WELCOME TO PARRIS ISLAND!
Back in 1775
My Marine Corps came alive.
First there came the color gold,
To show the world that we are bold.
Then there came the color red,
To show the world the blood we shed.
Then there came the color green,
To show the world that we are mean.
Then there came the color blue,
To show the world that we are true.
"Report to: Commanding General Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, SC." Why would the Commandant of the Marine Corps send an aviator captain to Parris Island? Where did I go wrong? I must have really pissed off a senior officer somewhere with some pull in Washington D.C. to get orders like this! I thought of the old Marine adage that went something like, "Ours is to do and die--not to reason why."
Dressed in class A uniform, spit-shined shoes, all new rank insignia, emblems and crotch keys, with a white-sidewalls haircut, I guided my pea green 57 Ford convertible through the gate, crossed the bridge and causeway onto the island and stopped in front of the big brick building with huge flag pole in front. Inside, the desk clerk stamped my orders with an endorsement to further report to the Recruit Training Regiment. I drove around the corner to the second largest building on the depot and checked in with the administration officer. Another rubber stamp endorsement and I was on my way to the Second Recruit Training Battalion. Upon checking in, the administrative officer quickly ushered me into an office where my new CO and XO eagerly waited to greet me. Both were big rough and tough Tankers whose boisterous vocabularies were overly laced with expletives. My firm handshake was crunched severely and my arm pumped like a jack handle. "You are now the Commanding Officer of "K" Company! Now, get your ass down to your company and start training recruits!" boomed the CO. "Aye, aye, Sir!" I responded, then stepped one pace to the rear, executed an about face and marched smartly out of the battalion headquarters.
Outside the battalion headquarters, I looked left and spotted splinterville, the name I dubbed K Company at first sight. The three barracks, each having two wings and four squad bays, looked like substandard housing when Washington crossed the Delaware. Each barracks housed a recruit series of four platoons of 86 recruits each. My headquarters was in the center barracks on the second deck. As I approached the first of the three barracks, I noticed a tall Marine wearing a Smoky Bear hat standing at parade rest at the property line. I could see three rockers on his staff NCO insignia and the crossed rifles confirmed him as a Master Gunnery Sergeant. When I was six paces away, he popped to attention and snapped a smart salute while saying, "Chief Drill Instructor, Master Gunnery Sergeant Nolan Henry, presents K Company to the Commanding Officer!" I saluted my CDI and stopped in front of the broad shouldered muscular giant of a man who weighed over 200 pounds. I extended my hand and said, "Call me Mofak. I'm glad to meet you Top Henry. How long have you been waiting out here for me?"
"About 20 minutes. Ever since the regimental sergeant major called and said they were sending you down to second battalion to take over K company." Henry continued with his pronounced Texas drawl. "The company officers are out with their series. Come on down to the office. I have a fresh pot of coffee made."
Without giving it any thought, I said, "No thanks. I never touch the nasty stuff." Top Henry's eyebrows raised slightly and his eyes rolled noticeably. Well maybe a cup of grunt black coffee once in a while might help my Marine image, I thought. Top Henry took me topside to my office which he shared with me at a desk opposite mine.
Henry gave me the good news, "224 series has grounds maintenance this week. The Battalion Commander will be by tomorrow at zero 9 hundred to conduct the buildings and grounds inspection. The regiment requires everything looking good for the visitors coming to the Friday recruit graduations. Does the Captain want me along?" "Yes." I said. " I don't even know my area of responsibility. Better show me on the wall map."
Top Henry and I were at the Company property line at 0845. In 15 minutes the sun had begun converting our highly polished shoes into overheated Hershey bars and flying jaws [sand fleas] were chowing down on our exposed flesh. Dog-pecker gnats were attacking all body orifices. "Here I stand with sweat running down the crack of my ass, no-see-em's eating me alive, while the Tank sits in his air conditioned office drinking coffee with his feet up on his desk laughing his balls off." I muttered.
