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"MarDet, USS Ranger (CV-61)" Topic

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Mardaddy Inactive Member24 Mar 2010 3:19 p.m. PST

Sea School in San Diego was the oldest continuously operating school in the USMC when I checked in as a Lance Corporal for training.

I actually reenlisted my first time in 1986 with a request to be assigned Sea Duty. I finished second out of 78 in the class, and got my pick of ships. It was out of sheer convenience I picked the USS Ranger. I am a California native, she was ported right there in San Diego, and she had not gone anywhere in a long time, so was due for some sea time.

Checking in to the ship, two other recent Sea School grads and I had an additional three weeks of "Guard School" proctored by the Marine Detachment itself to familiarize ourselves with the quirks of that particular MarDet. It really was more of a screening process to ID & weed out knuckleheads that may have somehow slid through but are not capable enough in the Guard Chiefs view to be relied upon for duty.

On our ship (and every MarDet was run differently via the philoshies of those in position) day to day affairs were defacto run by the NCO's. The CO & XO were *very* hands-off, not sure what they occupied their time with. The Det GySgt (Guard Chief), while ensuring he inspected the detail on duty every morning, otherwise spent time telling stories or in the Chief's Mess, and left daily supervision to his Cpls's and Sgt's.

There were bad points to this. Marines ended up mislead due to unseasoned NCO's making the wrong choice or approach to a personal or professional problem because they did not have higher ups available to intervene, or mistreated by those leaders whom already may have a sadistic streak. I witnessed at least four cases of what rightfully was threats and assault by an NCO for some infraction or another (never injurious, but assault nonetheless.) At the time, I was one of those unseasoned NCO's and because of the climate of the MarDet, I dutifully fell in, considering it like everyone else it was, "business as usual," even when I eventually did it myself (more on that later.)

I resolved to not take that approach, though, and to lead via a more cerebral method than by threats and tacit intimidation. With most it worked, with a couple, it was clear their Neanderthal thought process equated respect with fear, and unless I made them fear me, I was not worthy. Whatever.

With a change of command, the entire leadership philosophy of the MarDet gradually changed. A new CO & XO that made sure every Marine knew who they were, that they were around and watching, and had their work cut out for them resetting the leadership style of the more aggressive NCO's

Over time, they made it a point to follow a training syllabus that forced NCO's to read up on styles of leadership and give classes on those various styles and approaches to their squads, sort of trying to change their ways through exposure and osmosis instead of giving those junior leaders ultimatums and forcing a "my-way-or-the-highway" confrontation that could affect the NCO's promotion potential down the road. I have massive respect for their creativity in "problem-solving."

Within two months of the change of command, even I fell into the new XO's radar, and received my first and only negative administrative entry in my record (you see, I fell under that, "inexperienced NCO's who did the wrong thing at the right time" category…)

Mardaddy Inactive Member24 Mar 2010 3:20 p.m. PST

As Marines cycled through their assignment to the MarDet, the most junior start out as Post-Standers. Through time, progression and experience, they earn the opportunity to be trained and assigned as the Alarm Center Control Operator (ACCO.) The ones that eventually get promoted, or those more senior Lance Corporals that stand out in maturity and judgment get trained and are occasionally or permanently assigned as Corporal of the Guard (Fire Team Leader.)

Because I had reenlisted and already had 3+ years in, I arrived on the ship the most inexperienced (on the Guard), and yet senior Lance Corporal in the entire MarDet. I hit the cutting score and was promoted to Corporal within a month. Because of my new rank and I had scored the highest ever recorded on the MarDet "Guard School," I was immediately trained and fast-tracked to Corporal of the Guard. I bypassed a lot of those junior to me in rank, but with experience and time served doing the many months of long hours post-standing. So for those who wanted to take exception or were feeling particularly resistant to taking orders, they had what they considered a reasonable, "out."

One of the duties the off-squad had was cleaning the berthing area before being able to go on liberty. One particular day, my team was assigned the head (bathrooms), and I split the team into the front (showers & sinks) and back (toilets and washer/drier) areas to get it done. I had put my ACCO to supervise the back area, and he refused.

