Review: Gunny’s Rules: How to get squared away like a Marine

“Here you are all equally worthless. And my orders are to weed out all non-hackers who do not pack the gear to serve in my beloved Corps. Do you maggots understand that?”  – Gunnery Sergeant Hartman, Full Metal Jacket

In one of the most memorable acting performances in motion picture history, R. Lee Ermey solidified himself in the American psyche as the quintessential Marine Corps drill instructor. With the lessons he learned from his time in the military, Ermey built a civilian acting career through hard work and determination. It is those same lessons he applied in his own life that he uses in Gunny’s Rules to teach the rest of us civilian pukes how to excel in our lives.

Gunny’s Rules: How to Get Squared Away Like a Marine is mix of biography and self-help in plain, blunt language. The book is arranged in chapters, with each telling a part of the tale that makes up Ermey’s life. The chapters are often rounded out with “Gunny’s Rules” and “Quotes Worth Repeating.”

The Gunny’s Rules portion of the chapter is a slightly less brutal version of Gunnery Sergeant Hartman telling you how it is.  The advice is applicable to your career, personal life and general well being. It is also to the point, without any of the namby-pamby pontificating that some university egg-head might try to lay on you.

For example, at a time when many people expect the government to provide food stamps, housing, health care and other forms of welfare, Ermey says get a job.  “A job as a short-order cook is a hell of a lot better than sitting on your dead ass watching television all day,” he says. “Unemployment checks, welfare and food stamps won’t cut it…They’re like quicksand, pulling you under.”

Common threads of hard work, preparation and jumping on opportunities run throughout all of Ermey’s life. Those are some of the things that Ermey wants to share with readers to motivate them to improve their own lives.

I know many people want to know if Ermey talks about filming “Full Metal Jacket.” If you are one of them, you will be happy to hear he describes his experiences in detail, including the time he spent with Stanley Kubrick in developing the Hartman character. Ermey also talks about landing earlier acting jobs in “Apocalypse Now” and “The Boys in Company C,” as well as some more recent work.

R. Lee Ermey in "Full Metal Jacket"
R. Lee Ermey in “Full Metal Jacket”

Ermey also talks about his military career, and how he was medically retired during the downsizing of the military at the close of the Vietnam War.  While his intent had been to stay in the Marine Corps for 30 years, being forced out after only 11 opened new opportunities that he capitalized on.  Always being prepared, one of the lessons he tries to teach with this book, allowed him to turn this unexpected adversity into a new and successful career.

All in all, the book is an enjoyable read.  If you have an interest in Ermey, the book is worth the time and money.  If you are strictly interested in stories of Full Metal Jacket, the value is still there, but only the first few chapters will appeal to you.

The book is available in hardcover, and carries a retail price of $27.95. Retail outlets and online stores may sell the book for substantially less.