26. Marines are the Best

Marines are the Best

Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

1 Peter‬ ‭2:12‬

At the end of BSG we were interviewed to determine our next duty station. For nuclear security, the options were Kings Bay, Georgia or Bangor, Washington. Once I found out that Washington was one of the options for nuclear security, I quickly decided to go that route. Thankfully, I passed the mild screening process sifting some out of nuclear security into FAST platoon and I got my pick for Washington. When I returned to the classroom, I walked up to Dust.

“Dude, I got nuclear security, did you get in too?” I asked.

“Yeah, man, I’m doin’ nuclear as well.”
“Awesome! I can’t wait to go to Bangor together and show you Washington!” He gave me a guilty look.

“Yeah, that would be cool, but I decided to go to Georgia.” 

“You’re joking, right?”

“Nah man… I’m not.”

“Really? You’re going to Kings Bay!? Why? You knew I would go to Bangor if I could.”

“I know man, I caved I’ll admit. I guess I wanted to be closer to home just like you do.”

“Seriously? I’m not great at geography, but I’m pretty sure Missouri is a long drive from Georgia .”

“Yeah, like sixteen hours give or take.”

“Ugh, dude come on. Bangor is like three hours from my hometown or a ferry ride and less than an hour drive. I can’t believe it.”

Dust sighed. “Yeah I mighta fucked up. Prolly gonna regret this big time, but it’s too late now.”

“No it’s not, can’t you switch with someone else?”

“Not anymore, everyone is assigned. All the slots are filled for each base. Trust me man, it’ll be alright. Sure its gonna suck, and I’m already regretting my decision, but we’re fuckin’ brothers man. We’ll make it.”

I took and let out a deep breath. “Yeah, I guess so. I’m still freakin’ bummed. Maybe I’ll actually finally get a cell phone so it’s easier to get a hold of me, hah!”

“Yeah, that would be nice, Decoup get with the times, man!”

“I will, don’t worry. We’ll keep in touch.”

“That’s for damn sure. Brothers for life”

“Brothers for life.”

I flew alone to Washington, still bummed that Dust chose Kings Bay. Mom picked me up after landing in the all too familiar SeaTac airport. Since it was the weekend, I went home.

While at home I purchased a cell phone immediately. At the end of the weekend, she drove me to Bangor. The base is not too far from a Navy shipyard in Bremerton on the other side of the odd-shaped appendage that makes Washington’s unique shape. We drove all the way around the south end of the Puget Sound and back up north where she dropped me off at the hotel on base. I hugged her goodbye.

A few Marines joined me in the hotel’s foyer, once again lugging around our gear, unsure what to do. Eventually a Marine in a large passenger van drove up. We tossed our gear into the back and he drove us to our barracks rooms where I threw my stuff on the empty twin bed. I finally had my own space, well, somewhat my own. Rather than sharing my bedroom with forty other Marines I shared it with one, though this roommate was a sailor.

Once I dropped my gear off I took the steps down to the nearby road and we drove to the orientation building about a mile away. Once inside, my eyes met more Marines congregating in a large open gym past a small classroom to my left. They informed us orientation lasted one month. Once completed, we would then be assigned platoons to begin our guard duties. After a quick brief and instructions to meet back at the building by 0900 the following day, we were dismissed.

The next morning I gorged myself at chow and made my way back to orientation. A young, skinny female sailor was our instructor. She quickly established her authority as a Petty Officer 3rd class by squashing our dicks with a mild berating. Once she rightly put us in our place she treated us well. 

She and the rest of the orientation staff, Marines and sailors alike, drilled into our heads that though we had now been Marines for around six months, our title advanced from recruits to boots. They penetrated this denigrating label so deep into our psyche that when asked to fill out personal info on a roster, one of the dullards among us, rather than writing his boot size under the column listed “Boot,” he wrote “Yes.”

Upon returning the following day, our instructor notified us we needed to memorize several pages of information verbatim over the course of orientation. This included the rules of engagement, definitions of terms such as deadly force, and other specific information. She sternly emphasized the fact that C’s, B’s or A’s would not pass orientation. Only when we achieve 100% accuracy in all tests will we graduate to platoons.

