This is the fourth installment of an interview that historian Joe Todd did with Scott Harris on December 26, 2018 in Bartlesville about his experiences as a United States Marine. Harris graduated from Oklahoma Wesleyan University in Bartlesville. The interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Todd: How long were you in Okinawa?
Harris: I was there a little over a year. When I got there, I had a college degree and the XO company looked at my file and told me that I had to submit an application for the officer candidate school. I told him I didn’t know if I wanted to do this and he told me I wanted to do this. He then told me that I was going to the mess. I knew that everyone had to do their time in the mess and he told me that when my file was ready to submit, I would leave the mess. I realized I could spend the whole year in mess duty at Camp Hanson, so I packed my package pretty quickly. When I left Okinawa, I went to officer candidate school.
T: Where was OCS?
H: Quantico, Virginia.
T: Tell me about Quantico and OCS.
H: When I submitted my file, they brought in a screening officer to review all of our files. The battalion had to do the interview and the selection board and I continued to be removed from the mess. Once I stood in front of the XO battalion and three other officers and answered all their questions. They asked knowledge questions and I had to give a five minute lesson with ten minutes prep just to check my speaking skills. Then they asked me a lot of questions that had no answers, like what I thought about women in the military. Obviously, I passed the advice.
When my package was sent to the screening officer, it was at Camp Foster, an hour’s drive from Camp Hanson. The battalion sergeant major pulled me aside and told me I was going to be interviewed by the screening officer and he gave me the date and time. He said there would be a staff sergeant to drive me and bring me back.
I left the mess and put on my best camouflage uniform. The Staff Sergeant picked me up and he wasn’t happy driving a snotty-nosed corporal to Camp Foster and back. He was also going to an interview and didn’t want to wait for me.
The officer went through our two packages and said to me, “Have you ever thought about being a pilot?” I love aviation but didn’t think I was qualified. He told me to put on a bundle and have a medical examination. He told the staff sergeant he was unqualified, which made for a very interesting return to Camp Hanson. I never saw that staff sergeant again. When my package arrived they put an aviation contract in there.
When I got into OCS, I knew I had a chance in Pensacola to try my hand at flight school. Quantico is an interesting animal. When you ride there, it’s no different than Boot Camp. You still have drill instructors. Instead of the breakdown and instructions throughout, they expect you to know and understand things. About half of our business was previously enlisted and most of the attrition came from kids straight out of college, not so much from the enlisted ranks.
Quantico is pretty rough, hilly terrain and they said if you could navigate the woods around Quantico you could navigate anywhere. We spent a lot of time with a map and a compass. It wasn’t so much teaching as ten weeks of assessment. Unlike Boot Camp, we spent the first two or three days walking around in pants, college shirts and tennis shoes and we didn’t walk.
We were checked in and they slowly got us into the camouflage uniform. In Boot Camp, we were guaranteed eight hours of sleep per night but in OCS, you are not guaranteed anything. When we started our platoon was 70 people and when we finished there were 30 left. They eliminated the guys and some just didn’t want to be there and some didn’t have the basic leadership skills.
T: What is your most vivid memory of Quantico?
H: It was probably week three or four, one of our first periods of freedom and on Saturday mornings we always have a fitness event. My teammate was Paul Harris and he was a sergeant and I was a corporal and we had a really good relationship throughout. If you were late, we helped each other, because you had to mark everything with your last name. We did a very good job looking out for each other.
Saturday morning we had an obstacle course that went through the Quantico woods and ended at the Ford, which is a big pond. You roll into the pond and more or less get lost in the sandy mud. When you come out of this, you have to clean your weapon and clean yourself up and put on a presentable uniform.
Then we had a uniform inspection in the squad bay. Paul and I cleaned and dried everything and put on a camouflage uniform. We looked on the other side and it was only about five feet between the end of the rack and the foot locker and the one on the other side of the bay.
We lined up and in front of us is Neeley. He went to VMI and I don’t know how he survived VMI. His uniform was buttoned, but one button less, his pants aren’t finished. He had one boot in a blouse and one rolled up almost to the knee. Her blouse is stuck in her pants and he grabs her hat and just puts it on. It was the most messed up uniform I had seen.
The drill instructors start yelling at everyone. You could tell that the guys who were enlisted before had enough time to square up the uniform. One of the drill instructors came by and started making fun of everyone’s breathing. He would rant about a guy that he had “dragon’s breath.” Jeb Outtrim, the kid from South Dakota, thought it was funny and started laughing. Paul, under his breath, said, “Are you kidding me? »
We tried to find a place on the wall to look and try to get out of the situation, but those two weren’t helping. Another big kid, O’hare I think was his name, stifles a laugh and blows a golf ball sized bubble of snot and it stays there. The sergeant throws objects and shouts at people. Paul and I were able to survive that inspection and go out for the night, but those guys were a wreck. I will never forget this uniform inspection.
To be continued.