Comment by Gregory T. Nelis on Tuesday
I enlisted in the Marines on my twenty-fourth birthday, Mar. 19, 1971. After reporting to MCRD, San Diego, it was a typical ordeal. arriving at midnight the DI's shaved our heads, moles and all. Once out of receiving barracks and into the Quanset Huts we thought the troop handlers were the high authority, but in truth, as we learned later they were nothing more than Marines just graduated from boot camp on temporary duty while awaiting orders. He ordered us around like he was the Comandant, and we jumped, so as not to become the focus of his wrath.
On the afternoon of the first day in the Huts we were called out to take showers, bringing only our towel, shower shoes and shaving gear. There was a larger wood frame building at the end of the row of huts. It was designed in two rooms, one with showers and one with sinks and mirrors. It would accommodate a Company of men if half showered while the others shaved. Our Company was about Seventy men.
This troop handler must have had a really hard time in boot camp because he was out to teach us a lesson. When we reached the shower bldg. he ordered us to leave everything in the sink area and get into the shower room, all seventy of us, buck naked, in a room the size of an average living room.
There we were, shoulder to shoulder, when he ordered, "Now get into the push-up position"
There was no room so some were on the floor and others were trying to get their feet and hands between them so as to support their weight enough so as not to lay directly on the guy on the bottom. I was slower so I was one on top. One might consider that the better position of the two but then as we were, struggling, grunting and groaning we were ordered to "Reach up and turn on the Cold water taps". Unfortunately most could not see which faucets were cold or hot. Consequently most reached up and turned on the hot, and it was scalding hot. Everyone jumped up made a bee line for the door, the hell with shaving, we made it back the hut and never saw that troop handler again. Nobody complained to any one but each other, until later in training when we found out that whole deal was wrong. One of the guys wrote his Mom about it and she contacted her Congressman, and he contacted the Base CO. by then they had no way to trace who that Troop Handler was, he shipped out, to Vietnam, I hope.
After we got our DI's and started regular training days, we would run a lot. A half mile before breakfast, daily, then Three miles every other day. After a while my knees would swell up and become painful after a run. The DIs would check it out at nightly inspection. My knees would swell up like softballs by the end of the day. They would send me to Sick-Bay first thing in the morning, and the swelling would be gone overnight. So they sent me to Medical Reabilitation Platoon, no training days but light duty to recover. a week later back to training. Guess what the same thing happened again. After one more week of light duty, I felt it wasn't enough. So they said I was Malingering and put me into Motavational Platoon, I was in there so long I got the routine figured out. I was passing all the inspections, doing the runs, in pain, doing all the required sand and bucket drills. They asked me if I wanted out and I said yes. they asked why I said because nobody will believe me when I am hurting.
So they shipped me off to Transit Co. to process me out. I saw the Shrink and looked at the Ink splotches and told him they looked like ink splotches. Then another week standing around this yard outside the Co. offices in the hot sun. Every so often The Sgt. would emerge and put us at attention for a half hour off and on. I had some Rosary Beads that were issued to us, along with a pocket size New Testament. They came in handy to pass the time, I put the beads in the palm of my hand and while at attention I would pray the Rosary. Sometimes they would ask for volunteers for phone duty or as a runner. After a week of planning to see my wife and kids in a few days, they called me where I was on phone duty and told me to "Go there, my papers came thru". I ran all the way there with my duffel bag full of all my gear, Pain and all. When I arrived I was Standing tall in front of the Sgt's desk, they called him The Hammer because he got busted from a DI for mistreating recruits.
Thinking I'm on my way home. He looks at the papers and then looks up at me and said " Your going back to full duty". If looks could kill, I had daggers coming out of my eyes. He said "Don't look at me like that, your going to a new platoon, your going to graduate, and then you will want to come back and buy me a beer, to thank me".
I had gone thru sixteen training days and was starting all over at T-1. Fortunately my prayers were answered. My Platoon Commander from my very first Platoon had to take funeral leave and was reassigned to this platoon also, SSgt. Thompson. I was not alone he believed me, when I was hurting bad he would cut me some slack, but only just enough, I still had to work painfully hard. I passed the PFT by the skin of my teeth but I Passed and graduated. You know Sgt. Hammer was right. The thought crossed my mind and right out the other side.
I was in The Second Marine Air Wing at Cherry Point, NC. Aviation Ground Support Elect.
Greg, welcome aboard...Jeff, Semper Fi,1969