Marine Week commander jokes about using tank on Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay


Lt. Col. Shane Tomko sings the national anthem before a June 20 boxing tournament conducted in conjunction with Marine Week St. Louis. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Chelsea Flowers)

At this point, Marine Week St. Louis is well underway. Leathernecks are out and about in the Gateway City, promoting the Marine Corps’ values, performing community service and answering questions about the military. All should be right with the world.

Unfortunately, there’s a public relations snag today. Lt. Col. Shane Tomko, commander of the task force leading Marine Week, performed an on-air interview last night during a Phillies-Cardinals game. An apparent die-hard Cards fan, the salty head of 3rd Battalion, 24th Marines, out of St. Louis, made an observation about Phillies ace pitcher Roy Halladay that has blown up the Internet today.

Numerous sports blogs have picked up on it, including Crossing Broad and the nationally known Yahoo! blog, Big League Stew. You can watch the video here, but here are the quotes that have drawn interest:

Lt. Col. Tomko: I’ll tell you what, with that M1A1 Abrams [tank]we got across the street, if Halladay keeps on pitching well, we can fix that with one round pretty quickly.

Announcer:awkward laughs – I’m sure you could. I don’t know if we should say that, but you just did.

Lt. Col. Tomko: I can say whatever I want because I’m a war fighter, and this is the Cardinals Nation the last time I checked.

Sigh. Somewhere, there are Marine public affairs officers banging their heads on a table, especially since a primary purpose of Marine Week is to reinforce the perception that the Corps is accessible and friendly. Call me crazy, but a battalion commander joking about being able to “say whatever I want” probably isn’t helping in that regard.

Predictably, bloggers have jumped right in. Yardbarker, a national sports blog chain, even posted a finger-wagging entry today with the headline, “Jarhead Jeers Halladay, Jokes About Murder.” For all their sensitivity about Tomko’s comments, the use of a derogatory nickname for Marines was apparently acceptable at Yardbarker.

This is kind of an old theme. Gallows humor in the military is about as common as turkey on Thanksgiving. It can be a big help downrange, but… well… you have to know your audience. Add in that plenty of sports fans are nuts about their team, and it draws widespread interest.

For what it’s worth, Tomko is listed as “hometown Marine” of note on the Marine Week website. He’s an infantry officer who has served 28 years in the Corps. Based on this CNN transcript, it appears he was the commanding officer of a company of Marines involved in the initial 2001 invasion of Afghanistan.


About Author

I'm a senior writer with Marine Corps Times, covering ground warfare, manpower, weapons acquisition and other beats. I embedded in Afghanistan in spring 2010, and plan to return at least once in 2011.


  1. Political correctness has ruined this country and you know what, I can say that cause my husband went over there and died and there was NOTHING politically correct about him being blown up.. get over it people it was a ridiculous comment that was clearly a joke, he obviously wasn’t going to shot the guy with an M1A1.. why use a tank when a sniper would be so much lower key… I mean seriously. Oh gees now look, I’m not political correct either.. hurry Monday morning armchair QB’s and jump on it.. I can’t believe how much we have to cater to peoples’ ridiculous feelings.. if you don’t like something turn off the effing tv…

  2. LtCol Tomko is one of the most well loved Officers in the Corps. It is because of his poignant candor and straightforwardness he claims this position. As one who knows him well, clearly he was joking and having fun. As he has always told us who have served in his command, “We will make mission by winning battles and filling the ranks,” as our primary objective but we will also have fun. That’s what he was doing when he made the comment concerning the tank and the Phillies’ pitcher- so it is safe to say, leave it alone and move on.

  3. Pingback: Military Sports Report - After Action – Marine lieutenant colonel offends gentle sensibilities of Phillies fans

  4. We aren’t no thin red ‘eroes, nor we aren’t no blackguards too,
    But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;
    An’ if sometimes our conduck isn’t all your fancy paints,
    Why, single men in barricks don’t grow into plaster saints;
    While it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, fall be’ind”,
    But it’s “Please to walk in front, sir”, when there’s trouble in the wind,
    There’s trouble in the wind, my boys, there’s trouble in the wind,
    O it’s “Please to walk in front, sir”, when there’s trouble in the wind.

    You talk o’ better food for us, an’ schools, an’ fires, an’ all:
    We’ll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
    Don’t mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
    The Widow’s Uniform is not the soldier-man’s disgrace.
    For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Chuck him out, the brute!”
    But it’s “Saviour of ‘is country” when the guns begin to shoot;
    An’ it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ anything you please;
    An’ Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool — you bet that Tommy sees!

