Do you know what a Chaser in the Marine Corps?

For those of you who are not sure, no I’m not asking about what you call
the second drink you take after a shot. Let me relate a couple of examples of
what a chaser is or does:

1) It was during staging for Vietnam in 1969, we were on the firing range
with these new weapons, the M-16. For those of us, that humped the M-14, this seems like a joke and a few protest about having to fool with these things. Anyways, one of the guys must have gotten into some real trouble with the Range NCOIC because I was called out of line and ordered to stand watch over this Marine. The Range NCOIC used the term Chaser and because of the question on my face, he explained what I was supposed to do. I’m grunt—I mean, after all, my MOS was 0341 that had to mean something special. Sorry—let me get back on track. It was told to me that I was to stay with this Marine and not let him leave the area and to chase after him if he attempted to run. I ask what happens if he can run faster than me. The Range NCO stated that I would take his place—that was not going to happen! I followed my orders and turn this guy over to the MPs when they showed up. I was glad to be done with that duty.
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> 2) I’m in VN with Golf 2/5 minding my own business and trying not to
volunteer (which is how I got to Vietnam in the first place). The company gunny told me to report to Bn.HQ back in AnHoa. It was once again explained to me that I was to be a Chaser for a Marine who had been charged with using drugs. I was ordered to take him to DaNang for a Court Martial Division. By the way, I was not provided with transportation. We manage to catch a couple of choppers and a truck Division. The man was in full compliance with my efforts to get him to DaNang but then again I was carrying an M-16 and a .45—no way was I going to run after him. On the way back, I found us a place to spend the night and some chow and a ride all the way back to AnHoa. The (now) PVT. went back to his company and I went back to the brush. I thought this job would never get done.
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> 3) I got hit in Vietnam and sent to the Naval Hospital in Flushing, an area
in New York City. Once I was able to get around, I was assigned to the Marine Liaison Office at the hospital I would go on to the wards in order to deal with anything the Marines needed or wanted to be done (usually personal gear and calls home). The S/Sgt called me in one day and explain that a Marine who walked away from his unit in Vietnam had managed to get back to the states because he needed medical treatment. He also needed to be taken to Brooklyn Naval Yard for processing. At this point, I started wondering if there was something in my personnel file about my various experiences as a Chaser. I was issued a .45 (I really like that weapon) and instructed not to let anyone question this Marine or get near him. I think it goes without saying that I had no problem with these orders—we all lost friends and/or did our jobs in Vietnam. This coward was not going to have it easy. We sat in the last seats with me on the outside of him and no one got near us. Once we got to the Marine Barracks at the Naval Yard, a 2nd.Lt. was going through this guy’s file and stated that he had 30 days leave coming to him and would he like to take it today. WHAT!! I’m serious. This Lt. gave him leave even thou I explain what my orders were and why. My friends, I’m not BSing you at all. It has since dawn on me that maybe this Marine was a “spook” instead of what I was told. I met one when my unit was at Liberty Bridge; so I know they were there. Anyways, time passes and I’m on leave back home watching the news—we often got news from NYC. It was reported that a Marine deserter was being taken back to the Naval Yard from the hospital when he manages to get away from his guard (chaser) while crossing one of the bridges in the city.

I don’t know about all of this but these are true stories—I kid you not….
Once I got discharged from Marines after ten years of service, I went to college earning two BAs and an MA degree and worked/retired as an Intensive Probation/Parole Officer. I guess you would say the experience of being a Chaser in the Marines paid off for me. It still seems kind of crazy to me—why me?

Sgt Grit wants to hear from you! Leave your comments below or Submit your own Story !

29 thoughts on “Do you know what a Chaser in the Marine Corps?”

