Jarhead on the Loose Ch. 03: A Little Help

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The last time I’d thought about a Marine recruiter was when I talked to the one who had ultimately signed up me as brand-new member of the USMC, or Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children as some of us would say. So I was a little surprised, five years later and two years into my second hitch, having been a buck sergeant for both of them, I found myself standing in my First Sergeant’s office clutching a set of orders that were sending me to recruiting school. I was upset and he was blasé.

“Don’t sweat it, Jakowitz,” he was saying. “Everyone has to do a B-billet tour during their career. This is yours.”

“Yeah, but…” I crunched my dark brows together into an even deeper frown. “But I was putting in for DI duty.”

“Uh-huh,” he nodded. “That told Headquarters Marine Corps that you were ready to get out of your current job and head out for something challenging. Apparently, they have enough wanna-be-DIs, what they need are sweet-talkers.” He grinned. “Just remember to keep your dick in your pants.”

I looked up from the orders, puzzled at the implication.

“What?”

“Jackowitz, you’re a good Marine, but sometimes…”,” he slowly shook his head. “You’ll be working out in the civie world, Jak, talking to all kinds of people but mostly folks not too much different age-wise than you.”

I just looked at him.

“Kids in school,” he said. I nodded.

“Teachers in those schools,” he continued. “Some in their first jobs.” He grinned.

I nodded again.

“Mommies of those kids,” his eye brows went up as if he was hinting at something.

I shook my head, still not getting whatever he was driving at.

He rubbed his jaw with a sun browned hand, looking at me.

“Sergeant Jakowitz, I think our time here is done.” His tone was no longer chummy. “You are in receipt of orders detaching from this command in 45 days. You will, in that time, clear up any loose ends that are best handled by you and not your replacement. You are authorized five days of leave. I recommend you do not take it, save it for later. I’ll see you again when you have your check-out sheet. Roger, that?

“Oo-rah, First Sar’nt” I replied, coming to attention before about facing and striding away. I paused in the passage way and made my way to the administration section.

“Hey, Jak, how’s it hanging?” This from behind the counter, said by the admin chief, Sergeant Jeff Banning, one of my peers.

“Oh, not much, just the Commandant of Marines has apparently decided to snatch me off the drill field and put me on civie streets.”

He was nonplussed. “They kickin’ you out?”

“Worse,” I grunted, “I’m gonna be a recruiter.”

Banning grew a big grin. “Better you than me, my friend, better you than me. Kinnard,” he spoke over his shoulder, “help out the poor man.”

“Will do,” came a quick reply in very non-male voice.

He went away and a short blonde woman, early 20s, her shape well disguised by the loose camouflage uniforms we all wore, rose from behind a beat-up government issue desk piled high with papers waiting to be turned into some kind of electronic records that made up the bulk of an admin clerk’s job.

She was a sharp lance corporal, a loaner from Division, sent down to show our guys how the new computer system worked. Since we only had three clerks the training didn’t take much time and now she was waiting for the remainder of her temporary duty to expire by helping out.

I had to admit, she was easier on the eyes than any of the regulars, what with them being male and all. I catalogued what I was seeing. About five-two, about one-twenty tops, athletic enough to be a Marine, hair pulled back into an easily maintained French braid, just a touch of make-up on a slightly bent nose, round cheeks and soft looking lips. Pale blue eyes looked at me.

“Whatcha got, sergeant?”

“Orders.” I said, pushing the creased document at her.

She picked it up and read. Her mouth screwed a little and wrinkled her nose in a way I found rather enticing. She was admin, I was with the troops so our paths had never crossed before.

“Not just orders,” she said as she read, “TemAdminIns orders.”

“Whatever,” I replied. “I’m still outta here.”

“Yes and no,” she said, looking up into my eyes. I began to wonder what she looked like with her hair down. “Yes, you will be detached from this command, but you’ll be in a limbo. You report to recruiter school as a student, not as a permanent cadre. Once you finish school you’ll be shipped out to your real unit, somewhere else.”

“Yeah?” I said, sarcasm heavy in my tone. “Fucked is fucked. There goes my campaign cover,” referring to the distinctive head gear worn by DIs.

She gave me an obvious checking out and shrugged. “Wow, you certainly don’t look it.”

“Look what?” I asked, mystified.

She quickly looked around before bringing her face closer.

“Gay.” She smiled at my shocked expression. “It’s okay with me, no skin off my nose. I like competition.”

“I’m not -” I started to said loudly and then dropped my voice to a whisper, ” – gay!”

