Saturday, February 28, 2015

My Thoughts on Net Neutrality

A couple of days ago, I asked my Facebook friends to share their thoughts on Net Neutrality.  The overwhelming majority of people who commented oppose Net Neutrality on the premise that government intervention stifles innovation.  Now that a couple of days have passed, I think it's fitting that I answer my own question.

Before I answer the question though, I am going to take a step back and address my friends' position that government involvement stifles innovation.  At a macro level, I generally agree with that statement.  In fact, I'll take things even a step further, and say that governmental interference not only creates unintended problems, it's also horribly ineffective at addressing these problems once they appear.  Social Security is a prime example.  The overall assertion, however, is a very black and white statement, and we live in a gray world.

For the purpose of this discussion, I am going to posit that government and business are opposite sides of the same coin.  Government is corrupt and inefficient.  Business, however, is corrupt and greedy.  Business, left to its own devices, will chase profit at the expense of everything else.  This greed is why America has a minimum wage, a 40 hour work week, environmental laws and anti-trust legislation.

I have no problem with Internet service providers making a profit.  I do, however, believe in Net Neutrality.  I have a problem with ISPs becoming the de facto gatekeepers of the internet.  I have a problem with the idea that ISPs can force vendors to pay for faster service on the front end, and then force subscribers to pay for faster service on the back end.  I also have a problem with business having the ability to slow down or effectively block traffic that they consider competition or objectionable.  This is the alternative to net neutrality.  Innovation and the free flow of ideas is still stifled, but in a different way.  It's business stifling the competition instead of the government.  Net neutrality is designed to promote competition and information by making sure that an ISP cannot impede traffic flowing across its network.

Let me use a couple of hypothetical situations to make my point.  Let's say that Disney buys Mediacom.  Not likely, but it could happen.  Disneycom decides to block or significantly slow all internet traffic going to streaming companies that compete with NBC, Disney, Pixar, etc. unless they pony up some extra cash.  How does this benefit the consumer?  Alternatively, let's say that the new Comcast CEO is a hard core Catholic who decided to slow or block traffic to sites that have to do with pornography, contraception, homosexuality or whatever.  How does this promote the free flow of ideas?  As I said, these are hypothetical situations to make a point.

Like I said, I generally agree that government is inefficient and stifles innovation.  I also, however, believe that business is greedy and will do anything it can to make as much as possible.  In this case, I believe that net neutrality is the best option for the consumer in the long run.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Interviewing a Career Marine, Part III of III

This is the third installment of a three-part interview with my Senior Drill Instructor from boot camp.  Click here for the first installment, which discusses his early career.
Click here for the second installment, which discusses the latter part of his career.

What was your favorite duty station/deployment/billet and why?
My favorite duty was Embassy Duty since it was unlike anything else in the Marines.  We were a very small unit in both Indonesia and the Philippines.  However we had to be prepared for many different security threats.  On this duty we would have parties every Friday at the Marine House to raise funds for the Marine Corps Ball, which was a big function for the whole Embassy staff. We were required to attend cocktail parties at the Ambassador’s residence, and also were tasked with being a Color Guard for formal functions. I was proud to be in the color guard for President Regan’s inaugural party at the Embassy in Manila. This was really an exciting duty, since you were able to meet many State Department people, DEA agents, FBI agents and even foreign country officials. You learned what other countries were like from the Marines who had been there and from State Department employees.  I was married at the Embassy in Manila, and it was something I will never forget.
What was your least favorite and why?
My least favorite has to be when I was at El Toro the last time, because I was the Operations chief, which was a Master Sergeant billet and after a new Second Lieutenant checked aboard the S-4 (Logistics Office), my boss reassigned me to his office so I could train him.  The billet in the S-4 was only a Gunnery Sergeant position, and for my career it didn't look good to go down to a junior billet.  I contacted a good friend who arranged orders for me to report aboard my second amphibious ship which is very good for my career.

