My Marine Corps Experience
The Marine Corps gave me some pretty fantastic assignments, beginning with boot camp, infantry training, reconnaisance school and my first tour in combat.
My combat mentor was Pony Monell. He was my reconnaissance team leader, company gunnery sergeant and later company first sergeant. Most of my combat skills come from Pony's teachings. Although I was already skilled with a map and a compass, he made me a better land navigator. And almost everything I know about supporting arms came from Pony; he taught me a myriad of ways to use artillery, naval gunfire and close air support. I learned to think, lead and succeed in combat thanks to First Sgt. Kenneth "Pony" Monell.
I saw my most frequent combat during 1968 with Charlie Company, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, and 1st Force Reconnaissance Company, the two of which combined to form 1st Force Recon (Reinforced). We operated out of Phu Bai, South Vietnam, running patrols deep in the Annamite Mountains.
Some of my times in war zones involved little or no combat. I got to draw combat pay for some fascinating duty in Saigon, Vietnam, where I was a communicator in 1969 and 1970 at the U.S. Embassy. Thirteen years later, in 1983, in Beirut, Lebanon, I drew hazardous-duty pay when I headed up a team of combat correspondents attached to the 24th Marine Amphibious Unit. While neither assignment – neither Saigon nor Beirut – put me directly into a traditional combat role, I did find myself dodging 122 mm rockets and a few small-arms rounds.
My 20-year career in the Corps featured so many interesting and unique assignments: I served in reconnaissance, in the infantry, on embassy duty, as a combat correspondent and photojournalist, as a liaison to the motion picture and television industry, and finally as the press chief for the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve nationwide.
Above, I'm a teen Marine, just beginning my infantry schooling with 2nd Infantry Training Regiment at Camp Pendleton, Calif. From there, I was immersed in more infantry training at the Basic Infantry School, before eventually making it to my goal: Reconnaissance School. At the top of this page, Pony Monell, in the right foreground, forms up Charlie Company, 1st Recon Battalion, 1st Marine Division, on our company street in 1968 in Vietnam. Below, I patrol a trail on Charlie Ridge, west of Da Nang, during my first Vietnam tour, with Charlie Company. Shortly after this photo was taken, while my recon team and I took a break about 10 yards off the trail, 99 North Vietnamese Army soldiers walked past us. We remained undetected, and when the enemy troops had moved far enough up the trail, I called in an air strike.
No wonder I was so swift and silent in 1967 and 1968 in Vietnam with Charlie Company, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division. I weighed hardly anything. Yep, I was a lean, mean, reconnaissance machine.
In the summer of 1983 in Beirut, I cop a squat atop the bunker my combat correspondents team and I dug and built.
Sitting in the office in 1978 in Iwakuni, Japan, I'm surrounded by some of the Corps' best writers and photographers.
There was nothing like liberty in Paris, where I was assigned to the U.S. Embassy in 1970 and '71.
What?! A grip 'n' grin?! I hate grip 'n' grins! But this photo is about my only photo from Kansas – Lenexa, Kan., to be exact – where the 9th Marine Corps District was headquartered, overseeing recruiting in the Upper Midwest. Oh, this is my promotion to gunnery sergeant in 1980, and I'm flanked by Maj. Robert Stump, left, and Col. D.L. Humphries.
In five years at Camp Lejeune, N.C., I spent a lot of off-duty time fishing, hunting and picture-taking in the pine forests.
I was a Marine Corps liaison to the motion picture and television industry in the mid-1980s.