The tale of my adventures in the Marines
|Word count 1950
Hi there. I am Corporal Thomas Manning. I and my brother, Brett, both enlisted in the USMC on the same day. When we arrived at MCRD in San Diego, California from the same airplane and the same bus, our fate was sealed. The newbie Drill Instructor, Howard Thompson, took great delight in making both me and my brother, Brett, suffer the same indignation.
Since my story is more about Brett than me, let me describe him for you. He is six feet, two inches in height. He has dark brown, almost black hair, or in his current case, bald with black stubble. He has brown eyes that make you think he is smarter than he looks. This is misleading, he really isn't that smart. In fact I felt he should get Dummy of the Year award, especially for dragging us both down here to be treated like we were less than pond scum.
Our real misadventures started to really take on life when the First Marine Recruit Training Battalion, Second Division, Able Company picked up both of us to fill in their seventy men recruit training company. We both think, "Wow. The first night we actually can get a decent night’s sleep." We actually did sleep, until the five o'clock wake up call. Now, I understand the Army plays reveille for their early morning wake up. The Marines play kick the trash can. They kick it hard so it's very loud, and they keep kicking it until every recruit jumps out of bed and stands at attention.
The fun begins with "early morning jerks" as Drill Instructor Williams always said. He took a liking to Brett the very first day. The DI, as we like to call them, came up to Brett standing in his underwear and shivering. The DI yelled out, "Manning! Bends and thrusts forever! Ready! Exercise!" That meant both of us since he didn't specify which Manning. It turns out we were not the only Manning in that platoon.
The exercise of bends and thrusts is what coaches call an eight count push up. You start at a standing position. Then squat down like you are going to do a duck walk. Then you thrust out your legs and get into a push-up position. You do one correct push-up. Then get back into a squat and stand up. That counts as one. Now you get to do it again, forever. We all did twenty of them, the DI yelled at us to stop and stand at attention.
The good news was Brett wasn't shivering anymore. The bad news was he had worked up a terrible odor, and I was hoping they would release us to go shower and shave. It wasn't until the DI got a whiff of Brett that we got released to go clean up, and clean up our barracks. I didn't find out until later that DI Williams had given him a special soap to use so his perspiration would never embarrass him again. It seemed every time we turned around either DI Williams or DI Jones was giving us extra PT. PT means physical training. The marines believe if you are bad, they are going to make you strong and bad.
The interesting thing was we no longer feared the Drill Instructors. The punishment got to be so easy, it started to be funny. None of the rest of the guys could keep up with us now. It got to the point that they were spending more time exercising and we got to watch instead. When we did group punishment it no longer killed us. Instead we just went along with them because we could actually rest while the rest of the platoon groaned in agony.
Boot Camp, as the DI called it, was getting to be more and more interesting. Now that everyone could knock out twenty-five push-ups or bends and thrusts, Brett and I could run three miles under fifteen minutes. This put us in a different running bracket all together. Brett loved to run. He once told me it was the only time he had to himself without some DI yelling at him.
We both progressed since I was going to be a recon ranger and he was going to be an instrument tech. We still had a few schools together, like Sea school and Flight school. I think I will tell you about flight school first. Brett has this uncontrollable fear of heights. He doesn't like to get close to edges with over ten foot drops. He beat the living dog snot out of a bully who tried to push him into the canal with a steep embankment. He explained it to me, he was either going to win that fight or lose it badly. But he was not going over that edge. In the end the bully jumped just to get Brett off him.
I knew getting him up into the training tower for parachute jumping was going to be extremely funny. I pulled some strings so my group was there to watch the event. We got to practice our jumps after his group. We had running bets on whether he makes it to the top, whether or not he jumps, and the best bet was if he takes out any of the Drill Instructors in the process. A lot of people had it in for these specific instructors. They had bad reps with all the students.
Finally, the big event was in the making. Brett was inline and building up his courage to climb the ladder going up. I have to give him credit. From the looks on his face he was going to do it. The big bully, Christenson, started in on him; taunting him, calling him out, and yelling at him for being such a coward. The betting started up again that Brett takes out Christenson. I knew he wouldn't do it. No one wants office hours for hitting a superior officer. I place the largest bet saying he wouldn't.
