First came the Inspector General’s (IG) inspection. IGs are the guys they send out from D.C. to see if you’ve complied with the accumulated tonnage of orders, regulations, requirements and general odiosity from the Corps. Usually IGs were bearable, since the inspectors knew they would eventually go back to the operating forces and didn’t want to annoy their once and future comrades too badly. In fact, I wouldn’t have worried at all, except that I’d recently disposed of several hundred classified documents by shredding, and had inadvertently shredded the destruct roster as well, and had no way of accounting for anything.
Fortunately, I did have my master sergeant, aka “Top,” a gent whom nothing had bothered since the Korean War, not even getting invited to those up close and personal “tactical” atom bomb tests of the 1950s nor two subsequent Vietnam tours.
Inspection day dawned with visions of Portsmouth dancing in my head. I sent my scuzziest lance corporal out with a six-by (truck, to you) full of unauthorized gear, with orders to drive around the base until the inspection was over. He returned two weeks later and, when asked about the truck, replied, “You mean I had a truck with me?” But that’s another tale.
The IG team”all friends of Top’s”skipped the crypto vault and headed straight for my field radios: the old AN/PRC-25 backpack variety. You see, the telephone-style handset had a couple connectors inside. Upon sufficient bouncing about, they’d come loose, touch, and short out. So the Corps had issued a technical instruction to epoxy the connectors in place. Unfortunately, there was no epoxy in the supply system, and no one was allowed to spend the 89 cents or whatever on their own. So the IG team set to unscrewing mouthpieces. If you hadn’t epoxied the connectors, they wanted to know why you’d violated the order. If you had, they wanted to know where you got the glue.
Top offered to explain it all to them over a liquid lunch at the staff club. Apparently, he did. And I was safe … until getting stuck at the VIP table at the Camp Pendleton Passover Seder.
Now, as you can imagine, Jewish Marines weren’t all that common back then. Originally I’d had no intention of making the Seder, but the base Jewish chaplain importuned, and I figured the Reb, as the other chaplains called him (not always respectfully), had enough tsuris without hosting yet another unattended gala. As it turned out, a couple dozen folks blew in, including the base commanding general and the First Marine Division commanding general, and their ladies … two couples with even less desire to be there than I.
A few minutes into the pre-meal rituals, I noticed that the generals and their ladies were imitating everything I was doing, liturgically meaningful or not. So I started making up traditions. They kept copying. Why, they asked, are we doing it this way and everybody else is doing something different? Oh, I assured them, that’s the Ashkenazic custom. We’re going Sephardic. Up at the officiating table, the Reb was turning colors, red to yellow to green, and back again.
We came to the commemoration of the Ten Plagues. Usually, you either dip your finger in your wine glass as each Plague is named or you spoon a bit of wine onto your plate. I started us on finger-dips for two Plagues, then shifted to spoons for two more, then had them banging spoons on plates for two Plagues after that. At this point, they noticed the Reb choking on Plague No. 7 and realized what was going on. Fortunately, generals can never admit they’ve been snookered by lieutenants. That, or they were at least as dinky dau … and/or far more gracious … than I.
Probably just as well that it ended when it did. I was getting ready to walk them around the table for Plagues No. 8 through 10.
Several weeks later, I did have people walking around a table.
Back then, there was racial tension. Lots of racial tension. So the Marine Corps decided that everyone should have Human Relations (HumRel) instruction, 20 hours worth, spread over five mornings. Unfortunately, I was hanging around the battery office, looking for my early-release papers, when the quota for a HumRel trainer came in. So they shipped me off to a weeklong instructors course. I graduated first in the class, having gotten a 98 on the true-false test, and they sent me back to teach the gun bunnies what was to become known as sensitivity.
We had a text. Actually, an “Our American Values” quasi comic book. In the 1960s, most basic manuals had gone comic book, including the M-16 rifle disassembly and maintenance guide (Chapter One: “How to Strip Your Sweet 16”), but that’s another story. First four sessions, we sat around a conference table and reacted to the drawings and balloons.
