Let’s take a little glimpse at Marine Corps history as seen through the eyes of America’s 1stSgt.
Way back in 1775, inspections were held to ensure each of the Colonial Marines had a functioning musket, dry powder, and was wearing his tri-corn hat at the proper jaunty Marine Corps angle. After this they immediately conducted their first amphibious landing at New Providence Island during the Battle of Nassau. This began a long and illustrious history of stomping the snot out of America’s enemies. Simple formula right?
Fast forward to the early 1990’s in the heady days of MCRES and MCREE or whatever the heck they were calling it that week. Whatever the name, it is a Commanding General’s Readiness Inspection (CGRI) and was the cause of many sleepless nights spent ironing boot socks and mastering the fine art of the Wall Locker/JOB (junk on the bunk) Inspection.
Preparation for the Wall Locker/JOB included putting a hot iron to every stitch of clothing you were issued including underwear. Yes, Marines all over the globe spent their off time dutifully ironing their BVDs, t-shirts, and socks to ensure they were crisp and folded in neat aligned stacks. Hours and hours were spent hunting for IPs (Irish pennants), little loose strings which are still anathema to Marines.
The liberal use of spray starch was an integral part of the inspection process. One has not had a full Marine Corps experience until in a brief moment of clarity one realizes he spent the entire weekend starching his drawers. We hung our uniforms up in the wall locker bracing all the sleeves with a folded wire hanger. Then we spray starched the crap out of them. This was to ensure the seams on the sleeves would be flat and all facing in the same direction. It was a terrible crime to not have all the hangers pointed the same way. Having any buttons unbuttoned was liable to get you “not recommended” for promotion.
Dress shoes and black boots were given special attention with q-tips and the sole was given a coating of edge dressing. Not only the sides but on the bottom too. After all, one couldn’t give the impression one actually walked around in them.
Every piece of gear issued was cleaned, polished, painted, and suitably worshiped in the proper Marine Corps manner. In the infantry, weapons were cleaned so vigorously the bluing was scrubbed off turning the rifles silver. E-tools, eyelets on belts, and anything metal was painted black. The idea was to make everything look brand new and heaven forbid items such as your undergarments had the appearance of looking used. To this day you can probably still find flat black spray painted outlines of e-tools and tent stakes on the sidewalks near any Marine barracks.
We would go so far as to purchase an entire extra set of t-shirts, socks, and underwear for exclusive use in the Wall Locker/JOB. To counteract this practice it was ordered that all gear displayed would be gear the Marine actually wore. Being adaptable creatures we simply bought the extra set of t-shirts and underwear and put each item on one at a time. As we removed each article we ironed them into a permanent flat square. Come inspection time we could honestly say that we had worn the items on display.
After pouring our heart and soul into creating immaculate shrines out of our wall lockers containing highly polished boots and shoes, decorated with uniforms creased as sharp as a scalpels, the true malicious intent of the Marine Corps inspection preparation process revealed itself. We had to box up all our well manicured uniform items for storage while we deployed to Japan for six months. By the time we got back from deployment all our stored gear was disheveled and somehow all the IPs had grown back. Never fear though, because we got to do it all over again the following year.
An entire book could probably be written about the glorious days of Wall Locker/JOBs and how Marines considered braining each other with e-tools rather than endure another inspection.
Fortunately now days this kind of thing doesn’t take up all our time. The 21st Century Marine Corps has turned a corner and is interested in other pursuits, like war. Gone are the hours of labor put into into a single well ironed and painstakingly folded t-shirt that was never actually worn for a full work day. Instead of spending entire pay checks on brand new t-shirts, underwear, utilities, boots, polish, starch, hangars, flat black paint, etc, Marines joyfully spend entire paychecks on cases of Monster energy drinks, Guitar Hero, and on car payments with obscene interest rates. Ah, progress!