Runaway Marines

There comes a time in every person’s life when the thought of running away from the things that are causing them the greatest amount of stress crosses their mind with a great intensity.  Many Marines wistfully speak of the day when they will say, “Fuck this silly shit,” put down their pack, and walk away; never to be Devil Dogged, Hey Marined, or Hard-Chargered for the peaceful remainder of their remaining years.  Unfortunately, this is not as easy as it sounds.  Recruiters, Drill Instructors, and other…ahem…motivated individuals will often explain to Marines, mainly through high-volume, intense oral communication methods, that one cannot simply walk out on their Corps.  They will throw words like “deserter,” and “traitor” around with an aggressive ferocity normally reserved for the men they are trained to kill (or American football fanatics…yeesh).  In their eyes, walking away from the Marine Corps is as bad as sending the enemy a text that says, “like omfg u guyz, unit is totes 3 klicks west lmmfao XD #allahackbar” while urinating on a Medal of Honor recipient’s corpse.  Walking away is kind of a big deal.  There are fines to think about, possible jail time, harassment from local law enforcement and military communities, and a whole mess of other garbage no one wants to deal with, so most of us take it on the chin like a true bitch and put up with the dangerous nonsense until our contracts run out.  There are some, however, who do not put up with bullshit and do exactly what so many of us have thought so much about:  They walk away.

My first experience with someone ditching the Corps was, of course, at boot camp.  They had warned us since we stepped into that white van* that smelled like dick sweat that if we tried to run, we would not make it.  The San Diego police were always on patrol around MCRD looking for escaped recruits.  Allegedly.  Supposedly.  Okay, looking back, believing that the SDPD would have the time/manpower/funds to specifically patrol for wayward Marine recruits seems pretty stupid.  Whatever, recruits are dumb, they believe everything.  This alleged, semper-vigilant populace was sometimes the only thing standing between many recruits and sweet, sweet freedom.  It didn’t always work.

When my platoon made it up to Edson Range, we soon found out why team week away from the officers was a bad thing.  Our Vampires (guys that worked the chow hall before breakfast hours) were supposed to be day sleepers, but they were IT’d instead.  All day long.  Before the second day was through, the had changed from Vampires to Zombies.  By the fourth day, one of them had had enough.

The recruit waited until the DI** was asleep, changed into his green sweatpants and sweatshirt with “1055” stenciled in shoe polish, packed his plastic camouflage gym bag, and made his way towards the highway.  An SUV quickly pulled over and gave him a lift…right back to the main gates of Pendleton where he was snatched up by PMO.  We never saw him again.  They told us he was being kicked out and would be fined and probably jailed and yada yada bullshit lie yada.  Some guys do get away though.  I have never met one, but they do exist, apparently.  Regardless of their threats and lies, we heard from an MRP recruit that he was in SEPS platoon and was going home with an Entry Level Separation.  He escaped but was captured, tagged, and freed.

My second run-in with a runner was on Okinawa.  I was working on an engine rebuild when out of nowhere two PMO walk by escorting the whitest and skinniest dude I have ever seen.  He was wearing PT gear, handcuffs, and a shit-eating grin, and by that I mean his teeth were literally doo-doo brown.  The PT gear was a necessity as he had sold all of his uniform items and was required to report in wearing something devil-doggish at the very least.  I mean, come on, you can’t just show up to meet your new CO and not look fabulous amirite?  He did have some pretty nice shower shoes, though, I have to admit.  They were the kind sailors buy, you know, the ones with super thick soles that (hopefully) keep your toesies out of the pissy-semenfest they call a shower on ship?  Yeah, those.  After an awkward introduction at the barracks, I learned that he had gone UA right after his MOS school.  For six months.

