I got to decide, well how we're gonna train that day. Are we doing anything differently? We're still gonna practice patrolling. We're still gonna PT. We're still gonna demonstrate, you know, shoot with our weapons and try to get weapons proficiency. So all the basics, that's what I wanna focus on the mechanics. I don't know, I think you know, Information Operations obviously, will be different. 

I mean, right now, you can get up to the minute or not up to the minute but you can see quite a few things coming out of the Ukraine once it started, you know, like videos from all sides and stuff like that. So I think maybe information, the spread of information, what gets out digital signatures and things like that. I think that's probably gonna be the most pressing immediate difference I think with warfare, especially if you're fighting and like a counterinsurgency because information is probably the most important thing. The message getting out, the actions of the troops and how it's perceived by the people that you're trying to win.

Brock Briggs  1:15:06  

That's how I know you're a good podcast guest. You take a really complex question and just whittle it down into the most simple thing. So I liked that answer. Keep training, like we have been passed on the good stuff throughout the bad, continuing to evolve and grow.

Don Reynolds  1:15:24  

Like I said, man, I don't wanna pontificate on, you know, there's plenty of people that really, this is like their bread and butter. I would never get into it. Because at the end of the day, here's what you need me to do. You need me to get a unit of young men and women physically and mentally ready for the rigors of combat, you know, whether it's here or there anywhere else. It's gonna be hard. It’s gonna be physically taxing, and you need to be able to shoot your weapon well. You'll need to be able to go from point A to point B without falling out. And you need to be you know, so you gotta know how to do these things. 

So I mean, that's kind of how I've always approached my duties. That's what it is. And Sergeant Major Black had the, I think he said this. He's the Sergeant Major in the Marine Corps. He said this a while ago, he said, he talked about the invasion of Iraq. And he said, in 2003, the Marine Corps invaded Iraq, and we were in Baghdad, you know, very, very quickly, right? And at the time, very few Marines had any combat experience, right? He said, so how does a unit with little to no combat experience achieve such great success on the battlefield? Now, people will turn around and say, well, the Iraqi army wasn't that good. Whatever! The answer was discipline training. Small unit just wanna train, right? 

So they had very little combat experience. They were able to compensate for that, learn on the fly because they had a lot of training. And they were disciplined units. And to me, like I wrote that down. And that's been something that I've kept with me all the time. When I say discipline, I don't mean yelling and screaming at Marines and making them scrub floors with toothbrushes. I mean, discipline, like you. I look at you and say, Brock, I need you to, you know, face this way and cover this sector of fire. I could walk away, go get a cup of coffee, smoke a cigarette, come back, and I know, you're still gonna be there. You're not gonna be asleep. You're not gonna walk away. You're gonna stay there until I tell you, you know, we need to do something else. That's what I mean by disciplined unit.

Brock Briggs  1:17:13  

One final thought, what is the one thing that current or former service members need to hear that they haven't heard?

Don Reynolds  1:17:21  

Check the ego, right? So you raised your head, you walked into a recruiting office, you raised your hand, and you're gone, and you swore, you know, uphold and defend, right? So you do all these things, right? You cannot step back into society with a chip on your shoulder, looking at everybody saying like, you know, like, oh, you don't know what I've seen and what the point is, they're not supposed to, that's the beauty of the military. You volunteer. We have a segment of the population that raises their hand and goes and experiences hardships, or goes and sees things in the world to protect our country, to, you know, so that everybody else can go about their day, right? 

So like that person, that soccer mom, that's never left her bubble that is, you know, I go her routine consists of like, you know, workout in the morning and Starbucks later on. That's what we exist in effect, right? The fact that she has a bubble, you should be happy that she has a bubble, right? So when you, you know, like we that's, you should look at that as a job well done. That's why the military exists. These people live, you know, like a pampered and comfort in life. So when you interact with these people, get rid of the chip on your shoulder. They don't owe you anything, right? They don't owe you. 

You know, thank you for your service. You know what I mean? It's like be humble. That's, I guess that's what I'd say. Because I think there's like, what I don't like is there's like a culture, where very much like, thank me for my service type stuff, right? And it's like, you know, supposed to be selfless. You know, you don't wanna step back into the world and beat your chest. And, you know, like, I fought for your rights. It's like, hey, man, like, you know what? Like, you don't need to remind the whole world that, you know, you were a rifleman and whatnot, right? Like, they're allowed to be ignorant to the military, to a degree. You know what I’m saying?

Brock Briggs  1:19:14  

To use a phrase that you used earlier, it's not condition based service.

Don Reynolds


Brock Briggs

I'm gonna steal that. I like that.

Don Reynolds  1:19:24  

I mean, you're not, it's like, when you step out of the military and step back into the real world, understand you're stepping into time does not stop because you left. You know, so like, you're not owed. I don't know, like the world's not gonna, you know, stop and bend down and kiss the ring just because you're a marine or because you're a sailor, because you're an airman, you know.

Like, you've got to figure out how to, you know, leverage your service to make yourself relevant now in a new world, right? This civilian world, right? So like, you can cry, you know, you can be very upset about the like, you know or whatever, or you can figure out a way to leverage your service, leverage your experiences into something that's gonna make you marketable or make you successful in the civilian world. But at the end of the day, like the world's not stopping for you.

Brock Briggs  1:20:10  

I'm excited to see when it comes time for you to get out. I'm excited to see how you've leveraged your service into bigger and better things. But for now, I'm sleeping much better at night knowing you're in the position that you're in. Don, Sergeant Majors Reynolds, thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it.

Don Reynolds  1:20:29  

Thank you, Brock!