The night crew had been started about 1 month after I came to the squadron in 1969. It consisted of 3 aircraft Mechanics, 2 each from the Metal Shop, Avionics, and Hydraulics and 1 Supply man. This group worked well together and were responsible for getting as many aircraft up and ready for the next day’s operations as possible. Their efforts made a marked improvement in aircraft availability.
One night at about 2330 they all presented themselves at the Maintenance Control office and requested to be placed back on the day side of the operation. This took me by complete surprise and I asked, “Why?” Their response was “The chow sucks!” With that they showed me what they had gotten for the last evening's meal. When the box was opened it didn't take a rocket scientist to realize that the food was bad. The sandwich was peanut butter on rock hard bread the oranges were puckered with age the milk was curdled and there isn't a pleasant way to describe the cookies.
This food was so bad that my first thought that it was a joke and I said, “Your putting me on aren't you?” The response was an explosive, “NO!” Then they stated this sort of food had been brought to the flight line for the past couple of weeks.
I asked them to bring the current evening's meal directly to me, as I wanted to see what it contained and its degree of freshness. I also asked them to give me a chance to correct the problem. They reluctantly agreed. About 45 minutes later the mess hall truck arrived and I saw the troops take the meal boxes off the truck and they delivered them straight to my desk. I opened one of boxes and the sandwich contained slimy green roast beef the mayonnaise was yellow and the bread was many days old. The apples were very close to being dried out. The milk was sour and you could have played hockey with the cookies. I checked the remaining boxes and they were all the same condition. We dated the day before meal and also that evening's box and placed them in the flight line refrigerator. I told the troops I was going directly to the Sergeant Major in the morning with these meals. I also told that there were no promises that I could make other than that I would try to have the problem fixed.
The next morning I presented myself and the two offending meals at the doorway of Sergeant Major R. R. "Red" Ebert. He acknowledged my presence and asked, “What can I do for you Gunny?” I said, “Sergeant. Major we are going to have breakfast together.”
“I don't think so Gunny, I just had breakfast.” responded Sergeant Major Ebert. To which I said, “Sorry Sergeant. Major but we will have breakfast together as these boxes contain the food the troops on night crew are getting!” His expression changed and he indicated to show him the food and as I did he also said, “Your joking, I wouldn't feed this crap to a dead dog.” He asked several questions about how long it had been going on etc. Then he said, “Bring the boxes we are going to have breakfast with the Commanding Officer!”
Sergeant Major Ebert presented himself to Lieutenant Colonel, Charles R. "Chuck" Dunbaugh and it was a repeat performance of what had already happened. The C.O. took the boxes and went to the Headquarters, Marine Aircraft Group 16. I don't know of that meeting but, about 1300 that afternoon Sergeant Major Ebert awoke me in quarters and told me that from that evening on the mess hall would be serving hot meals for all night crews. He also told me it would be nothing fancy but would consist of fresh bread, hot coffee, fresh fruit, eggs, and hash browns, and the hours that the mess hall would be opened. I went to the troop's hooches and gave the men the information.
From that point on the night crew troops had a hot meal, their morale went back up to very high standards, and the Purple Foxes maintained an enviable aircraft availability because a Sergeant Major and a Lieutenant Colonel were willing to have breakfast with a Gunny.
William V. M. "Bill" Peck, MSgt. USMC (Ret.)
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