    Tommy – Rudyard Kipling

  5. Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t the “Jarhead” nickname stem from the high and tight haircut?

    If we’re gonna slam all the politically correct idealism, this seems pretty low on the spectrum of “derogatory nickname(s)”

  6. johnnie Walker on

    The loss of a 1/5 marine in Helmand should evoke more emotion and sentiment in this country…sadly it was passed over and a chance to demean a soldier was more important to those who judge, yet do not appreciate our brave men and women defending our country. So sad…but so America today..


    How bout them 9 runs in the 8th inning sounds like the tank back fired next time you want to run your mouth about sports make sure all your players are healthy first F’n cards fans cant take them anywhere

  8. most former wars were waged largely in a state of equilibrium, or at least expressed tensions that were so limited, so infrequent, and feeble, that the fighting that did occur during these periods was seldom followed by important results. Instead a battle might be fought … to assuage a commander’s vanity (Freiberg). In our opinion it is essential that a commander should recognize these circumstances and act in concert with their spirit. [Clausewitz, On War, Book Three, Chapter 18]
    Bottom line up front, This is the sort of comment I expect from young enlisted. From our Corp of Marine Officers, I expect more. In a time when our Marines are still engaged around the world AND as a representative during a civil-mililtary operation (Fleet Week), LtCol Tomko demonstrated poor judgement.

    More candidly, At first read, I chuckled. A Marine’s love for the sound of the gun, warms the heart of every Citizen, if only to remind us he willingly steps into the breech. However, after considering this is the one man, who is not stepping into the breech, but ordering America’s son’s and daughters forward, I was a little surprised at the candid manner in which he uses the rhetoric of war.

    Sure, He’s a Marine, but he’s also a LtCol collecting a very nice 90K/yr salary. He is responsible for the very lives of our next generation. I don not think for one minute, his ability to “close with and destroy the enemy…” is in question. However, as a senior ranking officer and commander, he collects a fine salary , not for his trigger finger, but his “brain-housing group.” Knowing he is on national television, I find his decision making and rationale sorely lacking. If the first response in a friendly baseball game is ‘shoot him with an M1A1…’ I wonder what is response is to a more real world situation where the lives of civilians hangs in the balance. It is this very doubt that clearly reminds me we must demand more from the leaders in the Corps.

  9. Johnnie: Couldn’t agree more. Unfortunately, Tomko’s comments overwhelmed a lot of people who don’t “get it.”

    Marine 0302: Thanks for the comment. Well said.

    PhillyFan: You might want to sit the next few plays out.

    Christian: Yes, obviously it’s because of the haircut. However, anyone who has spent any time around Marines knows that a civilian yelling that at them won’t, uh, play well. You’ll never see it appear in Marine Corps Times in any context other than a quote or a formal name (like “Jarhead” the movie).

  10. Thanks for the clarification on that subject. A good many Americans are probably misinformed on that subject. I’m sure that the YB article was as well.

  11. Ando-Tomko is NOT/NOT one of the most well loved Officers in the Corps. There is nothing wrong with what he said, I did cringe over the “war fighter” comment. Bottom line, if Tomko is that good he would be commanding an Infantry Battalion not scheduling Annual Training.

  12. Ridiculous! I was never a Marine, I AM a Phillies fan, but I gotta say this is a hilarious comment from Lt Col Tomko! Give me a break. People have to lighten up! Enjoy the joke and admire, thank and pray for our military everywhere! As I’ve heard said, there are two kinds of people in the world: those that pay for protection and those that provide it. God bless all our “war-fighters”!!

  13. Actually, the term Jarhead goes back to the days of our leathercollars while serving aboard the tall ships of the navy. In the days before rubber seals on jars, they used leather as a gasket. With the leather collars and the jar top shaped covers, the term “Jarhead” came about. Has nothing to do with a high and tight haircut.

    LtCol Tomko is apparently an outstanding infantry officer, but he sucks as a Public Affairs or Civil Affairs Officer. This is one of those “brain fart” moments that will come back and keep him from getting his stars a few years from now.

  14. As someone mentioned it above this is ridiculous. He didn’t attempt to take the pitcher out he merely stated that he could with one Tank round. Wow, the things people cry about these days because they get their feelings hurt. It’s “War Fighters” like him who have sacrificed so much so you can sit at home soaking up the freedom at which he provides. That is what is wrong with this great country of ours. If we don’t get back on track and stop the whining about nothing this country will be in a world of hurt.
    Semper Fi

  15. I’m a civilian but feel that once you have been shot at for your country,you can say whatever the hell you’d like.

    Every civilian should be defending that Marine’s right to speak his mind on his home soil that he willingly fought to defend.

