We called it “The Rock” and counted the days when we would rotate back to the land of the big PX. Hawaii wasn’t exactly the paradise we expected. The Marine Corps Base at Kaneohe is on a peninsula that forms Kaneohe Bay, with the Pali mountains as a backdrop. The Air Wing enlisted barracks was a group of two story, flat-roofed, stucco buildings with open squad bays that were connected by breezeways. The 212 barracks had the MPs on one side and the helo boys from HMM-161 on the other. Next to the 161 barracks was the mess hall. I arrived with a group of replacements for the guys whose two year tour was over. The barracks had an upper and lower open squadbay arranged in cubicles marked off by green metal wall lockers, and a central corridor. Each cubicle had six single bunks (or racks), as I recall. Each rack had a mosquito net which was a necessity on that side of the island, called the “Windward Side”. The mosquito nets were needed because of the mosquitos that were bred in the swamps between the base and the mainland. Those bugs were huge. One night, I forgot to put my net down. About 0300 I felt a thump on my chest. Looking down, I saw a Kaneohe mosquito turning over my dog tag to check my blood type. Not only were they huge, they were picky eaters.
swords and cover…dates in Corps and Dates on field
I remember one JOB in particular. It was in the wooden Barracks at MCAS El Toro Santa Ana. This was in 1969, it seems as though you were either coming from, or going to RVN. There were many old salts waiting to go home. Some of which had only a pair of utilities, and a new set of greens, receiving early outs to go home for Christmas. The majority were coming from 3rd Marine Division. PFC Kenneth Rexford Brown, formerly Sgt. Brown showed me how to pull your blankets tighter from underneath the rack, by using the springs. Of course we learned that in recruit training but KR had a trick that made the blanket tighter still and even remained that way. I believe KR got out and went to WalaWala Washington. I remember that many of the Marines were “cut a huss” for not having the proper uniforms. I can remember the inspecting Colonel coming closer and approaching a Marine that was obviously not prepared for inspection. He would ask where are coming from Marine? The Marine would reply something almost incoherent, and definitely a different language. The Colonel only said “well done Marine” and continued his inspection. That was definitely one of those days when I knew I had been in the presence of heroes. That evening we celebrated by putting a poncho liner inside a footlocker filling that with ice and beer, and listening to Johnny Cash and Luther played the boogy woogy. The party was great until the OD made us take our shindig outside the barracks. After paying for the beer, ice, and a battery operated record player the only record we could afford was albums on sale in the PX. Johnny sold for .99 and a pack of Camels for .27 cents. I remember Friday morning formation, when Captain Wade, Mustanger and one of the greatest Marines to put on a uniform would read off the names of Marines shipping out WESPAK. I remember Sgt Joe Dunlap our Platoon Sgt. in El Toro. I saw him again in Hawaii as GySgt Dunlap and I was a SSGT. We were mounting up for Operation Frequent Wind. I remember being “gigged” while on embassy duty in Chile for having dust on my wall locker display. Even with that “gig” we won the detachment of the year award. 3 Years Running. I mean RUNNING our NCOIC SSGT Turnbow had been a Physical Fitness Instructor prior to coming on MSG. That guy made us run like Forrest Gump. Like Forrest, my running days are over. Our memories and Junk on the Bunk are what make us ALWAYS A MARINE. Semper Fi D. Womack
MARINE OF THE WEEK // “I looked down, and a lot of my right leg wasn’t there.”
Lance Cpl. Brady A. Gustafson
2d Battalion, 7th Marines – HAVOC, Marine Corps Forces, Central Command
July 21, 2008
In the village of Shewan, Afghanistan, Lance Corporal Gustafson’s squad was ambushed from multiple positions by enemy insurgents with rocket-propelled grenades and medium machine gun fire. The attack was initiated by a rocket-propelled grenade that pierced the hull of his Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle and struck him, resulting in severe traumatic injury to his right leg. Despite bleeding profusely, Lance Corporal Gustafson quickly identified enemy positions and engaged them with accurate fire from his M-240B machine gun while a tourniquet was applied to his leg. When the vehicle to their rear was disabled by further rocket-propelled grenade fire, he directed his driver to push the vehicle out of the enemy’s kill zone, and shortly thereafter the vehicle was engulfed in flames. Although medium machine gun fire continued to impact around him, Lance Corporal Gustafson remained steadfast, returning concentrated fire on the enemy. His effective suppression allowed the Marines behind him to safely dismount and exit their burning vehicle. Lance Corporal Gustafson braved the effects of shock and reloaded his weapon twice, firing more than 400 rounds, before he allowed himself to be pulled from the turret and receive medical treatment. By his bold actions, daring initiative, and total devotion to duty, Lance Corporal Gustafson reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.