January 2017

All Marine Radio

New Program Is a Platform For the Voices of the Corps
Volume 100, Issue 1

John F. McJennett

Sara W. Bock
Maj Michael “Mac” McNamara, USMCR (Ret), stands in the All Marine Radio broadcasting studio in his home in Costa Mesa, Calif., Nov. 29, 2016. The internet radio program, which debuted June 1, 2016, features a wide variety of guests and Marine Corps-related topics.
Katherine McNamara

There’s an inherent power in the human voice—an ability to convey raw emotion and feeling in a way the written word, no matter how eloquent, can’t seem to match. For Major Michael “Mac” McNamara, USMCR (Ret), his latest endeavor, All Marine Radio, allows him the opportunity to use that power to keep Marines connected to the Corps, encourage intellectual discourse and share the stories that set the Marine Corps apart.

The internet-based live broadcast program, which McNamara runs out of his home in Costa Mesa, Calif., is tailored specifically for a Marine audience. It’s equal parts entertaining, informative, intellectually stimulating and inspiring—and for McNamara, it’s a platform that he’s determined to use in a positive way.

With McNamara at the helm as both founder and host, All Marine Radio, a four-hour show that broadcasts live Monday through Friday, was a success after its first program aired June 1, 2016. It certainly didn’t hurt that the first guest was none other than General Robert B. Neller, the 37th Commandant of the Marine Corps.

“And getting him to admit that I was his favorite company commander of all time was even better!” said McNamara with a laugh, recalling his days as a captain in 3d Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion when Neller was the commanding officer. Armed with McNamara’s impressive social network of notable Marines he served with during his 11 active-duty years, and later, as a Marine reservist who deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, All Marine Radio’s credibility was established right out of the gate.

But it’s not just who he knows that makes the program worth listening to—it’s even more about McNamara’s contagious personality, passion for effecting positive change and a propensity to “tell it like it is.” He is, after all, a Marine—and he proudly quotes a listener who called the program “profane and profound.” McNamara is not afraid to ask his guests controversial questions, nor does he fear the conversation going off topic or steering in a different direction. That, he said, is often when the most compelling content occurs.

For the man behind the microphone, All Marine Radio isn’t just a job. And it’s not as much about his voice, McNamara said, as it is about giving a platform to the multitude of stories within the broad community of Marines, whether active-duty, veteran or retired. His slew of guests, ranging from junior Marines to general officers, authors, Marine spouses, historians and more, lend their voices to tell different parts of the greater Marine Corps story.

“I get out of the way for these stories. It’s not mine—it’s their story. And I just help tell it,” said McNamara. He’s virtually a one-man show, hosting all four hours of programming, which he says is focused on keeping active-duty Marines educated and informed and helping veteran Marines feel connected to their “tribe” of fellow leathernecks. And not only is All Marine Radio a platform for those stories, it’s also an opportunity for him to do what he feels is his part in helping alleviate combat-related mental health issues among his fellow veterans.

Two years after his 1981 college graduation with a degree in economics, McNamara, unhappy working a desk job, started looking for something else to do. Given his location in Southern California, Marines were all around him—and he found them quite impressive. If he was going to be in the military, he said, he wanted to be a Marine. He was at Officer Candidates School, Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., in 1983, when the bombing of the Marine Barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, shook the Corps and the entire nation. It was a very sobering start to his Marine Corps career, he said.

McNamara became an infantry officer, first with 1st Battalion, Fifth Marine Regiment and later with 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion.

And while the idea for All Marine Radio didn’t even enter McNamara’s mind until 2015, some of the groundwork took place in the late 1980s when he served as an instructor at The Basic School and Infantry Officer Course, MCB Quantico. It was the part of his life in the Marine Corps that changed him the most, he said. Working for then-Lieutenant Colonel James F. Amos, who later became the 35th Commandant of the Marine Corps, and alongside captains and majors with names like Milstead, Kelly, Osterman, Furness, Kennedy and Allen, all of whom would later become general officers, McNamara said it was a very interesting time to be at TBS.

