Since I made the mistake of revealing that I had been a tank commander in the Marine Corps when I gave my two minute biography during my first week at NewsGator, people here often call me the Sarge. I just thought I would run through my four year hitch in the Marines, since I often get questions about it from people.
I was always interested in Military History as a child, it seemed natural for me to actually go into the military. I actually signed up as a combat arms "bonus baby" for the delayed entry program in the Marines in January 1979, while I was a senior in high school. Then, over the next five months, my best friend and I were so gung ho that we were doing lots of physical training to get ready and we were counting down the days until we "got" to go to boot camp. Two weeks after high school graduation, I was in boot camp at MCRD San Diego. My bonus for enlisting for four years in the Infantry (MOS 0311) was the princely sum of $2500, which was before taxes. Back then, E-1 privates made $419/month for a salary.
At any rate, I made it though 12 weeks of boot camp, mainly by keeping my mouth shut and not drawing any special attention from the drill instructors. The boot camp portion of the movie "Full Metal Jacket" was remarkably accurate in giving you a feel for what Marine Corps boot camp was like during that time period. Probably the hardest part for me was sheer intellectual boredom, since there were no books or magazines, and no TV or radio. The only exception to this was that we could buy the Sunday L.A. Times newspaper, and we were given an hour or two of free time to relax and read it each week.
After boot camp, I found myself in Infantry Training School (ITS) at San Onofre at Camp Pendleton, CA. My main memory of that time was doing infantry assaults up steep, dusty hills, and finding out what "humping" meant in the Marines. The Marines were and are light infantry, without much in the way of mechanized assets. This meant we walked a lot, but it was not a leisurely stroll, oh no! We would go at probably a 5-6 mph pace, walking as fast as we could, stretching your strides as far as possible, where it was actually more comfortable to jog (which we were not allowed to do). This was Marine Corps "humping", which was no fun at all…
We also were shown lots of gory combat footage from Vietnam, and we were taught combat tactics based on lessons learned in Vietnam. Most of the instructors had served in Vietnam, and had a chestful of ribbons to prove it. In this post-Vietnam era, the U.S. Military was in pretty sorry shape, with old, worn out equipment and under-strength units. The Marines still had M-16A1 rifles, M1911 .45 cal pistols, M60 machine guns, steel pot helmets, and Korean War vintage, fiberglass plate flak jackets.
My first Fleet Marine Force (FMF) unit out of ITS was 2nd Platoon, Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Regiment, known as Bravo, 1/1, part of the 1st Marine Division. We were at Horno at Camp Pendleton. As soon as I got to my unit, our company Gunnery Sergeant, Gunny Murphy, looked at me and declared "You look like would would be a good radio operator. Here is your radio." That is how I ended up being the platoon radio operator for 2nd Platoon, working for the platoon commander, 2nd Lieutenant Viviano. We carried AN/PRC-77 radios, which weighed about 25 pounds on top of my weapon and other gear.
The good thing about this was that I got to hang out in the platoon command post in the field, and I always knew what was going on. I also got to learn how to do fun things like calling in mortar and artillery fire, calling in air strikes, calling in helicopters, etc. I also learned a lot about the military as far as operations and tactics by being in the command post rather than being a regular troopie in a line squad.