28. Sergeant (From Hell)

Sergeant (From Hell)

For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.

Luke‬ ‭7:8‬ ‭

I’d been at second platoon for about a month now. While congregating before our morning formation, whispers caught my ear.

“Oh god, he’s coming back soon,” Wiggins moaned.

“Shit, I completely forgot about him,” Miller replied.

“Who?” I asked.

“Sergeant Kill.1 He’s insane,” Miller said.

“Where did he go?”

“He’s at MAIT2 course, ya know, the black belt MCMAP course for instructors?” He continued.

“Oh, ok yeah I think I’ve heard of it. So what makes him so bad?”

“He’s one of those guys that’ll piss on your Cheerios and laugh,” Wiggins chimed. “He’ll shit in your Fruit Loops and make you eat it.” 

“Okay Wiggins, we get it!” Miller turned back to me. “Yeah dude, he’s the worst. He’ll piss on more than that, he’s gonna piss on everything to mark his territory now that he’s a sergeant.”

“Oh so he recently got promoted?”

“Yeah, he did during the course. The guy left as a green belt named Corporal Banner and is coming back as a two-tab black belt named Sergeant Kill.”

“Why’d his name change?”

“We don’t know exactly, but some have heard he’s got daddy issues and decided to change his name.”

“Hmm, okay.”

“Just you wait though Decoup, once he comes back, things are really gonna suck.”

My team recently completed post and we were all stationed in a roughly eight-hundred square foot hut detached from the main building on QRF.3 We’d all eaten chow after post and were settling down for the night until we were to resume guard duty the following day. One guy was showering, the other laying in his rack, while myself, Miller and another started a movie in the cramped common area. The phone rang.

“Oh god, what now?” Miller complained before answering. He held it up to his ear. “Hello?”

Mrraaa, reee aaa uuuu eeeree fkkk owwww!” Some angry voice on the other end yelled.

“Yes sergeant,” Miller rolled his eyes and hung up the phone.  “Hey boys, gear up, we’re leaving.” He stood up, walked to the bathroom door and pounded. “Get out of the shower we gotta go, now!” 

We all scrambled to get our gear on as the bathroom door flung open, the still dripping Marine barely gripping a towel around his waist fumbling his way to his bunk. As we drove up to the gated building, Marines were scattered in all sorts of unusual places. One Marine stood at each side of the gate with their rifles at port arms while wearing their gas masks. I also noticed ahead, in the hazy darkness that a line of platoon mates, all wearing their gas masks were standing up at attention in front of the building.

“Gas, Gas, Gas! Get out here right fuckin’ now!” We heard once parked. I scurried out of the turret, unbuckled my kevlar, donned my mask and plopped my helmet back on. Once I exited the vehicle I joined the line of my comrades.

“I’m back, bitches!” Screamed a petit man pacing back and forth. “Things are gonna change real fuckin’ quick around here,” he shouted. Glancing down the line, despite all of our faces obscured with our gas masks, I could sense Miller still rolling his eyes and Smith, the unmistakable tall figure further down the line, quaking with suppressed laughter at this comically dismal sight. 

Thankfully, after his absurd, unnecessary display of dominance, my team was dismissed. Though life for the main element would be hell for the next few hours, he couldn’t touch us as we were required to remain in our outpost. Once we returned and let down our gear and our guard, Miller spoke up.

“Well guys, you’ve now met Sergeant Kill.”

“What an ass,” one said.

“Was there any reason for all this?” asked another.

“No, he was just ensuring we all knew whose dick was the largest. At least we’re on QRF. He can’t fuck with us here.”

The next day we drove back to the building to eat chow before preparing for our next post. As soon as I stepped in the door, an ungodly odor punched my nostrils. I paused for a moment to get my bearings and as the thick scent of bleachy urine poured into my lungs. Letting out a few gagging coughs, I stepped forward towards the chow hall. As I approached, I ran into Smith as he exited from his meal.

“Yo Smith, cough, what’s up with this smell?” He grinned from ear to ear.