She frowned and tilted her head. cumlouder porno “Then why would you rather spend your time with smelly confused teen-aged boys than hanging out with perfumed hot chicks?”

“What are you talking about, lance corporal?”

“Sure,” she said writing on a piece of paper. “You could go down to MCRD and scream yourself hoarse on the parade deck every day. Or,” she said, finishing writing, “you could have a lot of fun and get paid for it.” She pushed the paper at me.”

“That’s my number. Give me a call and we can talk about it, in the meantime…” and she proceeded to fill me in on my obligations and responsibilities in accordance with my orders. She knew her stuff, that’s for sure.

I didn’t call her. I had too much to do. Instead I muttered dark curses as I worked to eliminate problems I had known about but always figured I could put off until tomorrow. Suddenly I was out of tomorrows and I didn’t want my replacement to suffer on my account.

Now and then I had to go back to admin land and Kinnard would lift her eyebrows and tilt her chin. The message was clear, she expected to have a chat with me. I didn’t want to hear whatever she had to say. As far as I was concerned, I was getting screwed. Every Marine admires the drill instructor that controls everything that happens in a recruit’s life. That DI presents as the perfect Marine. Not a friend, not Mr Easy, not a tyrant, but a professional imbuing all the qualities of a Marine and, even when screaming in your ear or kicking sand into your face, you know is only trying to make you into something only a few people can be – a United States Marine.

Now, instead of being THAT guy, I was supposed to be Mr Easy, the smiling, joking recruiter. I thought back to mine and tried to find one Marine thing about him other than the hair cut and uniform. Nope, it wasn’t there. I just knew I was going to hate my next job. Kinard eventually returned to her parent command and I walked a little easier.

Finally, my last day with my command came. I was leaving on a Friday and didn’t report report to school until Monday. The previous week had been spent severing the many small ties that had bound me. I picked up my medical records. I gave up my weapon. I turned in all my “deuce” gear, or as some people might say: war-fighting equipment. I paid my NCO club bar tab. I locked my barracks door and flipped my key to the building manager. I had one last stop to make and I was no longer part of the Fleet Marine Corps, the war fighting, battle winning, part of the USMC. I wanted to puke.

I shook hands with my old drinking buddy, Jeff Banning, when I turned in my check-out sheet, the document that certified I no longer had any connections with the command.

“You take care, Jak,” he said, “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”

“Jeff,” I laughed, “you’re a drunken pervert ex-con! What’s left that you haven’t done?”

“Well,” he rolled his eyes up to the ceiling, “I can think of one.”

“No, I don’t wanna hear about your Momma!”

“Actually, I was thinking about yours.”

I laughed as I walked away, feeling an odd ache inside. I was alone.

“Say ‘hi’ to Kinnard for me,” I heard him say as I passed through the door.

I pulled up short and started to turn when a familiar voice grabbed my reigns.

“Jakowitz, get your dumb Pollack ass in here!”

“Yes, First Sergeant!” Even if he was no longer MINE, Marines don’t blow off the summons of a First Sergeant.

He was already up and had his hand out.

“You’re a good jarhead and a good NCO, Jak,” he said as he tried to reduce the bones in my hand to powder. “This command’s loss is someone else’s gain.”

I was taken aback. “Thank you, First Sarn’t. Any chance I can -“

“No, now get on with the rest of your career.” He gave my shoulder a small squeeze that sent a small jolt of pain to my wrist. “And don’t forget my advice.”

He pushed me through the door before I can ask any questions.

I stood in the parking lot and gave the battalion area one last look. It was run-down, ragged around the edges, originally intended for half as many troops until better facilities could be built, and was living proof that nothing is so permanent in the government as temporary. It had been home for three years and I didn’t want to let it go.

“Hey, Jak!” The voice was familiar. I looked around. A woman, wearing a pair of sunglasses and tube top under a loose shirt over a pair of Capri pants, was leaning against a car as if waiting. I looked harder. She was short, her blonde hair hung to just past her shoulders, good sized breasts pushed against the top and hips filled out the pants really well. She reached up and took off the shades. Pale blue eyes looked at me.

“You never called,” she said.

“Kinnard!”

“Yeah, ‘Kinnard’. Some people call me Debby.”

“Look, Lance Corporal Kinnard, I appreciate -“

“Sergeant Jakowitz, “she interrupted. “I’m trying to do both of us a favor. How about you follow me, we’ll have some coffee, you listen to what I have to say and maybe, just MAYBE, you won’t report into czech amateurs porno recruiting school with such a shitty attitude they just toss you out with a black mark in your SRB that will take you years to recover from?”