    Besides, the comment was funny and mildly put for a combat Marine.

  16. Pingback: Hello, Phillies, this is Opportunity knocking. P.R. Opportunity. « The TrogloPundit

  17. Articles like this are EXACTLY the reason I stopped subscribing to the Marine Corps Times…just because journalism in this country has taken a sharp left turn, doesn’t mean that EVERYTHING has to be politically correct. BTW, Lamothe, did Roy Halladay feel threatened? Or, did he take it as a compliment that LtCol Tomko, jokingly, thinks it’ll take a tank to stop his fastball. Somewhere, someone at the New York Times is looking for you…

  18. I think the problem with this comment is that someone in uniform made it. If a pitcher from the other team would have pointed at the tank and made a similar comment he would have been applauded and cheered. It is funny that those who protect, are the first target of any negative press. I want to be clear, I am not saying the uniform gives you a blank check to say or do what you want. You should actually treasure it more.

    The warfighter comment and the post arguments about his right to make it???? The war is going on its’ tenth year, he was probably a senior Capt or a junior Maj at the beginning…can you say Company Commander.

    WARFIGHTER earned…any question about that…Look at his medals, proudly displayed below his left shoulder is a COMBAT ACTION RIBBON…they don’t give those away….You earn them by engaging the enemy…I say again WARFIGHTER earned.

    Don’t ever and I mean ever write of the fact that being the person who orders someone to action is EVER taken lightly. The single most difficult action in the your lifetime is to make a decision that could ultimately result in the death of your Marine, Sailor, Soldier or Airmen.

    Contrary to Hollywood and popular belief those decision, when made, are carried with people for the rest of their lives.

    Corpsmen UP! Doc out… Camp Lejeune

  19. Pingback: Battle Rattle - A Marine Corps Times Blog – Floating over Marine Week with a helmet camera

  20. I am not a Marine and couldn’t care less about who’d win that ball game.

    I do think that the folks that are “offended” are probably not and are just siezing an opportunity to rag on the military. There are people that do not like warriors and being all sensitive to them – like this article seems to promote – only strengthens them and will not change them.

    Personally, I’d rather know the guys fighting to keep me free are more interested in victory than in winning peoples hearts, especailly the hearts of the US media.

  21. It disgusts me when entities that enjoy their 1st Amendment privileges get offended when a Marine who has EARNED that right practices it. Feel free to contribute to the preservation of free speech (or free press) then perhaps your opinion will hold some merit.

  22. It amazes me that so people are offended by a harmless joke yet I heard nothing when President Obama referenced using a Predator drone to drop a bomb on the Jonas Brothers if they acted out of line with his daughter(s) during a concert. Suck it up people; it sickens me how far we have fallen as Americans. We cater to every other countries whim yet we “eat our own.”

  23. This whole uproar is not testimony to an idiotic obsession with sports. I am reminded of how the people of the old Roman Republic were encouraged to focus on the games while the republic turned to tyranny and then fell apart around them as the barbarians pushed through the boundaries of the empire to take what they wanted so they could have a high quality life too and it all came apart with Europe falling into the dark ages. Repeat?

  24. ok so he said a joke im a marine and i thought it was pretty funny everyone who has fought or served the country has in some way wove the blanket of freedom that civilians sleep under at night the media needs to leave us alone and let us do our job and be what we all are trained to be and thats warfighters now as far as saying warfighter on tv well ya he earned it but when did he earn it back in the day COMBAT ACTION RIBBONS were blanketed over a convoy if one truck got shot at or blown up not saying he didnt directly engage enemy forces, but who knows but him so ill give him that but i wouldnt say it on tv but more power to him to bad the sgt. next to him didnt “no balls” him to use the tank because every marine knows those 2 words will make any marine do anything, that would have been amazing!!!!

  25. Wow! Reading some crazy stuff from some folks I am glad I know where around!! For the record. I know the Rhino. Yeah, for those of you that know LtCol Tomko, also know the name given long ago to true Warrior, very gifted and talented Marine that has always meant to lead from the front and inspire others to exceed! Comments about this MUSTANGER are way out of line and I doubt would be shared to him face-to-face. I know first hand the integrity this Marine has and I know how much he has put out! Some folks who are literally ignorant should not avoid the opportunity to keep their mouth shut until they know what they are opining about! Han out…

  26. To know him is to love him. You are
    lucky he didn’t break out the piano and
    start singing. Get over it already!

  27. Get Over It Already! on

    To know him is to love him. You are
    lucky he didn’t break out the piano and
    start singing.

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