Leadership Stories - Guard Duty?
I had just graduated from the Marine Corps Communications Center Course in Twenty Nine Palms, California, and was waiting for my order to Okinawa, Japan.
I had just turned eighteen just four months earlier, two days after graduating from boot camp.
In an effort to keep all of us busy, I was assigned to guard duty. I really wasn't that upset since the alternative was working in the Chow Hall washing dishes and any other job no one wanted to do.
There was only one way into the building and that was through a double gated area. After that there was only one entrance to the building itself. The building was about sixty feet long and thirty feet wide.
The fence closest to the building was about ten feet away. There was a concrete walkway completely around the building. There were no bunkers, or anything else to protect me.
Our instructions were to change up our routine around the building during our four hour watch.
I know the first thing I thought about when the Sergeant told me this was if someone wanted in this building, they were not going to crawl over the fence and sneak in. They were going to shoot me, since I was a sitting duck. Almost like a shooting gallery. I had no protection at all.
Anyway, my tour was four on, eight off, around the clock, seven days a week, for two weeks straight. Sounded good a first until about the third shift or so. You really never had enough time to do anything completely.
Being a Marine was all about endurance. No matter what the obstacle.
One day while I was on the day shift, I was approached by a Full Bird Colonel. Keep in mind that is only one rank below a general and they had some power.
The procedure for letting anyone into the facility was that I would open up one gate and then lock it behind me. I would proceed to the outside gate and prior to unlocking it and letting someone in, they would have to produce their identification card. I take that id card and match it to the name in the book and the signature that went with it. If they matched I would let them in.
Anyway the Colonel came to the gate. I proceeded through the first gate and on to the second quickly.
I stepped over to the book just one step away and proceeded to try and find his name in the book. I did not find it right away. The Colonel became irritated and demanded that I hurry up.
He kept insisting his name was in the book and I needed to find it quickly and let him in.
I still was not able to find it. I was beginning to get very nervous now since the Colonel began threatening me with discipline for not being able to do my job.
Now it had been about three to four minutes which seemed like three to four days with the Colonel that could change my life growing impatient. Well maybe not growing impatient, darn right full blown mad. I kept him in my sight at all times in the event he did something crazy.
I picked up the phone that called directly inside and informed the contact that the Colonel was out here and I could not find his name on the list.
Within seconds he was out of the building and letting the Colonel into the building. The Colonel was very mad at me and the contact, who happened to be a Gunnery Sergeant.
I just knew my career was over, as short as it had already been. I thought to myself that how could this happen. Just trying to do my job, and trying to do it well, and this happens.
Well to my surprise he told me what a great job I did in making sure I did not let him in, no matter what he did to intimidate me. He congratulated me! He told me that I was able to stay calm, that I did not allow him out of my sight, all while staying professional. He said I followed every procedure correctly.
Wow, this sure ended a lot better than I thought it would just seconds earlier.
The lesson learned here is to always trust your ability, and to do what you were trained to do.
Stay focused and follow through. Making the wrong choice, at the wrong time, can change everything.