“What do you think, Private Smith?”
“What do you think, Corporal Jones?”
“Oh, I agree with Private Smith.”
Fridays were different. That’s when we discussed conditions at the local base, including self-segregation, interracial sex, dapping (elaborate black-power handshakes), et cetera. When we got to the dating stuff, the scrawniest brother at the table made a comment about white male sexual prowess, as explicit as it was uncomplimentary. The nearest Caucasian immediately reached over and began acquainting his head with the tabletop, and there ensued several minutes of mass violence and general bad manners.
Once was nasty enough. When it happened the second cycle, I figured there was a pattern emerging. So did my captain. So did my colonel. So did a general or two, who suggested via the chain of command that a bit more decorum, and no more incident reports that had to go to headquarters, might be nice. Especially if I wanted to avoid being held on active duty for the investigations, which might take forever. So Thursday evening before my final class, I called the area guard shack.
“This is Lieutenant Gold. I’ll be teaching sex education tomorrow and would like the reaction force standing by.”
Next morning, 20 or so Marines sat around the table, revving up. I announced the subject, then opened the door. In marched a dozen Marines in riot gear. They surrounded the table and made not a sound, save for a discreet tapping of their batons on the wall behind them.
We had a fascinating seminar, an open, genuine, and informative exchange of views. I subsequently spent 14 years as a college professor. Would that all my classes had been so … well received. L&P
Soldiers will learn how to wield a waffle iron as a weapon.
By As For Class
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army said today it would replace traditional combatives training with a new hand-to-hand combat program designed by Waffle House employees.
According to sources, top brass at the Pentagon have been impressed by the quick thinking and formidable fighting skills displayed by Waffle House staff during late-night brawls with inebriated patrons.
“These individuals have proven themselves to be experts in the field of close-quarters combat and we believe they have much to offer our troops,” said a Department of Defense spokesperson.
Under the new program, soldiers will learn vital hand-to-hand combat techniques such as “The Pancake Tuck and Roll,” “The Syrup Twister,” and the “Get THE f*&% Out of my Establishment” maneuver.
They will also be taught how to properly wield a waffle iron as a weapon and use syrup bottles as throwing projectiles.
Waffle House employees have recently become a hot commodity for military recruiters across the United States. Some have even been given waivers to enter as E4s so that they can fast-track into combative instructor positions.
“I never thought I’d be using my Waffle House experience in combat, but I’m ready to serve my country and flip some pancakes,” said one soldier directly recruited from a recent Waffle House position.
But not everyone is on board with the new training program. Critics argue that the skills taught by Waffle House employees are too dangerous for the modern battlefield.
“This is a ridiculous and dangerous idea,” said retired Gen. John Smoothwater. “Our soldiers need to be trained in real combat techniques, not how to flip a chair when it’s thrown at you. The odds of such an event even taking–oh, that really happened? And it happened in a Waffle House? Well. I’ll be damned.”
Others have raised concerns about the potential liability issues that may arise from soldiers using cast iron pans and Tabasco bottles as weapons of opportunity.
“If we teach them these things, it’s only a matter of time before these trade secrets enter the barracks–or worse, the civilian sector. Can you imagine Waffle House Dojos standing up in every major American city?” Trisha McZilla, a legal expert. “This is a recipe for disaster.”
Despite these criticisms, the Army is moving forward with the program since it will provide soldiers with the necessary skills to handle any situation, whether a battlefield or a Waffle House, the service said.
“The Army is confident that this new training program will give our troops the edge they need on the battlefield and ensure that the enemy never messes with our syrup again. We’re not just flipping waffles, we’re flipping the script on warfare,” said Marine Col. Porth Warker. “We’ll be the best-fed and best-trained military in the world. And let’s be real, there’s nothing more hostile than a Waffle House at 2am on a Saturday.”
Dispatcher: “Car 4 John 1”
“Car 4 John 1, go ahead.”
