In 1990, I was the commanding officer of the 14th Counter Intelligence Team, (at that time the largest team in the Marine Corps, regular or reserve). In August of that year, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and that put the Marine Corps on a war footing. Early on, I was informed that my unit could expect to be deployed to the Middle East and I took the appropriate actions to ensure the Team was prepared.
I had in the training schedule a weapons qualification and so, in due course, we were on the rifle range with M16s. Now the 14th was a unit heavy with officers and staff NCOs and among the staff NCOs was Gunny Broughton. Broughton had served in Viet Nam as a sniper, a fact that he took every opportunity to impress upon his fellow staff NCOs, to a certain extent, to their irritation as well. On qualification day, Broughton was assigned to the first relay and apparently had again pointed out to his fellow NCOs what a crack shot he was. Just as the first relay was preparing to approach the 200-yard firing line several persons (whose identity I should conceal) engaged Broughton in a heated discussion on a point of rifle marksmanship. As Broughton was distracted, several other NCOs (who, likewise should remain anonymous) completely fouled up the windage and elevation knobs on Broughton's weapon. Without realizing the sabotage that had been committed, Broughton took up his rifle and prepared for the 200-yard rapid fire. The line was ready, the tower gave the command "ready on the right! ready on the left! all ready on the firing line!" Two hundred yards away the dog target rose from the butts and the crackle of rifle fire erupted from the line. A few moments later, the dog targets dropped into the butts for scoring and Broughton rose from his firing position confident that he was on his way once again to an expert qual. The targets rose from the butts, and disking the scores commenced. Broughton had a beautiful tight pattern… almost off the target and the red disk waved back and forth (Maggie’s drawers) indicating ten misses. Broughton almost went into apoplectic shock, and behind the line a group of my staff NCOs were gagging trying to suppress their laughter. Broughton took immediate action to correct his dope and tried to retrieve his qualifying score.
Shortly thereafter, I conducted a class A's inspection. The unit turned out, opened ranks and followed by my Team Chief taking notes I proceeded down the first rank. I faced in front of Gunny Broughton and looked him up and down, sharp, squared away in every respect, and then I saw the shooting badge he had qualified for. Marksman, the dreaded toilet seat. I was unaware of the aforementioned sabotage, and so I was baffled, I started to ask a question and before I said anything Broughton softly growled, "I don't want to talk about it Sir." I closed my mouth, took one more look at the badge and faced to my right and proceeded to the next Marine.
I took the 14th to the Gulf War where all hands performed in the highest traditions of the Corps. Upon return, I went on to serve in the 2 shop of 1 MEF for 3 years then on to a teaching billet with the Expeditionary Warfare Training Group Pacific, for my sunset tour. After retirement I joined the Docents of the MCRD Command Museum where I found an old comrade, from the 14th, Gunny Ayers. In time, Gunny Ayers would tell me all the shenanigans that the troops would pull behind my back…. including the sabotage of Gunny Broughton's weapon on qualification day. I remember politely laughing at the story but thinking in the back of my mind, what a stinker.
One particular Wednesday, at the museum I was pleased to find Gunny Broughton touring the facility. He, I and Ayers began reminiscing on the old 14th, the men, and the war. It was at this point that I asked Broughton if he ever forgave his fellow Gunnys for sabotaging his weapon on qual day. I failed to heed Ayer's frantic silent mouthing of the word "NO." Broughton's face turned red, he turned around on Ayers and all I heard was "You son of a B------." Ayers took off running and Broughton was chasing him. I was left speechless…. it was a moment that justified the saying, "loose lips sink ships." In this case I had sunk Ayers. Broughton finally returned to me, somewhat breathless. He said "Colonel, if you know that my score was sabotaged, can I wear the Expert badge?" I looked him square in the eye and said "Hell no! You're a Marksman and that’s it!" Yes, I can be a stinker too.
NOTE: This piece reflects the experiences of a single individual and is not endorsed by any official Marine Corps source.
Lt Col L. M. Howard, USMC (Ret.)
MCRD Command Museum docent 15 years+