Sgt Grit Newsletter - 17 SEP 2015

In this issue:
• Blood Of The Corps
• Schooled At Camp Johnson
• No Mortal Sin In Boot Camp

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Cpl Vigil, Pvt Vigil, and Marine Vigil

Sgt Grit,

This past Friday my son Hunter Vigil graduated from Parris Island. Pictured is me on the left, my son and my dad Wayne Vigil Sr. My dad served our Corps '71-'75, I served '91-'95 and now it's his turn to carry on the tradition. I wish him luck in all his endeavors the Corps presents him with. Too proud of a Papa to keep it to myself.

Semper Fi,
Cpl Vigil, Wayne D
USMC 0311/8151

Blood Of The Corps

Sgt. Grit,

I forwarded the "Short Notes" section on the enlisted pilots to one of my flight school friends who flew C-130's in RVN. Here is his response...

"Henry Wildfang came through El Toro in August 1966 as AC (CWO4) with the VMGR-252 colonel as co-pilot.

He was '700 years old' then, so I asked him about his glasses--Tri's. I asked, "How do you make you landings?" He said, "I have a flight director." I answered back, loud mouth Capt that I was, "There is no flight director in Hercs."

"Well Capt, on my planes there is. I come down the glide slope flying right into the ground, when the co-pilot is certain I'm going to crash, he goes 'HUNH' and I flare right onto a good landing."

"Wildfang and the rest of the flying sergeants were the blood of the Corps at places like Guadalcanal & Midway."

R.M. "Zeb" Zobenica
Capt. USMC (Ret)

Marines 2-tone 1/4 Zip Long Sleeve

Schooled At Camp Johnson

I attended MCSSS Camp Johnson in 1989 as a future 3451, assigned on open contract. Not my fault, but the Corps does seem to have much wisdom. At the time, we were made aware of the history of the base and the travails of dark green recruits at Montford Point boot camp. We had a command SgtMaj who was an unbelievably motivating individual that all respected and was rumored to have been a recruit at Montford Point during the segregation era. SgtMaj Hunter had a memory like none other I have ever encountered. He knew each and every single student at MCSSS by name, rank and origin, regardless of school, and never failed to correctly address you, no matter how many times you had personally dealt with him. Everybody was in awe of him. If you needed reminding of where you came from, he would tell you. Such happened to me.

I went out with a buddy into Jacksonville to get tattoos. I got a screaming eagle with USMC on my left shoulder. (Not traditional, I know, but hey...) The next day, I was at CAC taking care of some business when SgtMaj Hunter addressed me. "Hey, Private Raines, I heard you got a tattoo." Yes, SgtMaj, I did. He waxed nostalgic and said, "Ya know, in my 35 years in the Corps, I never once had the desire to get a tattoo." Well, SgtMaj, that was a wise decision, as nobody would be able to see it. BLAM! My eyes crossed, my breath caught and I hit me knees. Yeah, I had my PFC stripe pinned in the gauntlet three weeks later, but nobody had hit me that hard, and he hit me right on my new tattoo. Did I run to the nearest available officer and charge abuse? Of course not! What happened was that I learned a valuable lesson. NEVER smart off to a command SgtMaj. There are consequences, no matter how personable he seems, and your 99 ASVAB will count for absolutely nothing. I later did the math. 1989-35=1954. The last segregated platoon through Montford Point was in 1949. The rumor was false, but that meant nothing whatsoever. Marines are Marines and SgtMaj's are exactly that. Wherever you are now, SgtMaj Hunter, God bless. You made a difference.

LCpl Paul D. Raines, one each
USMC '89-'93

3rd Battalion 9th Marines Gear

No Mortal Sin In Boot Camp

I had made a promise to myself, long ago, that I would someday return to MCRD, San Diego, for a visit. In 2008, 50 years after I arrived at the receiving barracks in June of 1958, I fulfilled my long-held wish. I drove into the gate and handed my ID card to the sharp young Marine in battle dress and he welcomed me with a "Welcome aboard, Chief". I retired as a Command Chief MSgt in the USAF after a total of 33 years of service, 6 years in the USMC and 27 years in the USAF. After getting settled in quarters, I went to the Grinder. I am 75 years old and I thought to my self "I was able to run around this thing at age 18?". I was in Golf Co., 2nd RTB, Plt. 243 and the Quonset huts for my platoon were behind and north of the present reviewing stand. My chow hall stood immediately in back of the present reviewing stand. I recognized the base theater and the base chapel. The chapel was our refuge on Friday afternoons. All Catholics could fall out and proceed to the chapel for confession and absolution. I enjoyed the serenity and quiet it provided for a short while. I also learned how many young Marine recruits became Catholics on Friday afternoons to enjoy that same peaceful interlude. Our junior DI, Sgt Palmero, would comment on confession call, "I'm Catholic and there is no way you can commit a mortal sin while in boot camp." It deterred no one.