I stared at her, thinking.

“Okay, it seems you think it is so important, I guess it won’t hurt to listen.”

“Thank you, Jak.”

On the drive off the base I considered ditching her. I knew the place like the back of my hand, there’s no way should could have found me if I wanted to disappear. A few things kept her tail lights and license plate in my windshield. She believed what she had to say was important. She hadn’t been pushy, and I didn’t want to hear it, but she had made this extra effort and it would be rude not to hear her out. Besides, I didn’t mind a closer look at what had spent weeks hiding behind shapeless camouflage.

We went through the small military down that springs up outside of every gate that had ever been built. I expected her to pull into a diner, but she turned off the main drag and I found myself pulling into a dirt driveway of a beat-up house.

“You live off-base?” I said getting out of my car next to hers. Surprise was in my voice.

“A few of us girls rent the place.”

“They let you?” The ‘they’ I referred to was not her room-mates, but her command who normally denies unmarried junior troops the privilege of living off base. Hell, I lived in the barracks and I was a damned NCO.

She smiled. “Oh, they don’t have a problem with it. It’s either that or let us swim in a big ol’ pool of testosterone every night. Come in, ain’t nobody here but us two. I’ll make the coffee.”

The place was old, the furniture third hand in some cases, but it was clean and neat. I don’t know if I expected to find bras and panties tossed everywhere, but I found myself a little tense. She skipped the nickel tour and went straight to the kitchen. The counter appliances were new even if the stove looked like a converted wood-burner.

“Have a seat,” she motioned to the dinette set. She started collecting the bits and pieces needed for brewing a pot. I sat, my eyes following her. Her butt was a bit out of proportion but that kinda comes with the military lifestyle. Someone once told me it was because we feed women men’s rations. All I know is that one of the old-time terms for a woman in the Marine Corps was BAM – broad assed Marine. Hers wasn’t broad but packed some extra cushion.

“Why didn’t you call?” she said, filling the pot from the spigot.

“Didn’t seem to have a point.”

She leaned against the sink, the pot of water resting easy in her hand. “A girl gives you her number and you don’t see a point to it?” The window behind her lighted up her blouse and accentuated the curves of her torso.

“I knew you wanted to talk about recruiting and I… well, I just wasn’t in the mood.”

“For 45 days you haven’t been in the mood? Hmmm…”

I don’t like having my decisions questioned, especially by a lance corporal. I felt my bood rise.

“Look, Kinnard -“

She cut me off. “Debby.”

“What?”

“In my house, I’m Debby.” She waved the pot. “Out there I’ll be super-admin clerk Lance Corporal Schmuckatelly if you want, but here,” she poured the water into the reservoir. “I’m a girl named Debby.”

She spooned some ground coffee into the basket. “That’s okay, isn’t it?”

“Yeah. Sure.”

She flipped the on switch. “And it’s okay if I call you Kevin, right?”

I frowned at her. She laughed.

“Yeah, I expected that, Kev.” She ignored my bristles. “Such a hard-ass.”

She walked over and sat beside me. “We’ve got about ten minutes before the coffee is ready. That should be plenty of time for us to talk.”

I held up my hand. “First off, why are you doing this?”

“I was wondering when you were going to ask.” She took my hand and pulled it to the table top. “Why don’t I tell you later? It will make more sense.”

I didn’t like it, but I agreed. The coffee maker began to huff and puff.

“Tell me, Kev, why did you join the Corps?”

“To hit back,” I said.

She nodded. “It shows. You’ve got a good reputation for being serious about your troops and their training. You don’t have any problems with the idea of killing people, do you?”

“Nope.”

“Do you think I do?”

I conjured up an image of her decked out in deuce gear, teeth fixed in a death dealing rictus grin, ramming a bayonet into a Haji. It fell apart under the strain.

“You aren’t me,” I said.

Her eyes opened wider. “Damn, this might be easier than I thought.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It means,” she said, tracing a finger tip over the knuckles of the hand she had captured, “none of us are you. Some are like you, but you and them are more the exceptions, not the rules.”

“Maybe so,” I said.

“And, really,” she continued, “the idea of being a DI is about making more copies of you, kids who show up all squishy and you get to make them into a Marine, with yourself as the mold.”

She had found a sore point and I czech casting porno didn’t like it.

