Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Marines Do the Darndest Things

I have been out of the Marine Corps for two years this week, and as such have forgotten how absolutely stupid a good percentage of Marines are. I remember being in boot camp and talking to some of these guys and thinking “I didn’t realize people this stupid actually existed. No wonder they volunteered to be on the front lines.” Oh, wait. So did I. And the sad thing is these people of questionable intelligence can actually pick up rank and end up in charge of hundreds of young lives. Such seems to be the case with my friend Biff’s unit.

There are intelligent Marines, and those are generally the ones I became friends with during my six years in the reserves (and most of the smart ones I met were reservists anyway. That’s why we were in the reserves). One of them was Biff, who got a 1400 on his SATs despite selling crack through much of high school. He is now a sergeant in a unit near Oakland (I suppose crack dealers just tend to naturally gravitate there. It's in the blood). They were activated this week and will be going to Fallujah in March.

Last weekend they had a mobilization brief for the families of the departing Marines, and had to take the families by bus from the Reserve center to a local community college for the briefing. Well, on the ride over, apparently some Rhodes Scholar-turned-Marine decided to drive one of the white government busses a little too fast, hit a speed bump the size of a Kia, and some poor old lady hit her head on the ceiling of the bus. She complained profusely to the commanding officer and threatened to sue. Because suing the military during wartime is such the American thing to do. At least in this day and age.

Biff’s Sergeant Major was none too pleased when he got this complaint. He came into the Monday morning briefing and said, “Alright, Marines, we had a little incident this weekend when one of you Devil Dogs decided to play Mario Andretti in the parking lot and somebody’s mamma hit her head on the roof of the bus. So we gotta have ourselves a little investigation here. What’s gonna happen today is we’re gonna take the busses out to the parking lot and see how fast we gotta move ‘em to get our grapes (Marine for head) slammed against the ceiling.”

Biff stood up at this point and said “Excuse, me, Sgt. Major, you mean to tell me that we are leaving for work up in three weeks and you want to spend a whole day finding out how fast you have to drive a bus over a speed bump to hit your head on the ceiling?” “Yes, Sergeant. Any other questions?” the Sgt. Major replied curtly. I would have loved to see the risk management assessment on this little mission the Sgt. Major thought up. We are losing half a dozen Marines a day in Iraq, but we’re probably going to have to paralyze at least four finding out why Grandma hit her head on the bus ceiling? And what do we say to the community college when there is a busload of Marines flying through the parking lot repeatedly at three times the speed limit? Government business? Riiiight. God, I miss the Corps.

So out to the parking lot went 44 of Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children and piled into the white school bus and headed over to the community college. Upon arrival, the Sgt. Major instructed the Marine driving the bus to go over the bump at 10 miles an hour. They did this and got barely a jarring out of the seat. “All right, Devil Dog, I don’t have time for this shit,” said the Sgt. Major, “Back her up and take it at thirty.” Now, if you have ever driven a Honda over a speed bump at 30 mph, it is a pretty head knocking experience. Never mind a white school bus full of Marines. Needless to say, the driver backed up, paused, and floored the bus like the Duke Boys trying to jump a haystack running away from Sheriff Roscoe. They hit the speed bump and not only did every single Marine on the bus hit his head on the ceiling, many were launched out of their seats and into the rows ahead of them. When the bus finally came to a stop it looked like a transport that had been hit by enemy fire. Bodies strewn in the aisles. Marines grabbing their heads, complaining, wondering what hit them. All in the name of an “investigation.” What a fabulous way to spend a morning as you prepare for war.

This is not to say that the Marine Corps is run by a bunch of idiots. Officers all have college degrees (although, supposedly, so does half the NFL) and there are many senior enlisted men that would not see much merit in sending a school bus full of Marines barreling into a super-speed bump on the eve of war. Never mind the danger to civilians. Thucydides, a Roman scholar who used to teach about the scholar-warrior and how important it was to an effective society, said something to the effect of “You must have your scholars fight and you must have your warriors educated. Otherwise what you will have are universities full of cowards and battlefields full of fools.” Sound familiar to anyone?

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