The Recruit Training Bn. office made me very welcome and provided me with a Marine Corporal as a guide. The receiving barracks looked the same and I don't recall if the yellow footprints were there in June 1958 (I arrived there at night). Upon visiting the Depot Museum, I learned that the Quonset huts had all been removed years ago. I had wished to visit the site of the rifle range at Camp Matthews where I qualified as expert and top shooter for my platoon upon qualification with the M1 Garand, but I knew it had been phased out years ago and given back to the state. I also visited 1st ITR, Edson Range, and Camp San Onofre but that's a story for another time. An enjoyable and fulfilling visit for an old man, bringing back good memories.

Johnny Reyes Jr.
Command Chief MSgt, USAF, Ret.
USMC '57-'63 USAF '72-'00



"314" was the first F-4 squadron to TransPac. It was in 1963 to Atsugi. I really remember that. I was in VMF-542, and they were releiving us. We had the 'old' F4D Skyrays, which were going to reserves and mothballs.

I still recall the first Phanthom taxiing to the flight line. The reason: I was going home. We were being 'relieved'. Man, that was an impressive beautiful sight to us.

1963 was the year when all aircraft designations were changed. So the 'old' F4D-1 Skyray went to F-1 or something.

TransPacs in those days were fairly new. Other squadrons had been doing it. 542 did it in '62. F8U's (Crusaders) had done it before us. I don't remember if other models did it was well. Long time ago. But 314 was the first to transpac the F4, and maybe the first F4 outfit in the Corps. Though VMF-115 argues about that. They were on the East Coast.

Semper Fi
Bill Morenz

The Myths Of Chesty's Nickname

Sgt. Grit,

Jim Quam posted a correction to my Chesty Puller story a few weeks ago stating that Chesty's nickname was due to his barrel-shaped chest in part from a childhood illness, and I had heard that as well on several occasions, however, just like the meaning behind our "Jarhead" nickname there are several versions of many smaller parts of our history, and the Chesty nickname seems to follow suit. Even our DI's told us that Chesty's nickname was due, in part, to his chest full of medals, and for some reason that is the version that I just accepted as being adequate, mainly because I never gave the story much more thought. I can't recall now if it was written in the red monster or just spoken to us, but that is what I remember them telling us. Oddly enough though, I have a book on Chesty Puller in my collection that I have yet to read and if I had read that book before sending in my story, I would have been better informed. I stand corrected Jim! However, after doing some recent research I did find on Wikipedia what Jim noted as the more accepted nickname origin along with this line:

"Some say Puller got his famous nickname because of his big, thrust-out chest; the myth was that the original had been shot away and the new chest was a steel plate. Others state that "chesty" was an old Marine expression meaning cocky". I selected this quote because here yet again are two other myths, neither of which I ever heard before as being related to Chesty's nickname. Thanks anyway for the correction Jim, its duly noted! Semper Fi Jarhead!

Semper Fi to all,
Mike Kunkel
Cpl 0331
Lima 3/8 Weapons Plt

Marine Gunny Tattoo

I've waited 17 years to finally get my tat! I have 3 years left before I retired and I knew it was time. I gave my idea to the artist and he made it what it is, I love it!

GySgt Deppen, D.

Marine Gunny Tattoo with Eagle, Globe, and Anchor

Reinvention Of The Wheel

Thanks for the update and the right name for the CWO tanker pilot I recalled from the 70's. We didn't really know any tanker pilots but one sensed the respect for Wildfang in the briefings we attended. The recollections explain a lot of the background.

In the way of clarification, there were lots of Phantom Westpac deployments starting before VietNam, but by the end of the war and subsequent redeployment to Japan, 115 and 232? We were permanently stationed in Iwakuni and personnel were rotated, not the whole unit. The resulting lack of readiness and unit cohesion caused a change to unit rotations, starting with 12 month then 6 month deployments. A reinvention of the wheel I suppose.