I’m guessing this was in the 1992 time frame.  I don’t think I ever mentioned this to you, but you were one of the last people I saw as a Marine.   I was going through SEPS when I saw you.  You were a gunny at that point.  I didn't talk to you because I was one of the thumper privates from PLT 3111.
You should have said something to me. I was always hoping to run into someone who could tell me if I made a difference for them.  To be honest with you I was not aware that my Junior Drill Instructors had any thumper privates, but I could understand.  When I was a strong Junior Drill Instructor, I was very hard on the recruits and I didn't want them to like me even a little.  I had two company honor platoons in a row so they more or less had to make me a Senior Drill Instructor. Being short I was surprised that they did make me a Senior Drill Instructor and I wanted to do my best. We were always told that working at MCRD San Diego, the Drill Instructors are in a fish bowl with everyone watching, and we all had to train in accordance with the SOP (Standard Operating Procedures).  Every Drill Instructor has to take and pass the SOP test every six months.  The crazy part is we all know the rules, and we all find our own way to break those rules, knowing if we are caught it could mean our career. I learned when I first started that no matter what you do, you have to be fair and only punish when there is a reason; so many just want to live up to an image and always be hard. I felt that what we were teaching was the basics and it was every Recruit/Marine’s responsibility to remember and build on what they had learned in Boot Camp.

What's your favorite sea story?
When I was aboard the USS Peleliu in the Indian Ocean we couldn't outrun a Typhoon and we had to weather the storm. The ship had some actual damage from the storm where the catwalk around the flight deck was ripped off in three different sections. I think that is an experience all of the Marines and Sailors aboard will never forget.

Crazy.  I had a similar experience when I was on the USS Tuscaloosa.  We were going from San Diego to Okinawa and caught the tail end of a typhoon shortly after passing Hawaii.  When we started entering the storm, we were on the 04 deck (the highest point on an LST) and taking pictures as the water would splash over the deck of the boat.  Water was spraying us.  At the height of the storm, we were taking 45 degree rolls.  Biggest roll was 48 degrees.  It was fun watching all of the other sailors and Marines getting sea sick.

Many Marines I know have close to as much sea time as sailors.  How much sea time do you have?
I received sea pay for six and one half years, but this is a little misleading because we still received sea pay when the ship was in Dry Dock at the shipyard in Long Beach.  However this is also a very dangerous environment and one crazy thing that happened when I was officer of the deck on duty, and the ship was up on blocks, one of the big California Earthquake happened.  I will always remember the ship bouncing on blocks in Dry Dock at Long Beach.

What was your favorite place to visit and why?
I enjoyed Bali Indonesia since the USS Boxer went on liberty there and my experience at the Embassy had taught me how to speak enough of the language to bargain; all of the locals were surprised to see a white man bargaining in Indonesian.

What was your least favorite place to visit and why?
I really didn’t enjoy the Middle East, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.  We were there to fight the war but I didn't have the feeling that we were really welcome.  Even though being a Marine means you are trained to fight, I am sure most Marines do not enjoy war.  There is really nothing glamorous about war.

Truer words were never spoken on both counts.  I felt welcome while I was in the gulf in 1988 during Earnest Will.  I felt welcome in 1991 and 1992 during Desert Shield and Desert Storm.  It seemed like we were doing something worthwhile.  But the “liberation” of Iraq seems to be a different story.  The Iraqi people initially wanted us to depose Saddam Hussein, but after that, they just wanted us gone.  They didn’t want democracy.  I believe that the people of the Middle East think in a fundamentally different way than we do.  I believe they don’t necessarily want democracy.  And I think we’re a bit foolish and egocentric to expect that we can change their way of thinking. I also think that most Marines… most military personnel… romanticize the thought of war, until they’re actually exposed to the reality.Your thoughts?
I agree with you, we cannot expect them to have a democracy when they don’t have a desire.  I really think it was a big mistake not to establish some sort of military base in Iraq.  If you look what happened after World War II, the US bases established in Europe and Japan are still there and they [have] served a very important purpose to prevent another build up to a world war. With Terrorism on the rise and this horrible organization of ISIS, there has to be a US Base established, especially in Iraq which is the center of all the trouble.  It will also give us some leverage and observation capabilities over Iran, which is another country needing close watch. I am sure they are the primary supporters of ISIS, but nobody wishes to risk their life in order to bring proof of this to the world’s attention.

