Tuesday, January 22, 2008

When I met John Scalvi

I met John Scalvi. Quite the rogue he was. Supposed to have been a helluva Marine, but you'd never know it to look at him.

I was standing Duty NCO for II MEF in 1992 on a Saturday night in 1992 or '93. The Duty Officer was drowsing in front of the TV.

The front gate called and startled the heck out of me.

You should know this about the job of Duty NCO - each unit larger than a company has one these - plus an officer of the day. Their job is to sit around and answer the phone after hours and take care of 'stuff'. A unit has a drunk driver, or a guy in jail, they get the call. PMO has a wayward lamb in custody for breaking up a bar, they get the call. A problem in barracks, broken plumbing, drunk Marine .. they get the call. They tour the area to make sure there are no riots, visit the chow hall to make sure the food is tasty and fit for human consumption. It can be exciting if by exciting you mean busy.

II MEF owned nothing that wasn't right around the headquarters building; not a chow hall or an armory or a motor pool; those all belonged to subordinate units. The Duty could look out the window and see pretty much everything. The area was remote from everything else aboard Camp Lejeune, adjacent to general officer housing. It was on the way to nothing and nobody was going to come around and mess with anything. After hours the entire area felt like downtown Tulsa in the 70s, but quieter and with less crime.

The only real purpose for the Duty NCO at II MEF was to answer the phone. The only time the phone rang was when a subordinate unit could not handle something or the Pentagon called to tell us to march to war.

The front gate called and startled the heck out of me.

"Hi, this is Gunnery Sergeant X. I'm a chaser, we've got a deserter. We need to drop him off. Put your duty officer on, please."

I did so. Why were they calling us and not the brig? The brig didn't want him - the wayward lamb actually belonged to I MEF way out in California. The chaser needed to park him someplace while he ate chow and talked to the PMO and figured out where to put him while they ran his raggedy ass through the process so the government could officially quit 'im.

'Him' turned out to be John Scalvi; Mr. Legend himself.

They brought him over. My job was to keep an eye on him and not let him escape. This wasn't so hard - he was not inclined to go anywhere.

John Scalvi presented an interesting appearance; sequined halter, pink shiny pumps, hip huggers, light make up. The cops had busted him in Wilmington for a variety of offenses to good order during a morals sweep of The Gut.

He was - I have to say - a most interesting deserter. He mustered out of the service months before Saddam decided Kuwait would be happier as part of Iraq. Missed the call-back of I.R.R. Maines and was sort of laying low in the seedier parts of the world two years later.

How you miss a call-back - what with it being on the news and letters being sent to your home of record and so forth - is hard to imagine. But that was his story and he stuck to it. He wanted to tell me his story so we shot the shit for the two hours it took the chaser team to get back.

Presently the chasers came back and hauled him off to the brig. I imagine he spent a few weeks in custody and was let go. Possibly they reinstated him just so they could give him a summary court and a BCD.

I later heard that John became some sort of SciFi writer, got famous with a book about old crabby senior citizens going to war or some weird crap like that ... but I don't read genre trash so who knows.

blog comments powered by Disqus