After finishing schools I was transferred to the Fleet Marine Force (FMF). The Marine Corps put me in a LAAMBn (Light Anti Aircraft Missile Battalion) that shot HAWK (Homing All the Way Killer) Missiles at enemy airplanes. The North Vietnamese had few planes to spare for sorties to South Vietnam. By the time I joined the unit the other HAWK units were withdrawing from Vietnam. So I defended Yuma Arizona from low flying communist aircraft. We shot old missiles at targets towed by very nervous and unhappy pilots. We also fired at small drone aircraft controlled from the ground. We were proficient at missing our targets and blowing large holes in the desert. Some missiles exploded on the launching pad, some disappeared in the sky, some flew a short distance and exploded near us, and a few hit the target.
The air conditioning was broken all summer in our barracks in Yuma. The temperatures were scorching. In the desert we measured the temperature in three different ways - on one measure it reached 138 degrees. When off duty in the barracks we would shower, then lay under a fan and pant and then shower again.
Once in a while I would here about the guys I went to Boot Camp and Infantry Training with. Many of them went to Vietnam and were in Infantry Units. I am sure some were killed or wounded but you lose track of people pretty quickly.
One of the guys in our unit was under investigation for selling drugs. He murdered the investigator by shooting him down in the doorway of the investigators home. The next day they searched our barracks very thoroughly looking for the murder weapon. Don't know if he was ever convicted.
The runway was next to our Battalion. The jet fighters made incredible noise each time they took off or landed.Flying those very high performance aircraft was a dangerous job. An F-4 taking off from the run way turned upside down and the pilots ejected straight into the runway.
"Hold on" I said, while I slowly and carefully unbuttoned his shirt - this looked kind of funny to the other Marines. When I finished unbuttoning his shirt he ripped it off and did a war dance. He did not get bit by the spider.
"Next time, don't help", he said. The ingrate.
I also had a nest of black widows under my desk in Yuma. I would periodically burn them out or beat them out with a broom. But they liked me - they always came back and they never bit me.
We also saw lots of scorpions and the occasional rattlesnake. I killed a number of rattlesnakes until my friend Mike Nielsen impressed on me their value to the natural ecosystem. Now I leave them alone. Ditto the black widows.
PERMANENT MESS MAN
My First Sergeant saw me hitchhiking, gave me office hours, a thorough Marine Ass Chewing, and 30 days of mess duty.This last 30 days brought the total days of Mess duty I served up to 100 days, more than any other Marine or serviceman that I ever met - I believe I have the record. Mess duty was typically 16 to 18 straight hours a day and as many as 31 straight days without a day off, cleaning the galleys, scrubbing pots, etc. I served on Mess duty at Parris Island SC, Camp Lejeune NC, San Diego CA, 29 Palms CA, and Yuma AZ.