Exhaust from the pipes of the SUV funneled upward. Sand blanketed the land. The driver, Sergeant Avery Amos, looked at his front passenger, Sergeant Venus Fiore, and exchanged glances as Lance Corporals Edwin Black and Cate McGuinness looked down at their phones.
A desert colored truck remained stuck in the middle of a procession of other similarly hued military vehicles in a country thousands of miles away from America. The malaise had set in for a team of Marines.
Winter’s bite was strong. Snow piled up along the highways thanks to the salt and clearing trucks. In the country, the Marines waited for the cycle to end. They had six more months left. December in this mountainous region of the world seemed as bitter as ever. What could warm Marines more than a few singers and comics from the American Entertainment Organization? The AEO flew in about two dozen entertainers to lift the morale of the battle hardened Leathernecks. First Sergeant Paul Denny had enjoyed the shows ever since he first enlisted and experienced a combat zone. This was no different. Only the names and faces changed. He sat at a makeshift SNCO bar where the barkeep cranked the heat up to eleven. No other SNCOs populated the place. It was about two am.
Rocky terrain meant nothing to these intrepid souls. Without an infantryman or woman in sight, these POGs traversed the landscape. Squad Leader Sergeant Brenna Sharpe kept her Marines in tight positions in order to obtain their objective.
Lance Corporal Justine Phillips woke at 7 AM. In the somewhat cramped barracks room, there wasn’t much space for her and her rackmate Lance Corporal Ronetta Minnow to move about. Once she roused out of her large green blanket from a rack that just needed the corners to be tightened a bit, Justine made a grim discovery. Ronetta had hanged herself. A scream expelled from Justine’s lungs like a train whistle.
Around the room, officers in ranks from second lieutenant to captain all sat in airline armchair seats. Most bitched about their wives and husbands. Some seemed to be right on the edge of sleep. Still others remained like eager Devil Dogs salivating over a steak, they awaited their orders for the upcoming mission. Second Lieutenant Kenan Lloyd grinned. He was about 5’9” and possessed oak colored skin.
Corporal Adam Cohen lead the two PFCs to a section of the shop which resembled a tiny library. It was like a nook with thick binders. Corporal Cohen picked up a binder.
At the smoke pit, Staff Sergeants Ariel Puzo, Samantha Caan, and Sergeant Frederico Ruiz enjoyed their last few moments of their smoking breaks. Suddenly, the hatch to the shop burst open like a flash grenade had exploded.
The warm weather of Hawaii was like a salve to the Marines who had just come home from deployment. Christmas decorations and lights strung on palm trees swaying in the breeze created a welcoming experience. The sergeants had formed an alliance while in a combat zone and had even gained the sincere respect of their junior Devil Dogs. Two sergeants in particular remained Ferdinand and Steele. Sergeant Ferdinand was damn near blue black. He had curly hair from his Hispanic side and razor bumps from his African-American side. Steele was a few shades lighter and completely African-American. He possessed no razor bumps. The former stood at about 5'8" and the latter walked around at 6' even.
Throws, kicks, and holds ruled the day at the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP) grounds. First Lieutenant John Jarwish, Sergeant Anna Clifton, and Corporal Benny Mullins all convened on this area replete with shredded up tire pieces. Corporal Mullins took over the proceedings. He ensured that each Marine folded his or her cammie blouse neatly just adjacent to where they would be practicing. After a round of stretching, the three of them looked forward to that day of advancement.
Staff Sergeant Hinton Perth let out a clipped laugh. It was like a laugh suggesting a new invention or mild frustration or contempt all mixed up into one sound.
Water gurgled from the spigot. The yellow mop bucket received the flow as it splashed into the container. Blond hair and blue eyed Lance Corporal Reese Young and dark skinned PFC Tanasia Cunningham held onto their mops like scepters. Reese had a small face with little dimples in her cheeks. Tanasia had a small nose, no acne or freckles. Each wore the same medium hair length haircuts. Once the water had reached the appropriate level, Reese turned off the faucet and proceeded to bring the mops and bucket to their shop.