  1. Yup, I know because I was one once. When I cane back from 12th Marines and Asia (VN, Okinawa, Japan, Taiwan) I arrived back unexpectedly…a group of us was given the chance to catch a plane back heading back to McGuire AFB in NJ. When we got there the AF didn’t know what to do with a dozen Marines in their midst…so they drove us up Port Authority in NYC and told us us-none of us were above E4 so the AF must have assumed we couldn’t figure out what to do on our own-and told us to contact the Brooklyn Navy Yard at 0730….we had arrived at McGuire at 0130. At any rate we got to the Navy yard around 1000…they gave us the day to rest in some empty squad bay and then the next day the started to figure out what to do with us. They obviously had to contact headquarters CMC in DC. The whole process took around a week as I recall. I eventually ended up at Quantico, some guys got early outs, others just went elsewhere. In any event what to do with us for the week we were at Brooklyn; they certainly didn’t want us just laying around scratching ourselves. I ended up as a Chaser for the jail there…moving prisoners hither and yawn as necessary. I was qualified with the .45 so was issued one of those. I don’t recall having a rifle or shotgun. Nothing out of the ordinary except for one funny event. The Marine CO there used to love having Friday afternoon parades. The one Friday I was there myself and one other Marine took a dozen prisoners out to the parade field and had them dry mop the grass-it had rained in the morning-and the CO didn’t want his detachment Marines to get their shoes wet from the rain. So there we were for two hours, armed, while a dozen prisoners dry mopped grass ! I think, after some reflection, I realized I was probably not going to be a career Marine…..but I’ve never forgotten that event.

  2. I was a Prisoner CHASER at Camp Lejeune in 1961 when I was discharged after 10 years being a Prisoner CHASER IT HELP ME GET A JOB AS A PRISON GUARD

  3. I was a Chaser, not to the extent of this author, but at Camp Lejeune, when a person was sentenced to brig time I would take them there, turn them over to the brig personnel. I was told that if they got away from me that I would also take their place.

  4. While stationed at MCRSS Charlotte NC 1966-67, we would get notifications of AWOL Marines in our recruiting area. Being the junior NCO, I would be sent out with one of the Staff Sergeants to get him. I would cover the back door and he while he knocked on the front. We were glad when no one was at home. We would also be sent out to county jails to identify detained Marines. In no case were we armed. Being chasers was one of the strange assignments we received while on recruiting duty there before getting our orders to ship out.

    1. Off topic, but there’re a couple of entries in my SRB bearing your signature — I volunteered @ RSS Charlotte, March ’66 — SSgt Henderson was my recruiter. Semper Fi!

  5. Marine Barracks, Portsmouth NH. I have a photo of me chasing a prisoner….That is how I got my Chase Bank credit card.

  6. I was a a brig chaser when I was awaiting orders for school. Really just an escort duty of those who were returning from Awol or awaiting discharge from the Corps for less than Honorable service. Better than mess duty.

  7. Brig Chasers were important for running the brig on ships when MarCor had seagoing detachments on carriers & cruisers (no more – USN MAAs run brig & chase prisoners). Had to take prisoner to chow, make head calls, shower, to area where could see outside for exercise, etc. One in 5 squids in the brig would always try to bolt, even tho they could never escape, especially underway. Detachment Marines were 03 MOS Grunts. First Sergeant was Brig Warden, C.O. (Capt – arty officer 08) was Brig Officer, XO (03) & Gunny were alternates but mostly had nothing to do w/ship’s brig except overseeing training of guards & guards acting as chasers, which also included doing ‘riot squad’ (SWAT-like) . Chasers & Riot Squad then had straight billy clubs. Our ‘big’ guard duty was securing the nucs, not prisoners; they couldn’t run.

  8. I was a chaser at Camp Lejeune while stationed with 2nd Recon Bn. Back in 89-92. I would go to the brig to pickup 10 prisoners and take them on working parties. They would often fill sand bags or just do cleanup. I also got to escort a marine who had deserted in the early 80s and got caught in 91. I picked him up at the brig, and he was assigned to our unit for the duration of his court martial. I escorted him to his court martial every day until it was over. Once over with he was taken back to 2nd Recon Bn for discharge and released from there. And for those wondering about the time frame and the Gulf War, I was not able to go to the Middle East. I was “voluntold” that I was staying back as a rear party while the rest of the Bn deployed.

  9. I also know what a Chaser is since I was sent to Chaser Training while stationed at MCAGCC 29 Palms. I was never called to act as one while I was in, but it got me work as a Bail Enforcement Agent (AKA Bounty Hunter) as a civilian. The Bail Bondsman I initially went to work for got super excited when they learned that I was a Chaser in the Marines. I eventually went free lance and worked for several Bail Bondsmen. My partner and I (he was Navy) managed a 98% capture rate. The ones that “got away” were ones who left the area and went so far away that it was decided that it wasn’t worth the cost to go get them. For me, it was just another additional duty, which I seemed to get a lot of during my 2 enlistments. A rare title to get and not many people, Marine or otherwise, know about it.