How did your family handle your career?  Deployments, DI duty, etc?
I was very lucky since my wife had been in the Philippine Army as a Nurse; she understood what being in the military means.  Since she has a career as a Nurse she was not bothered by the numerous separations caused by training and deployments.  She encouraged me to stay in the Marines until I retired. Her father was a Filipino Scout, who fought for the US Army in World War II and survived the Bataan Death march.  My step-father had been a China Marine, so we both had an idea what we were getting into with my Marine Corps career.  This life is very hard on family relationships and I am very lucky to have a wife who understands.

How does your family like it now that you're retired?
We are very happy and since retirement we have been able to remodel our house and do some traveling.  We plan to do much more traveling, especially when my wife retires in two to three years.

What did you do after leaving the Corps?  Are you still working?  Did you return to Seattle?
After I retired I went to Seattle and spent a couple of weeks with some old friends. Then I just did nothing for about five months and after that amount of time I decided it’s time to find another job. I applied to work at Wells Fargo Telephone bank, which is where banking is completed over the phone. I did well there and was awarded a trip to Maui, Hawaii; it was the first time my wife had been to Hawaii and since then we have gone almost every other year. After six years with the phone bank I decided it was time for a change, so I applied for a position with Business Banking.  Our job was to review business loan applications and to make sure the borrowing business was active with the Secretary of State which is in compliance to the USA Patriot Act.  Not loaning money to an organization that support[s] terrorism or money laundering.  This job is mostly that of an auditor and I also did well at this position.  Once my house remodel was complete, and I made it to the companies retirement age with enough time, I decided to retire for the second time so I can help maintain my newly remodeled house.

How much of a role does the Marine Corps play in your life now that you’re retired?
Once a Marine Always a Marine.  About once a month my wife and I go either to Camp Pendleton  (60 miles) or San Diego (100 miles) to shop at the Exchange and Commissary.  [I]Want to use those benefits I worked so hard to earn.  I am in touch with a few Navy friends and Marines who served with me during my career.

To what extent do you stay in touch with your fellow Marines?
There are a couple who were on Embassy Duty with me that are friends on Facebook. We share photos and stories every now and then. I have a friend who is an active Sergeant Major on the East Coast; he sends me information and updates about the Marine Corps. There is a friend who was aboard the USS Boxer, and he now works as a contractor training Marines at Camp Pendleton.  With Facebook it is amazing how easy it is to get in touch with old friends.  But not everyone likes to use Facebook so I have a couple of friends who keep in touch the old fashioned way by writing letters.

One last question:  What question did you think I’d ask that I haven’t asked, and what’s the answer to that question?
What do I think of the Marine Corps today?
The Marines keep on evolving, which is a good thing, because war and conflict always change around the world.  Marines are ambassadors of America to the world, and they are still respected. Today’s Marines  are expected to do more, learn more and adapt to changing situations faster than ever before. To become a Marine is not easy but it is something that will change your life.

Bonus:  Picture taken at a Marine Corps Ball

Interviewing a Career Marine, Part II of III

This is the second installment of a three-part interview with my Senior Drill Instructor from boot camp.  Today’s installment discusses the latter part of his career. Click here for the first installment

What did you do after you finished your tour as a Drill Instructor?
My next assignment was to 1st MAW Marine Wing Support Squadron 173 in Okinawa Japan for one year unaccompanied.

After my tour there I received order to Marine Corps Air Station El Toro and was assigned to Marine Air Group 70 which was a contingency command.  We were a staff of only 25 Marines, however, when Kuwait was invaded that was our contingency, and the unit became 2500.  I was the Logistics Chief for that unit and it became the size of an Aircraft Wing with 14 Squadrons.

