Thursday, August 18, 2011

Slide and Glide

Eighth and I (or Eye) is the home of Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C. All Marines who report for duty in the Ceremonial Guard are hand-picked by their superiors for this coveted assignment based upon their proficiency in close-order drill, their "squared-away" appearance, and their overall intelligence and motivation. In addition to their presumed qualification to secure a Top Secret White House security clearance.

Back in the day we began our tour in the Training Platoon, where we learned ceremonial marching ("Your first step is a sliding half step, so that your caps"—we called them gourds—"don't dip. So you glide into the march."); how to execute the manual of arms by sliding the rifle around our bodies, rather than using the clunky manual we learned in boot camp; how to modify our dress blues to look sharper than sharp.

There were three ceremonial platoons plus the silent drill team. Each ceremonial platoon would spend four weeks in D.C. and then rotate to the President's retreat, Camp David, for two more. The six-week cycle was ideal: four weeks of spit and polish as ceremonial guards, two weeks of the most serious guard duty stateside.

Marines are famous for their esprit de corps, and 8th & I Marines are no different. We periodically hold summertime reunions in the D.C. area and get to see as spectators the parades we only saw as participants. During our 2000 reunion, we (as usual) regaled each other with "sea stories" of our time at the Barracks and at David (which we called "The Hill"), and I realized that once told, those stories simply vanished into the air. And when we were gone, they would be lost forever.

So I approached the officers of our reunion association with the idea of compiling a memory book, with contributions from all who wished to share their stories; thus, "Slide and Glide" was born. Marines from Pearl Harbor days up to the present sent their anecdotes to me. I edited them for clarity, added some stories of my own, and 35 pages later, we had a book.

Unfortunately, we were unable to get stories from George C. "Patton" Scott, one of our own, who served in 1946-48 and passed away in 1999. He knew even then that he would one day be "a goddam great actor."

The book is available in PDF format from

Semper fi.

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