When You Want Something Broken Just Right

Marines are renowned the world over for the breaking of inanimate objects. Sometimes we even do it on purpose. When it absolutely, positively has to be broken wide open, accept no substitute.

Which naturally reminds me of a story.

Back in my days with the Chemical Biological Incident Response Force (CBIRF), we used to host vendors who would come display their gadgetry. Presumably, these were designed to deter, detect, or defend against the unsavory chem/bio/radiological hazards. My favorite vendor was the guy who brought a lovely assistant with him and encouraged her to verbally engage the Marines. I guess he hoped a bunch of LCpls would somehow convince the command: “Buy whatever the hot chick is selling!”

At one of these vendor days a Marine Chief Warrant Officer was inspecting some type of detection device. Being a chem/bio/radiological/nuclear (CBRN) defense specialist and in charge of detection and reconnaissance platoon he had some professional interest.

The vendor went on and on boasting on the virtues and performance of his device. Then he made a mistake. He claimed the device was indestructible.

“Really?” the CWO replied to this new claim.

“Absolutely,” The vendor went on. “You can do whatever you want to that thing. You can’t break it.”

The CWO was dubious. “I don’t know about that.”

“No really,” the vendor assured him. “You won’t be able to break it. Go on, try it.”

“Are you sure?”

“Go for it.”

The CWO took the device and promptly dropped it into a bucket of water. It failed to function after that.

Once again, Marine ingenuity overcomes modern science.

Semper Fidelis!
America’s SgtMaj

/ / / /


  1. ou would think that would be the first test the would do to make sure the device was waterproof/resistant. Not like most NBC events happen in a office building.

  2. Mark, CBIRF and similar agencies are not battlefield type outfits. Our mission was to respond to incidents in the beltway area. So technically, any events we would have responded to would be urban. Though, I agree, you’d think waterproofing would be high on the list.

  3. 1. Had a small solid steel block I used to sit on my desk. Would say it was the only gear I had that was Marine proof.
    2. Troops would say, Let me have it, sir. I’ll **** it up.”
    3. Believed them.
    4. When they switched to the E Tool with a folding handle, told the S-4 that I doubted the things would hold up.
    5. Was told that he would replace any broken ones.
    6. Any one who has been caught in the open by indirect fires believes in digging in. At that time, a majority of my SNCO’s still wore VN ribbons and were true believers.
    7. The ground on Camp Pendleton is hard and dry.
    8. The troops were told not to spare the horses when digging in.
    9. After the first outing with the new gear, turned in 14 broken shovels.
    10. Broke a few more, before the issue was forgotten about -although it turned out to be a pretty decent piece of gear.
    11. Nattering about this on another occasion, was pointed out to me that broken handles on the older tools were one of the issues leading to their replacement.
    12. Gunners are there to provide reality checks for the rest of us.
    Your character did not disappoint.
    V/R JWest

  4. ASM, In both of my past professions I had tried to make things either “cop proof” or “Soldier proof.”

    Kind of like making it so it could
    1.) Not be broken or damaged beyond use
    2.) It could also be made “idiot proof.”

    I can summarize it like this: “As soon as you make something idiot proof, they make a better idiot.”

    “Soldier (or Officer) How did you break that or screw it up so bad?”

  5. Eric, we do that too.

    JWest, I’ve found that nerdy engineers never seem to take into account who is actually going to use the equipment they are designing.

    CI Roller, love the quote.

  6. Mid 90’s and I am at my twilight command – MCTSSA, Camp Pendleton. Got to sit in on a vendor demo of this fancy little olive drab box with a screen that could store all kinds of maps (hey, it was the 90s…no iPhones or iPads yet…) One of the colonels asks what happens to the box when it gets a bullet through it. Vendor gets kind of flustered, says it’s broken. Colonel is quick to note that a paper map with a bullet through it is usually still usable as a map…

    It sure seemed funnier at the time!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

you may like this post