How did your job change as a result of the massive increase in unit size?
My job changed in many ways as a result of this massive increase. Since I had previously been on Embassy Duty they knew I had a Top Secret Clearance which was immediately reinstated. I was given responsibility for several STU-3 telephone keys (which are classified) so I was happy to get all of that into the correct hands when I arrived in country but I did have to setup a few of those phones for key officers in the command.  I had one Squadron that was training in Nevada and they never had the chance to return to Hawaii where their home base was located. We put them up in temporary barracks at El Toro and they went straight to the Middle East with no chance to say goodbye to their family. It is hard to list all of the crazy situations that came about from this massive increase; all I can say is I would report to work at 06:00 and leave at 23:00 until I deployed myself.  I had been on leave the day Kuwait was invaded because it was my birthday, August 2nd and when I returned from leave everything was crazy with preparations to leave. At first I was supposed to deploy on the 14th of August but the S-4 Officer told me I was handling everything so well they kept me another week and I arrived in country on the 20th of August 1990.  Imagine deploying half way around the world in three weeks’ time after the event of hostility took place.  I really had my hands full because we had to setup billeting areas for all of the Squadrons, Office areas, make arrangements for the Field Mess and even provide a place for the Chaplains to hold services.  Supply falls under S-4 so I had to make sure there was an office in a warehouse for my supply chief. The Armory was also a major concern; plus I was put on an emergency action team that had to respond if our base was attacked. This is the tip of the iceberg; because I was the Logistics Chief I had to make sure everything falling under the heading of Logistics was done.  It’s a good thing that in 1989 I was sent to Norfolk VA to the Advance Logistics course which is where I was promoted to Gunnery Sergeant. (It is very rare for someone in my field to be promoted in front of my peers but this happened to me).  I can only say I wouldn’t wish this situation on my worst enemy because it was so crazy. The S-4 Officer was a Major-select Captain who was an F-18 pilot, so he was not much of an expert with Logistics. The good news is he gave me credit for doing his job on my combat fitness report. So this made me look really good when it came time for promotion to Master Sergeant.  

After the first Gulf War I received orders to be a crew member of the USS Peleliu (LHA -5) where I started out in charge of the Well Deck, when the ship did rescue operations in the Philippines when Mt. Pinatubo erupted in May 1991. The second deployment I was in charge of the Flight Deck when the ship was part of the amphibious withdrawal from Somalia in 1994.

One of your Facebook posts talked about going through the Chief Petty Officer initiation while you were on the Peleliu.  Can you expound on the process and the meaning behind it for the readers?
Since I was a crew member of the ship and lived in the Chief Petty Officers Quarters it was a tradition to go through the CPO initiation which had been done by the other Gunnery Sergeants who were part of Ship’s Company. This is a long standing tradition for Navy E-7’s to go through a time honored type of ceremony which included all sorts of pranks and wild goose chase ordeals. There is one full night where you go through a kangaroo court which includes drinking truth serum, [which] is a foul concoction that you have to drink.  After one full night in the morning there is a ceremony where the Ship’s Captain pins the CPO rank insignia of an anchor on your uniform.  I still have this rank insignia that I was awarded. The senior leadership begins at E-7 in the Navy; with the Marines when you are promoted to Staff Sergeant you are considered a leader (SNCO).

For clarification, this was one set of orders, but two deployments on the Peleliu, right? If so, how long were you ashore with the Peleliu between deployments, and what was your job during this shore time?
I was not part of a deploying unit; since the Amphibious Navy was established to transport Marines, those ships are actually built with designated Marine Spaces, so the Marine Corps has a few billets which are part of the Navy crew of the ship. There are four Marines in Combat Cargo (1 Officer and 3 Gunnys or above) then there is a Communications Detachment usually made up of a Marine Captain and a Gunny and two Sergeants.  Finally there is a Major who works in the Air Department (usually a helicopter pilot) which is liaison between the Marine Composite Squadron that deploys aboard the ship.  [These] billets stay aboard the ship even when the deployed units are not.  The Logistics Marines are in Combat Cargo and we were responsible to make sure the Navy didn't encroach on the Marine Corps spaces and also to update the Ship’s Characteristics Manual, while also keeping an inventory of the LFORM (Landing Force Operational Readiness Material). These are MREs and Ordnance to sustain 60 days of combat. This is not an easy job but it is very rewarding. I did an extension aboard the USS Peleliu, so instead of a two year tour I was there for four and one half years.  I was also promoted to Master Sergeant in the Captain’s Cabin in May 1995, the day before father’s day, which was great since this is the only time my father was present at any of my Marine Corps promotions.