“Relax your hand,” she said, stroking the back. “You have to think about being a recruiter. You have to think about being among people who don’t think your first name is ‘sergeant’ and call you ‘Kevin’ because that is what it is. You have to think about talking to people who don’t HAVE to listen, who can say ‘bullshit’ to your face and walk away. Have you ever seen a recruit do that?”

“Of course not.”

“No, because by the time they get to MCRD they are committed. Well, as much as they can be, given what little they know. They want to be Marines and the DIs use that desire. It’s going to be your job to get them to start believing they want to be one so when you talk to Jimmy and Bobby they are going to call you Kevin and you are going to have to like it.

“I like my name.”

“But you didn’t – don’t like me using it, do you, Kevin?”

I grew uncomfortable. I was a sergeant, she was a junior troop. There were rules.

“Relax, Kev. I’m on your side. You’re a great Marine. Everyone can see that. But…”

“But what?”

“You’ve got a stick up your ass.”

“WHAT?”

“Those aren’t my words,” she laughed at my reaction.

“Whose then?”

“I’ll tell you later,” she was still laughing and tugging at my hand. “Calm down.”

“I kind of agree with him,” she continued but this time she was taking each of my fingers and playing with them. I was wondering how many messages were being delivered. “And I think it would be a shame for you to screw up before you get started.”

“Girl, you aren’t making sense.”

“Progress! You know I’m a girl!” She had a great smile. “Seriously, though, I was told that one of the first things that happens to recruiting school students when they report in is that they are judged and weighed on the spot. If you are smiling, cheerful, motivated – you’re in group A. If you look gloomy, angry, or in general like you want to be somewhere else, you go into group B. Almost everyone from group A graduates and is successful. Group B has a much lower success rate. Group A continues with good careers, group B suffers. Group A gets a pass on somethings, group B never does.”

She paused her fingerplay.

“Which group do you want to be in, Kevin?”

My mind was going over the last 45 days. I thought about the way people had been treating me, about the way I had treated them. I had been a dick. I didn’t want to give up the drill field, I didn’t want to go out into the unwashed masses. With a start I realized I had spent a lot of my last few weeks in my old command as a whiner.

“Ohhh, fuck…” I groaned.

“You see it, don’t you?” she whispered. “You see the hole you dug for yourself?”

“Oh, hell, yeah.”

She started down the logic trail. “You want to be a Marine. DI’s are Marines, the BEST Marines. You want to be one of them, not a… a… SALESman. Not some goof who lets people call them by his first name! God no! Can’t have that? That’s not respectful! That’s not what we DO in the Corps, is it?”

“Hey, I get the point, I do,” I growled trying to pull my hand back.

“I believe you do,” she said, clamping down on my hand. “But that’s not the same thing as changing your attitude and that’s what has to turn around.”

“I can do it,” I insisted.

“Not in three days,” she countered. “You need a change of perspective. You need to see what you can get out of this, not what you’re losing.”

“I don’t see what you mean. What can I get out of this besides staying in the Corps without being a fuck-up?”

“Have you ever thought about what it takes to be a recruiter?”

“Never have.”

“Let’s try something. A role-play. I’ve only been in for a year and a half so I remember what it was like to be just a civilian. Try to recruit me.”

“What? You want me to do what?”

“Convince me I want to be a Marine. Come on, you know it can be done, somebody out there already did. See if you can.”

“Yeah, but you didn’t know anything.”

“About the Marines, you mean? I won’t hold that against you, but I’ll call bullshit if you lie to me. Okay; go.”

“Go?”

“Start! Pretend … uhm, I’m at the mall and I walked up to you and asked about why you have a red stripe in your pants.”

“Oh, that’s easy, it’s called a ‘blood stripe’ and -“

She started to snore. “Is that the best you got? ‘Blood stripe’? You’re not supposed to be giving me a Marine history class! I didn’t walk up the whole Marine Corps, I walked up to you! Something about you got me and I gave you an opening. Come on, Marine, turn it into something more! Sell me!”

Shit, I sat there thinking I had no idea where to start. I replayed the situation. Girl walks up to me in the mall and asks why I’ve got red stripes on my pants. Okay, let’s try this…

I started a dialogue with my prospective recruit by flipping the question around, challenging her to explain why she cared. She responded by saying she could accept the red and blue but it clashed with the shirt color. That led into a discussion about the things pinned to the shirt and that went into the jobs Marines do and that went into where Marines go and that got into what it takes to BE a Marine and the kind of people we want and that’s when Debby started laughing just as the coffee beeped it was ready for drinking.

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