Upon completion of boot camp and infantry training I was assigned to attend Steward School in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. During the process of checking in, I was sent to Master Gunnery Sergeant Washington for orientation. He gave me the basic run-down of the course and explained that the top ten percent of the class would get their choice of available duty stations on the final roster (big incentive). He then pushed a document at me to sign which said that I had volunteered for this school. I had not, and I told him so. He said, “It’s up to you, sign it or be transferred to the 2nd Marine Infantry Division.”
It was late in the day and a clerk burst into the office and said there was a fire outside. Washington raced out the door and I could see through the blinds . . . a big pile of leaves was smoldering. After some time the commotion was over and I waited for Washington to return. He never did, so I put the unsigned document back in the folder and placed it in the Out file.
Classes started October 13th and I was focused on getting my choice of duty station. I studied in the library while everyone was at Happy Hour in the club. On weekends I would go to a coffee shop in New River and study everything about food service. Finally on February 10, 1965, we took our final exams and I was first in the class of 27. The roster of duty stations was posted and my choice was MCAS El Toro, Santa Ana, California,
When receiving my orders the glitch that I had not signed the the volunteer document was noticed and again they tried to force me to sign. When I refused, I was ordered to the Major’s office and he asked me why I wouldn’t sign the document. I explained that I didn’t want the document to be used against me in the future. He asked, “How could it be used against you?” I answered, “Sir, I did not volunteer for this.” He dismissed me and I was on my way back to California.
When checking into El Toro it was mandatory for all enlisted Marines to meet the Base Sergeant Major. It was just a way to let everyone know that he had your back. His words came across loud and clear . . . If you ever get frustrated and feel like doing something stupid or need help with an issue, come see me first. Those words eventually would be very important to my future in the Marines.
Next edition: My military background/credentials II