The colonel popped out of his building and turned in our direction. I murmured "Ten Hut!" to Henry and loosed my stuck shoes from the asphalt. The Tank approached rapidly. A hulking brute, he tilted forward from the waist at a 45 degree angle which made him appear to be constantly rushing his feet to catch up with his body to keep from falling forward on his face. When he was six paces away, I saluted and said, "Good morning Sir, K company area ready for inspection, Sir." The Tank tossed his hand past his cap hap-hazardly and boomed, "Show me the Battalion Training Building!"
The modern training building appeared to be Tank's pride and joy. It was the newest building on the depot and K Company was responsible this week for the grounds surrounding the beautiful brick structure. Tank lurched past the neat rock garden, the flower beds beckoning blossoms, and the impeccable front entry as he zigzagged from wall to post to tree to fence in a ricochet fashion as his feet churned rapidly to keep up with his tilted torso. "Never mind that stuff. I want to see the back!" He bellowed.
Tank led the way around the corner where a high lattice fence surrounded a large air conditioning unit. "Aha!" Tank hollered as he scrambled into the enclosure like a Beagle after a rabbit. I whispered to Top Henry. "What's he up to now?"
"Who the hell policed up this area?" Tank thundered. Henry and I rushed into the enclosure behind Tank. I asked, "Is something wrong Sir?"
"You bet your ass something is wrong!" Tank's face was burgundy red and foam was forming at the corners of his mouth as he roared, "What is this, Elephant Walk? A damned African zoo?"
The source of Tank's rage was five unbelievably huge 'Baby Ruth' logs scattered about inside the enclosure. "Maybe the depot basketball team stopped by." I offered.
"Don't get smart with me! I want to know who did this!" Tank continued yelling, "If I find any more I'm gonna have your ass!"
It wasn't over. At the rear entrance to the Chapel lay two more giant turds the size of king-sized beer cans. Tank exploded, "Well kiss a fat lady's ass! That does it! You have had it! You flunked the gol-damn inspection! You better pass tomorrow's inspection or I'll personally run your ass off this depot!"
[Mike Canaday depicts Colonel Tank]
I had been CO of K Company for less than 24 hours and already the Battalion Commander was going to run me off the depot. "Yes Sir." I squeaked as I trotted along trying to keep up with the irate, leaning, long striding Tank. I stopped when we reached the property line and held an unreturned salute until Tank disappeared inside battalion headquarters 100 yards away.
Henry was waiting as I hurried up the stairs to our office. "Top, get the series officers up here right away. We have to solve this problem." I said. Henry passed the word to the three officers.
In five minutes the series commanders arrived. I said, "We have to discuss today's unsatisfactory inspection. I want to know who sabotaged K Company. Top Henry, what Company has guard duty this week? We can question the sentries on the training building posts. They should have noticed something or it could be those sentries doing the crapping."
Burl Terrill interrupted me, "Excuse me sir, but my series has had guard duty this week."
"Now we are getting somewhere. Let's bring the guards in for questioning." I instructed.
Henry was chuckling. I asked, "What the hell is so funny Top Henry?"
Henry answered, "Sir, the recruits in series 224 are completing their third week of training. Most recruits become constipated upon arrival at the depot and go a couple of weeks without a bowel movement. I think the sentries this week have been crapping on their posts to relieve acute constipation."
Several moments passed. The room was quiet except for my drumming fingers sounding like cavalry horses hooves clattering across the parade deck. I stood up. "This Company has trained it's last constipated recruit. BE NO is the rule! There will be no more random defecating in unauthorized places. Recruits will utilize the toilets in our heads for bowel movements!" I continued, "Burl, get your recruits and police up every turd out there. And, in the process, make damned sure this company passes the re-inspection tomorrow. Everyone get the word out to the DIs about the BE NO orders. Carry on!"
The officers filed out. Henry chuckled again. "I recommend we forget about our investigation results. If we tell the Battalion Commander the source of the turds, K Company will only get into deeper trouble."
"Top Henry." I said quietly, "I don't think we can stand any more attention. Not today, anyway."
Gunny Riley, Chief Drill Instructor Nolan Henry, 1/Lt Burl Terrill, Mofak and Tank at 224 Series Graduation
Back to Back We Face the Past.