For those of you unused to the military, this story may seem pretty ridiculous. First, however, is some background.
For the past week or so, I’ve been a part of the Joint Receiving Command here on Okinawa. It is designed to smoothly assimilate Marines and sailors, pay grades E5 and below, into the forces serving overseas. I arrived last week, flying out of Seatac on the 15th. Being that Martin Luther King Day was on Monday, we had a ’96,’ which refers to the 96 hours of liberty we get (liberty are like days off). However, being that I was in JRC, I was not allowed to go off base or go on liberty without a buddy. I was also supposed to be in uniform the whole time, but being that the Air Force (which operated the chartered flight out of Seattle) lost my seabag, I didn’t have my uniform and was allowed to wear civillian attire.
I spent most of my time in the barracks, leeching some free internet and doing a lot of introspection and reflection on my life and how I got here. While I haven’t shared all the conclusions I’ve reached (such things take time), this was the work that led to my Dead Men Tell No Tales posts.
So, my time at JRC up until today was spent not doing a whole lot of anything productive, from a strictly military point of view. Today was our first productive day here on Okinawa. We were to go to the admin office (called IPAC – I have no idea what that acronym stands for. Most of the aconyms you encounter in the military are undefined. For the longest time I thought JRC stood for Japanese Receiving Company) and audit our SRBs (Service Record Books – an acronym I do know!), fill out a form for our life insurance, complete a travel claim, and get our meal cards. No task took any longer than about ten minutes or so.
To get the 100+ Marines and Sailors to and through IPAC to complete these simple and rather mundane tasks took from 0700 to 1740 – an hour and a half break for lunch not withstanding. For those of you keeping track, that’s about 9 hours. Being that we had about four tasks that took us about ten minutes each, that’s roughly 8 hours of sitting around and collecting tax payer dollars.
Keyword of the day is military efficiency!
Every night, we have a formation at 21:30 for accountability. In the Marine Corps, “formation at 21:30” generally means “formation at 21:15,” as it’s something of an unwritten rule that you are always 15 minutes early to wherever you’re told to be. (This can get rather confusing at times, especially when a Sergeant doesn’t actually want you to be 15 minutes early, but I digress.) Just the other night, we were told by our JRC leader, Sgt. O, that he didn’t care about the 15 minutes early horseshit. As long as we were actually in formation and ready for roll call 5 minutes prior to the posted time (so 21:25 for those keeping track) then everything was gravy.
Tonight, my roomate and I napped until about 21:20 and ran out to formation. Everyone was already there and two Marines were getting their asses chewed for being late. (Somehow, we manage to sneak in without harrassment. And I don’t have my uniform. Go figure.) A few more Marines trickle in, and of the five or so that arrive after me, only two are later than 21:25 (they were ass late, arriving at 21:35. They deserve what they got.) Regardless, everyone that was “late” (save me and my roomate, somehow) received punitive duty for being late. The Sergeant handing out the punishment was a different one from our class leader, yet our class leader was there the whole time.
What the fuck? We were just told the other night that 21:25 was an acceptable time. Now, without notice, it’s not? Furthermore, we have to stand in formation for some twenty or thirty minutes while nothing goes on. The Sergeant (Sgt. C) starts playing power games with the Recon Marines, who, while talking a little more than they should in formation, don’t really deserve the punishments they constantly get for just being Recon Marines. At the end of the formation, they tell us that we’re going to have an early day tomorrow, and we won’t be able to get chow before we have to go about our business. They reccommend that we bring snacks and then dismiss us.
Snacks? Are you fucking serious? That’d be great advice if we weren’t secured to barracks after evening formation, and if there were any opportunity to buy some between being dismissed and when we’ll need them. I hate it when word isn’t passed properly.
(I don’t fault the Marine Corps for failures like these. The shenanigans described above are purely the results of poor leadership and poor planning among the lower ranks. Why flood an admin office, that has maybe a dozen Marines, with over 100 service members at once? Why not break it up and send them on different days? The back and forth on what is “on time” for formation is purely at the whims of the Sergeants in charge of us. The strength of the Marine Corps is in its flexability and the additional responsibilities and powers the non commissioned officers have; at the same time, it is a great weakness.)