VMFA-251 was the first Phantom squadron in the post war rotation. We landed in Iwakuni by way of Yuma, K-Bay, and Wake Island. The arrival was marked by landing of each of 12 aircraft in order of the side number. A Hawaii squadron joined us in Iwakuni. I think the first was 212?

On the leg from Hawaii to Wake one of our planes was 'detoured' to Johnston Atoll because of a hydraulic problem. There were apparently some interesting activities going on there at that time and subsequent TransPacs were rerouted towards Midway to avoid any future diverts in that direction.

Bob Foley

Awards For Graduating Basic Training

We Don't Promise You A Rose Garden!

Awards for Military Training

Now Enter The Marines

Prison Tower at prison in Iraq

Home at prison in Iraq

Sgt. Grit,

Most of your readers are like me, a Viet Nam vet. I'd like to share some memories of Iraq. My goal is to let my fellow Viet Nam vets know that Iraq was like a Viet Nam in the desert. Those who served there, and in Afghanistan, don't always get the respect they deserve (in my opinion). I think the same happened to the Viet Nam vet from Korea vets and they in turn from WWII vets.

When I arrived in Iraq in 2004 as an Army CW4 (or CWO4), I didn't know what to expect (very similar to my arrival in Viet Nam as a Marine PFC). There were improvements since my last deployment; tents with air conditioning, portable showers in trailors, porta pots, etc. I didn't even have to burn the sh-tters like Viet Nam, they hauled it away. But all in all, a combat zone is a combat zone.

I arrived in April 2004 and was assigned to the famous (or infamous) Abu Ghraib prison. My specialty was counterintelligence, but they sent me there with a team of HUMINTers (read interrogators). Upon arrival, we saw signs everywhere about the perils of prisoner abuse and reminders of the rules. I thought it was overkill, afterall, who didn't know the rules. And then the hammer came down about those morons who mistreated detainees and were dumb enough to take pictures.

I lived in one of the cells. At first I thought it cruel that I would find myself living in a prison cell. But very soon it saved my life. Some Haji (all Iraqis were referred to as Hajis since their names were either Mohammed or something unpronouncable), fired an RPG at a prison tower, missed, and hit my cell wall. Needless to say, I thanked Saddam for the architectual sturdiness of his prison.

Now enter the Marines. We occasionally made trips to Baghdad. So of course we traveled in convoys. It was very much like those trips in Viet Nam from An Hoa to DaNang only on pavement. A Marine Detachment was responsible for convoy escort. They led and trailed the convoy. I no longer recall the route but it seems like Route Irish.

Enter the IEDs. We called them booby traps in Viet Nam but now they were much more sophisticated. Cell phones changed the game along with huge explosives left over from Saddam. 155mm rounds and bigger could be detoned from afar. But was I worried? No way. With the Marines leading the way and my 9mm Berretta, I was safe! Although one time the convoy got held up by an overturned vehicle and we had to dismount. There I was with my 9mm ready to repel any attackers! Where was the .45 we had in Viet Nam?!

Inside an armoured-up Humvee is hot. Hot can't fully convey what it was really like inside. Bottled water was always available given the desert heat. No wonder they all had camelbacks full of water. I drank water constantly. Later I realized I hadn't relieved myself for over 6 hours despite constantly drinking water.

But the moral of this story is the guts and grit of those who served there. Not me, I was soon transferred to Baghdad as a counterintelligence analyst (once tagged as an analyst you can never escape it). I lived in an airconditioned tent but worked in a palace.

The Marine and Army trigger pullers who wore the full battlerattle in that miserable heat were heroes. Not only did they face IEDs and ambushes, they kicked in doors not having any idea what awaited them. Sound like Viet Nam? Indeed it was. General Sherman was right, war is hell. And once again the Marines were out front, just like those convoys and places like Fallujah and Ramadi or the Army at Sadr City and Baghdad.

In my heart of hearts (thanks Shakespeare) I was always a Marine. Deep inside that crusty 55 year old Army CW4 beat the heart of Marine 2230xxx.

General Amos was right, "Once a Marine, always a Marine".