What was it like to return to the Philippines after Mt. Pinatubo, considering that you’d previously spent a lot of time in the Philippines?
It was bittersweet because there was so much damage caused by the ash from the volcano. We were scheduled to stop in Subic Bay after our Liberty stop in Hong Kong, however since the mountain erupted causing much damage on the base we were ordered to commence evacuation of dependents. We were allowed to go on liberty, but much of the town had been destroyed.  It looked like 12 inches of snow was on everything but it wasn't snow it was ash.  Very sad to see a place like Subic Bay with so much damage.

Have you been back to Subic, or the Philippines in general since then?
I have not been back to the Philippines since 1991. [We] are planning a future trip there.

Any specific thoughts on the withdrawal from Somalia?
That was a tough deployment where we were at Sea for more than 55 days and it was miserable.  That is another place we really had no reason to be but I guess politics called for our presence.  I did get to see Mombasa Kenya which was an unusual place to go on Liberty.

I’m familiar with long stints at sea.  During my two deployments, I had three beer days.  You probably realize that to qualify for a beer day, you need to spend at least 45 consecutive days at sea.  I was qualified for a fourth, but we were only a day or two from our next liberty, so the CO said there was no need for the fourth.

My next duty station was back at El Toro where I was assigned as the Operations Chief at Marine Wing Support Squadron 373. The Operations Chief of a Marine Support Squadron makes sure that all of the missions the unit is assigned are met. We had to send detachments to support air operations to many different locations, including local Air Shows, Bridgeport California, both cold weather aircraft operations and mountain training aircraft operations.  Most of the time we sent detachments to 29 Palms expeditionary airfield. I was also the unit historian so every month I had to write a history of the operations the unit had participated in, so the Commanding Officer would review and sign, forwarding it to Headquarters Marine Corps.  Since Operations and training are in the same office, we had to make sure everyone took the semiannual PFT, and also we had weekly squadron runs along with inspections.  One honor I had at this unit was to be the Commander of Troops for our Sergeant Major’s retirement parade.  He requested an all enlisted parade, and since I had been a Drill Instructor I was assigned the job.  It turned out really well, which was a big relief to me, since I didn't want to be responsible for messing up a Sergeant Major’s retirement parade.  This unit was very familiar to me since it was the Support Squadron that deployed to Desert Shield/Desert Storm to support MAG-70.  During that conflict I actually shared a tent with the Operations Chief since we worked so close together to complete our mission.  The Marine Aircraft Group was much larger than normal so providing Logistical Support was a real challenge. 

My final assignment was again aboard an Amphibious ship, the USS Boxer (LHD-4), where we again deployed to the Middle East, only this time we went to the coast of Eritrea, since there was a war between Ethiopia and Eritrea. [We] were there to protect Americans, and the Ambassador came aboard our ship. I had my retirement aboard the USS Boxer at 32nd Naval Station in San Diego back in February 2000. 

Any specific thoughts about our involvement in the war between Ethiopia and Eritrea?
We didn't get involved with the war, our mission was to make sure Americans were not targeted and if needed to evacuate them.  Luckily this did not happen but we were there in order to be safe not sorry.

This is the end of Part II of the interview.  Click here for the third and final installment, where he tells some more stories and shares some insight he gained from the Marine Corps.

Bonus:  For your reading pleasure, a little piece of Marine Corps history. (Click to view full size.)

Interviewing a Career Marine, Part I of III

Most of you who read my blog know that I’m a Marine Corps Veteran.  I proudly served six years, participating in Operation Earnest Will, and Desert Shield/Desert Storm.  Not too long ago, I was fortunate enough to get in touch with the man who was my Senior Drill Instructor when I was in boot camp.  Recently, he kindly agreed to be interviewed to discuss his career in the Marine Corps.  Like many of my other interviews, it’s relatively in-depth and lengthy, so I am going to break the full interview down into three parts.