  10. When I was stationed at the clinic on Quantico I was assigned as a brig chaser. I would pickup two or three prisoners from the brig. We would have the prisoners do work around the clinic. It saved a lot of minor work for the people at the clinic.

  11. At boot camp in ’69, I sprained both ankles and got dropped from my platoon, 2 wks prior to graduation, and sent to MRP (medical rehabilitation platoon). Once I could walk, they assigned me to chaser duty at CC (correctional custody). My job, every night, was mainly to wake up the 4 or 5 bed wetters every 30 minutes and escort them to the head and back. They were not happy about it. I was real glad to recover and get reassigned to another platoon and go on to graduation. Vietnam bound.

  12. While in Okinawa another Sgt (a chaser) and myself caught a pvt that was awol from our unit and took him back. Because the First Sergeant had to do all the paper work he made us the chasers I told him I wasn’t licensed he told me he didn’t care I could go along anyways. My one and only time as a chaser

  13. In 1970 I was a L/Cpl. with 8th Comm Bn at Camp Lejeune, and was selected to be a chaser. The logic of my selection still eludes me. I was 5′ 6″, 135 lbs. (Now I’m 20 lbs. heavier, and at least an inch shorter). Most of my prisoners were quite a bit larger than me, but, fortunately, didn’t cause any trouble. One that I really felt sympathy for was a big Native American Corporal, recently returned from a rough tour in VN. Shortly after rotating back, we went over the hill, but later turned himself in. After some brig time, he was busted to L/Cpl., then returned to duty. Real nice guy, he just had a difficult time. I wasn’t crazy about this duty, having to head out early, and sometimes not getting back to the barracks until 9-10 PM, no chance for a meal. As soon as my chaser card expired, I threw it away. The 1st Sgt. wasn’t happy about that, and tried to get me issued a new card, but fortunately I got promoted, and shortly afterward, got Westpac orders (I volunteered, then ended up in Okinawa).

  14. I was a legal clerk at Marine Barracks, Philly in ’71/72. We chased prisoners all the time and were never trained for it. One time I chased a prisoner to a civilian court trial in Center City Phily. The prisoner was delivered to me by the brig guards in leg irons and I left them on. We walked into the courtroom and his court appointed, Public Defender went absolutely ballistic when he saw I had walked his defendant into a courtroom in leg irons. The judge called me up to the bench and told me to remove the leg irons. I refused saying my orders were to not allow the prisoner to escape and the leg irons were part of the process. The judge wound up calling a recess, phoning the base and advising them what our problem was. Our XO then got on the phone with me and told me to remove the leg irons. The prisoner was found guilty of whatever the charges were and the civilian authorities took him off my hands. I hooked ém back to the base. Funny story. Not one word was said to me when I returned. I guess everyone thought I did the right thing. I sure hope that Public Defender finally got calmed down. I was just a good Marine, following my orders.

  15. In ’67, we called them ‘Brig Chasers’. Ours wore MP arm bands and carried .45s. We were told never to approach chasers.

  16. I too was a Chaser during my time in the Marines (1972-1974) It was all good till I was asked to take a (friend) to the Brigg. He was a good Marine but other Marines picked on him because of his size and always tormented him with pranks that he could not take it anymore. He went AWOL. Once he came back I was asked to take him to the Brigg but I just refused and asked if another chaser could do it instead. They refused my request. Well when I told them no, I was called into HQ, they took my Chaser card from me. I did take about 25 Marines to the Brigg when I was a Chaser. I did like the job but taking a good friend/Marine was something I could not do. Don’t forget I was young (18-20 years old) and had a lot to learn about life still. I am now 64 and being in the Marines was the best thing I ever did with my life.

  17. Was a chaser for one Marine at K-Bay Hi. Sent me to a class for a few hours. Was issued a pair of handcuffs but no weapon. Chased the Marine to the Pearl Harbor Brig left him there. He was happy cause he wanted out of the MC 6 6 and a kick.

