From Alpha to Zulu: Life as a Military Bride, Charlie

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Charlie is for: Corporals and Colonels and Chiefs, Oh my!

I remember when I first became a bride to the Marine Corps, I didn’t have a clue what all those insignia meant on the collars and shoulders of all those sporting the uniform. It barely registered to me what the insignia pinned to my own husband’s uniform looked like. I just knew I’d been thrust into a world of structure where everything was green, all the men wore it high-and-tight, all the females wore an inspection ready bun on the back of their heads, and boots were still black and had to be polished daily. I no more knew the difference between one up and cross rifles and a silver bird or what they meant. The only real thing I knew about rank structure was that my husband was one of the enlisted and the people he saluted were officers.

MarshFox and I had been married less than a year when he received orders putting us bound for Okinawa the next summer. I went about my merry way not realizing what a huge change I was in for and not just culturally. You see, when I met the man, he was stationed with a training company. Not that things are lax anywhere in the Corps, but things were nearly as intense as I learned they could be once we were “back in the fleet.” I supposed he didn’t know any better at the time than not to explain to me what a life altering moment I was in for, and I suppose maybe he thought I was picking up on things through osmosis. I was not. At that point, I was still working a full-time job of my own, trying to learn to press cammies, and trying to explain to a seven-year-old in a manner he’d understand that we were moving half-way around the globe and what exactly that meant. I was also dealing with a family who’d never had one of their own move off like that.

I think we’d been on island about six weeks or so when one Saturday afternoon we went up island to the air base to do some shopping. I was meandering through a few of the trinket shops just outside the exchange, perusing a few jade pieces, when a man in cammies came around the corner and startled me a bit. He smiled and spoke and I spoke back. I asked him what he was shopping for and he said a gift for his wife. I proceeded to point out a few pieces I’d feel really lucky to have owned and we visited a bit more then he picked the piece up he wanted and left. I looked up and MarshFox was standing a few feet away with his jaw on the floor and his eyes wide.

“Do you have any idea who that was,” he hissed.

“Uh, some guy looking for a gift for his wife?”

“That was the CG!”

“The who?”

“The Command General? The guy in charge.”

“Oh,” I said. “So, a general, huh?” I shrugged. “He seemed nice.”

My beloved looked quite pained at my assessment and the next week he came home with a rank structure chart in his hand for not only the Marine Corps, but the Navy and Air Force, as well. That week, I learned to look at a person in uniform’s insignia and know what rank they held. Not that I had to salute or anything, but there’s a certain etiquette which is adhered to in the Corps. I still talked to whomever I pleased, but I had a better awareness of who I was speaking to from then on.

I still think he was a nice guy, and still believe he put his pants on one leg at a time like the rest of us.

Moral of the story: know your rank structure.

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