Vincent Safuto’s Weblog

Notes and observations

A Parris Island Memory: Fun with Guard Duty and Firewatch

A couple of days after my platoon met its trio of drill instructors in August 1978, we learned that there was a fun activity that we had to participate in every night: firewatch.

Basically, every night during the sleep time, two recruits would spend an hour patrolling the squadbay and head and keeping an eye out for fire or smoke. The firewatch was an hour long, though you’d be awakened 10 minutes before your tour of duty so you could get dressed and relieve your fellow recruit on time.

It wasn’t so bad if you were on the first firewatch since you would only lose the first hour of sleep. The worst was to lose sleep in the middle of the sleep period, though truthfully most of us were so exhausted we could fall back to sleep. The worst firewatch was the last one, because you were getting up and not going back to sleep for another 17 hours. And you had to wake up the drill instructor by slapping the red square by the DI hut and announcing, “Sir, the time on deck is 0430, sir.” You then had to wait for the acknowledgment and resume your patrol.

During your hour on firewatch, you might encounter another drill instructor or an officer checking the barracks, so it was important to walk your post and not sleep or goof off. Getting caught usually got you an all-expenses-paid trip to the Correctional Custody Platoon, and no one wanted that.

I have two memories of the guard duty we had. Firewatch rotated, so you caught it several times during basic training, but the bigger guard duty usually came around only once or twice.

One night, I was on firewatch and came into the squadbay from the head to find a ruckus going on. Two guys had gotten into a fight, and there was a lot of “shh” and “lock it up” because if the noise woke the drill instructor, there would be hell to pay.

The larger guard watch was really something else. I was named corporal of the guard and got to walk outside and check posts. I remember walking to this one area and it was 3 in the morning, humid and I was on Parris Island. It was quite a moment for me. I felt really disconnected from everything for the first time in my life. It was like, this was my new life and what came before was an illusion.

The things you think about on Parris Island.

And that’s a Parris Island memory.


August 5, 2014 - Posted by | Education, Life lessons | , , , ,

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