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


  • bob lake

    I stood two IG inspections before each we we painted anything and everything that could’nt be BRASSO’ed .In addition to a least 2or 3 Junk on the Bunks,plus barracks and ground inspections and what seemed like countless rifle and Personnel inspections .The squad bays ,ladder ways and heads still smelled like fresh paint when the IG inspection party arrived on base.If the IG reailly wanted to know the Straight Scoop they should have come unannounced 2 weeks before.


  • Bob Otto

    In 1961 I was assigned to MAG-14 @ MCAS, Cherry Point after completing avionics schools at Memphis. I had been promoted to PFC in Nov 1958 and this was 1962. Seems like there was an unwritten rule that you had to be in a squadron for at least 90 days before they would even consider promoting anyone to LCpl or Cpl. Was in two different squadrons three different times, but not long enough to make LCpl. Well in 1962 the squadron I was in was on the USS Independence on a Med cruise. No other Marine squadron on board and many of those PFC’s and LCpl’s were promoted to the next rank as there was no other Marine squadron to transfer us to.PFC -Nov 1958-to August 1962. LCpl August 1962 to Jan 1965 back in the states and at Cherry Point going through the same old routine, 90 days in an outfit or more to get promoted.


  • LJhead,

    Sometimes you just have to shake the tree to let them, who ever they are, that your there! That’s what leaders do. Semper fi


  • Keith Markovitch

    Sometimes the Corps and yes it’s many motivational theories were something to marvel at. Maybe not so well thought out,but the general rule of thumb. From ’69 to’78 I marveled at the infinite wisdom that kept the lower levels of the train on the tracks. We could accomplish anything , without any support or materials but certain levels of leadership could not get their heads out heads out of the dark. Then with the threat of exposure to sunlight it occurs to them they are not using all of their brain housing group as the CG (I.e.God ) intended them to. Strange very strange.


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