As I approached the end of High School, I didn’t have any real prospects. We’d moved across country from California to Maryland so I didn’t have any contacts, not that I had any back in California because we moved so much. I was already in the Marine Reserve so I investigated going active duty. I really didn’t want to go active as an Infantryman though. I’d originally selected it because Dad had suggested that working a brain job during the week should be offset with doing something physical. While it was fine for a once a month distraction from home and school, it wasn’t something I wanted to do full time. I checked in to the other services and only The Army was willing to let me transfer to Active Duty. They were going to do an Inter-Service Transfer so I could make the transfer. My choices were limited though. Either I could go Active as a Infantryman (well, I was trying to avoid that anyway), a Cook (not that interested really), or as a Military Policeman. Given the choices, I went with being an MP. I signed up and my departure date was a few days before graduation. As I’d only spent a year at Linganore Junior/Senior High School, I couldn’t come up with a good reason to actually go to my graduation. So Mom talked to the school and got my diploma early and I headed off to Ft. McClellan, Alabama.
At the recruiting station, we hung about waiting on a load for the trip to BWI. Then I caught my flight south. At one point we transferred to a prop job. It was an interesting flight as I could see one of the screws in the ceiling coming out. But I’d never been on a plane before and expected someone to tell me when I needed to get off. I was a real newbie about a lot of things. I actually missed where I was supposed to get off and ended up at the last stop in Texas. After some discussion, I was put on the flight back to Alabama.
Upon reaching the post, I was upbraided a little because I didn’t have any gear. See a fresh recruit has all their gear from boot camp. Since I was doing an Inter-Service Transfer, I didn’t have any Army gear, just Marine. So I had to spend a few hundred bucks to get myself dressed appropriately.
Military Police School was pretty interesting. It was self-paced so you worked on something until you passed then moved on to the next course. There were scheduled courses so if you didn’t finish with the class, you might have to wait for a week or so for the next class to start. I actually did pretty well in general. I think there were two I recall. The first which I enjoyed was the Accident Scene course. You had an Accident form and had to make a bunch of drawings to show the accident and how it happened. The other was one of the FM’s I’d read on deaths in The Military. There were a couple in the book that really struck me. One was a soldier who hung himself using a phone cord from a doorknob. That showed me you didn’t need to hang from the ceiling. The other was the description of self defense wounds in a machete attack. Pretty gruesome. The stories from the folks in the Barracks were a bit on the scary side though with bar fights and MP’s being killed. Particularly by the folks who went to Korea.
We had folks from all the services; Marines, Navy, and Air Force as well as Army. Since I’d gone through Marine Corps Boot Camp in San Diego, I chuckled at The Army guys who complained that they didn’t get off post privileges until after being in boot camp for 3 weeks. Since you don’t get off post privileges ever when in Marine boot camp it was a bit amusing. And the Air Force SPs were worse with their whining about not being able to go off post while at McClellan.
A couple of recollections. 1, I recall one woman, Sorensen. She was rumored to be a full time Cop and walked like she had a gun on her hip. The second, I recall having one of the red Sony 8-track players and specifically having David Bowie’s Greatest Hits (ChangesBowieOne). It had the carry handle that you hit to change channels.
Once training was finished, I was sent to Ft. Meade Maryland.
There were three things you could be assigned to when working as an MP. Either straight street patrol where you drove or rode around in a military police vehicle with the big blue light on top or you could ride around in a jeep as a security patrol officer. Then there were the miscellaneous tasks too such as being a crossing guard for the post elementary school. That was my first assignment. I was assigned a 45 caliber pistol and an M-16 rifle. For the task, I checked out my .45 and a magazine with rounds in it and I had no idea how to carry the thing. I’d attended training at the ranges of course so I knew how to shoot it an all but had no idea how to carry it. I’d been assigned my standard equipment, belt, holster, lanyard, hat, badge, etc. So I carefully chambered a round and even more carefully, let the hammer down, certainly a mistake but again, I didn’t know any better.
I did perform the other tasks as well. Security patrol was pretty boring most of the time. Generally it was an evening or overnight shift so you spent time riding out to the ranges checking for unauthorized folks and checking the back gate to make sure they were closed. You’d also drive around the warehouses making sure shops were closed and no-one was out poking around where they shouldn’t be. Once one of the guys rode the jeep out onto the golf greens and messed one up pretty badly apparently. Another guy had lots of knowledge but almost no common sense. He once went to the Senior NCO Club and wrote tickets to all the cars parked in the loop while on security patrol. It was illegal sure, but writing tickets to Senior NCOs wasn’t a real smart thing to do.
The patrol car was the most interesting part of being an MP. We’d show up for guard mount about 30 minutes before shift started then head to the motor pool to check out a vehicle. Start it, walk around it making sure lights and all were working then head back to the station to pick up your partner who’d been getting paperwork in order. I pulled a few people over for speeding or running stop signs. We never had radar though so never got to do that. I’d have to occasionally go to court to defend one of my tickets. My first time at court, never being 100% sure of anything, I said I wasn’t able to 100% confirm my observation and the ticket was dropped. I was chastised a bit by my partner and my platoon Sargent. I was also given some ideas on how to remember things such as writing down details on the ticket so I could remember them months later in court. I had my biases as well. Since I absolutely never run stop signs, I was more open to writing a ticket for it. But I do speed, so not wanting to be a hypocrite, I would let folks off with a warning if they weren’t going too fast.
One of the most fun things to me was being the dispatcher. When an opening came up, I put in my request. I’d get to spend time at the station instead of driving around and respond to phone calls then send folks out to respond to problems. I recall a big desk with one of the old time (at the time at least) mics. We had a sheet of the standard MP radio codes and even a sheet of what to do if you pulled over a high ranking officer (Colonel or higher). Vehicles had post stickers on them. Red for enlisted and blue for officers. The higher ranking enlisted and officers had rank stickers that went next to their sticker so folks knew it was an officer or specifically a Colonel.
You really didn’t want to take your motorcycle (which I was riding at the time) to the station when you’re in gear so I’d get a ride in one of the MP vehicles. One morning after an overnight (mids) shift, we were riding by the company who was preparing for physical training (PT) and we drove past the Battalion Commander. Sitting in the back, I saluted and after we went by I said something like, “and you can kiss my ass too.” Well, I didn’t think I said it all that loud but the guy driving (Levesque) said the Commander turned around so he thought he’d heard my comment. He told the Patrol Sargent (Blakowski) (odd how I remember these names 🙂 ) who escalated it up to the Company Commander. He decided to give me an Article 15 “just in case” which had me lose a couple of bucks for a few months but also had me performing extra duty. The extra duty was to take sandpaper and sand all the paint off of a desk. I did do the sanding but while I was doing so, I sanded around an “FTA” (Fuck The Army; a pretty standard epithet in The Army) for which I received a little “talking to” by the Platoon Sargent and sanded it out the next day. I was a little PO’d at my “friends” (remember back at the beginning when I first got there, I still didn’t click with the Platoon) and said some threatening things about the Patrol Sargent which of course someone repeated on to the Platoon Sargent. This begins the next transition.
I was relieved of duty 😮 and sent to speak to the Mental Health folks. Of course I wasn’t interested in offing anyone, I was just spouting off but they did come up with an interesting proposition. Would I be happier if I transferred into being an Illustrator or Graphics Arts person working in the Battalion headquarters. That actually sounded interesting and I agreed that it would be best. It’s interesting how the smallest things send you off on different paths. This is likely the one that sent me off to Computers as you’ll see later.