Wednesday, September 10, 2008

'When In Doubt, Whip It Out'

Like the title?

Cheeky monkey, it's not what you think.

What the phrase referred to (ok-ok, amongst other things, I admit), was the practice of saluting. All Marines learn very early in their careers that they will salute all Officers, it will look sharp, and they will not %~@# it up.

Like everything else in the military life, there's rules for everything, and we learned that it was always better to say, salute an Officer that was aways away and walking in another direction in the parking lot, rather than learn what his personal feelings on 'appropriate saluting distance' was. 'When in doubt, whip it out'.

If you even think you see an Officer decal on the windshield of a vehicle, whip it out (the salute, that is). Don't be the PFC I had to instruct after I had some Captain get about neck deep in my ass on account of the PFC being in lala land, or something. Also, don't assume that the sweet young thang behind the wheel isn't an Officer, 'cause they're making 'em younger every year...

When spending time on the occasional foreign base, better to incorrectly salute a foreign subsergente during a hastily thrown together flag detail than to pass some dude on a sidewalk, nod and say 'whassup, dude' to your Major's personal shower buddy, 'el comandante' (generally, never a good idea to piss of your Major, for whatever reason, fyi). This one wasn't really too much of a problem, due to the fact that enough of the Os hung out with the foreign Os to make things somewhat workable, but still - 'When in doubt...'

You get the idea.

Generally, like I mentioned before, the ground rules were clear enough not to cause too much of an issue. Don't salute anyone in the field, you can get away with a salute to darn near everybody in a ceremonial function, don't just think that 'always salute the guys with the shiny rank', because Chiefs can be notoriously... ornery. Courtesy is always good, and when in doubt...

Now that I got that covered, another example.

I had the occasion when I was a much, much younger Marine (read: boot Private) to attend a formal event on a local college campus. It was a memorial-type event, so I decided to wear my Dress Blues. After the event, I ran into a lady friend of mine, and as it was getting kind of late, offered to escort her to her car. Thought it might be the Gentlemanly Thing to do. To get to her vehicle we had to walk through a somewhat dimly lighted park, and as we were walking in one direction, there was another couple approaching us. I was able to make out that the male half of the duo was wearing the formal uniform of the campus' ROTC, but not too much else.

He performed a rather good salute, complete with the greeting of the evening, in my direction.

Yeah, he called me a 'Sir'. Nope, didn't get offended.

My first thought was that a sneaky Officer had somehow ninjaed his way behind me (some've been known to do that, on the rare occasion). Second thought that was when he didn't see any shoulder rank on my blues, he must've ASS-U-MEd that I was a boot-Lt., and not a boot-boot (a stretch, I know, but still). My third thought, and the one I went with, was just that it was dark, he could tell I was wearing some sort of military uniform, custom and courtesy might have had something to do with it and therefore, what else was I to do, but return the salute? I did leave off the 'carry on' part of the response, though.

I did get a chuckle out of the thought that in about a year, if I remember the cadet rank correctly, I would be obliged to salute the same guy, and call him 'Sir', to boot.


LT Nixon said...

The Marines on my base always salute me while I'm smoking (a practice not done in the Navy), so I always have to change my smoking hand, stand at attention, and return a salute. Haha, I think they just do it to mess with me, but it's all fun and games. I've saluted many a chief in my day, and once a civilian by accident, yeah...that was pretty dumb.

An enlisted man being called, sir?!? I'm surprised you didn't get offended. You're very kind. Best to "correct" these youngsters while they are young so that they don't grow up to be clueless officers with too much responsibility. But that's just my thoughts.

Bobby G. said...

Yeah, Sarge...NEVER salute in the field....that only makes target practice for the opposition easier!

(but he DID have his hand cocked at the proper "degree")

Ah, yes.


Abby said...

I remember being a Marine private out at Ft. Leonard Wood years ago. I think almost all of us saluted a specialist at one point or another because of that whole "salute anything shiny that's not an anchor" philosophy. Man, that was a shot right in the brand-new-Marine pride... :)

Old NFO said...

And you wonder why I went in the Navy? :-)

Never could salute worth a crap...