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MACS-23

Yucca-Man's First Duty Station

MACS-23, Aurora, CO


At the time I graduated from MCRD, Marines were sent to their initial MOS School for training after graduating Boot Camp. These days they head to MCT (Marine Combat Training) for non-infantry MOSs or SOI (School of Infantry) for the grunts. The orders and transport to school are paid for, but many newly-minted Marines choose to go home for a ten-day "Boot Leave" on their own dime. Here's where that bout of pneumonia before Boot Camp paid off. Uncle Sam pays for all military movements between duty stations, and it just so happened that since I was a Reservist and had no school to attend, that duty station also happened to be home. I got free travel back home, and kept all my earned pay from MCRD so I came out of it several hundred dollars ahead. Additionally, since I had been a contract PFC, my pay was based on E-2 pay throughout Boot Camp, which helped since some of my platoon mates had earned PFC only days before graduation.

The plan was to send me to Marine Air Traffic Control Squadron 23 (MACS-23) on Buckley Air National Guard Base in Aurora Colorado, expecting to be sent to Twenty-Nine Palms, California for school. I was supposed to be trained for MOS 5963, Tactical Air Operations Central Repairer. Since Reservists are on Active Duty during training the Corps doesn't want to waste that time having them untrained between Boot Camp and initial MOS training. To accomplish this, the estimated class start date for MOS School is used, and the Reservist recruit is sent to Boot Camp prior to that based on an estimated graduation date. That's why that case of pneumonia threw things off so badly. If I had enlisted Active I simply would have been sent to 29 Palms to wait and wait, and join plenty of working parties in the meantime...

I reported in to the Reserve Center Wednesday, Dec 14 1988. There were three major units stationed there at the time - MACS-23, the 4th Fleet Intelligence Interpretation Unit (4th FIIU) and what I am sure was (at the time) 'P' Battery, 14th Marines. This point I'll have to look into further, since currently A/1/14 is stationed at Aurora. P/5/14 is the Reserve artillery battery from Washington.

Toys For Tots
My first day at the MACS started out unexpectedly - Within seconds of entering the building and heading toward Admin in my Service Alphas the First Sergeant popped his head out and used that unique First Sergeants bellow to 'ask' any Marines within earshot whether they had Blues or Alphas. At a range of about 10 feet, I was well within the half-mile effective range of his voice and was consequently the first Marine on his list - without even checking in!

This turned out not to be a bad thing, as the Sunday drill was going to be a Toys for Tots drive at a location guaranteed to get at least 76,000 people in a short time. For the first time in my life I was finally headed to a Denver Broncos game, and without having to pay. Our mission was to stand near a number of collection bins before the game to collect toys donated by the fans. In return, we were going to be able to watch the game from a block of seats in the West Stands. Denver beat New England 21-10 in the final game of the regular season, finishing the year 8-8.

Throughout the game the lone New England fan was cringing as his team kept floundering, until late in the game when they finally forced a turnover. He had been trying to taunt the Broncos fans throughout the game and thought this was finally his chance...until a snowball whacked him in the back of the head. He spun around, ready to jump whoever threw it and paled when he realized there was an entire block of Marines behind him. I looked to my right to see where the snowball may have come from and saw a Captain several seats over brush his palms together. "This might not be such a bad unit" I thought to myself...

Transfer
One of the first things I noticed at MACS-23 was that the radar was needed at all times, and therefore if it went down during the month the Marines on duty between drills would fix it, leaving those of us on drill to twiddle our thumbs and work on PME (Professional Military Education). After a few months of this I checked with more senior Marines (that was everyone at the unit) and learned that there were openings within the Reserve Center at the 4th FIIU (Fleet Imagery Interpretation Unit) in Intelligence Analysis. Since I was untrained for repairing the radar, it was pretty easy for my chain of command to approve a transfer. Unfortunately, one thing that the FIIU failed to notice when they accepted me was that I needed a Security clearance before I could enter "the Vault" where all their work was done. So after all that, I ended up transferred to a unit I couldn't work with; sitting in an empty outer office completing more PME, including such challenging courses as "Math for Marines", "Personal Finance" and "Spelling for Marines" correspondence courses.

Promotion
On May 6, 1989 during a full formation (MACS, the FIIU, and the battery) I was called aside by my platoon sergeant before formation and then called in front of the unit for promotion to Lance Corporal, effective May 1, 1989. Since I had graduated Boot Camp as a PFC, this was my first promotion in the Fleet, and I was introduced to a unique experience to the Corps - I walked 'the Gauntlet' after the formation was dismissed. Before y'all get worked up over it I did it willingly although I was the junior Marine in the entire unit. After reporting in front of the full Reserve Center and getting my new chevrons pinned on by the CO, the formation was dismissed and a good majority of the Marines senior to me (remember, that was everyone) did me the honor of 'pinning on' my new rank. This involves a whack in the shoulder as you pass, symbolically tacking the new chevrons on the sleeve. One thing I learned that day was that a handshake "seals the deal" after getting pinned; in the future when I was able to promote my Marines I always shook their hand as well to congratulate them on their new roles and responsibilities.

Anyway, after I finished getting 'tapped' the Admin Chief was at the end of the line. Sergeant (can't remember her name) was waiting with hands on hips, and gave this boot Lance Corporal his first direct order; "When you're done here come to my office for some paperwork." When I got to the counter I could barely lift my arms up to sign the paperwork she had waiting, but that extra $3 per drill was sure nice to have.

Active Duty
So by the time I was promoted I had been part of MACS-23 or 4th FIIU for six drills and hadn't yet done anything in my job(s). I was also working two fulltime jobs during the week and getting my butt kicked doing it, so I talked to my recruiter and my unit about the possibility of augmenting from Reserve to Active duty. Of course, at about this time my clearance finally came through so it opened up a few more options for me. The FIIU could have kept me but even they wouldn't have a school seat for me for another several months. Once again, I was able to transfer out of the unit and effectively was discharged from Reserve duty and sworn in on Active Duty in early June. My birthday was June 8, and I had orders to report to NAS Millington, Tennessee the next week to begin training as an Aviation Ordnance Munitions Technician (MOS 6521).

Boot Camp | MACS-23 | AWTU-3
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created: Sept 18, 2003
Updated March 3, 2006

All content is copyright 2001-2006, and unless otherwise noted content is only a portion of the real-life experiences of Jim "Yucca-Man" Langdon, Sgt USMC