By the time he had graduated Motor T Operator school, he was already bored with the whole “Marine thing.”  He had seen the shoddy leadership, deficient training methods, and all around garbage for what they were and decided that going home was a better expenditure of his time and efforts.  A few weeks after he was supposed to be on Oki, a local law enforcement representative appeared at his door to warrant him up, but his father agreed to forget his whereabouts until the officer gave up and left.  He did not come back.  For the next six months, he continued on with his life as if the Corps never happened.  Then, one day, he got bored.  He had been arrested several times since he went UA but his warrant never showed up on the local blotters.  The last time he got himself locked up, he admitted to being a Runaway Marine.  They did not at first believe him until he phoned his very pissed off recruiter who confirmed he was in fact missing.  He said the Chasers (guys who transport detained people) were actually pretty cool and didn’t really care as long as he didn’t try to run and kept his mouth shut (I am still not sure if they were appalled more by his grammar or rotting teeth).

Several weeks later he found himself stuck on an island in Japan in a company full of people that didn’t like him from day one.  My command hated him because he went UA, was a filthy dirtbag, drank underage, looked terrible in uniform, and gave absolutely zero fucks about Marine shit.  The thing they hated about him most was his ability to run a <16:30 3-mile without breaking a sweat or being out of breath.  THAT shit pissed them off like nothing else could.  Nothing says “Fuck You” to a group of senior Marines like shitting all over their PFT scores like it’s nothing.

The thing that I thought was so weird about him was that eventually he became the Company Pet.  Although I’m sure he was barred from reenlistment, after a while they seemed to treat him with a lot of respect for a guy that they so often verbally berated for being a quitter.


*I didn’t take the bus, but that story is for another time.

**We had only one DI for three weeks straight, but that story is also for another time.

Note from S: Sorry about taking so long to publish your article AAVPOG

  • cutter

    Regarding people running away from basic and being picked up and returned: 1967, private R. disappeared twice and was returned each time the next day. He said he had been caught by the CHP. Well he hated being there so he took off again only to be returned. this time the Platoon Commander dragged him up front and explained how he had had a talk with R and they had worked out their differences and that all was forgiven. R was going to be a squared away Marine, right. 🙂
    Well that night he took off again never to be seen.

  • R.E.M.F.

    If the Marine Corps recruit training was worth a good, hearty CRAP they would have a policy like the French Foreign Legion has. In the F.F.L., there is a bell. If you want to quit, you ring the bell. Then you go to jail for 24 hours to think it over.

    If, after 24 hours, you want to quit, they don’t care. They take their gear back, give you YOUR gear back and put you outside of the big doors in Marseilles.

    Also, in F.F.L. recruit training, there isn’t any of the “The Private requests…” etc. You use your NAME, like a human being. NCO’s are not referred to as “Sir” because they are not officers.

    Aw… fuck it! The Marine Corps sucks ass. Anybody who doesn’t know it is fucked in the head.

  • Older Marine Vet

    Ha Ha Ha Ha!! You really have to laugh at some of these situations.

    In 1992, there was supposedly a recruit who managed to jump the fence at MCRD San Diego, and (in the days before TSA and anal retentive airport security) stowed away on the nearest jet he could find and ended up in Alaska! Ended up turning himself in because it was too far away from home and he hated the cold weather! (note- this end is second hand information since I did not personally see this individual).

    And if you think this is confined solely to the enlisted ranks, think again. At TBS (yr2000) I heard of a situation where a disillusioned LT hated his TBS experience so much he said ‘fuck this’ and disappeared. He was put on the radar when he was in Canada applying for Canadian citizenship. He was instantly discharged, but never heard that the Corps sent any Chasers to Canada to get him.

    If you are going to do it, you are better off getting outside the USA for good. I find it doubtful the Corps would have the inclination or resources to go after a runaway who ends up in Brazil, or Sweden.

    It is doable if you research it enough, then make it difficult for the Corps to come after you. Probably end up getting a bad discharge, then you can live your life a nicer 2nd or 3rd World country.

    • Bubbafett

      Or be a reservist lol. 6 months after being UA and the unit just processes you out.

