Monday, November 10, 2008

Happy Birthday, Marines!

Try as I might otherwise, it's impossible to spend 27 years in the Air Force without eventually coming into contact with Marines.

OK, with the obligatory inter-service joke out of the way, I'd like to take a moment to...tell another inter-service joke. Do you know why they put Marines on Navy ships? No? Because sheep would be too obvious. Yeah...I was sure that one was going to get my ass kicked once in an office full of Sailors and Marines until a USMC Master Gunny beat me to the punchline.

Anyway, on the semi-serious side, I want to take the time to honor the Marine Corps on their 233rd birthday, because over the years I've developed a special soft spot in my heart for Marines.

My fondest recollection of encounters with Marines - well, among those that can be related in polite company and that I don't mind my wife or other family members seeing - was this:

In the spring of 1999 during the Kosovo thing, I was TDY (that's TAD to you Navy and Marine Corps guys) at Rhein-Main Air Base in Germany. Because of the large number of incoming aircrews flying tanker, airlift and JSTARS missions for Kosovo operations, I lost my on-base billet and (horrors!) had to check into a nearby hotel for the last week or so before returning home. So on Saturday evening after checking in to the hotel, I headed down to the hotel bar for a couple beers. The bar at the Steigenberger Hotel isn't a typical hotel lobby's more of a nightclub, and many of the locals were there in their Saturday Night (Fever) best.

At around 22:00 or so, around eight Marines come strolling in...wearing their BDUs. For you civilian types, that's Battle Dress Uniform...the camouflage uniform. The Marines took up a position (Marines never just stand or sit anywhere...they take up positions) near me, and me and a Warrant Officer started chatting.

It turned out they were en route down range (I don't remember now which country neighboring Kosovo it was they were going to...Macedonia, Montenegro, who knows), and their airplane broke, so they were "stuck" in Germany for a couple of days awaiting parts. Of course, it wasn't long before we were taking turns buying rounds of drinks and telling lies, and it was the wee hours of the morning before I made it back to my hotel room.

At around noon the next day (I'm usually a very early riser regardless of the previous evening's festivities), I awoke with a world-class headache. And a big-ass knot in the middle of my forehead. The headache, of course, was easily explained, but the egg on my forehead was a mystery to me. Now, I don't know about you, but waking up with inexplicable injuries after a night of partying is kind of disturbing.

I got in the shower, and as I was gingerly washing my hair, it came back to me...the celebratory head-butting started at around 03:00 that morning. I vaguely remembered that same activity leading to an accelerated departure from the bar, at the request of the management. Which was probably for the best.

Anyway, Happy Birthday to the US Marine Corps. You truly represent the best America has to offer, and the country owes you a great debt of gratitude.

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