Thursday, March 29, 2007

Rendering Appropriate Honors

10. Salute all officers and all colors and standards not cased.

-from General Orders for a Sentry

On most Marine bases, the era of an actual bugler, standing in front of the flag pole and playing his little heart out, has long gone. Buglers are still used, but usually for more formal, solemn, or public relations related events. Now days you mights notice several large speakers that will play all of the calls. If you are in the right position, you might hear the recording turn on, and have a few seconds of heads up before the 'call to attention'. After call to attention, there are a few seconds, and then the call representing the appropriate honors will begin, i.e reveille, taps, etc as the flag is raised or lowered.

Now, Marine Corps bases are laid out for training, and not for acoustics. In some areas, you can actually hear quite a few different clusters of speakers all barking out the came call. Because of the differences in distances, what you actually hear is a jumbled mess. SOP in that situation is to just face the nearest flag, render a salute, wait for the end of the call(s), and go about your business.

One afternoon, the entire Battalion was at the staging area for the Battalion hump. I have a love-hate relationship with humps (forced marches), more hate than love, of course. The staging area was just behind some barracks, on a dirt trail that lead off into the hills, and it was where the Battalion would set up, make sure that all of the companies and platoons were in the right order, and the individual Marines would contemplate the pain that lay ahead. There was always pain. Perhaps not as much for the regular infantry guys, but when you are carrying crew-served weapons systems as well as your own full pack, there is always pain.

So the Battalion was all set up, everyone was accounted for, and we were just waiting for the Battalion Sgt. Major to give the order to 'get up and get your shit on', when behind the general background noise of Marines shooting the shit, you could hear the sounds of distant music.

Now this was kind of a dilemma. Normally, when one is in the field, either in training or in combat, there is no saluting. When you are in garrison, you always salute. As a Pvt. or Pfc. one useful phrase you learn is 'when in doubt, whip it out (the salute, not the 'little general'). Much better to say, salute what turns out to be a foreign military Sergeant and get a minor ass-chewing, than to not salute a Chief Warrant Officer and get the mother of all ass-reamings that gets into the Guinness Book of World Friggin Records.

As we were literally about twenty feet from the nearest building, and therefore 'garrison', one motivated knucklehead sounded off with "COLORS!!!", which is the standard alert for everyone else to stop what they are doing, face the flag or music, and give a salute. That is what the entire Battalion did. The shouts of "COLORS' traveled up the line, from one end of the formation to the other. Usually, you don't get into trouble for being motivated, but this was a little bit different. After about 5 or 10 seconds into the salute, we realized that; 1) Hmmm, the flag is not supposed to be lowered for about 45 minutes or so, and 2) isn't this the time that the roach coach (ice cream truck / mobile sandwich shop) usually makes his rounds? Sure as shit, if you listened closely, you could hear the strains of 'the entertainer', as played from the speakers on top of the taco truck.

About 700 sheepish Marines cut their salute and stepped off for the hump, eager to leave anyone who might have noticed us far behind us.

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