This mentally rocked me on my heels. "Well, LCpl Cunningham, if you are not going take charge of supervising the back area, grab a toilet brush and get to work," I thought that would be the end of it.

"To hell with that. I'm senior on the boat, I get out in four days, I ain't cleaning shxx," yes, it was true, Cunningham was indeed set to transfer in four days. The other members of my team stopped to see what would happen, and a couple of Marines from other squads gathered around the doorway to the head to see what was going on. We had an audience.

I closed to within three feet of him, and tried one last time, "Don't care. You're not out yet, and you will either supervise the back area, or help clean it yourself," at this point, he closed the remaining distance between us, "I ain't no NCO, so I ain't going to supervise, and I'm short, so I am done cleaning shxx. Get the fuxx away from me."

And with that, he pushed me away from him. Not enough to knock me down or off-balance, but enough to make me step back. Racing through my mind at that exact moment were my choices and the logical ramifications of those choices.

I could write him up for assault. But he was short, and more likely than not, nothing would really happen to him, he'd just get to leave and the command would say, "good riddance." AND, I would be branded a wimp, afraid to stand up for myself as a man, and hiding behind my rank.

Or, I could engage. I had witnesses to back up that he started it, so more likely than not, I'd come out clean, win or lose. And everyone would know I would not put up with his shxx.

So I came in swinging. It was a blur, and I got a black eye out of it before we were pulled apart. I know I gave him a bloody lip, cracked his rib and the armbar I had him in put the imprint of the floor on his forehead. He gingered his arm for the remaining days until he transferred.

And when he was gone, I got called front and center to the XO. Seems my peer Marines held their tongues long enough for Cunningham to transfer, but word eventually got up the chain of command… "Displayed an unacceptable level of judgment when dealing with subordinate," I believe was the wording.

How was I to know the XO had been watching Cunningham like a hawk and had detailed quite a few minor infractions, waiting for the moment to bust him down. Because I fought back, the XO felt I robbed him of the chance to extend Cunningham on legal hold, put him in the brig on bread and water for a short stay, and bust him down before kicking him out of the Corps.

Mardaddy Inactive Member24 Mar 2010 3:20 p.m. PST

There is no more "Sea Duty" in the USMC. I think it was back in the early 1990's it was decided that Marines were no longer required as part of ships company for aircraft carriers and selected other vessels. The security needs that Marines accomplished aboard carriers are now done via new technology, or by ships Master at Arms and selected members of the Weapons Department.

Any fleet flagship Captain can request a compliment of Marines be assigned for particular deployments, but I have yet to hear about any actually doing that. Nowadays, F.A.S.T. (Fleet Antiterrorist Support Team) Company detachments provide, umm… call it, "next to immediate," security support for any naval assets under threat overseas.

SECURITY MINISTER CRITTER Inactive Member24 Mar 2010 4:46 p.m. PST

No Marines on ships?????????????????????????????????
Say it ain't so!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mardaddy Inactive Member25 Mar 2010 9:05 p.m. PST

Note that I qualified that, SecMinCrit#1.

Detachments from Marine Air Wings still check aboard for regular deployments, and, well, there is the various 'phib's, which all sport a permanent team of Marine embarkation specialists to organize the load/offloads of the MEU's.

The VERY FIRST Marines were exactly that, Marine Detachments as part of ships company, permanently assigned aboard the ships, maintaining shipboard discipline, sniping from the masts during ship/ship close-in engagements, and able to row ashore as small raiding parties if need be.


lcplsimbo Inactive Member03 May 2012 10:08 p.m. PST

I was there and witnessed the whole thing. I dont remember who Cunningham fought (Mardaddy) but I do remember the incident. It is hard to forget a guy like cunningham. Gold teeth and a loud mouth. I would like to share some stories with you and ask some questions if you are still on this site.

Soul Crusher Inactive Member21 Jun 2012 6:39 p.m. PST

I think I remember this too. Do either guys remember me. Shipman.

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