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.

  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.

  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!


  • Reinhold Woykowski

    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.

  • James Norton, USMC, ’67-’71, 2377865

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

  • Joe Hardwick

    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.

  • Ron Goodrich (’68-’72)

    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).

  • Sgt James White

    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

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