Young Lieutenants Part 3

My father related to me a story of an incident during one of his three tours in Vietnam. He was a rifle company first sergeant at the time. With tanks in support the company was in the attack. Moving on line through the jungle they came under enemy small arms fire.

One of the platoon commanders immediately took cover behind the nearest tank. Generally, one would think this a prudent reaction to gunfire. However, leaders, and in particular commanders, have more of an influence on the Marines around them than they often realize. Seeing their platoon commander take cover behind the tank, Marines began to follow his example and joined him there. 

My father waded into this mess, smacked the Lt on the helmet with the butt of his .45 bellowing: “Spread your %*$#@ men out!” 

Young lieutenants receive dents on their helmet regularly. I had a Company XO who used to catch it. All. Day. Long. This poor young Lt suffered from unfortunate geography.  His office was next door to the Company Gunny and diagonally across from mine. From my desk I could watch him work.  He got shot in the face non-stop from the minute he entered the building.

“Geez Sir, nice of you to show up today!  I wish I could get away with your BS hours!” In all fairness, he could have been in his office since midnight and I would claim he was late.  But if you let a young Lt get comfortable he’ll no doubt immediately screw something up. Even a seasoned Lt needs a good scuffing up once in a while.

Another time I pointed out to the XO enlisted Marines had to complete the Leading Marines MCI in order to be promoted to corporal. In comparison, lieutenants merely had to have their name on the morning report for selection to captain. He spent the day muttering under his breath.

Sometimes you have to be the bad guy in order for learning to occur. Other times it’s just kind of fun.

Semper Fidelis!
America’s SgtMaj

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  1. 1. Out of young LT stories. How about a 1st Sergeant Story?
    2. This fellow was particularly handsome, well decorated from VN, totally competent and respected. Beats me what he was doing in our unit.
    3. We were at Camp Wilson on Twenty-Nine Palms.
    4. For various reasons, we were spending a week between exercises.
    5. This Bn. was snake bit: an officer in another company had bitched about base accommodations within hearing of the base commander and he had banished us: no on-post liberty: chew your liver out at Wilson, slug.
    6. We had been there awhile and needed some basic stuff, like…haircuts.
    7. The S-4 comes up with a barber kit, neatly cased in an OD green box.
    8. Someone volunteers claim that they’ve cut hair. Didn’t think too much of it.
    9. After a couple hours, some one drags me over. About 30 of my Marines have skin heads.
    10. One troop with a particularly luxurious head of hair is acting as a judas goat and luring the unsuspecting victims to the barber’s chair. Those already shorn are hiding.
    11. In comes my First Sergeant. He asks the barber if he can really cut hair. Affirmative answer.
    12. Proceeds to give about five minutes worth of instructions on how he wants it cut.
    13. The barber capes him and immediately runs the shears, front to back, down the center of his head.
    14. Total silence. Top reaches up, feels the damage and says, “Alright, finish the job.” At this point, bald Marines rush in from several directions, cheering.
    15. Eventually, everyone in my company was hunted down and shorn.
    16. Was told by someone that cutting that close constituted an illegal haircut. We had more pressing problems and said as much.
    V/R JWest

  2. While in Saigon Vietnam, the Navy rating in charge of the armory in our hotel related a story of an Army second lieutenant. The lieutenant approached the arms room half door and noticed the sign above the clearing barrel: “Clear all weapons here.” So the lieutenant pulled his M1911A1 from his holster and fired all the loaded rounds into the barrel and laid the smoking locked back pistol on the half door shelf. The rating then crawled out from under his desk, crawled over to the half door, reached up and put a pen on the weapon sign in sheet, and said: “Just leave your pistol Sir and I will take care of it.” The lieutenant didn’t seem to notice the voice came from someone he couldn’t see.

  3. JWest, a 1stSgt story coming soon. Not sure it’s what you have in mind though.

    Saker, definitely a thankless job. Probably why they get paid more.

    Chuck, sometimes you just can’t make this stuff up.

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