“We wrote, we argued, and we were trying to decode, ‘How do you teach maneuver warfare?’ ” McNamara recalled. The group wrote articles, which they submitted to Marine Corps Gazette; they also met monthly to present papers to each other and debate a wide range of ideas. “It changed us,” he said of the intellectual discourse he took part in during his years as a young officer. It was precisely the kind of discourse he encourages on his show today—an exchange of ideas that ultimately makes the Marine Corps better.

After leaving Quantico and serving as a company commander with 3d LAR Bn, McNamara left the Corps in 1994. Four years later, he moved to Grand Forks, N.D., and in 2000, he started hosting a talk radio show. The show didn’t have any relation to the Marine Corps, and neither did McNamara—until 2002 when, at the request of several influential officers he had served with, he joined the Marine Corps Reserve. They wanted him to come to Iraq.

In February 2003, McNamara deployed to Al Anbar Province with the First Marine Division, where he was the staff secretary for then-Lieutenant General James N. Mattis. The division chief of staff, who McNamara worked closely with, was Joseph F. Dunford, who would become the 36th Commandant of the Marine Corps and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“I got a view of the war that a lot of people didn’t get to see,” said McNamara. At the conclusion of this deployment, he returned home to North Dakota and went back to his talk radio show, where he began to bring some of his Marine Corps “battle buddies” on as guests. These segments turned out to be wildly popular among his civilian listeners.

“Their stories are incredible. They’re guys who have done stuff. And people love to hear from them,” said McNamara, who added that because he’s one of them, he doesn’t feel the need to be quite as sensitive with his questions as a civilian reporter might be.

Once, a combat wounded Marine he invited on his civilian talk radio show told his story about being wounded by an improvised explosive device in Iraq. The Marine said he didn’t realize he was injured until he saw smoke coming out of his leg. And, like Marines do, he made a joke about it.

“I’m from Tennessee. I’m not the brightest bulb in the shed, but even I knew that wasn’t right,” the Marine said, McNamara recalled with a chuckle.

The feedback McNamara got from his listeners was resounding—they loved hearing Marines share their stories.

“They [Marines] would say these hilarious things about being wounded, and people would listen to it and they’d see me places and talk to me and say, ‘Can I just tell you something? When you have your Marine guests on, I just pull over and I just listen, because it’s the most amazing stuff we’ve ever heard. It’s like, the stories we want to hear but we never get to hear. You have a private conversation and we get to listen,’ ” McNamara said of his conversations with listeners in the early 2000s.

But during a time of war, talk radio was again put on the back burner for McNamara, who was called back to the fight twice more—in Fallujah, Iraq, in 2006 with Fifth Marine Regiment and in Afghanistan in 2010 with the 1st Marines.

When McNamara retired from the Marine Corps Reserve in 2015, he wasn’t sure what he was going to do but he did know that the typical “9-to-5” grind was not for him. He recalled his talk radio days and remembered the enthusiasm his audience showed for stories about the Marine Corps. That sparked an idea, and he began to wonder about the feasibility of doing a radio program with an exclusively Marine focus.

He took the idea to a friend, Master Sergeant Paul Gage, USMC (Ret), with whom he had served in Afghanistan. Gage, said McNamara, could “sell ice to eskimos,” so when Gage told him he thought the plan would work, it was all he needed to hear. The two became partners of sorts—Gage helps on the side with business and sales, and McNamara runs the show, both literally and figuratively.

Using the power of social media to attract new listeners, and tapping in to the right kind of advertisers, like MilitaryByOwner, a home advertising site by which military homeowners can sell or rent their home and the Global SOF [Special Operations Forces] Foundation, mortgage companies and universities interested in attracting veterans who want to use their G.I. Bill benefits, it’s been a learning experience, McNamara said.