I took her warning to heart. When released on liberty each day, besides eating chow and working out, I studied, partly because she was so adamant about needing 100% scores to pass, but also because there was nothing else to do. I didn’t know anybody on base, had no TV, computer, or interests that would occupy more than a few hours after class. So I studied.

I learned the best way for me to memorize was to write. I knew we’d have to write the words on paper, so I looked at a sentence and wrote it without looking. Once complete, I’d refer back to see if errors were present. If so, I would rewrite the sentence until I completed it without looking or making mistakes. Then, I’d move on to the next, always revisiting the sentence prior as I went. I felt pretty good by the time Friday rolled around for our first one-paragraph test.

“I don’t know what the hell is wrong with y’all, but only one of you idiots passed the damn test,” she chided. “Didn’t I make myself clear you need one HUNDRED percent to pass? Most of you barely managed a fuckin’ sentence.” She paused for a moment as everyone sat in silence. “Monday we’re taking the test again. You have all fuckin’ weekend to get this shit into your thick skulls. All y’all are on restriction this weekend except… Decoupcrank.” I guess I was the only one who made it.

Everyone looked at me, some with surprise, some with disgust. Oddly enough, I voluntarily lived on restriction, so her blessing didn’t do much for me except single me out. After we were dismissed some of the guys met me for advice to help their memorization strategies. 

We repeated the test. I passed, along with some ten others out of about thirty. Again the following day, almost all passed. By the fourth time, everyone made it, though a new section needed to be memorized by Friday.

This continued on and on, though each successive test resulted in fewer failures as I aided my peers in their efforts. By the time we graduated, I was surprised to find out I would receive an award. The Captain’s Award was granted to me for my stellar performance of a perfect 100% GPA in orientation. I was somewhat shocked, wondering why I received an award for something we’re required to do. 

I imagined them asking in pissed off awe, “Decoupcrank! Why in the hell did you do so damn well?”. 

I figured I’d look back at them perplexed like Forrest Gump and say, “Because you told me to.”

Apparently I was the best test taker in orientation. I also always heard it said that Marines were the best. From when Austin mentioned it to me in his room, to speaking to the recruiters, hearing it in boot camp, and nearly every other day since, this concept always permeated the atmosphere. Though I nodded and agreed in gesture, and even repeated this mantra, I withheld certainty in the truthfulness of the claim, as I had no concept of how other branches conducted themselves compared to Marines. Once stationed on a Navy base though, I quickly realized how Marines stand out from the rest.

In the chow hall the stark contrast between Marines and sailors was impossible to miss. I was fit and stood with an upright posture, they were slouched and pudgy. My hair was perfectly faded, theirs looked like a shaggy mess. My fitted uniform was proudly worn with flawlessly rolled sleeves and high bloused boots without a speck of dirt. They wore barely tucked shirts and ugly black tennis shoes with waistbands straining to hold up their trousers. I carried my eight-point cover delicately in one hand. Their wrinkled headwear looked like a spoof Pomeranian tail as they stuffed the bills of their baseball caps between their belt and their low back. I ate protein, complex carbohydrates, fruit, salad and drank water. They ordered pizza, burgers, fries, ice cream and large cokes.

On one occasion, out of the corner of my eye I caught a seaman sitting at a table nearby, quietly judging him for his unhealthy food choices. As if he didn’t already clog his arteries and flirt with early onset diabetes during lunch, I nearly gasped when he got up and returned to his seat with a stack of four 4’’ x 4’’ brownies each with their small dessert plate stacked on top of each other. When turned to take a bite of my foot, movement from his direction caused me to double back. I watched him as he slid each extra plate out from between the brownies, one by one. I stared in disgust as he took one of the spare plates, turned it upside down, mounted it on the stack and compressed the sugar-filled bricks into one solid mass, I then watched him pick it up and leave the chow hall. His large hips swayed as he wobbled with his scrunchy hat hanging out of his ass. At that point I was convinced. Marines are the best.

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