In August of 2008, 3d Battalion, 3d Marines was conducting training exercises in the Pohakuloa Training Area (PTA) on the big island of Hawaii. We weathered the many hazards of a training evolution dubbed Lava Viper. After having conducted Exercise Mojave Viper the year before we had gotten into the habit of snarkily naming every training event as Something-Viper. Here wild, man-eating geese, demon driven typhoons, crazed environmentalists, and bad coffee all conspired to thwart our efforts at a successful training evolution.
Now PTA isn’t exactly what you think it is when hearing the words “training in Hawaii”. Palm trees, not so much. Sandy beaches, sorry we were at an elevation of about 6,800 feet. Truly, hearts are broken when people hear they are training in Hawaii then arrive at PTA wondering how in the world it got so cold in the middle of summer. The landscape is dominated by over 100,000 acres of lava flows on the lower slopes of Mauna Kea. Traversing it is like stumbling across a field of broken concrete sprinkled with razor blades and broken glass. Just the type of place guaranteed to toughen you up. Those who have ever trained at PTA will tend to agree it may be some of the worst terrain in the world. Inside of five or six weeks you will destroy at least one pair of boots.
In between iterations of shooting cool guns and blowing things up, someone picked up newspaper and saw an interesting article about the Bayfest event that had taken place the month prior. The article featured the contestants of the All American Pie Competition and included a photo of one of our very own platoon sergeants taking first prize! Flanking him in the photo were two dejected ladies, the second and third place losers.
Marine infantrymen participate in a host of rugged and manly hobbies including hunting, spear fishing, martial arts, motocross, surfing, alligator wrestling, hiking, etc. But pie baking? Indeed it was decided only the most hardened combat veteran had the fortitude to bake pies and be successful at it. Nothing bellowed HARDCORE like out baking housewives in the kitchen. Such an achievement could not go unacknowledged. We presented the young SSgt a Certificate of Commendation with a citation that read as follows:
For exceptional performance of his culinary abilities while competing in the 2008 Bayfest Viper All American Pie Competition while serving an apple pie, lemon meringue pie, and mango custard pie, 4 July2008. During this challenging, stressful, and demanding pie making extravaganza, Staff Sergeant Cardinell performed his baking in an exemplary and highly delicious manner. His demonstrated superior pie appearance, original flavors, top quality ingredients, and extraordinary attention to crust texture served as an example worthy of merit. His efforts, coupled with a keen sense of mission tastiness, were instrumental in his earning the distinction and honor of overall winner of the All American Pie Competition and were a decisive factor in the sound defeat and utter degradation of all the female competitors including his own spouse. Staff Sergeant Cardinell’s exceptionally yummy ability, initiative, and loyal devotion to creamy pie goodness reflected credit upon him and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and housewives across the nation.
Just another little known chapter in the glorious annals of Marine Corps history.