Hold my beer… Watch this… So, what’s the dumbest thing you’ve ever tried?

So, I retweeted this earlier from someone else on Twitter… And I’m still laughing about it.

And it occurred to me… (Yeah, this could be dangerous…) Anyway, it occurred to me that this would be a fantastic chance to tell something embarrassing on yourself. Like, what’s one of the dumbest things you ever tried to do?

Of course, I know I must go first. So, deep breath, here goes…

Back when I was in the Corps, we used to always have to do forced marches, with all our gear, i.e. flack, weapon, helmet, and overloaded pack. (For the non-Marines out there, we call it humping, or going on a hump. Not sure why. And definitely not as fun. Oops. Sorry.)

So, I was a really small guy back then. Like, 135 pounds. And I hated humps. My worst fear was falling out, so I’d do pack runs at night and work out like crazy to keep from having this happened. (With small guys, it was harder  since we have shorter strides and they put us in the back of the formation — not to mention, a 135 pound guy humping 80 or 90 pounds of equipment is WAY different than a 185 pound guy carrying 90 pounds…)

Here's what we used to carry. I never weighed it, but I'd say it was between 60 and 80 pounds worth of gear. Maybe 90 depending on how much food we were carrying.

Here’s what we used to carry. I never weighed it, but I’d say it was between 60 and 80 pounds worth of gear. Maybe 90 depending on how much food we were carrying. ( This photo is from 1997, and is of a Marine in my former unit, 1/8, aka 1st Battalion, 8th Marines.)

But through sheer determination, lots of working out on my own, and a fair amount of praying, I got pretty good at it.

Fast forward from a scared guy afraid of finishing a hump to me being a Corporal and a Squad Leader. We had just gotten in a bunch of Boots, (or new Marines), and we were on our first tough hump.

These guys had just finished their School of Infantry training, and they thought they were tough. But, of course, the Fleet (or Fleet Marine Force) is much tougher than just SOI. So, these dudes are dying. And starting to drag back. And it was like a hundred degrees and a super, tough hump, thus even I was getting a little worried I might not finish.

But we long-time vets are yelling at these stupid boots and acting all tough. (Hey, we’re Marines… Fake it till you make it, right?)

And I was Squad Leader, so I’m really yelling at these stupid Boots. And lo and behold one starts falling out of formation because he can’t keep up.

I follow typical Marine protocol. Since it was clear he might not make it, I try to encourage him…

But, that doesn’t work.

Then I start shaming him, and that helps for a while.

But soon, even that’s not working.

And then I do what had been done to me and dozens of other Marines.

I start telling him to drop his pack. That he can’t hack it and he’s a piece of shit. He’s a disgrace to the Corps. He should have joined the Army. You name it, and most of it I can’t print her… 

Well, unfortunately for me, and probably for the first time in Marine Corps history, this piece of crap finally says, “Yes, Corporal,” as loud as he can. And he drops his pack. YES! HE DROPPED HIS PACK. HE QUIT.

WORSE. He THEN hands his weapon to a fire team leader that had been yelling at him, as well.

Me, at right, just a few months before that hump, back in '97. I thought I was invincible... Yeah, right...

Me, at right, just a few months before that hump, back in ’97. I thought I was invincible… Yeah, right…

Well, a hundred men had seen this all occur so I was too startled to know what to do. I mean this, this never happens. I had never seen it happen and didn’t know what to do, but I can’t look like I’m not in control…

So, I yell at two squad members to grab his pack and throw it on top of mine. They do and the weight crushes me immediately. I mean, I’m 135 pounds. And I was worried BEFORE I got this second pack as to whether I could finish.

My mind tells me there’s no way. I know it’s not going to be possible, but I refuse to lose face. And so I tell them to rush forward and get back with the formation and I start on with both packs.

I couldn’t come close to keeping up and I carry both packs maybe a mile and a half. (And it’s all I can do to even do that.The pain was just so much on my back and even my lungs could barely open and close beneath so much weight.)

Frankly, I only make it that far — a mile and a half — because the company had stopped and I figured I’d give him his pack back, and could catch my breath before they picked up and moved again. Well, I trudge in, drop the extra pack, try to stop hyperventilating, and drop mine.

I’m dripping sweat and gasping like a fish thrown down on the bank.

Actually, it’s worse. I’m panicking, too, because I’m really worried now with how my back feels as to whether I can finish the hump.

And then our Captain orders everyone on their feet. I was destroyed that I wouldn’t get that break, which normally lasts up to ten minutes on a good day.

I manage to grab my pack and take my position in the lead as Squad Leader, but once they step out and the pace is full-speed,  I don’t last long. I quickly fall out.

