It’s not every day we get to work with a marine, so when Lieutenant Colonel Ray Gerber Vice Commanding Officer, ordered 20 Halligan Bottle Openers with the inscription “REGION 2: WE PUSH BACK” we wanted to learn more about him and the men and women who were receiving them.
HBO: Who is Region 2?
RG: Region 2 is formally known as Marine Corps Embassy Security Group Region 2 (Near East/South Asia). The Marine Security Guard program has been in place since 1948, though the relationship of Marines guarding embassies, consulates, and diplomats of the US dates to well before that formal establishment of the current program.
Small teams, or Detachments, of Marine Security Guards (MSGs) are assigned to designated diplomatic posts throughout the world with the mission to protect the lives of those that work at the facility as well as the classified material and property of the post. Currently there is one group headquarters based out of Quantico, Virginia, which has the Marine Security Guard school (where MSGs are created) and administers to the program worldwide. Under this group there are nine Regional Headquarters that divide up the world into areas of responsibility. Each Region has somewhere between 13-25 Detachments under it, aligned geographically.
My specific Region covers what most people recognize as the Middle East, or Near East, as well as a bit of South Asia – from Beirut, Lebanon to Colombo, Sri Lanka. 20 different Detachments in 13 countries at the moment. Approximately 220 Marines at any given time. I am fortunate enough to be the Commanding Officer, having taken over in June of 2014.
HBO: What is your command?
RG: My command ensures that the Marine Detachments are adequately manned, properly equipped, properly trained, and appropriately employed by the Embassy/Consulate they work for. In simple terms, this means we do the hiring, firing, disciplining, promoting, awarding, and other functions to ensure they have what the need.
Day-to-day I like to say that we focus on making sure the unit remembers that they are Marines first and foremost, that happen to be serving as Marine Security Guards. A lot of time is spent ensuring physical fitness and other aspects that keep each Detachment “most ready when others are least ready.”
HBO: What does the Halligan mean to a Marine?
RG: Most often we use the Halligan to breach doors, creating forced access in stressful situations – similar to firefighters and other emergency response personnel, although Marines are more likely doing it in a way akin to that of a SWAT team!
Marines often refer to the Halligan tool as a hooligan, and thus such a tool has a natural affinity for a group like us. On its surface, the hooligan connotation could be construed as negative. However, the characteristics you’d want the Marines to have, especially in the dangerous region we inhabit, make it far more positive and appropriate than perhaps an initial glance would indicate.
HBO: When you decided that the Halligan Bottle Opener was the perfect gift for the Region 2 members, was it to acknowledge a significant event?
RG: This gift was selected as I prepared to turn command of the region over to the next officer fortunate enough to enjoy the immense satisfaction and challenge that this posting offers. I wanted to give something to each of my direct staff for all the hard work they’d done that made my job successful and rewarding.
I have a small staff – 4 marine captains, a first sergeant, an admin chief, and four clerks that facilitate all of the core tasks we conduct for the detachments that work for us. In addition to my staff, I wanted to give Halligan Bottle Openers to other key people in my life that have been instrumental in my ability to live overseas for two years, travel throughout the Middle East, and have a support network to fall back on (both in Abu Dhabi where we’re based, and back in the US when my wife and I get back from time-to-time). Notably my wife’s stepfather and her mother are the fire chief and a captain within her hometown’s volunteer fire department so the halligan has meaning for them too.
HBO: Curious minds want to know, what does “We push back” mean to you?
RG: “We push back!” is an unofficial motto for our Region.
Perhaps a facet of the environment, likely a facet of my personality that was then adopted by my Marines, it indicates the unwillingness to accept the status quo. As you’d expect given the worldwide nature of the organization, there are many things that, when seen from the Middle East, are simply not what we need to be focused on given the threatening environment we are stationed in.
The expression was actually given to us by our higher headquarters who said “Oh, Region 2, the people that are always pushing back.” I think they meant it in a less than positive manner, but it didn’t have that effect. Adding the motto to the Halligan Bottle Openers perfectly reinforces the tool’s symbolic brutal elegance.
HBO: Where are your Marines rotating to? Where are you stationed?
RG: Much of the unit is staying in place. The Halligan Bottle Openers were sourced as I prepare to turn over the command to the next Lieutenant Colonel that will lead it. I’ll be leaving Abu Dhabi this summer and heading to the Marine Corps War College as a student next.
We are both proud and honored that Ray chose the Halligan Bottle Opener as the perfect gift for his team. Thank you for your order, Ray, but more importantly, thank you for serving our country!