When and how did you decide that you wanted to become a Marine?
I decided I wanted to be a Marine after I graduated from High School.  It was 1976, the bicentennial of our country and I felt a need to serve.  My father had been drafted in the Army and I was born on an Army base.

When and how did you decide to make the USMC your career?
At first I wanted to just complete my enlistment and go back to Seattle where I grew up, but things always turn out different than you plan.  I made it through screening to go on Embassy Duty and was married in Manila back in 1982, and there were no jobs in the civilian sector, so my choice was to stay in the Marines.

How did you meet your wife?
One of the local Philippine Embassy guards introduced us and we decided to meet to see a movie.   We really hit it off and you couldn't keep us apart after we met.

How long did you serve?
I served in the Marines for twenty three years.

I see that you retired as a Master Sergeant.  What made you retire as an E-8 as opposed to staying in and retiring as an E-9?
You are never automatically promoted, and I was very happy to achieve the rank of Master Sergeant, which was not easy.  Only three percent of the total enlisted force is promoted to E-8 and because I had been on two special duties (one as an Embassy Guard and the second as a Drill Instructor) I was selected for promotion.  In the Marine Corps you have to demonstrate leadership and compete against your peers to be promoted.

Why did you choose to stay in for 23 years, as opposed to retiring at 20 years or staying for 30?
Staying in the service for 30 years is not automatic; you have to be an E-9 to stay in longer than 28 years and getting promoted is difficult especially when the service is downsizing, which always happens after a war.  I was happy with my decision to retire at 23 years; longer time in service gives greater benefits.

What were your various jobs as a Marine?
I had many different jobs in the Marine Corps.  My first job was as a Logistics clerk at 11th Marines Artillery Regiment. The duties of the Regimental Logistics clerk were typing official letters and standard operating procedures from the S-4 Officers, and also typing all of the forms to order Artillery Ordnance for training operations. I was lucky to serve with SgtMaj Crawford, who went on to become the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps.  Most of my duties were typing and filing official correspondence; and back in those days that was not with a computer but the good old fashion typewriter.  I was only at 11th Marines from July 7, 1978 to July 7, 1979 at Camp Pendleton Los Pulgas, which is right in the middle of the base.  I was promoted to Corporal meritoriously [t]here, mostly because SgtMaj Crawford found out I had been in a Drum and Bugle Corps when I was a civilian and during a three week training exercise in the desert at 29 Palms he handed me a bugle then told me to play reveille, morning colors, evening colors and taps. I must have done a good job because when the unit returned from the training exercise I was asked to play morning colors every Friday for a formal Regimental Colors ceremony.

I played trumpet and baritone in high school.  When I originally enlisted, I tried out for the Marine Corps band, on both instruments.  Each time, I failed the audition by one point.  After that, my recruiter wanted me to go open contract.  I said no, and chose Avionics.  In retrospect, I’m happy with that decision.  It laid the groundwork for where I am today.

SgtMaj Crawford told me he could arrange an audition for the band anytime, but I told him no thank you. I figured it is almost impossible to become famous and make a living as a trumpet player; my band teacher wanted me to try out of the Marine Corps band also.  Looking back I am happy I did not go into the band because they never had any personal time, because of many different requirements to perform at ceremonies, functions, retirements and special events. 

What was your assignment after leaving Camp Pendleton?
I went to Marine Security Guard duty after that and was in the last class before the Iranian students took over the Embassy in Iran.  My first country was Indonesia which is the world’s largest Muslim country and everyone there was a little nervous because of the events in Iran.  My second country was the Philippines. The Secretary of State Alexander Haig came to Manila, and Vice President Bush came for the inauguration of Marcos as president.

My next duty was at Marine Corps Air Station (Helicopter) Tustin, where I was assigned as the barracks manager for all of the enlisted barracks. I was assigned to the base S-4 office in March 1982, and at first worked at what was called the trouble desk where residents at the Base Housing would call if they needed maintenance (Plumber or Carpenter work). Next I was put in charge of all the barracks, which included being the responsible officer for an account over $100,000.00 for all of furniture.  I personally helped to replace this furniture in all of the different barracks around the base.  It was an unusual job because I had to order things like the Wind Socks on top of the Blimp Hangars.  I was promoted to Staff Sergeant at Tustin in 1983. 