“Sergeant Kill forced us to scrub the whole building with our gas masks on. So… we figured we may as well have a reason for wearing our masks.”

“So what did you do?”

“We swabbed the floor with a bucket of bleach and ammonia!” 

“Holy crap, seriously? You guys made chlorine gas?”

“Yup! It was fuckin’ hilarious. Dudes were running out of their racks gagging while we’re just swabbin’ the deck with our gas masks.”

I wish I asked what happened to Sergeant Kill in the midst of this gas chamber, but for some reason I didn’t. The lingering scent, still pungent, must have truly been awful at its peak last night. I remembered my dad told me Ditty4 once knocked over some cleaning product containing ammonia into a bucket of bleach he had sitting out. He told me he hacked his lungs so hard from the fumes he puked. 

Sergeant Kill wielded his new position, rank and last name by running us through a gauntlet as an accomplished legionnaire might when tasked with turning a band of unruly squires into armored knights. With his black belt and two red-hot tabs wrapped around his waist, Sergeant Kill advanced our whole platoon from gray to green belts. For two weeks, Monday through Friday, we shed our blouses, ran everywhere with boots and utes, grappled on the mats in the orientation gym, and learned the moves of the green belt guerilla. At least there was purpose behind this two week torture session. Once this was over, he may have had an identity crisis because he always needed some reason to keep fucking with us. 

In the Marine Corps, every Thursday is Field Day. This is the day when we organize and sanitize every square inch of our room. Depending on the occasion and inspector, this process can take a few hours or an entire day. Most commonly, at some point in the afternoon, we are dismissed to clean and prepare for our team or squad leader to run through and check us off. 

Miller scanned my room quickly as always. I never had problems with Field Day because I had almost no personal effects. All my clothes and toiletries could be tightly folded and tucked away without much effort. “Looks good Decoup, you’re good for the night,” he said before exiting. 

Now that I was free, I made my way to the gym. As always, I returned a sweaty, heated mess and quickly undressed, hung my shirt and shorts on a cabinet to air out and stepped in the shower. As I began drying myself off, I heard a fist pounding at my door accompanied by Sergeant Kill’s shrill voice.

“Open the door right fucking now!” As I peeked out of the bathroom, I noticed several team leaders bunched up at the window. Without time to get dressed, I wrapped the towel around my damp ass and jolted to the door. Once opened, the yapping Yorkie burst through the door.

“WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS SHIT?” He screamed, pointing to my sweaty dangling clothes with his razor sharp knife hand.5 

“Sergeant I just got back from the – ”

“Shut the FUCK up! Miller, is this one yours?” He said, reorienting the blade of his knife hand a few inches from my face.

“Yes sergeant,” he mumbled. I looked over at Miller in disbelief, wondering what I did wrong. His subtle shrug along with his innocent look indicated he had no idea this was going to happen. When he checked me off earlier he must have figured we were done for the night, but apparently not for Sergeant Kill. 

He proceeded to rip open my drawers and shred my perfectly folded clothes, tossing them in the air as they flapped down to the floor. Miller and the other team leaders reluctantly joined him in tearing apart my room, participating with much slower motions and feign enthusiasm. Sergeant Kill got in my face,

“You’ve got two fucking minutes to clean up all your shit and get your ass to the main barracks!”

“Yes sergeant.”

“What?”

“Yes sergeant,” I repeated slightly louder.

“I can’t fucking hear you!”

“YES SERGEANT!” I belligerently projected in a monotone voice. Everyone left the door as it slammed behind them. Quickly I packed up my scattered belongings into their proper place, hopped into my cammies and jogged the short distance to the barracks where the majority of second platoon bunked. I could hear Sergeant Kill continuing his tirade as I approached.

Marines darted to and fro up the multi-level barracks while several of us down below watched the chaos. Sergeant Kill power-walked throughout the open catwalks of the barracks like a cat strung out on catnip chasing a laser pointer pen. The clock tipped past 2200 as the married Marines down below with me complained they should be home with their wives. One of the benefits of being married is you never have to put up with the bullshit often associated with field day. I mean, even Sergeant Kill wouldn’t be able to stand up to a pissed off wife if he were to barge into their house to thrash it. Yet, here they were, held against their will simply to stand until God knows when.