  18. Yes sir, I was my second tour a 5831, Military Pl./corrections specialist. A cross country chaser, I filled in and transporting prisoners to Leavenworth. A quick story. First lieutenant Dawson, at 24 area break camp Penilton was walking through the gate at reception leaving the brig. A prisoner that had been mopping and cleaning. Walked behind Lieutenant Dawson who was speaking with another Marine. As they walked through the office and out to freedom the detainee acted as though he was with first lieutenant Dawson. Well, guess what? That’s right he got away, in of all things a laundry truck. Made it into town and was caught at his girlfriends house. Needless to say, his ass was chased right back to the brain. Semper Fi, Mad Mike USMC

  19. Did duty as a chaser while I was waiting for orders for school longest month of my life have some funny stories about a couple of my assignments and did have to run one guy down fear makes you really fast!

  20. In plt 268 (later 368) summer of 56 at Camp Mathews Rifle range MCRD Diego, I returned to plt. from hospital at Diego and was assigned to chase an awol for a day. I was told to let no one between you and prisoner. If any one came between you, Fall them in also as a prisoner. I remember this as getting ahead in the chow line or anywhere we went. PRISONER, COMING THROUGH! Semper Fi Sgt Don Cook

  21. I was a Chaser at the McAlester OK Naval Ammunition Depot in 1952 (now called Army Ammunition Depot for some reason). Anyhow, I was assigned Brig Duty and Chaser Duty. I did not receive any training whatsoever. I was just told if one got away from me, I had to serve his term. We had this one swabbie who kept going AWOL and would get caught in the Oklahoma City area. He was jealous of his girl friend and was always checking on her according to is alibi. I had to go get him in OKC more than once. He was finally sent to the Naval Pen in Corpus Christi TX. for awhile because of his repeated offenses.Took him there by Train. The rest of the guys just got into local trouble like a lot of guys do. Would use them for yard work, and general cleanup work around the base until they went to trial. We were told to not let anyone walk between us and the prisoner. If so, we were to nab them. My experience as a Chaser.

  22. I was told that under Under the “Rocks and Shoals” if a Chaser lost a prisoner,for whatever reason, the Chaser served his time. Never checked this out.

  23. I was a brig chaser on the USS IWO JIMA LPH 3 when my BN (3rd Bn 1st Marines)mountated out for The Cuban crisis on October 25 1962.The Bn Cmdr.took all our marines from the base brig with us when we deployed? They had bread and water in the ships brig for the marines who had NJP while we were deployed. For the marines not on bread and water I would march them to the galley for chow shouting all the way make a hole prisoner coming through! The brig was located 5 decks down on the bow of the ship and did not make for a easy ride in bad weather. Coming back from Cuba after passing through the Panama Canal we hit a big storm and my prisoner in his cell was making fun of me as I called for Sgt York while bending over a water bucket that was filling up fast! I had just turned 18 on October 22 and had one month in grad as L/Cpl.

    1. Hey, Robert, I was in 3/1, India Company, !st Platoon during the Cuban Crisis. I remember we had a CG inspection that morning. I did not realize or remember part of the BN went aboard an APH. We were on an APA and thru the Panama Canal. Sailed around for a goodly number of days. Then to Vequis PR for a little field work. We all got the s____ from bad turkey for Thanksgiving..Ah, the memories. Anyway, hope you and your family are well. Semper Fi Brother.

  24. Cross country chaser at Marine Barracks Great Lakes from 1971 to 1973. We covered the 9th Naval district and would be out picking up Marines from city and county jails from those 11 states. 4 of us would fly down to Louisville, Ky on Sunday night or Monday morning and would do a bus route up through Ohio to Mich then back to the brig at Great Lakes getting back on Wed night. The other 4 Chasers would fly or drive the remaining states picking up Marines Monday to Wed taking them to the brig. On Thursday morning we would take our miss guided Marines to Ohare in Chicago to fly to either Cherry Point or Naval Air base Miaire in Calif. The Chasers from the east and west coast would pick up their Marines from us then we would fly back to Chicago to start the next week. We would usually have over a hundred Marines for each coast. The Air Force provided 141’s and reserve crews to fly us each week.

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