“4 John 1 take the suspicious odor at 321 Elm St. Reluctant complainant states there’s a foul odor coming from a large garbage can in front of the residence.”
“4 John 1, copy, enroute.”
What turns out to be a quiet fall evening was about to get interesting. The feeling in the pit of my stomach knows exactly what it is, so I properly prepare my rookie, telling him, “Yeah, fall weather has a funny effect on people. Makes them violent and prone to do things they normally wouldn’t,” as you let the words hang for a few minutes, for dramatic effect.
As I pull up, mumbling, “oh $hit, we’ve been here tons of times for domestics. The people living here are crazy as loons!” The nervous rookie looks at me, trying to gauge how he should respond, but I just keep staring straight ahead.
Street cops are exposed to all the nasty things occurring in society. Murders, suicides, fatal car collisions, and any other tragedy occurring. Someone needs to clean up these messes and document them so they can be followed up on to determine if a crime has been committed.
To deal with the stress, a weird sense of humor is quickly developed, with some describing it as slightly demented. This gallows humor helps keep the cops sane, minimizing stressful situations and allowing a professional demeanor while on scene. Once the scene is cleared, look out. You’ll hear salty, satiric humor for sure.
Cops are famous for this warped sense of humor, and the exposure to these events is responsible for it. Hey, if you can make light of a serious situation, it can’t be all bad, right? That’s the mentality behind the crass sense of humor.
Walking towards the address, we catch a whiff of something foul. Nothing smells worse than decomposing flesh. It has its own distinct odor. In really bad cases, the smell is absorbed in your uniform, lasting for hours. The culprit is sitting in front of the house — a large, black trash can.
Acting calm, cool and collected, I tell the rookie, “Okay, you need to open the lid and see what’s responsible for making this horrendous odor.”
As the rookie lifts the lid, the odor is magnified tenfold. The rookie starts dry heaving, trying not to puke in front of me, his FTO (field training officer). The rookie fails, heaving his previously eaten lunch.
“Look, we need to see what’s inside these garbage bags. Collect yourself and start pulling them out!” I tell him.
The rookie pulls out the first bag. It’s bulky and kinda heavy, but he manages to get it out of the garbage can. He looks up at me while bent over as I tell him, “Go ahead, open it up.”
With trepidation, my rookie unties the bag, and the worst smell on earth hits us like a wave of black death. After another round of puking, my rookie hits the contents with his flashlight.
“Oh my God,” he screams, “It’s a rib cage! And it’s covered in maggots!”
This is getting good.
“Okay, get another bag,” I tell him. The next bag isn’t as heavy but is still as smelly as the first.
“Looks like a leg,” he shockingly tells me.
“Keep going,” I say.
“Oh my God, the other leg, we need to call homicide!”
“Take a good look at those leg bones,” I tell him. “Notice anything unusual?”
The rookie scans his flashlight beam from the top of the leg to the bottom and freezes. Looking up at me, “Oh,” is all he says when he finally notices the deer hoof.
I explain its hunting season, and many hunters process their own game. We have a good chuckle over it. I tell him he needs to observe everything before jumping to conclusions. I also tell him the next time he gets a call like this, he still needs to check the contents because “You never know. The next time it just might be a dismembered human body.” He understands, and we clear the call as if nothing out of the ordinary has happened.
After roll call the next day, my Sgt. calls the rookie up in front of everyone and hands him a large yellow envelope, telling him, “You did good last night, so we’re giving you this kit. You’ll need it, as you’re now the new shift Suspicious Foul Odor Investigator.”
Inside the envelope is a surgical mask labeled ‘maggot mask,’ some rubber gloves, moist puke towelettes, and a small bottle of mouthwash, “something to freshen your breath, in case you toss your cookies again,” our Sgt. explains.
Everyone has a good laugh, including my rookie. It’s this kind of story and incident that forges the bond amongst cops. Those who have done it know and understand. Those who haven’t do not … and may be better off for it.