  • madmike

    I got a good one for you. When I hit the fleet as a boot after SOI I had a senior lance named Babbs who DESERTED 3 FUCKING TIMES!!! The corps was so desperate for warm bodies they kept taking his dumb country bumpkin ass back. In fact one of his desertions lasted for 6 months before he finally got arrested for driving drunk. The others were for 3 or 4 months. The best part was I got to EAS while he was still in.

  • private_givenofucks

    I’m currently ua or in deserter status from SOI. Graduated boot camp Nov 21 2014. (Hotel Co)Didn’t return to ITB from our Christmas leave when I was supposed to on Jan 2 2015. Wondering if they will try to retain me if I’m caught. All I gotta say is fuck range movements, fuck asshole staff sergeants & nco’s, fuck shitty libo, fuck hitting the fleet and putting up with 3 1/2 years of bullshit, fuck MRE’s, fuck firewatch, fuck sleep deprivation, fuck sleeping in the cold/rain, fuck my recruiter, fuck my drill instructors/ combat instructors, fuck hiking, fuck not seeing a girl for weeks at a time, fuck field daying, fuck being a private, I would run away again if caught. Just straight up fuck the fucking corps. Hate that shit. wished I would have quit in bootcamp but didn’t because my senior di said he would do everything in his power to keep us there or to keep recycling us until we spent our whole miserable lives as recruits less than a fucking human being<- his exact words. Fuck that guy.

    • Bubbafett

      This is what is wrong with an ‘elite’ unit known as the USMC. They don’t let ppl quit and they actually just do all they can to graduate people. Believe it or not, Drill Instructors and Senior Drill Instructors are graded on how many recruits they graduate. They try to view themselves as a miracle worker or some bullshit. Then when these morons have issues, the whole unit gets fucked over. That’s part of the reason why I got out as a Sgt. If you can’t hack it or don’t want to be in, quit now. That’s my motto.

    • jacob

      Hey dude. I went through the same experience. Went UA from ITB after about 3 or so weeks because of shoddy leadership and just overall retardedness. I stayed out for about 8 months or so. All I needed was 6, but it took a little while longer for me to get the balls to face the consequences. I went to Quantico Virginia and stayed there for 6 months until I was eventually separated with an OTH. Scott Olsen gave me those exact instructions. That is my advice to you. Don’t worry. This was less than a year ago, so I doubt anything has really changed, except for the personnel in charge of casual platoon. Its not that bad really. You’ll still get paid while being there, get weekends off, get some good food, hopefully a good chain of command, and for the love of god, hopefully they won’t enforce firewatch. They didn’t all that much when I was there thank god. But anyway. You’ll still be treated(for the most part) like a normal marine. You’ll have to go through your NJP, but after that it’s smoother sailing. Good luck bro. And god bless

      • private_givenofucks

        Thanks for the info brother, I just had a couple of questions. First, how did you go about turning yourself in? did you call a number, recruiter, call the police what did you do? once July comes around I plan on turning myself in. second question, once you called someone and went through your initial ass-chewing did they just fly out to Virginia? what can I say at my NJP to avoid the brig? even though I don’t really care if I do get sent there as long as I get discharged. what do I take? I still have a sea bag. Did they try to send you back to SOI at all? I don’t want to go back to Pendleton. Any info helps my email is Lastly, I just wanted to say thanks. I was worried that I would have to do 8 years in the brig. That’s what a relative( 2nd cousin or something he got out as a Ssgt recently) told my dad when I first left back in Jan. But I figured that’s just what he told his junior Marines when he was in to keep them from leaving, he even told me that he had nothing against me for leaving but I don’t know if I can trust him, 8 yrs for leaving SOI while still in “student status” seems a bit ridiculous to me.

  • Dave Injustice

    “They did not at first believe him until he phoned his very pissed off recruiter who confirmed he was in fact missing.”

    holy shit I imagine that conversation being funny. Whatever he said it probably began with “You Stupid Motherfucker”. and i’m 90 percent sure the recruiter was knifehanding on the other side of the phone.