Semper Fi
Mark Smith, CW5 US Army Retired
Cpl. LSU An Hoa, Viet Nam, 1967

LCpl Asked Ronda Rousey To Marine Corps Ball

Marine Asks Ronda Rousey To Marine Corps Ball

Article by Mike Foss

U.S. Marine Jarrod Haschert asked Ronda Rousey to accompany him to the Marine Corps Ball in December. At the time of Haschert's proposal, Rousey was planning to fight Holly Holm in January and so she'd be too busy to attend. However, the fight was rescheduled to Nov. 14 in Australia, which means Rousey is available.

When asked by TMZ what she planned to do with the invitation, Rousey's answer was emphatic.

"I would go for sure," Rousey said but added that she didn't know how to contact Haschert. "Do I call him? Or do I set up a time and place like Never Been Kissed and wait until the clock runs out and be like 'I'm here!'"

Rousey should probably call him. And Haschert should probably make his number available. Rousey also added that Haschert better be on his best behavior.

"He's cute," Rousey said. "He's gotta be a gentleman, though, I'm not a first date kind of girl. But, I dunno, we'll see when I meet him."

Get A Blank Stare

I read with interest the letter sent by G. R. Archuleta, GySgt on behalf of Robert Wegner, USMC Retired, that appeared in the 9 Sep 2015 newsletter. Robert Wegner and I were on Okinawa at the same time, and I too, was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines (REIN), 3D Marine Division, (REINF) FMF. I was assigned to a rifle company, but can't remember which one. I'm sitting here looking at my promotion order to Private First Class (Permanent) in the U.S. Marine Corps to rank as such from 1 April 1956. The order listed my serial number 15-----/9900. I was infantry so I guess 9900 was the MOS for an infantryman at that time. Subsequent orders showed MOS 0311 which I know for sure is infantry.

I shipped out of San Diego on the USNS General Edwin D. Patrick on December 31 and remember it taking 14 days to get to Okinawa. I reported in to the duty NCO who informed me that my unit had left on a 65 mile hike the day before and would be back tomorrow. In those days we humped everywhere on foot and I was a BAR man. I remember several typhoons during my 14-month tour. When I tell people I was assigned to Camp Napunja they get a blank stare on their face and I have not heard of the place since. I was not there for too long. I do remember we lived in quonset huts with missing floor boards, leaky oil stoves, and a shower room where half the showers did not work. I also remember that there was a brig close by that consisted of barb wire with a tower in each corner. The inmates slept in pup tents and their meals consisted of C-rations thrown through the wire. An Army AAA outfit vacated their beautiful permanent living quarters at Sukiran and we got to move into their space. We thought we had died and gone to heaven. Anyway thanks for bringing back memories of Camp Napunja.

Barry D. Farris
Sgt E4. USMC 8 Jul 55 - 7 Jul 59
CW4 USA Retired May 60 - Jan 80

H Co, 2/26 Vietnam

Forever Brothers H Co, 2nd Bn, 26th Mar Vietnam Program

Forever Brothers H Co, 2nd Bn, 26th Mar Vietnam page 1

Sgt. Grit,

H Company, 2nd Battalion, 26th Marine Regiment (Vietnam) held a reunion in Arlington, Virginia, August 31st – September 6th, 2015. We held a Memorial Service at the Iwo Jima Memorial for the 74 Marines and Corpsmen we lost during our time in Vietnam. Our guest speaker was Rear Admiral Brent Scott CHC, USN, Chaplain of the Marine Corps. Our Invocation was given by Commander Stephen Coates CHC, USN, Assistant Deputy Chaplain of the Marine Corps.

The Bugler that played Taps was MGySgt. Mathew Harding from the Marine Corps Band "The Presidents Own" and we had a Color Guard from 8th and I.

I am going to attach the write up from the Marine Corps Public Affairs that they did about the Ceremony and contains several pictures that they took. I am also attaching the program for the Ceremony.

Semper Fi,
Bill Hancock
Cpl. Of Marines
0311 1st Plt.
Hotel Co., 2nd Bn., 26th Marines

Marine Barracks Great Lakes

Marine Barracks Great Lakes Plaque

Last week a plaque was affixed to building #2 at Naval Station Great Lakes in Illinois. The plaque reads: "Site of the former Marine Barracks, Naval Station Great Lakes 1926-1977. This plaque honors all Marines who were stationed with Marine Barracks Great Lakes 1926-1977, during peacetime and wartime. The Marines stationed in these barracks represented the Marine Corps, the Navy, and the nation with dedicated, honorable, and professional service. Semper Fidelis. Donated by Marine Barracks Great Lakes, Project 2015."


