was FAP'ed (Fleet Assistance Program) out of my squadron at MCAS Cherry Point in April of 1979, and sent to MCAS Yuma to support an international AVELEX (Aviation Element Exercise), called WTI (Weapons Training and Instruction).
As a old hand Lance Corporal, I was placed in charge of a 5 man detail instructed to provide maintenance of the Staff NCO Barracks. This meant that we were to swab the decks, field day the heads, and maintain the general cleanliness of the common areas of the barracks.
Now the TAD barracks in Yuma are of the straight line style (rather that the H style barracks) made of wood with the typical tile floors in common areas, and much to their credit, newly (in 1979) installed ceramic tile floors in the head. So this made most cleanup tasks a piece of cake.
We started work on a Saturday, and by Monday at reveille, we had the TAD barracks looking good and ready for the Staff NCOs to start rolling in. By 1400 that Monday, the barracks was full, 2 men to a room (including the janitorial staff). We had also been tasked with providing the fire watch for that barracks. So I would take a shift in the middle of the night, and let the others rotate around my watch.
Monday through Thursday went just fine, we cleaned the place up, made it shine and passed inspection Friday morning by a 2 star general, and the first Master Gunnery Sergeant (bursting bomb in the center of those chevrons!!!) that I had ever seen. We were given liberty, but only 2 men at a time could leave (still had fire watch, and clean up duties).
At about 0200, I was on fire watch, walking the common areas of the barracks when I heard a most disgusting sound coming from the level 2 head. It seems that a senior Staff Sergeant had gone done to San Luis, Mexico to sample the fare (ladies, food, and drink), and had become rather ill. I noticed that he had managed to hit the toilet when his stomach turned over, and he was communicative (though the words he was using should not be printed here), but basically, he was ok. I went on with my rounds, and at 0300 awakened the PFC with the next watch, then I hit the rack.
At 0700, I was awaked by the same PFC I had awakened at 0300 and he asked me to come with him to the second floor head. I had a feeling what the problem was, but I was still surprised!!!
The smell was overwhelming. In the stall where the senior Staff Sergeant had been a few hours before, was evidence that his stomach was not the only thing torn up by his night of decadence in old Mexico. Explosive diarrhea is a truly repulsive sight. Being Marines, and wanting to "take care of our own", we pulled a fire hose into the stall and cleaned up the mess. This is when we found the second surprise. Seems the senior Staff Sergeant didn't have time to get his skivvies down before the "urge" hit him. From behind the toilet came floating his BVDs with his name fully marked on the waist band. We picked them up with a plastic garbage bag, put that bag in another bag, and twisted and tied the bags before heading out to the dumpster behind the barracks with the mess.
Hoping this was a one time happening, and that the SSgt had learned a lesson about eating the food from south of the border, we didn't bother to report it officially, but I did make an entry in the duty (bad pun) log about the incident.
Later that day, the old Master Gunnery Sergeant came around and decided to read the log. He asked me about the event and I informed him of all that had transpired. He did not want the name of Staff Sergeant, he just said that we were being good Marines and taking care of each other was our job. He chomped on his stogie, looking smug and sure that his 30 plus years in the Corps was still in good shape. This particular Master Gunnery Sergeant was very fond of his cigars, and he had another memorable trait, he stuttered constantly. The Master Gunny left, and life returned to normal.
Normal that is, until 0300 then next morning, when the same senior Staff Sergeant gave us a complete repeat performance. Again, we cleaned it up, disposed of the evidence, and made a log entry. This happened EVERY DAY for the next 16 days. Week days, weekend days, it didn't matter, this SSgt was determined to have a good time at his and our expense.
However, on the 17th day, just 3 days before the WTI was over, the 2 star General came in for pop inspection. The barracks was in excellent condition, and in a hastily formed muster, the General congratulated me and my crew for the outstanding job we had done in taking a slightly run down barracks and getting it cleaned up and comfortable for the Staff NCOs in residence for the WTI. He then asked if we had any problems he should know about. Well, at first I was hesitant to speak up, but the others were tired of our 0300 duty (pun intended) SSgt. So I asked to speak to the General privately, he agreed, and he dismissed the others. I retrieved my duty log and let him read each days entry. He asked me if I knew the name of the Staff Sergeant, which I did, and he asked me if I had reported this to the acting First Sergeant (the old Master Gunny). I told the General, and showed the General, that indeed I had, and that by his initials the MGSgt had read each days log, and initialed the log after reading it. The General thanked me for my candor, and asked me to not say anything to the SSgt, that he would handle it.
The next day, the Master Gunny came running into the barracks, slamming the hatch and billowing at the top of his lungs "Where's Lance Corporal Scoggins?!?" What was unusual here, was that the Master Gunny was no longer stuttering. I snapped to attention and reported my presence. He got in my face so closely that I could not focus my eyes on his head, looking me straight in the eye he asked me if I had report the incidents to the General. I told him yes, that the General had asked specifically if we had any problems he should know about, so I told him. The Master Gunny said, again with no stutter "Payback is a mother *&%$#@!!!" About that time, the General and his aide (a Captain), and a full Colonel, came in directly in my view, but behind the Master Gunny. I started to call the room to attention, but the General put his fingers to his lips telling me and the rest of the room to remain quiet. The Master Gunny, not knowing the General was present, proceeded to wear me out. He called me names that even my Drill Instructors had not thought of, he told me that in 30+ years in the Corps he had never had anyone jump the chain of command and that by God no snot nosed Lance Corporal was going to make his last years before retirement look bad! About that time the full Colonel called the room to attention. The Master Gunny spun around, cigar between his lips, and with the greatest stunned expression on his face, snapped to the most rigid position of attention I had ever seen.
The General then apologized to me and my crew for the performance of his senior Staff Sergeant, and then he dismissed everyone except me and the Master Gunny. He then proceed to wear out the Master Gunny about his abilities as a leader of Marines when he made no effort what so ever in getting a hold on the SSgt, and correcting his behavior. He loudly explained that it was NOT the job of a Lance Corporal and 4 PFCs to be wet nurses to Staff NCOs with more time grade than most of the barracks staff had in service. He went on to inform the Master Gunny that the barracks staff had acted in a most professional manner in that they did not complain, until specifically asked about problems, and that the Lance Corporal in charge did exactly as he should have done, and that the Master Gunnery Sergeant need to reexamine his leadership abilities. He also told the Master Gunny that the Marines in charge of this Barracks would receive the highest proficiency and conduct marks available, and that the Lance Corporal in charge would get a letter of commendation sent to his home command. He then told the Master Gunnery Sergeant to disappear. Boy did he!!! The General then proceed to chew on the Staff Sergeant (the Generals aide had rousted him out of the rack), telling him that if he couldn't control his bowels, they would make sure he had a diaper to wear under his uniform. He was told that his Pro's and Cons would reflect his conduct here, and that he could expect to see a reduction to Sergeant, if his home command felt the same way the General did.
After all of this was over, the General asked me if I thought the punishment fit the crime. I asked permission to speak freely, and was given permission. I told the General that I did not expect anyone to get busted over this issue, but rather I would like to see the SSgt get help, because it was obvious to me that this SSgt needed assistance, not another problem. The General thought about this for a minute and then, to my surprise, he said he agreed, and that he would write it up that way.
So, all's well that ends well. I left Yuma, enroute back to Cherry Point with 4.0/4.0 pros and cons, and a letter of commendation in my file.
Just goes to show that those Generals out there don't get promoted just on who they know. They earned those stars every day, and one in particular has my undying gratitude.