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Change His Skivvies
’76-’77… Camp Schwab (Okinawa), at the time home of the Ninth Marines and 1st Tracked Vehicle Bn (composite of two tank companies, two of amtracks (P-7’s, etc.), and of course, a H&S company. H&S included, besides the Bn Staff sections, the Comm Platoon, Supply Platoon, etc., the Bn Maintenance platoon… Tracked vehicle mechanics, known as ‘fit-shisters’ are by the very nature of their jobs, scruffy-looking. Grease and oil, dust, mud, tight spaces are their daily lot, and it is generally conceded that ‘satisfactory, with major discrepancies’ is the best to be hoped for at any major personnel/uniform inspection.
We had notice that a CG’s inspection was coming, and preparations were the subject of many daily and weekly Officers’ meetings… lots of ‘make sure that’, ‘be sure you check’ and other micro-management instructions came down from on high… some were really important things, like Irish Pennants on the inside of canteen covers, M-NU (TM) on pistol belt eyelets, etc. Came inspection day, and we fell out in formation in utilities, field marching packs, weapons, etc… other companies drew junk on the bunk, or PRT, etc.
Bn Maintenance Platoon drew a Recon Major for an inspecting officer… jump wings, high and tight, tailored uniform, probably slept at the position of attention, had a rep as a real stickler (prick). Came the end of the inspection, and the world stopped in its rotation, as this bunch of ‘greaseballs’ were rated ‘Outstanding” by this gimlet-eyed martinet… maybe in disbelief that mere mechanics could do this, but he believed his eyes…
The Old Man held an Officer’s Call in his quarters that evening, including some pale liquids in brown bottles, and thanked all of us for the effort and good showing the Bn had made… when he got around to Bn Maintenance Platoon, he wanted to know how many times Gunner Spaulsbury and I had ‘pre-inspected’ the troops? The look on his face when we told him we had looked at them for the first time that morning when we fell out… was priceless. (The Master Card bit came along later)…
As we explained, what happened in the barracks was Sergeant’s (and Cpls) business… we had told them what details to check, how to check them, and that there would be only one or two items checked each evening… no hassle, just divide it up, pay attention to detail, and get it done… eat the elephant one bite at a time, check with the SNCO’s if you need some help, etc. It worked like a champ… even if the Old Man would have had to change his skivvies at the time, if he’d known how the preparations were being done…
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