Noticeable Limp


Just read the story about SSGT Gregor and that fantastic game. Ernie Gregor was the first Senior Drill Instructor I was assigned to as a fresh-out-of-school Junior at age 21 in 1963 at PISC. The man was amazing. He had a noticeable limp – and by the time his platoons left the Island, all the recruits limped the same way. He could chew about a pound and a half of chewing tobacco a day, and that chewing was the only thing we had in common, as I grew up in dairy barns where smoking was not OK. SSGT Gregor taught me much, not only about being a good Drill Instructor, but about being a great Marine. He would tell me, "We're not here just to chew their ass, we're here to show them what "right" looks like!" He will live in my memory forever also. I still have the Cover that I wore at that first graduation with Ernie.

Pete Formaz
GySgt of Marines

Biblical Quality Woe


Loved the story about the air raid and flood drills. At PI in '66 we (at least in my platoon) didn't have those but we did have an exercise called "INCOMING!" In the middle of the night we would be rudely awoken by our beloved Drill Instructors screaming "INCOMING" at the top of their lungs. They would break open a new bottle of 1000 salt pills and start throwing them around like possessed lunatics. All of us under the racks – hard to get two under each – until the attack ended. We were then treated to: "Ladies... I know exactly how many of those I had and I'd better godd-mn well have every one of them back by reveille! Lights out!" Had to find them all in the dark. And you darn skippy they counted them all. Biblical quality woe was cast down upon us if we were short even one. Ya just can't make this stuff up.

Gerry Zanzalari
1966 - 1970

Marine For Life

Sgt. Grit,

Thank you for another fine Newsletter, sure does bring back memories as we age and many of us just need the nudge to get the "brain-housing group" going.

The article from former Sgt. Carl Conking regarding Texas issuing Special License Plate, I just would like to add that Disabled Veterans can apply for DV plates and if rated 50% or higher the cost is 3.00 and can be issued a second pair at standard fee., I recently transferred one set to my truck at no fee with no problem as long as you have the VA rating form. With the DV one can park at any city, county and federal parking lot or meter to include airport parking garage at no charge. In addition Texas offers free drivers license with the word "VETERAN" inscribed.

One last thing, we the veterans should register all military documents at your county office at no charge, when you need the document the county will provide a "Certified Copy" at no charge.

Fellow vets, I'm sure many other states have these benefits, check it out.

Sgt, didn't mean to go on and on but I have found your newsletter as very informative, all our vet's need all the assistance we can pass on.

"Still as mean, lean, and a fighting machine", as the day I earned the title fifty years ago and retired twenty-nine years ago, Marine for Life!

Semper Fidelis
MSgt. Nam Vet 3/26
0311, 0369
3412, 8412

Short Rounds

For Gunny Tom Wade:

Gunny, the F-4 was getting 'long in the tooth' by the late 70's, but several squadrons still flew them well into the 80's...VMFA-115/122/212/232/235/251/312/314/323/333/451/531.

It is entirely possible one of the above trans-pac'd to Iwakuni.

R.M. "Zeb" Zobenica
Capt. USMC (Ret)


"What, then, do they want a government for? Not to regulate commerce; not to educate the people; not to teach religion, not to administer charity; not to make roads and railways; but simply to defend the natural rights of man -- to protect person and property -- to prevent the aggressions of the powerful upon the weak -- in a word, to administer justice. This is the natural, the original, office of a government. It was not intended to do less: it ought not to be allowed to do more."
--Herbert Spencer, "The Proper Sphere of Government" [1843]

"Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference in the world. But the Marines don't have that problem."
--Ronald Reagan, President of the United States; 1985

"They told (us) to open up the Embassy, or "we'll blow you away." And then they looked up and saw the Marines on the roof with these really big guns, and they said in Somali, "Igaralli ahow," which means "Excuse me, I didn't mean it, my mistake".
--Karen Aquilar, in the U.S. Embassy; Mogadishu, Somalia, 1991

"I've used more ink signing payrolls than you've drunk coffee in the mess hall!"

Morning formation: "two dead, one in the head, and I wouldn't be here if I could get special liberty... all present and accounted for..."

"Fall in, alphabetically, by rank!"

"Smmeeedly!" (DI's cry for the recruit messman who waited on DI's at recruit messhalls... tough job...)

God Bless the American Dream!
Semper Fi!
Sgt Grit

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