McNamara refers to the content on All Marine Radio as “varied fare”—there’s something for everyone. And while some might wonder if he will eventually run out of content, he’s not concerned about that in the least.

“There is no end to the story of the Marine Corps, I’ve found out,” McNamara said, adding that the more he interacts with people, the more connections he makes.

With weekly segments like “Marine Corps History Hour”; “Things I’d Like My Sons to Know Before They Go to War,” which has personal significance to McNamara, whose two sons are active-duty Marine officers; “Marine Corps Gazette Hour” and “Transition Thursdays,” All Marine Radio features content that runs the gamut of things Marines of all generations are interested in.

The history hour features historical audio, allowing listeners to hear former commandants, Medal of Honor recipients and other notable figures tell their stories in their own words, with their own voices. “Things I’d Like My Sons to Know Before They Go to War” was born out of McNamara’s personal reflections when his oldest son was slated to go to Afghanistan with 1st Bn, 7th Marines. During that segment, he invites Marine veterans to talk about one lesson they learned while at war.

“I only let them talk about one lesson—and if they can only talk about one lesson, it’s something extremely heartfelt,” McNamara said.

He also particularly enjoys having liberal arts discussions on the air with writers from the Marine Corps Association & Foundation’s publications.

“I grew up a fan of the Gazette and Leatherneck. They’ve been the intellectual developers of the Marine Corps for decades and decades. My idea was to get the writers of the Gazette to come on and talk, and to give the Gazette a broader forum,” said McNamara.

And probably one of the most compelling things, he said, is his Thursday discussion about transitioning from the Marine Corps. He brings on a variety of guests who can speak about the topic from different perspectives. It takes a long time, McNamara said, for some people to transition to civilian life, and it can be extremely difficult for some who aren’t doing something they love or are passionate about. If your brain is on idle, it can easily go back to a bad place, McNamara added.

“You’ve got to do something you love. You’ve got to do something you’re passionate about. And if you do, then your life is full,” he said, adding that he feels it’s his duty to reach out to his fellow Marines who struggle with post-combat related mental health issues. It’s a topic he tries to work into his programming each day in ways both subtle and not so subtle.

“If you need help, just plug back in to your battle buddies. Plug back in to your fellow Marines, and like we always have, we’ll get you help,” McNamara tells them.

All Marine Radio also acts as a platform for other veteran-related causes, and this is an opportunity McNamara doesn’t take lightly. Recently, a Gold Star mother, whose son served as a Marine for 10 years before joining the Army’s special forces, and was then killed in Afghanistan, was seeking a way to raise the $7,000 she still needed to finish establishing an endowed scholarship in her son’s name. McNamara invited her on the show, where she had the opportunity to talk about her efforts and hopefully reach her goal.

“We’ve seen the courage and selflessness of Marines, so to help their families—to be a part of making it better—is something that makes sense to us … we’re building this pipeline in this audience, and now we’re going to take this audience and do good things with it,” McNamara said.

As he looks to the future, McNamara envisions launching similar programs for each of the military services—All Army Radio, All Navy Radio and All Air Force Radio. He hopes to build a nonprofit organization that, hand in hand with his show, will do more work relative to post-combat related mental health. But for now, he’s content to focus on the vibrant, unique culture of the Marine Corps he loves and provide an avenue for the telling of stories and the exchange of ideas that he believes will even further strengthen the unbreakable bond shared by leathernecks across the globe.

There are several ways to tune in:

• Listen to the broadcast live at www.allmarineradio.com from your computer or mobile device, Monday through Friday between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. EST (7 a.m. and 11 a.m. PST).

• Visit www.allmarineradio.com anytime and click on the “Podcasts” link on the banner at the top of the page. Each hour-long segment is archived and can be listened to at your convenience.

• Visit iTunes or Google Play, search “All Marine Radio” and download content to your mobile device.

• Download the “Tune In” mobile application, available on both iOS and Android devices, and search “All Marine Radio.”