And it was so embarrassing. The only hump I fell out of in the fleet. (I did, however, fall out of one in SOI.)

And to make matters worse, when we arrived, the CO — a Captain I would have taken a bullet for — watches me trudge in. And he shakes his head, disgusted. And I, in classic Marine tradition, refuse to make any excuses. So, I meet his eyes and just say, “No excuse, sir.”

The next twenty minutes or so was one of the low points of my career. I felt like such a failure and even some of my squad seemed to wonder why I couldn’t keep up, and I wanted to say, “Did you not see the two packs?! A mile and a half?!”

But, I don’t. I just hold it in and take like two 800 mg Advil to try to get my back to stop cramping up and seizing in fits of shock. (At the time, I thought I had hurt my back, and I sort of hoped I had. I desperately needed that Red Badge of Courage.)

But thankfully, mercifully, wonderfully…

About an hour later, my Captain came up to me and said, “Cpl Mitchell, how ’bout next time you don’t try to carry two packs?”

I can only assume he asked my Lieutenant what had happened.

Regardless, it completely made my day and I think had he not found out the truth, me letting him down would have bugged me to the end of time.

One upside to the story is that the piece of shit Marine turned out all right, and carrying those two packs helped build up my reputation. But it did mess up my back for a while. I’m still not sure what I did to it, but like most injuries, it healed with time.

So, I’ve shared my story. Me trying to carry two insanely heavy packs, as if that’s possible. (Or least not for me.)

What’s yours? Think about it a bit. I’d love to hear some good ones…

Keep the faith,

Stan R. Mitchell

Oak Ridge, Tenn.

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11 Comments

Filed under Marine Corps, Stories about my life

11 responses to “Hold my beer… Watch this… So, what’s the dumbest thing you’ve ever tried?

  1. My brother was with 3/3 when they deployed to Afghanistan sometime around ’03 I think and one of his stories cracked me up. They were hiking up some rough, steep terrain and one of the junior guys was falling back. They were all dragging this guy along when one of them finally had him turn his pack over to lighten his load so he could keep up easier. Someone grabbed the pack and and said holy crap this thing is heavy, find out what he’s got in here. They open the guys pack and pull out a ten pound bag of gummy bears. My brother said “I s&#t you not! That bag was bigger than my g#%&@*n head!”

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    • Holy crap, that’s hilarious!!! I wonder if he was planning on eating all those on the patrol/mission, or if he was afraid someone would raid them if he left them in the rear with the gear?

      That’s still just completely hilarious to imagine some Marine carrying a ton of gummy bears… People forget that even Marines are still human when you get behind the exterior of toughness… : )

      SF, Cortney! Thanks for the comment!

      Like

  2. Jim Stelling

    You’re a whimp Stan. (Maybe I am too). I got to Vietnam in Jan., 66 for my first tour. It was on patrol day in and day out. We had a little guy maybe 5 foot 6 and about 135. I had just come off the drill field weighing 180 and thought I was in good shape. The little guy carried a 60mm mortar along with his other gear and a few rounds for it. He got wounded after about 3 weeks so I grabbed his mortar thinking no problem. 2 Hours later, I knew he was a better man than me. I don’t know how he did it.

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    • Wow, 1st Sgt. That story reminds me of a guy I served with from Ohio, who I won’t name. He was smaller than me and never believed in lifting weights, which I did religiously.

      And I swear this guy smoked and drank probably more than anyone, and yet he was tough as nails and somehow stronger than me and much of the company. It seemed like he lived in a constant state of sleep deprivation — always drivign to Myrtle Beach on the weekends or some bar any night we weren’t in the field.

      To this day, I still don’t know how he didn’t just die of exhaustion, and how he was so mentally tough as to do all that we did on such a poor diet or pattern of rejuvenating his body…

      SF, 1st Sgt! Thanks for checking in and sharing that story, which reminded me of my buddy.

      Like

  3. Nancy England

    Stan, I’m not going to admit doing anything dumb — at least not now. But I would point out that in the photo, you may be shorter than the other guys, but good grief, look at those muscles! Ah-nold would be jealous!

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  4. Stan.Reading these stories really puts humor in my day! People inn general think only of the ‘bad’ events but as I always relate its’ the funny experiences that come to mind! Who wants to waste time w.war stories, esp., if you lived them for 25+ months such as I! Got some funny ones but really don’t want to post them so as to not ’embarass of the guilty! Ha Ha. Keep ’em coming! Glad to see those who served after me have the same or similar events occur…althought vodka was the treat of the 50’s/60’s rather than the pogey bait in later year! Progress prevailed! Semper Fi

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