When I asked to be transferred from the recruiting station in Phoenix in 1996, I gave Headquarters Marine Corps my three choices. I was transferred to the logistics base in Barstow, which wasn’t one of my choices.
The “monitor” was the guy at Headquarters Marine Corps who controlled my duty assignments. He told me they needed more administrative people in Barstow because of the supply school there. What neither of us knew until later on was that the school would close down within six months of my arrival.
This was my last duty station. I retired at the end of September in 1998, which game me 20 years and 5 days of continuous active duty. I then spent 10 years in the Fleet Marine Corps Reserve, when ended in September of 2008. The Philippines was already the place I called home by then.
When the school closed, the base soon became top-heavy. There were more staff sergeants (E-6) and above than any other ranks. Consequently…
One of the duties I was often assigned to was “Officer of the Day”, a duty that’s normally assigned to commissioned officers, not staff noncommissioned officers. The base headquarters decided to take the “officers” part of the terminology literally, rarely assigning commissioned officers.
Another duty I was often assigned to was the NCOIC (noncommissioned officer in charge) of the base’s honor guard. I was one of the guys who had to oversee the funeral details for deceased veterans in the county of San Bernardino, California. Those details included presenting the American flag to the next of kin.
Although I asked for retirement and Headquarter Marine Corps approved it when I had about year left, I was “forced” to complete annual training requirements. It didn’t matter to me. I was a geographical bachelor living in the former school barracks. Since I only went home to Phoenix on weekends (trips that became further apart over the course of two years), I had plenty of free time during the week.
I had to re-qualify with my assigned weapons, the M9 pistol and the M16A2 rifle. The pistol range was a breeze but the rifle range was breezy. In other words, the wind blew hard enough and changed direction often enough that I failed to re-qualify with the rifle. Most of the people there attained the lowest classification, marksman. That is, if they attained any at all.
I went from “expert” to “nothing” in a single day and I didn’t care. I didn’t plan on entering law enforcement after the military. Even if I considered it, I wouldn’t be carrying a rifle.
I had to renew my swimming qualification, which took place at the Olympic-sized pool at Fort Irwin. It was the only time I had to do it since boot camp. Like boot camp, I stopped when I qualified as 3rd class. My legs don’t move the way the instructors want them to move to reach the higher classes.
I had to take physical fitness tests. Three or four times, I don’t remember. Slower than ever, I still passed the running part each time. Today, my knees and ankles hate me for all the running I did for 20 years.
I was released from active duty but I was never discharged. That’s probably why us military retirees get a pension until we die. The government, no matter how unlikely, can call us back at any time it’s deemed in the best interest of the United States. It even says so on my letter from the President of the United States.
I don’t know what the real cut-off date is – it will probably be about the time I’m be eligible for a social security pension.
By: RT Cunningham
April 8, 2017
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