Making Waves

Making Waves

My enlistment date was March 6, 1958. 11 months later I was still a buck-ass private. After boot camp and ITR the Corps, in its infinite wisdom had decided that I would be sent to electronics school at Treasure Island and then down to MCRD San Diego to the radio repair school. I was neither well suited nor inspired by the prospect, having just dropped out of high school to become a Marine grunt. One of my boot camp platoon mates was an Army Korean war vet with combat experience in tanks, which he had asked for. The Corps made him a cook. But I digress. At Treasure Island I struggled with the class work – electronic theory and application – but I hung on while other guys flunked out. As soon as a guy was dropped from the program he would be reassigned and shipped out. However, before departing for his new duty station he would be given his PFC stripe if his record was clean. Meanwhile, I was told that if I improved my grades I, too, would be raised to the exalted level of E-2. I continued to struggle, but I finally passed the course and was reassigned to MCRD for the next phase – but without that stripe. I continued to struggle with the course and continued to be told that if I magically improved my grade that stripe was out there waiting for me. That caveat had become like a boil on my butt and I was getting pretty p-ssed off watching dropouts getting promoted ahead of me. Then, one day, before the Gunny-instructor started class he made a routine, required, announcement. He said the Inspector General was coming to the base and that any Marine had the right to request to speak to him about anything and wasn’t required to divulge the subject. With hardly a pause he started to go on with the day’s instruction when he noticed I had raised my hand. “What do you need, Private Barber?” He wasn’t used to being interrupted. When I told him I was requesting permission to speak to the I.G. his mouth dropped and every head in the room turned to me. “What for?” he asked but I answered that he had just said I didn’t have to divulge the reason. “Well, maybe I could help without you bothering the I.G.” I told him I didn’t think so because it had been a problem for a while. Class was a little strained that day but then an organized effort was launched to find out what my gripe was. I think every noncom in the school approached me before I was called in to see the Top Sergeant. I explained that I was a little upset that the Corps didn’t see the irony in refusing to give me my stripe because of low grades while passing them out to every man that flunked out. At the next day’s morning formation before class I was called front and center and promoted to PFC. It still makes me smile to think of the sh-t storm that I had stirred up. When I got to class that morning though, the Gunny just looked at me, grinned, shook his head and started class.
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9 comments


  • Ted Sanderson Sande MAG-16

    I was at Marble Mountain in 1966 with 29 months in grade as a Pfc. The second time I was passed over for promotion I asked why. Was told it was because I had office hours back in Cherry Pt. I pointed out that the UCMJ stated that office hours would not be factor in promotions after 6 mos and I was requesting Mast w/ Group. Was then told that the T.O. required a Pfc in our Avionics Div. and that the T.O. Came from Wing. I then told my Gunny that since the problem was at Wing, I was amending my request to Wing. I was warned not to make waves. I responded “What are they going to do? Cut off my hair, send me to Vietnam and not promote me.” I was just leaving the amused Maint Chief, Gunny Moose Miller on my way up the chain of command when LDOic caught up with me. Was told I was being meritoriously promoted next month to Lcpl. I made Cpl. then Sgt. before I got out, both with the minimum time in grade.Those are other, longer stories.


  • Sgt Mike Thompson

    My service in the Corps started in April of 1972 I found myself still a private in September of 1973 while serving with Bravo 1/9 anyway by the time I rotated home I was a L/cpl good things come to those who wait.


  • Fred

    Enlisted in 1958 same drill as story line except I made PFC out of boot camp because I had 19 months as a WNG Spec 4. 2 years and 5 months later I put on my first hash mark. ” Liberty goes for NCO’s and Hash Marked PFC’s.” It was just an old Marine saying, it wasn’t so,


  • Michael Martyna

    While on a 1 month NATO Med cruise exercise, while returning Cherry Point – Camp Lejeune still at sea the Captain in charge of us, called me over and said I looked at your record and I see you have time in grade to be promoted. So from this day, you are a Corporal. I’m giving you a field promotion. Once we are back at LeJeune sew on Corporal stripes. A couple of days after we docked I heard the 1st Sgt was attempting to take my stripes away. Heard the Captain found out and found him lit into him, telling him his orders were to be held and no 1st Sgt was going to undermine his authority. He was not a junior 2nd LT. Needless to say the 1st Sgt was rankled at me. Some time along the line after being in grade, I was working for the Adjutant of the company, a Captain. One day I came into the office and one of the clerks said for me to go home and change into class one uniform and go to the Quonset huts, there was a promotion board going on and I was to report there. When it was my turn to enter and present myself, who is sitting there with 3 officers – the 1st Sgt. Oh boy, this aught to be great. In the phase of knowledge the 1st Sgt asked me what is a parapet. I stated it is the dirt area where while digging a hole you pile it to the front towards the enemy. He changed from happy to sneering. From what I understood no one else knew this and it was his tripping block. for me. So he asked me what is a sump hole and I answered that. Still a sneer. Anyway the Lts that were there said that was enough and to depart. So I left and went home and changed back to utilities for the days work. About 1100 I was walking past the 1st Sgt office and he called me in and said I have some bad news for you, you didn’t make the promotion. I thanked him for the information and went about what I was doing. After lunch, I walked past the 1st Sgt office and he seemed to be snarling again at me. Why? When I entered the company office one of the clerks asked me how do I spell my name. As I started, I halted and asked why. He said I got promoted. I said, 1st Sgt at 1100 said I didn’t, there must be a mistake. He said no, Capt Peter’s the Adjutant I worked for, was the one who put me up for the promotion, and when he found out I didn’t make it and the reason, pulled the 1st Sgt and went into the Lt. Col office our CO and made a case for me. Clerk said there was a lot of clearly heard words that went on out of that office. Capt Peter’s needless to say won. I was promoted to SGT. Later times the 1st Sgt and I did have some normal relations talks


  • Sgt. Mike Welsh

    Go Marine, thanks for standing up. Shows leadership and determination. The FEW and the PROUD.


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