5. Brigade Company
Besides his proficiency as a bully and intimidator, the CC was also adept at being sneaky and manipulative. One day in the first week or so, he gathered us — as he often did to give us “the word” — in the open area at the middle of the barracks, called the “Quarterdeck,” and put an issue up for a vote.
Did we want to do just enough to get by, or did we want to make 309 the best recruit company at NTC? He called for a show of hands. Of course, it was unanimous that we should “go for it.” Nobody was stupid enough to tell the CC that he wanted to do just enough, that he didn’t have the cojones to try to be the best. Even on a secret ballot there’s no doubt the majority would have voted to try for “Brigade Company.” But it would not have been unanimous.
Brigade Company was the top-rated company among those graduating each Saturday. The honored company stood front and center in the formation of 18 to 20 companies and was the first to pass in review before the assembled dignitaries and civilian guests (many of whom were families of recruits) at the conclusion of the ceremonies. Only five or six of the companies in the formation would have completed their tenth week and be graduating. The others would be in their final four weeks and, thus, sufficiently polished at marching and doing the physical drill with arms to participate in the graduation formation and parade.
The way a company got to be Brigade Company was by having the highest overall score of all graduating companies. The score was accumulated by points awarded for excellence, minus deductions for deficiencies. Every morning each company formed up for personnel inspection and each day its barracks dormitory and environs would be inspected. These nitpicking inspections were conducted by a special unit of senior petty officers called TED, or Training Evaluation Department. The cumulative test scores of recruits were also part of the overall score.
The deductions came from any deficiencies noted at personnel inspection or for being observed talking in ranks, or somebody out of step when marching, or various other offenses. TED men prowled the recruit training area, hid in doorways or at windows, or sat in cars or other places where they could observe recruit companies as they marched from class to class, or to physical training or to chow or back to their barracks. The CC instructed our RCPO on the favorite hiding places of the TED and the RCPO would alert us when we approached those to straighten our backs and step lively.
Our CC, and other company commanders, had a method to deal with personnel inspections. We marched to our place on the grinder straight from morning chow, about 7 a.m. Even at that hour the sun was warm enough to cause sweating, which would make moisture stains on the inside rim of the white hat and inside the neckband of the skivvy shirt (T-shirt), no matter how vigorously we had scrubbed our necks and foreheads just an hour before. So, we wrapped toilet paper around our hat rims and neckbands before we left the barracks. Once we were in formation, the company clerk would pass through our ranks collecting the toilet paper into a “ditty bag” (a small draw-string bag) he carried for that purpose. As an extra precaution we would only lightly set our hats on our heads, not pressing them down in the normal way. Then, when on command we took off our hats and held them in front of us, upside down, and turned out the front of our neckbands, there would, with luck, be no moisture stains to get penalized for.
Still, the TED men could be creative in finding deficiencies. For example, a man might have borrowed a white hat from a buddy and it would have the other man’s name inside it. If you cost the company a deduction, the CC’s dictum applied – “Give your soul to God ’cause your ass is mine!”
As soon as the inspector had gone on to another company, the CC would plant a hard kick to the butt of any man who had been cited for a deficiency. This was a three-way punishment. The kick hurt but even worse, it left a shoe polish stain. The man was marked for the rest of the day, drawing unwanted attention and reaction from the classroom instructors and others. It was like a sign that said, “I am a screw-up.” Then, that evening, the man would have a devil of a time getting the stain out when we scrubbed clothes. (Every evening each recruit had to hand wash the clothes he’d worn that day with a bucket of water and a stiff-bristle brush on concrete scrub tables behind the barracks.)
Another device to build a high score for the company involved those of us who did well on the written tests in the classrooms. We were instructed to be “helpful” to those who did less well. This not only applied in evening study at the barracks but in the actual tests.
Activities that didn’t earn points toward Brigade Company weren’t allowed for us. For example, most recruit companies competed against each other in sports – baseball, basketball or volleyball. But the only “sports” activity we participated in was whaleboat racing, because that earned points toward graduation for the winners. I don’t remember exactly but I don’t think we added to our point total with any whaleboat race wins.