I was always taken aback by just how shitty every day life in the barracks can actually be. Then again, I had the dubious honor of spending my first year in the fleet living in beautiful Mackie Hall aboard MCBH Kaneohe Bay. Mackie Hall rarely had working washing machines, hot water, air conditioning or comfort. It provided adequate shelter for a battalion of Marines, by Marine Corps standards, but it was as ubiquitous and defining of a “bricks” as you could possibly get.
There’s a vision of government entities in the minds of the average civilian–you often see it in the movies–where things are high-tech and new. People behind holographic monitors clamoring over bluetooth headsets conducting advanced military exercises. This is the vision, and I assure you it is nowhere to be found in the reality of it all.
For the most part, the base conditions are maintained by the Marines. If a washer or dryer breaks, you better hope that one of the Marines in your platoon had a previous life as a washer and dryer repairman, or it will be months before someone can replace or fix it.
Speaking of laundry specifically, I always thought the contrast between being deployed in Iraq and being back in the rear was interesting. For those of you not in the know, on the larger bases overseas there’s actually a laundry service run by local nationals. They take your bag, wash and dry your clothes, then fold them nicely for you to pick up the next day. It’s 100% free and awesome. Then, you return back to the barracks from whence you came and are met with conditions of deplorable poverty that baffle the mind.
Bare in mind, this experience of mine was during the glorious Bush years of plethoric military funding. The budget was anything but cut, as re-enlistment bonuses surged upwards of $80-100,000 for infantry squad leaders.
It was a time to be alive!
But not a time to get your laundry done.