Private Williams and the Gang
That Couldn't Rob Straight
I was standing in front of Staff Sergeant Brown's desk at San Diego Receiving Barracks. I was on night crew, which meant we went to the airport to pick up the herds that flew in as a whole platoon. It was fashionable in the 1970s.
He answers the phone. It's the MPs, so I guess at the reason for their call as he listens:
1) We have a fraudulent enlistment (i.e., a 16 year old).
2) We have a murderer that the FBI is seeking.
3) They need someone to paint rocks around their CP in the morning.
SSgt Brown hangs up and tells me that the inbound platoon from Chicago has just robbed everyone on the plane, including old ladies of their Social Security checks.
I was going off duty in the morning and was not next up for the processing cycle. I was on nights, so I volunteered to go to days after picking them up, and to take this herd for the four days of proccessing. It sounded interesting.
The LT okays that and I go to the airport. In comes silver wings and off come the robbers. Down the stairs, into MP paddy wagons and straight to Receiving Barracks. No muster in the terminal this time.
The civilian law said it was okay that we took care of it. Nobody really knew who the heck had jurisdiction. The robbed passengers got their stuff back.
We do the usual routine: footprints, haircuts, uniforms, let them get an hour of sleep. It takes me about two hours after morning chow to identify the ringleader. He is a skinny little bully named Williams. Can't be more than five-six, 125 pounds soaking wet. I watch as he bosses this really huge kid around to do his dirty work. It's really funny to watch. It was classic.
Around lunchtime on the second day, I can see that Williams thinks he really has control of the whole mob. He has this guy beat up that guy, and another guy clean this after I told another to clean it. It's a control contest.
So, I invite him to join me in the Duty Hooch. He tells all the prives to carry on as we go down the passageway to my tiny 8-by-8 office. All it has in it is a little table and a single bunk. I have him stand at-ease by the little window. I ask Williams the name of his gang. He says he has no gang. I block the door with the bunk and start taking of my shirt real slow and place it on the hangar.
As I slowly remove my shoes, I ask him why he robbed the airliner's passengers. It was clear that he was getting nervous. He replies that the others had done the robbery. Then he asks why am I removing my clothes.
I explained that if I got blood on my Creighten shirt, which cost me 32 dollars, it would not come out. I added that when he and I left this room, one of us would be in charge of this platoon.
As I took my trousers off and hung them up, his eyes got big and he began stammering. I told him that the robbery was not completely resolved yet, and that there could be big prison time if we could not get this herd squared away in two more days.
So, as I stood two inches from his face, I explained that if he had a problem with his gang becoming our gang—now was the time to work that point out. Only one of us would walk out of my office and that one would be the boss. I then told him that if he felt froggy, this was the time to jump. I insisted that he jump.
He stared at me with big eyes and said, "Man, you are crazy!"
"Man you are crazy, sir!" I replied.
And he said, "Okay, you're the boss, Sir."
I made him Platoon Guide. He had that mob doing flanking movements by evening chow the next day.
In the turnover brief I told the Senior DI that they robbed planes badly but were decent at flanking movements. He had a strong team, I said, and they had potential. It was interesting. They turned out to be a good mob.
The only thing I wonder about to this day is how on earth did that recruiter get them all to sign on the dotted line.
Semper Fly, Cal.
* * *
Cal Tobin, Jr.