“Get this,” a Marine said to me.

“What?”

“My room was immaculate, literally you could eat from the bowl of my shitter. He couldn’t find anything wrong. Then he opened up a drawer in my bathroom, and I kid you not, he unscrewed the cap of my toothpaste and screamed in my face for having toothpaste stuck in the cap.”

“Are you serious?”

“Yeah, then he proceeded to trash my room and called me out here.”

“My gosh he’s freakin’ nuts,” I said.

“Yup.”

Sergeant Kill rushed down towards us standing on the sidelines.

“Get on your hands and fucking knees!” We begrudgingly knelt before the god of the universe. “I don’t want to see a god damned leaf!” 

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I muttered under my breath. So we proceeded to hand pick each of the Fall leaves off the ground, one at a time. Once the landscaping was spotless, sometime around midnight, the hurricane dissipated and we were dismissed.

Sergeant Kill was about 5’ 8’’ tall and couldn’t have weighed more than one hundred sixty pounds. His blonde hair faded so tight and so high that the proper term for such a doo in the Marine Corps is  a “screamin’ eagle” high and tight. His hair, lean features, deep eye sockets and large eyes reminds me of the villain Judge Doom from the 1988 film, Who Framed Roger Rabbit. 

Though every Marine certainly is always and always will be a Marine, there are different rungs on the ladder of Marine Corps motivation. Some adopt more or fewer Marine Corps norms, sayings and culture, and that’s okay. There’s minimal, mild, moderate, maximal, and motard. Sergeant Kill occupied his own, distinct tier: maniac. He didn’t just drink the Kool Aid, Sergeant Kill was the Kool Aid man, smashing through the walls of our happy little lives only to ruin them with his distasteful, hyper-moto caricatured Marine Corps ways. 

Though I don’t remember the reason why, I do remember visiting him in his office. He wasn’t yelling at me, so I’m pretty sure I wasn’t in trouble, but when he entered the room, he paused, glanced at the Marine Corps flag tacked to the wall and affectionately caressed the Eagle Globe and Anchor before sitting down.

“I love that flag, don’t you Lance Corporal?”

“Yes, sergeant.”

“I don’t know where I’d be without it. You have any tattoos?”

“No, sergeant.”

“Why not?”

“I’m not opposed to them, I just can’t think of anything so important or profound I’d be willing to permanently tattoo it on my body.”

“That’s a shame… You don’t find our beloved Eagle Globe and Anchor important enough?”

“Uhh…”

“I’ve got it tattooed on my chest, I keep one in every room, got one on my truck, on my gear, everything. Hell, I even make Eagle Globe and Anchor cookies for Christmas.” I gave him a look of fake awe and interest. “I kiss the Marine Corps flag every night before I go to sleep and then wrap myself in it.” A warm smile now shone true bliss on his face. 

I would have laughed at these words coming from the mouth of any other Marine due to the obvious nature of the far fetched sarcasm. For any other Marine, his enshrined Marine emblems and household rituals would be an exaggerated joke. Coming from Sergeant KIll however, I didn’t doubt a single word. “I’m not weird, am I lance corporal?”

WIth a tight face straining to hold back my sarcastic tone I said, “Not at all, sergeant.”

  1. No, this most certainly is not his real name, but I’m sure he’d love it if it was.
  2. MAIT stands for Martial Arts Instructor Trainer course. This is one of the toughest Marine Corps Martial Arts courses because once complete, you are authorized to train the trainers. Those who complete it earn a black belt with two red tabs.
  3. Quick Reaction Force, essentially reinforcements if something goes wrong
  4. Ditty was my dad’s cat. I wrote about him in this post
  5. The knife hand is a weapon of warfare and intimidation wielded by Marines. The blade is formed when the palm is flat and the thumb in line with the other four fingers flattened and fully extended. Why point with a single finger in a direction when you can point with all five fingers?

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