A Pocket of Resistance: Counter Column March

Today, Raymond V. Murphey on the Castle Heights Facebook page, posted the following:

Does anybody remember the command you call to order the platoon to turn into it’s self? Been trying to remember for sometime. Kinda like, to the rear march, but not…

As Richard Zack, Jr. informed us, “Counter column” was the correct answer. Raymond was thankful for helping him remember.

Several other responses followed.

Gary Moor: “Moor, get your head out …”

Cliff Kyle expanded the exact command to “Counter column march.”

Amy Beth Hale: “Oh, I was going to say column right. Well, I was close.”

The question and the responses brought back many memories. Army (J) ROTC drill was an amazing thing to me. At Castle Heights, we all took pride in doing it well, and we all claimed we hated it. There were some amazingly great lessons in the time we spent on the drill field.

And there were some humorous moments also. i vividly recall when the football team came to practice after a rare drill session at the beginning of the 1958 school year. Snookie Hughes and Gordon “Happy Harper,” two post graduates from Carthage who were recruited for the football team were in Company C when the drill was held.

The squad leader had been giving instruction on how you should never execute a right face when at right shoulder arms. Snookie and Happy were at the head of the squad line. After the instruction session, the squad leader put the squad through several right, left, and about face commands. Then he ordered right shoulder arms. Happy, unused to such drill, hoisted his M1 and held it parallel to the ground, rather than at a 45-degree angle on his shoulder. The squad leader to test his boys ordered “Right face.”

Everyone properly did not execute the order…except for Happy. He turned quickly and whacked Snookie in the back of the head. The tellers of this tale said it knocked Snookie out. i cannot verify that.

My response to Raymond and the responses:

Are you kidding? The Navy got all of that kind of knowledge out of me. In 1974 when discussing the change of command ceremony to be conducted on the USS Hollister in Long Beach, the outgoing captain, XO, and department heads considered what the options were when it rained.

Our dilbert weapons officer suggested that we move the ceremony from the 01 deck (with attendees in folding chairs on the pier) to the reserve armory about 3/4 of a mile away. The captain asked how were we going to get the crew there.

The weapons officer replied, “We’ll march the crew there, sir.”

At that, the captain, the XO, the Ops officer, and yours truly, the chief engineer fell out of our chairs laughing at such a debacle.

The discussion reminded me of a story from one of my best golfing buddies, Marty Linville. Marty, an Army major who was awarded the Silver Star for his actions as an artillery officer in Viet Nam, was stationed at the Naval Amphibious School primarily as the director of the Navy’s gunfire support range on San Clemente Island.

During a rare command personnel inspection, Marty was in charge of the gunfire support personnel. He was having them take position for the inspection as was about to give them the command “dress right, dress,” but had second thoughts. He called his master chief petty officer to the front to consult.

“Master Chief, what should I expect if i order the troops to “dress right dress?”

Without hesitation, the master chief replied, “Chaos, sir; absolute chaos.”

So Raymond, i don’t think my answer has any credibility.


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