Drill Instructors Never Die!
Brian L. Hipwell
Twin State Detachment (#1010)
Marine Corps League
Lebanon, NH 03766
I enlisted in the Marine Corps April 23, 1965 under the 120 day delay program while in the senior year at Stevens High School, Claremont, New Hampshire. Shortly after graduation I shipped out for P.I. My father was a retired Marine M/SGT and I had been a service ‘brat’ so I knew what I was in line for. There were no surprizes at Boot Camp.
Day #2 at P.I. I joined Platoon 339 and met the one person who would have the most lasting impression upon my life, my Senior Drill Instructor, S/Sgt Ed Ricker, from Charlestown, New Hampshire (the next town down from Claremont)
I needn’t go into the details of Boot Camp at Parris Island during the summer of 1965. Vietnam was becoming a household word and everything was geared for eventually seeing service there. The first half of “FULL METAL JACKET” brought it all back so clearly.
I graduated from P.I. as a P.F.C. with orders for Marine Barracks, Kenitra, Morocco, 1st Guard Company, Sidi Yahia……armpit of the world. Eventually I would see service in Vietnam and end up at Camp Lejeune twice, leaving the Marine Corps in 1969 with two Purple Hearts, 5 rows of ribbons and an Honorable Discharge. Every now and then I’d join in with other former Marines telling ‘war stories’ and everyone would always remember the name of their Senior Drill Instructor.
In 1983, taking advantage of my remaining GI Bill, earning my degree in History (18th Century Studies) I had the occassion to be the Program Manager at The Fort at #4, a recreation of the 1740’s fortified village, a living history museum, simply known as Number Four (Township No.4) which would later be known as Charlestown.
One particular summer weekend the Fort had sponsored a huge 18th Century event with hundreds of re-enactors, soldiers, campfollowers, artillery, sutlers; white tents and Officers marques: authentically dressed soldiers and civilians representing French, Colonial, Prussian, and British forces all crammed into the 22 acre site.
At ten’o’clock the camps were given the order to ‘TAP TO’ and all was quiet. However, some of the ‘townies’ (local youths) decided to let off a few M-80’s and various other forms of pyrotechnics and raise a little hell of their own. Being in charge of this affair I didn’t want the re-enactors to be blamed for the after hours ‘fire-fight so I called the Charlestown Police.
Within a few minutes I received word from the gate guards that a police cruiser was coming down and I waited outside the office, in my uniform of a British Sergeant Major of the 29th Regiment of Foot.
The cruiser slowly approached my position and stopped aside me. I could see the officer’s arm resting on the door sill and noticed the USMC and Eagle, Globe, and Anchor on his forearm. Not quite bending low enough to see his face, which was partially hidden by the brim of his ‘Smokey’ hat I began telling him of why he has called. In the middle of my ‘report’ the officer slowly moved his head out through the window and looked up into my eyes. I could now see his face, slightly alit by the office lights.
“HIPWELL, YOU !@#%!%(#&@#$)(@#^&!…….GET DOWN AND GIVE ME FIFTY, NOW!
I hadn’t seen that face since outposting Parris Island for Camp Geiger in 1965…….. but there he was Ed Ricker, my Senior Drill Instructor!
He slowly ‘peeled’ himself out of the cruiser, slammed the door with meaningful irreverence, put his hands on his hips, feet slightly spread apart and though we were about the same height he seemed 7 feet tall. The brim of his ‘Smokey’ cover was gently curved up, just like he wore his campaign hat at PI. For a brief moment I WAS at Parris Island and it was 1965. I WAS standing at attention, thumbs along the outboard seams of the ‘breeches’…….I was literally standing tall before ‘THE MAN’!
He smiled, ever so slightly, stuck out his right hand and firmly shook mine with a death grip. All while asking me, “WHAT’S YOUR ##$#$&%^)()(&!! 5th General Order?” I actually answered “SIR, TO QUIT MY POST ONLY WHEN PROPERLY RELIEVED, SIR!”
He looked me squarely in the eye and said “Don’t ever forget that you %#^#^#%(**) (&%$!!………..You’re a Marine YOU take care of the problem and don’t call me for Mickey Mouse stuff the rest of the night, now, get outta here!”
I did………..and I found the kids causing the problem, relieved them of their firecrackers with a ‘promise’ to call their parents. As I walked across the field with my ‘booty’ and relieved that the night would remain quiet I could see the outline of a Charlestown police car just a couple of hundred feet away on the road shoulder. The lights were off and the engine was running. The car’s spotlight shined on me and over the vehicle’s loudspeaker was Ricker’s voice, “You still owe me 50!”
He turned his headlights on, flashed his blue roof lights and drove off. That was the last time I saw him.