Well Josh, after thirteen grueling, hellish, and miserable weeks I graduated from Marine Corps Boot-camp. A feat not all can do as some seventeen of our fellow recruits depicted. Immediately after graduation I was given thirty (30) days leave, vacation to you civilians, and I flew home to San Jose, CA.
I was given orders to report to the United States Army ChemicalWarfare School at Ft. McClellan, Alabama. There, I was one of eight (8) Marines assigned to the Chemical Warfare School. Ft McClellan was also a Women’s Army Corps (WAC) boot-camp where female soldiers were trained.
The training was grueling where I was schooled in the MOS (MilitaryOccupation Code) 5711. Instruction was from “can see to can’t see” six (6) days a week for six (6) weeks.
As many hours as we spent in training I was able to take some time and travel to Montgomery and Birmingham, Alabama, Atlanta, GA, and Nashville, TN for some good ole R & R, (rest and relaxation.) I am ashamed today to say, we partied hard in Montgomery, Birmingham and Atlanta. Nashville was Mecca – the Holy Ground of Country Music. I saw the Grand Ole Opry (Ryman Auditorium.)
Nothing exciting or as you said, “in-sider look” during this six weeks of training. However, I can tell you we got to train with real or live nerve gas and mustard gas. I graduated from the CBR (Chemical, Biological, Radiation) Class Number 8 March 7th, 1973 as a Nuclear, Biological, Chemical Non-commissioned Officer (NBC NCO.)
I was then ordered to report to HMM 261 (Marine Medium HelicopterSquadron) at the New River Air Station, Jacksonville, NC. I arrived in April of 1973 after a short leave back in San Jose, CA. I flew a commercial airline from San Francisco to Atlanta, GA. There I boarded a twin engine “puddle-jumper” and flew into Jacksonville, NC around midnight. An on duty “duty-driver” met me at the airfield and drove me to the receiving barracks at New River Air Station. The next morning I awoke, had chow and was on the way to report to HMM 261 when a CH53 helicopter was taking off from the tarmac and lost a rear blade and crashed, killing several Marines on board. That was my introduction to helicopters. We were known as the “Raging Bulls” and we flew CH46 helicopters.
Nothing interesting or out of the ordinary happened while I was a Raging Bull. I was assigned to the S-3 Office (Operations) where I was the NBC NCO, Training NCO, and an Operations Clerk. However, on April 6, 1973 I was promoted from private to Private First Class. I was married to the former Irene Hernandez Torres on Monday evening, June 18th, 1973 at the Tar Landing Missionary Baptist Church of Jacksonville, NC. I was married at 7:00 PM and was walking around helicopters on the flight line on guard duty at midnight that same night. Fun, huh?
Sometime in late 1973 I was transferred to HMH (Marine HeavyHelicopter) 461 on the same air station. This was just a couple of hangers down. It was here I became a member of the “Iron Horse.” Our pilots flew CH53 helicopters. This was a fun squadron. Here I learned how to send “newbies” on errands like:
- Go out and get a yard of “flight-line”
- Go pick up a quart of “prop-wash”
- Go find a “left handed crescent wrench”
I was once again assigned as the 5711, NBC NCO, Training NCO, and the Operations Clerk. Sorry Josh, no insider stuff here. Showed up did my job for Uncle Sam. I guess this might be of some interest.
On Camp Lejeune (Jacksonville, NC) there was a traffic circle similar to the “wheel” here in Longview. It was called “Swoopers Circle.” Marines would line up needing a ride home for a 48, 72, 96 hour pass. Other Marines with cars would line up and a match would be made between those in line with no cars and those who had cars. For a few dollars less than a slow traveling bus, Marines would pay for rides home.
Irene and I used to take our 1966 Dodge Dart, with a 10 gallon tank, charge just under what a bus ticket would be, and drive Marines home for their leave. We could show up with an empty tank, broke, and no food and drive 2-4 Marines to their home cities and come back with enough money to fill the dodge and buy groceries. Heck gas was only 35 cents a gallon. We would line up the drops in order and take mini-vacations. In this manner we drove up to Baltimore so we could “Walk the Streets of Baltimore, Bobby Bare style, we saw 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. We drove down to Macon, GA once and drop a Marine off, caught a movie and headed home.
December of 1973 a couple of major events took place in my life. Irene became pregnant with our very first child. On December first I was promoted to Lance Corporal, E3.