Chapter 12: The Making of a Sergeant
I no longer fraternized with my men—if I might even call them that. They belonged to Watson now. In a way I felt like a jealous lover, felt a rage of hurt and rejection mingled with the fire of young Marine Corps pride. I was an NCO, which meant I deserved the respect of my rank. Nevertheless, I said and did nothing for the next several days. Part of the description of our new mandate was to bring in every crate, every piece of equipment –some of which had been rotting in outside storage compounds for the last ten years. To unpack these crates and bring in the contents was now part of our new routine. Each morning I issued orders to bring in the contents of numbered crates. The idea was to average seven a day, which meant that in less than twelve weeks we would have unpacked and inventoried all the staged gear going back ten years. Stage one of the operation would be done. Not even the books revealed the content of some of these banded rotted sealed boxes; and there were many entry errors. For example, crate number 130 might show camouflage gear, but in reality contained magazine clips and bayonets. Once we found cases of live munitions, an inventory strictly belonging to the armory. They were less than happy to come and pick it up. No one wanted more inventory.
Each day, these men refused even to look at the additional paperwork, doing only what was necessary. I complained to Gunny Corell, but his response to me was "you are the Supply Sergeant—Marine! It's your job to get the job done."
I decided that the best way to impress these men was by example. Each morning I gathered the requisitions for that day, ensuring proper inventory and staging. Then I began the grueling task of breaking open one of the stacked crates sealed and numbered starting with number 485. Of course, the RTF would have made this much easier. Using a RTV mule instead (a small flatbed Rough Terrain Vehicle), I then began the long task of transporting the stale contents to the warehouse loading dock. It took me all afternoon just to empty the inventory of only one crate. This was not even half the job. Once everything transferred, began the tedious work of inspection and re-inventory of each piece of equipment and placing it into temporary storage.
By the end of the sixth day, I was exhausted. So far I had encountered rats, snakes, and host of poisonous spiders and bugs. The incessant rain changed to sweltering heat, announcing the abrupt end of monsoon. I was a sight, dripping with sweat and blood, like a dirty animal that had crawled out of a sewer. To make things worse, we only had access to a bath once a week because of a shortage of good water; and even what we drank was rust-colored with iodine. Better that than the alternative. I was always the first to arrive at the warehouse, and the last to leave. Sometimes I worked late into the night, skipping chow, eating C-Rations instead. By now, I realized that my example had become a source of humor to my men. They snickered to each other making jokes at my expense. I could see in their eyes that they thought me a fool, and the humiliation continued to build inside of me like a gigantic balloon. One night at around 2200, Gunny Corell came into the warehouse bay and called me into his office. This had been one of the hardest days yet. Nor had I eaten anything since that morning. Gunny knew I was near the breaking point.
"What in hell is going on, Corporal?" He demanded across the void of his desk. "Why aren't your men out there helping you?"
I proceeded to try explaining my situation. I told him that they refused to obey even the simplest command, and that I was at a loss as to what to do. He then interrupted me, his eyes narrowing to javelins of disgust.
"We have a deadline, Marine. HQ has scheduled Second Battalion to disembark on an LP10 less than mine months from now. We will be ready! I need every man to do his job. If you can't make these men work, then I will find someone who can! And you'll find yourself back out in the field –is that understood?"
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Distance Traveled: A Chronicle in TimeNon-Fiction
This is an autobiographical novel beginning in a small town in old south America. It records the life of a young man growing up in the shadow of the escalating Viet Nam war and eventually joining the United States Marine Corps to become a part of t...