Brett started up that ladder and was doing fine as long as Christenson kept taunting him from up above. Some newbie officer decided to join in. When Brett looked down at the other officer, he froze. You could see him, physically making hand grips into that metal pipe, they were using for a safety railing. Christenson came down that ladder, part way towards Brett, calling him everything but a white man. Two sets of MPs came up, and one set offered the other officer a ride out of here.
As one of the MPs started up the ladder, Christenson told Brett the MP was coming up. He did it to keep from scaring him more. Christenson told Brett not to look down and to keep his mind on thinking of ways to get revenge. As soon as Brett got up there it was going to be revenge time. Christenson got his attention again, and Brett tried to break lose. But his hands were glued to the railing. Christenson kept yelling at him. While the MP pried his fingers loose, and kept him from falling at the same time.
Once he got the use of his hands back he went after blood. The MP followed him up. We couldn't see much of the action in the top of the tower. It looked like Brett, Christenson, and the MP was fighting, and Brett fell out. I later got the rest of the story from Brett. He told me that once he got up there. They quickly hooked him up, and walked him backwards off the platform. He told me that he had paid Christenson to distract him. Just so I could win the bet that he would jump off. We both had a good laugh over that one.
The best story was how my brother got fifty cal certified. The unofficial way was to bring two duffel bags full of beer, steaks, and candy bars. Brett was having a hard time qualifying so one of the pilots took pity on him and offered him the deal. He decided, "Why not? Nothing else has worked." That weekend he brought three duffel bags with him, and I was stuck helping him carry the load. That third one was super heavy. Come to find out they don't allow ice coolers on board military air craft. The third duffel was full of ice and beer. We got them on board the helicopter and strapped them down while one of the crew handed me a helmet with a mike. He also handed one to Brett and strapped him in the gunner’s chair. The crewman grabbed me and two other crew members, and had us strap in on Brett's side of the helicopter.
I found out why he did that, once we hit the target range. There are three tests he has to perform for qualification. The hill side strafes. The field targets, and the motion targets. When we started in on the strafing run, this crazy pilot tilted the helicopter to lean on Brett's side. It looked like he was hanging on to the gun mount for dear old life. It actual felt like we were flying sideways. From where I was sitting at the edge closest to Brett. He was sitting outside the crew compartment on the gun mount. I had an excellent view of him. I got one of the best laughs I have ever had. He was so afraid it looked he had glued himself to that gun mount and every strap was straining to keep him in and his eyes shut tight. I figured we would be doing this again.
I heard in the headset for Brett to point the gun forward. He had trouble doing it at that angle, but he did it. Next, that pilot told him to pull the trigger which he did. It looked like he just closed his eyes and prayed that it would soon be over.
The pilot kept us moving and dancing around until the gun ran out of ammo. He brought the helicopter back to level. The two crew men unstrapped ran up, reloaded the gun, ran back, strapped themselves back in and told the pilot we were ready. We tilted, and off we went again with Brett praying and firing. The pilot straightened out the helicopter. He flew right up to the mountain side targets off to a side while he just hovered there and told Brett to spray the targets and empty the gun doing it. He did it. I found it interesting how he swiveled that gun all around just by leaning into a side or the other side until it clicked empty.
The pilot took off heading for the national forest. We were now hovering over one of the high mountain lakes. The flight crew broke out the fishing gear, unstrapped Brett, and we all started fishing from a hovering helicopter. It was pretty funny. The interesting thing about fishing from a helicopter is it hovers higher above the water, and you use a lot more fishing line than you would from a boat. Plus it is just like trolling from a boat. Only from the air you can actually see the fish pretty easy to direct your line. How could a game warden catch us? After we caught a few trout from the lake. We found a good looking beach and parked the helicopter. We broke out the beer in ice from the third duffel bag. The other two held steaks and eating condiments. We dug out the charcoal roasted the the fish and steaks.
A game warden stopped by to check out the camp fire, the pilot waved to him to come on down. He snagged a beer and a steak and joined in the party. It was there I learned active military don't need a fishing license. The game warden was just lonely from doing his fire watch, so he decided to join us. I mean, after all, who was going to mess with an armed helicopter full of marines? I found out later Brett passed the fifty cal test with sharp shooter. He only missed three targets. But we all know the pilot only missed three targets.