30 October 2000

Brass Pickers

Bill Murray 
Lieutenant Colonel, United States Marine Corps, (Retired)

I'm reminded of a similar (although much less serious) incident [Ref: ROK Marine Justice story] that happened to me in the Zambales training area in the Philippines.  

I was a young Lt. and the S-4 for 1/9 in 1979, when we deployed for a short joint exercise with the PI Marines.  We were very sensitive to the concerns of the locals (battalion commander met with the tribal leaders, gave the prerequisite gifts to ensure that pilfering was kept to a minimum, offered free medical screening and treatment, and rebuilt a house or two) and wanted to keep relations happy. 

All this went through my mind the first day of our live-fire exercise when I was made range safety officer.  Part of the drill was to ensure that no indigenous personnel were in the impact area, so I sent a helo downrange to do a sweep.  Sure enough, the pilot reported someone out there trying to dig up a shell for scrap.  I turned to the PI Constabulary officer next to me and asked that he get our univited guest out of the range.  Imagine my surprise when he eagerly replied "Sure", put his M-1 to his shoulder, and started shooting at the junk dealer.

I had these visions of the dreaded "legal hold" flashing thru my mind, when the scavenger/target made it safely to the jungle.  The Constabulary officer couldn't understand why I was so excited.