I have no idea what the Marines that have finished boot camp get for individual combat training get today all I know was what it was like in 1956. They loaded us on to a convoy of Navy buses at the San Deigo Recruit Depot and shipped us off to Camp Pendelton in California. There we were kept in our original platoons but grouped with three others. We went from a individual platoon of 76 to a company strength unit of over 280. Then we were shuffled around to break up the boot camp group to new groups. We received our helmets and web gear and some new additional clothing such as Field jackets and ponchos and shelter half’s and such. Hell started the next morning at 5:30 AM. We quickly learned that our constant companion in addition to our rifle would be full Field packs and helmet. cartridge belts and all the gear thereon. We even had a cute little shovel that went everywhere we did.
We went to classes all day long in company formation. It seemed The distance from one class to the next was planned to be as far apart as possible. If the first class was on the right of the camp the next was on the left extreme, then the next was back on the right. Of course this was to get us into the best shape possible. Often classes were held late at night with marching in the dark in rough in rough terrain. We learned map and compass reading a subject I always excelled in even in high school ROTC. I was what was called rifle man in the fist fire team in our squad and was always on point in squad maneuvers. When it came to map use the squad leader had no clue and I always had the map and compass and in platoon maneuvers I was in the lead. I often wondered how those guys made out after training was over and we all split up.
The real fun part was in combat training in groups was always held out side of the camp proper. and Most were on the sides of the surrounding small mountains. I remember when we first arrived we were looking up the side of one near the camp and we could see these little ants scampering around up there. Little did we know that two days later we would be climbing up there. It was known as the shelf. I have no idea how high up it was but I know your legs were burning by the time the level area was reached. On one occasion we were climbing and the Sargent called to one of my buddies “Riley where the hell is your helmet?” Every one looked of course, Riley had his helmet liner on but his helmet was bouncing down the mountain side. Guess who had to climb all the way to the bottom and climb back up again.
We learned every thing in ICT, climbing up and down cargo nets, combat formations, finding our way by map and compass. cover and concelment, anything they could teach us to help us to stay alive in hostil areas. Advanced first aid, introduction to booby traps and explosives. Manuvering with tanks andprotecting armor.
This is where we got our first taste of crawling under machine gun fire under barbwire with explosive charges going off around us . Believe me you can hugh the ground with live …….30 cal bullets flying over your but 36′ of the ground. I remember standing in a 3 foot hole watching a tank bear down on me and ducking into the hole as it passed over me. We had six weeks of this training then they shipped us out to our duty stations and considered us Marines. Of course when we reached our new billets we were still considered boots by the older guys. We remained boots until some one junior came along. Of course the older guys who had seen combat on WWII and Korea always looked down on us.
I have mentioned the four older seargents who had been in the Calrson Raiders, a litttle on them.
Sargent Jennsen. Buck Sargent-courpal off and on all the time. A good guy just a little messed up. Existed on Vodka, owned a bar somewhere back east and his father ran it for him. Said half the music on the jute box was Japanese and the rest was country. He often had duty NCO of the day and was responsible for reveille when on duty. He would come in with a little 45 rpm record player and plug it in in side the door and play this damn Jap song that sounded like I Ain’t Got No Yo-Yo, God did we get to hate that damn thing. We were a small arms repair unit, when we went on field problems he would hide his bottles in the shop trucks. And carry two canteens of the stuff on his garrison belt. He walked on his toes his heels seldom touched the ground. He bobbed like a duck when we marched, no one remanded him. He had several photo albums in his locker, when he would get drunk and in a friendly mood he would show some of us younger guys pictures. I remember one grisly one of him standing with two Japanese heads by the hair. I wonder if he ever returned home to take over his bar? He was still in when I left.
Technical Sargent Cross, Tall skinny,Cavendish looking. Always drunk just wandered around the shop never saw him do anything or have any responsibility’s of any kind. Never really saw him talk to anyone come to think of it. We had what is called a Inspecting Generals Inspection every year. You laid all of your clothing out on your bunk in a prescribed manner and he passed through and looked at it. didn’t inspect a damn thing just some General that got stuck with a shit detail, but was a pain in the butt for us. In the NCO quarters where the unmarried Sargent’s lived they walked in to Sgt.s Cross’s room. He was standing there at attention in his skives (underwear and everything just dumped on his bed. The Major introduced the General to Sgt. Cross and explained he was a former Carlson”s Raider. The Gen. shook his hand and left with out comment.
Master Sgt. Black maybe five-eight broad as a barn with arms like thigh’s. A power-full stump of a human being. Was a truly good guy buy commanded and got respect. Drank beer but not a drunk or messed up. really liked by all the guys. would take favorites home with him and drink beer with them. Had a nice wife and a gang of kids. Rumour was he killed a guy in a bar fight in Japan with one blow of one those massive fists. When we would take hikes ten mile variety. He would throw his pack on the back of the Corpsmans jeep and soon after he would join his pack. I forget the other Sgt.’s name who always joined him.
I forget the other Sgt.’s name who was a raider he was a snot and had severed time with the 5th Marines in Korea. He thought that made him a elitist. No one really liked him and avoided him if they could.
On one even officer ever messed with these old guys. Like I said before I guess the Corps thought this was a safe billet for them to earn their retirement.
Well That’s about all for now. Some other time maybe 30 days at Twenty Nine Palms on maneuvers with the First Marines and a Tank and Armored Tracked Personal Carrier Battalion. Romance in the desert? maybe and a quick look at life on a Navy Transport Ship, with a fouled up landing. So long for now rambliingbob