I don't know if they still do it or not, but around the time that I was going through boot camp Drill Instructors played a mental game of good-guy/bad-guy on recruits. Much as cops do with crime suspects. It keeps whomever you're trying to control off balance.

Two of our three Drill Instructors played a variation of this game, called bad guy, and even worse guy! It had one purpose -- to terrorize us. It worked really well.

I can still hear my Drill Instructor's warning to the entire platoon. "Wearing that uniform is a privilege and an honor. You will never disgrace that uniform in any way, shape, or manner! You will give up your meaningless life before you disgrace my Marine Corps uniform! Is that understood, maggots!" I don't recall any suicidal shouts of "NO, SIR!"

He continued as he slowly walked the length of one side of our squad bay, momentarily laying eyes from hell upon each recruit in turn. "Rest assured, one day, one of you will forget what I say here today. That scumbag will be out and about, diddy-bopp'n around like some low life civilian while wearing my Marine Corps uniform."

He turned, and began walking down the opposite side of the barracks. "I can't tell you what day, or who, will be the unfortunate a--hole that decides to make this serious error in judgement, but I can tell you this. Somehow, some way, I'll find out about it, and I will personally have a set of travel orders cut for myself and hunt you down for the scum sucker that you are."

You have just had your one and only opportunity for God to save your soul.

He then had us all say The Lord's Prayer (this was in the days that Drill Instructors weren't overly concerned about offending one's race, religion, or creed). When we had finished, he said, "You have just had your one and only opportunity for God to save your soul. If you are the sh--bird that I catch disgracing my uniform, you'll rest easy knowing He has it, because on that day, your ass will belong to me!"

I immediately added a very quiet addendum to my prayer asking God not to make me the person my Drill Instructor was talking about.

Fast forward a few years later. I was shipped out to what was referred to as the arm pit of the Orient -- Okinawa, Japan. Must of the people stationed there spent their tour complaining about how much the place sucked.

I, on the other hand, had a different view of things. I was 19, got a pay check twice a month, could go pretty much anywhere on the island I wanted, and my parents wouldn't be up waiting for me when I got home. Pretty nice set up. Oh, yeah, and drinking joints packed with cute little Japanese bar girls to the left and right, as far as the eye could see. (O.K., I know what you're saying, and you're probably right. But I swear that I have never seen an ugly girl in a bar near closing time).

It was while I was returning to base in the wee hours of pre-dawn , inebriated, and late (technically A.W.O.L.) that I hailed a taxi for the ride back. As I got into the front seat, someone shouted, "Are you heading towards Camp Butler?" Sharing cabs was a common, if not an economical necessity after blowing most of your money in town.

Half asleep already, I said, "Yeah, jump in." He said, "Thanks," and got into the back seat. He tried to make some small talk, but I was too tired, and could only manage an occasional "Uh huh," here and there.

Through idle curiosity, I glanced into the diver's rear-view mirror to get a look at Mr. Motor Mouth. At about the exact same instant my vision cleared enough to recognize the person sitting not two feet from me, my cardiovascular system suffered a complete shutdown.

My Senior Drill Instructor hadn't changed at all in the past couple of years. I couldn't catch my breath. The only thing I was capable of doing was to have a few quick mental words with God. Which was to essentially question His judgement. I had distinctly asked him not to do this to me (Apparently where He lives there's a statue of limitations on how long request are honored). In my oxygen deprived brain I heard God say "But, you're not in uniform, you're in civvies." I countered, "I'm drunk and A.W.O.L.!" He shot back, "But NOT in uniform."

My first plan was to make damn sure my Drill Instructor didn't recognize me.

My survival training skills kicked in. I immediately began working on two plans. My first plan was to make damn sure my Drill Instructor didn't recognize me. The second plan was getting even with God.

As it turned out, the near fatal heart attack was all for naught. My Drill Instructor had probably put thousands of recruits through basic training, and I was just another face in a sea of faces. He stopped the taxi about half a mile from the base, threw the cabbie a wad of Yen, said "Thanks," and was gone.

The taxi driver looked at me and said, "You no look so good, you all blue!" Air seemed to rush back into my lungs, I couldn't take in enough of it. "Hiyako, honsho," (Get going!) was all I could manage. During the last few minutes of the ride, I came up with some interesting scenarios for plan two.

Semper Fi!