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was stationed on a tiny island in the south Pacific Ocean where tents served as our barracks and a Quonset Hut was used for Battalion Headquarters. A Quonset Hut looks like a gigantic corrugated sewer pipe that's been sliced in half and set on the ground. This particular structure had doors on both ends and a set of doubles in the middle. It also had a very generous helping of little "pop up" windows scattered around the parameter. Inside were all the important people that oversee the daily operations that make a Marine Battalion, well, a Marine Battalion.
I was a Motor "T" man, and as such, I was usually in trouble more often then I was out of trouble. However, if I may digress for a second here. There was a time in the Corps (and I'm sure this is also true for the other Services) that going astray from the straight and narrow was not uncommon. You screwed up, got hammered by your C.O., or 1stSgt, paid your dues, and returned to work, hopefully havin' learned your lesson.
Many a Marine went on to become noteworthy leaders, and retire from the Corps, who were once complete screwups. The difference today seems to be a lack talent to recognize the good potential in what is all to easily called a bad Marine, Sailor, Soldier, or Airman.
Be that as it may, I of course had screwed up (again), and was assigned to an extra work detail to be done after I secured from my regular duties.
There was a flag pole directly outside of the above mentioned Battalion HQ building. It was anchored to a large concrete slab. The slab was about 8 foot square and about 6 inches thick. My job was to break up the concrete slab so that a new slab and a new flag pole could be installed. Initially I though, "Hell, this ain't so bad. With a decent sledge hammer I'll be done in an hour or two."
At about the same time as that thought was going through my head, the Staff NCO in charge of the detail handed me what looked like a metal rod (about a foot long) and a small 2lb. sledge hammer. The rod was called a "star" chisel. These were the only tools available... I was told.
However, the grin on the Staff Sergeant's face made things a little clearer to me. He further informed me that the C.O. didn't care if it took all night, but by reveille the next morning the concrete slab had better be in very small pieces and ready to be hauled away.
It didn't take long after the SNCO left the scene that I realized that I had a major problem on my hands. After hitting the chisel two or three times it would start buckling and I'd have to stop and use the sledge hammer to straighten it out again. About two hours into my task I had made something that looked like a small dent in the concrete slab. Unless fortune smiled upon me, I would, indeed, be there until sun up...and beyond.
Fortune came in the guise of a fellow Motor "T" jockey. After he asked, and I explained what was going on, he said, "Why not use a couple of those blasting caps down at the motor pool?"
This was absolute brilliance! I was kicking myself for being so stupid as I asked him to go get a dozen or so of the labor-easing devices. I was fixing to demonstrate the fine art of changing a tiger into a kitten.
Using the star chisel to burrow some holes around and under the perimeter of the slab, we then slipped the blasting caps down their individual holes, twisted the appropriate wires together, ran the leads to the push crank, and headed for cover behind a small near by culvert. This was gonna be great!
"Ready?" my soon to be cell mate asked. "Let 'er rip!" I said, my hand extended forward with my thumb proudly pointed straight up, like Caesar at the roman coliseum.
BABOOOM! ...There was absolutely no delay between the time my cohort twisted the hand crank on the detonator, every window in the Quonset Hut blew out, my buddy disappeared (to reappear in handcuffs later that night) and thousands of pieces of concrete began to rain down from everywhere.
I was told later that they found the flag pole (a twisted mess) more than a hundred meters from it's original home. It wasn't very hard for the occupants that came charging out of that now windowless building to follow the smoldering strands of com wire straight to the culvert I was cowering in.
I learned a new word and an important lesson that day...implosion, and everything in moderation. I also learned how to live on very little money, and even less free time of my own for the next six months.