Thursday, May 1, 2008

"Corporal... uh, excuse me, Corporal?"

[tap, tap.... tap] *groan*

I cracked open one eye to see who was disturbing my desperately needed beauty sleep. I knew it wasn't a senior NCO, 'cause he would have just kicked me in the butt. Another Corporal probably would have tried to steal something from my pack. That only left someone of the rank of...

...brand spanking new Pfc. Fng Gai was standing there, shuffling his feet in the cool of the morning. "Sorry to wake you up, Corporal, but Corporal of the Guard needs to know who has the keys to the Hummer. Seems like Staff Sergeant Chow needs to go back to the rear for something or the other-"

I cut him off. "What time is it, and who's the Corporal of the Guard?" The name he told me made sense. It was the Corporal who always took lead in screwing with the new guys, hence the search for the non-existent set of keys for the switch-activated Hummer. Poor bastards had been searching for keys, grid squares, batteries for the cat eyes, and all kinds of other trash for the past 3 or 4 days. I played along, reached into my trouser' cargo pocket, rummaged around, and came up empty (surprise). "No Joy, Pfc. Go check with Corporal Grumpy". He responded with a sharp "Aye aye, Corporal." and took off.

It's the simple pleasures in life.

At least I knew that we'd be getting some hot chow that morning.

See, I don't really remember what Staff Sergeant Chow did, and I probably didn't know back then. Seems he was always off doing his own thing, and one of those things was chow. Hot chow, to be exact. There was only so many days that one could choke down the same old MREs day after day, and it got to the point where even the re-heated chow hall grub was nearly 4 star dining. If he was going back to the rear, that meant I could avoid another morning of potatoes all rotten, crapolaya, or four fingers of death MREs.

As it was about time for reveille, I reached over and swatted the nearest sleeping bag. "Get up, you lazy bastards, it's another beautiful day in... aw hell, get up."

I heard something that sounded suspiciously like, "five more minutes, Mom".

Threats of me emptying my bladder, and not in the area across the road to the rear of the mortar gun line did the trick, as I knew it would.

As my grumpy charges were getting themselves situated, I decided to see if I could get any scoop for the coming days. "After you get yourselves squared away, check the 81mm, and stand by to stand by. Probably have some classes for the boots, maybe some hot chow, I'll see if I can figure out anything else."

That was pretty much it, essentially.

See, that shoot was the 'breaking in' live fire exercise for the new Pvts. and Pfcs. We'd usually get a bunch at a time, distribute them amongst the gun line, and the first trip out to the field would be somewhat slower paced, to get them acclimated to our way of doing things. Slow and easy shooting, a few classes, maybe a little bit of initiatory exercises, and we'd call it a wrap.

And that's how the next couple of hours of the morning went, until the call came out for hot chow.

In the spirit and tradition of troop welfare, the determining factor of when you got to eat was decided by your rank. Lance Corporals and a few Corporals would stay on the guns, and all Privates and then Privates First Class would go get their chow. The first to finish would go relieve the Marines at the guns or trucks, and the Lance Corporals would line up for their grub. Further line placement was determined by who was senior to junior Marines of the same rank, and who had the higher billet. Even amongst the lower ranks, you took care of 'your' Marines, and hoped that they'd take care of you, when the time came.

When I got up to the folding tables, I noted that most of the higher ranking enlisted guys from the platoon were serving up the grub. This was to ensure that all of the lower ranks got their food in somewhat of a decent time & order, and also that there would be food left over for them to eat. The food was in bins suspended over slightly larger bins of hot water, spoon or ladle in the food tray, and additional food bins stacked up behind each table, to replace empties.

I grabbed a tray and stepped in front of the Staff Sergeant. He plopped some food in front of me, and glared. "Was it you that sent that numb-nuts to ask me about the friggin' keys?" I responded that it was most certainly not. He grunted as I side stepped to the next bin. Staff-Sergeant Chow was in a considerably better mood, probably because he had gotten his morning coffee. Nearing the end of the chow line, I noticed that there wasn't any more coffee left (suspicious, eh, Staff Sergeant?) and that there was the new Sergeant, hanging out at the end of the serving line.

He was new to the platoon, but seemed to be getting along pretty good. Good sense of humor, knew his stuff, and most expected him to be a good fit in time. I had only spoken with him a couple of times, an intro, a couple of 'what's ups, and the like. I got my scoop of fruit, stepped in front of him and we exchanged head-nods.

He had a tray, half full of hash browns, in his hands, a spoon sticking up from the high part of the mound.

Looking back, one could see that the hash browns were the second item in the line, and it was in a bin. Looking back to the Sergeant, I shrugged, grabbed hold of the spoon, and got a big scoop.

"Dude, what the fuck, Corporal?!"


"Uh, er, sorry, I guess. What's up, Sergeant?"

He told me that he was standing at the end of the line, not to give out food, but to take food, if the Marines were willing to give any up.

As I was not aware of any particular reason we'd be giving any of our food up, I asked him.

He told me he was Muslim.

I was about to respond with 'and...' when I took another look around. His tray had hash browns, mine had hash browns, eggs (with little bacon bits), an assortment of sausage links, and some sort of white rice & green beans / bacon mixture.


"You like hash browns with salt and spicy goop all over 'em, Sergeant?"

"I do if your willing to give 'em up, Corporal."


1 comment:

Larry said...

We had one kid running all over looking for the keys to the airplane. He came back with a set of keys and handed them up to the Skipper, who was pretty sharp and figured out right away what we were doing.
He fussed around the cockpit for a few moments, tossed the keys back down and said "Wrong keys!"
The kid ran back in to get the right ones, and when he got back the Skipper was taxiing away.
When he asked how the plane got started we told him the Skipper hot-wired it.
That worked right up until he got his cockpit fam by the seat guys...who told him what an idiot he was (in more colorful terms).