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Firewatch at NATTC Memphis

Firewatch at NATTC Memphis

The Marine barracks at NATTC Memphis were two story wooden buildings from the WWII era when I went to aviation mechanics school there in 1960. This made it necessary to have a firewatch on duty after lights out for obvious reasons. This duty always fell to the new Privates right out of boot camp, like me. The staff NCO barracks was directly across the street from the MAD headquarters back then. Not only were the barracks dated from the war, but so were the staff NCOs who lived there. These were all old Corps, battle hardened vets who pretty much lived by their own rules. I was unlucky enough to pull the firewatch duty one night for these men. I had learned in Boot camp to keep a low profile in these situations (E-1 vs all ranks above) so my first pass through the barracks before lights out went pretty quiet. When I got to the first deck entryway the Officer of the Day, a young Second Lieutenant, was waiting for me.

“Private”, says he, “I was just up on the second deck and there is a Gunnery Sergeant up there smoking a cigar in his bunk”. “I want you to go up there and order him to put out that cigar”.

“Yes Sir”, I said, knowing that I just got a death warrant.

Leaving the Lieutenant standing in the entry way, I went back up to the second deck, and there he was at the end of the squad bay propped up in his rack, in his skivvies, smoking a cigar and reading the latest Playboy. He also had a can of beer that he sipped on from time to time.

I walked up to him, cleared my throat, and said, “Excuse me Gunny, but the OD just gave me orders to tell you to extinguish your cigar.”

In retrospect, this guy looked and acted a lot like Lee Ermey with the same vocabulary. He looked at me over his Playboy, took the cigar out of his mouth, and said “What is your major malfunction Private?”

“Just doing my duty sir”, I said.”

“Now you listen to me boy, and you listen good… You go back down there and tell that pizz-ant Lieutenant to suspend it from his rectal orifice,” (or words to that effect). “And dump my ashtray on your way out.” At which time he turned back to his reading matter and refreshments.

After dumping his ashtray, I proceeded to the first deck entryway where the OD was waiting. I related, word for word, what the Gunny said. The Lieutenant told me to carry on, did an about face, exited the barracks, and we didn’t see him for the rest of the night. The Gunny had another cigar and a couple of beers in peace before lights out. That 1960 Playboy would be a collector’s item today I’m sure.

Cpl Norm Spilleth
’60 – ’64

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Sgt. G.J. George - May 17, 2020

I was also stationed there in 1967; barracks S146 when you came onto the grounds.

Tom J Lancaster - May 17, 2020

Was there in summer 69 transferred over there from the open wing WW2 Hospital, WIA Viet Nam.First night had fire watch when around 0 dark thirty some black troops who had been hitting some weed in open field decided to tear up the bldg.Later had to come back to Millington to testify at Court Martial at that time was billited at BOQ first time found beer in Vending Machine.

Ron Shinall - May 17, 2020

Oh man. old memories.I was there at the Naval Air technical Traing Command at Millington as well.I was an AT and tried to flunk out to be a helicptor door gunner but they would not have any of that and after getting reamed out to a 409 by a salty old gunney I was very happy to get back to school.We had some very nice Navy barracks with 2 man and 4 man rooms.I was still a slick sleeve private .I turned 18 there and went down to Missippi and bought my first 6 pack drank 3 cans and puked my brains out.Some birthday 1969.

Ron (Yoder) Hoak, USMC 1960-64 - May 17, 2020

Wow! What memories these comments bring back! I was at “Navy Memphis” late ‘60 -61 in ADR SCHOOL. I wanted to be the best, but two sailors always topped me on the tests. I came out top Marine but third to those guys. Later I found out they both had their A&P licenses before they went in. I remember “firewatch as well. The Wave barracks was not part of my post, but as I went by a number of the girls, tried to entice me to come up and “visit”, I was pretty naive back then, but duty reminde me that I couldn’t leave my post so I sadly told them I could not comply with their request. Upon graduation, I heard the the duty assignments were made based on class standing, I was pumped, I wanted to go to Cherry Point, but when the clerk rolled up his window, without looking up, he said; “your whole class is going on the Princeton!” “What’s the Princeton?” I asked. “It’s a ship!” He said. Thus began a trip to Sea School, and 2 and a half years of being a sailor in green in the flight deck V-1 division on the LPH-5 USS Princeton. At the time I hated it, but now enjoy going to reunions and being the Chaplain and Historian of the USS Princeton Vets inc. SEMPER FI MARINES, wherever you are!

Craig Kovac. Sgt - May 17, 2020

Paul J I have not seen you since Willow Grove.

Sgt Tom Baker - May 17, 2020

I was in Chu Lai HAMS 13 in 66 and 67 Was in machine shop and supported all sqd Baker was last name. Hard to think that was 50 years ago.

Mgysgt Andrew Riggle - May 17, 2020

I was one of those SNCO’s, I was a troop handler at the only big wooden barracks left. I think it’s number was 238 and housed about 200 to 300 Marines. I had a young Marine come to me one day and say he had a problem. I asked him what it was, he said he had his girlfriend pregnant. I told him that wasn’t a problem and he said yes it was because he had his girlfriend’s mother pregnant also.

Charlie Stage (Sgt.)69-73 - May 17, 2020

I was there in 1971 in the fall. Just back from my Nam tour via a temporary stay at Iwakuni, Japan. I was being re-trained in a new MOS as a Jet Engine Mechanic. As a L/Cpl. I was assigned to march my platoon to classes. One day the navy would not get out of our way. An incident occurred, we reassembled; as we had accomplished our objective, and my platoon went to class. Unfortunately I was brought up on charges. I played linebacker on the football team. I believe that was a contributing factor that led to my promotion to Cpl. instead of another bust. I went on to VMA-513 as one of the first jet engine mechanics on the AV-8A Harrier. It was a great 4 years. I still bleed MARINE CORPS crimson.

Sgt. Doug Sensenbrenner - May 17, 2020

From my home in Memphis ……destination; Millington. When I was 9 years old with my 11-year-old brother and a 12-year-old friend we ran away from home (1954) and the first place we wanted to go was Millington. The previous year my parents took us to an air-show there. Loved it. Saw the Blue Angels etc. We walked and hitch-hiked and got there by 6 pm. Wrote a goodbye note with paint on our friend’s father’s freshly painted garage. We were planning to end up ….. we didn’t know where, but it involved a stop at Millington to see some planes and then to hop a freight train to adventure-ville. We had about a dollar fifty between us and some wild dreams. Our dinner in town at a soda fountain included a bag of Lays potato chips, cupcakes and a coke each. Went to a movie, tried to sleep on someone’s front lawn, but the mosquitos were brutal, so we decided, after a lot of discussions that maybe our beds and food at home wasn’t so bad. Plus no more money. We climbed the fence on the base, heard some laughing and music in an em club. Went in and convinced one of the partiers to call our parents. They did and my dad and friend’s dad came and picked us up. They didn’t say a word to us and we didn’t talk. All was well and nothing was ever said about our adventure. I visited PI in ’63 for a few months and went on to LeJeune, Okinawa, Viet Nam, Quantico, back to Okinawa, El Toro, and home in ’67, Will never forget our visit to Millington.

SSgt Carl Turner (Tee) - May 17, 2020

Loved Millington NATTC. 7 Seas, vampire liberty, Navy/Marine Track meet! Ran the mile and enjoyed the team barracks and practice. Went through electronics school and radar school in 1965/66. Big fight with the local Millington boys in 66. Chu Lai RVN 67 and 68 with VMFA-314 Black Knights.

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