Saturday, July 21, 2007

South Vietnam, The American Waterloo: Made Up His Mind At Age 5-Sergeant Proud Of Training He Gave Marines For Viet Duty

November 22, 1966

Da Nang, South Viet Nam--Just one look at Richard Schaad is all anyone needs to tell he is a Marine.

He's only five feet, 9 inches tall, but he weighs 195 pounds and he's solid muscle.

Even in combat fatigues, shouldering a pack and all his gear, he is neat and trim and carries himself with the posture of a man who knows his job and takes great pride in performing his tasks.

Schaad, 28 years old, decided he wanted to be a Marine when he was only 5 years old and saw a member of the Corps walking down the street in his home town of Syracuse, N.Y.

"I made up my mind then I wanted to be a Marine,"Schaad said, "and I made it. I'm a member of one of the greatest fighting forces the world has ever seen. And I'm not only a part of it...I helped make it that way."

Schaad, handsome and brown-eyed, did not mean to boast. No matter what is said about Marines, Schaad is not one to boast. He is the kind of person you have to know before he will talk freely. When he said he helped make the Marine Corps a fighting unit, he didn't refer to his prowess. He considered the fact that as a drill instructor, for officers and recruits alike, he has devoted nearly five of his nine-year career to training 1,400 officers and men.

Today, Staff Sgt. Schaad is assigned to one of the most difficult task imaginable, that of protecting civilian war correspondents who venture into combat zones.

He doesn't necessarily like the duty, but he takes it as part of his role as a Marine. Civilian correspondents often ignore the shouts to "Get Down" even if they come from a former drill instructor, which, any Marine will tell you, is feared above God.

What Schaad really wants to do is join a rifle company or a weapons platoon and use the knowledge he has gained in his career to keep other Marines alive.

Schaad believed he was going to join a combat group when he left the states in April, but his assignment was changed at the last moment because he was needed to protect and instruct correspondents on the weapons used by the Corps and teach them the fundamentals of staying alive.

He left the states after a 32-month hitch at Parris Island, where he trained more than 900 Marines. Prior to that duty he trained more than 500 officers in two years at Quantico, Va., in the Marine Corps Officer's Candidate School.

Earlier, he spent nine months as an instructor in Nuclear-Biological and Chemical Warfare at Quantico.

Schaad speaks modestly of his role as a drill instructor.

"I know 90 per cent of the men I trained hated me. But today a lot of them know why they received the training I gave them. It's keeping them alive."

"I've met officers and men over here that I trained," Schaad said. "A few of them ask me if I'm still as mean as I was at Parris Island or Quantico. But more of them thank me for the training they received. After fighting over here, they know why they got it," he said.

"In the states, it is hard for a recruit to realize the need for the training he's getting. We're in the states and we're safe. They don't realize that the Corps may get into a fight anywhere in the world at any time."

"If the boots could only see what kind of training their drill instructors get, they'd think they had it easy," Schaad said.

The sergeant explained that would-be drill instructors must complete a five week training course in which they must learn to do, better and faster, every task they expects recruits to perform.

"We start out running four miles a day, and it builds up from there. Only about 50 per cent of the men who go to DI School make it to graduation," Schaad said.

Schaad said he demanded his trainees be clean, neat, honest, and obedient.

"I trained them in 12 weeks to drill, the manual of arms, how to care for the .45 caliber pistol and the M-14 rifle, their clothing, the code of conduct, personal hygiene, and care of the barracks. I wasn't easy on any of them," he admitted. "But, I think the training kept a lot of those kids alive over here. I'm proud of that."

When asked what his most frustrating moment as a drill instructor was he said, "Boy that's easy. I had just showed a platoon how to make up their bunks and shine their shoes. They finished making their bunks and began shining their shoes when I noticed a boy who was having all kinds of trouble. I walked up to him and saw why right away."

"I said son, did you go to school? The boy said yes. I asked how far? He said, the 12th grade sir. I graduated."

"Can you read, I asked him. He told me he could. I asked him if he'd read his polish can and he said no."

"Well, are your boots made out of metal, I asked. He smirked and said, why no."

"Well then, why are you trying to polish them with brass polish?" Schaad asked.

"The kid gave me a sick smile and said, 'Golly, I don't know, sir, but I'll sure get these things to shining.'"

"I had to get out of there before I exploded," Schaad said with a laugh.

Schaad misses his wife Adelaide, and his two sons and daughter, "but," he said, "if I don't do my job here, they wouldn't be safe where they are."

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