I don’t think I ever mentioned this to you, but I was stationed at MCAS Tustin, from ’87 until ’92, with a couple of LONG deployments in between.  I LOVED that place.
I really loved that base also, one crazy fact when I was there I remember a 1stSgt from MAG-11 talking about Sgt Mckeel who was the only other Marine from 11th Marines to go to Embassy School with me.  He became a hostage in Iran and was there for 444 days. I told that 1stSgt I bet his is telling stories about a scar on his chest which happened on leave before Embassy School and sure enough later that day he came to see me at the S-4 Office.  This happened in 1982; but a sad fact Mckeel was discharged from the Marines (Alcohol problem). He found a job managing an Apartment complex and was robbed at gunpoint; he fought back and was shot to death.

I then received orders to the Drill Field at MCRD San Diego where I was a Drill Instructor at India Company 3rd Battalion for eight platoons, three as a Senior Drill Instructor.

Please share one or two of your most memorable stories as a Drill Instructor.
I think the one story that stands out in my mind [from] when I was a Drill Instructor was when I was a Junior Drill Instructor and it was February, when there was lots of rain at RFTD.  We were going to the machine-gun infiltration course, and the usually-dry stream bed was a full raging stream of water.  Since the recruits could get so much mud in their M16 rifle we had one brilliant Junior Drill Instructor who thought it would be a good idea to have his recruits wash the mud out of their rifles in this stream when they were fording it. This was not my platoon but another in the series. Well, as Murphy ’s Law would have it, two of the recruits from that platoon lost [their] grip [on] their weapon when trying to clean it in the fast moving water, and their weapons were lost. Since I was the most senior Junior Drill Instructor I was informed of this situation right away. Now I always take these things calmly because when you panic you only make mistakes.  After being told about the missing weapons I noticed that a Major from the Recruit Field Training Division headquarters was visiting the area, so I decided to wait before informing the Company Commander until this Major left the area. Once he had safely departed and was a long way away I went up to the Company Commander and informed him of the missing weapons.  He became extremely angry, because I am sure he thought his career was over right then and there. The next thing you know almost the whole company was up and down that stream about two hundred yards in each direction looking for those rifles.  It took about twenty minutes but those rifles were found under about four inches of sand right where they went into the stream. The Company Command went over to the Senior Drill Instructor who was in charge of that platoon and said in a voice loud enough for everyone to hear, “I want those two recruits punished every hour on the hour until they graduate.” Then he stormed off. That is one of the only times I ever saw the Company Commander completely lose control in front of the recruits.  You really can’t blame him because a lost weapon really would be the end of his career and probably the Drill Instructor’s career also.

Did the drill instructors follow through on the Commander’s order?
No they understood it was done in the heat of the moment.  This is also something that is addressed in the SOP, so they knew better. It really wasn’t a lawful order which is something else Marines have to be aware of at all times.

What are your thoughts of your time as a Drill Instructor?  About making Marines?
I do remember my tour of duty as a Drill Instructor well, and there were many ups and downs.  I have to say the school was the hardest thing I have done in my lifetime, as the school director was a Recon Major.  I saw many Drill Instructors get into trouble, and even one went to the Brig for taking money from recruits. I can remember my feet turning black from wearing the patent leather shoes on the Parade Deck and marching for hours.  We would all lose our voice and it would come back strong in a couple of days. Even as Drill Instructors we had to qualify on the range; I also remember being in an Inspector General’s inspection and they checked your service record to make sure you had the proper ribbons and badges. Sometimes we would have one week in between platoons and sometimes there wouldn’t even be two days. It was very hard and demanding duty but when you saw a platoon graduate and become Marines there was a lot of pride.  

How often did/do you hear from your recruits?
I only am in touch with about five of the Marines I trained.  A couple of them send updates to me on Facebook.  One of them sent me a long Thank you letter on the site Togetherweserved[.com], which was set up to help keep old military friends in touch and also make a historical record of your time in the service.

This is the end of Part I of the interview.  Click here for the second installment, which will discuss the latter part of his career.