In my very first unit in the fleet, we had a company first sergeant we privately referred to as “Eagle Beak” or “Spoonman.” He had all the characteristics a lance corporal expects from a Marine 1stSgt: ill tempered, unapproachable, and best avoided at all costs. He also suffered from the delusion that his Marines considered him some kind of warlord to be admired.
We suspected he joined up in a time just after Vietnam when all his seniors were veterans of that conflict. He had deployed to the first Gulf War but we all knew that “war” had consisted of eight months of waiting around and 100 hours of the Iraqi Army running away, few had seen any real action. There was some talk of him having a background in administration before picking up 1stSgt and coming over to the grunts. The truth of that was never verified but in the minds of infantrymen it’s very important for grunts to be grunts and to be grunty, grunt-grunt, and not a pogue. Grunt.
His efforts to impress the company came off as contrived fabrications. During a training event he once drew his side arm (in those days officers and senior SNCOs were not issued rifles) then ordered a machine gun team to displace with a: “Follow me!” We supposed in his mind he was earning a notional Bronze Star with V device for saving the company from being overrun by an enemy armed with MILES gear and blank ammunition.
Before stepping off on a field op he once remarked: “I don’t know what it is, maybe all these years going to the field, but just be careful if you have to wake me up.” The one time someone actually had to wake him in the middle of the night he burst from his sleeping bag racking his unloaded M9 on an empty chamber. Bad. Ass.
I often compared him to my own father who had executed multiple tours to both Korea and Vietnam leaving mountains of enemy corpses in his wake. He was never boastful of his battle prowess, but the insinuation that it was a bad idea to try him on for size seemed to linger about him. I never recall meeting anyone who really felt the need to. He was someone I woke with some care and deliberation.
Years later I ran across old Eagle Beak at the base PX. For a moment the old lance corporal welled up in me and I brushed it aside as the immature perceptions they were. This time I was a first sergeant and he had long since retired. I approached him and we chatted briefly. Of course, he didn’t recognize his old wise ass lance coolie, but was pleased to indulge me. Oddly, he seemed nothing like my younger memories of him and was genuinely proud one of his Marines had advanced so far.
Funny how time had changed us both.
UPDATE: Turns out my old 1stSgt was a mortar man by trade (0341), as well as a military working dog handler, and det commander on embassy guard duty. Kinda proves the point that most of the time LCpls don’t know $#&*%.