John Paine, Merchant Mariner, 1966-67 John Paine with Mike Curtis


The good, the bad and the ugly

In 1966 I graduated from high school in the small town of Walnut, California. My Uncle Dick gave me a great present for graduation – New York to New York, around the world on a merchant ship, working in the engine room. I loved sailing - three trips in 18 months until the draft board grabbed me in California, waiting for me to dock.
I was cleaning my focsal (quarters), getting ready to ship out to the Orient. However, three massive military police (MP) escorted me to Los Angeles to receive two choices: jail or enlistment. Didn’t matter to them. The best choice was 90 days’ delay and two years. On the 90th day, sure enough, these three MPs met me at my parents’ home to make sure I was not in Canada and ready to serve my two-year tour.
I was transferred from home to LA where it got very real with three huge drill instructors at the Marine Corps Recruitment Depot in San Diego, screaming with fire in their eyes. Sleep? No such thing.
In my former lifestyle, nobody really yelled or screamed at me. It was ugly, and I just wanted it to be over with. I was called a “seagoing maggot.” While marching we were told “Give me my ducks, quack, quack. Ladies, on your toes.” But the best was “Give me my lambs.” Yes, there were three brothers named Lamb. They had to get down on all fours and crawl with us, marching and “bleating.”
The rifle range was not my expertise. I failed the pistol range and barely scored on standing and sitting with crossed legs. Thankfully, I scored 19/20 which enabled me to stay with my platoon.
One day we split into small groups to learn how to throw a live grenade from a foxhole. There were four or five “boots” in each hole with a drill instructor. Someone did drop a grenade, and Sergeant Helle (great name) was ready and saved us all.
I was matched against the “enemy” by 40 pounds, 6 inches, and a massive chest. I knew I was going to be crushed in pugil sticks training. I was getting squashed, pummeled, and pinned to the ground. However, I saw daylight, and that was my opening. I took my pugil stick and began to get up off the ground and aimed towards his crotch. I had to be taken off my enemy and knew then what I could achieve in any situation.
A big thank you to Sgt. R.E. Dykes and Sgt. R.L. Helle for all the great training and making me a real man.
I would also like to honor Master Gunnery Sgt. Top Wilder Base Food Services at Cape Pendleton. I worked with him from 1969-1970. “Top” told me to finish and go to college. I did and eventually received my masters degree in education, working in athletics at Victor Valley College for 20 years. Thank you for your advice!

(top) Kaosung 1966 (middle) John Paine shooting hoops with Vincent Pescatore (bottom) Vincent Pescatore
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