Veterans History Project
Richard L. Sherard, Chief Warrant Officer, USMC & US Army, 1981 – 2013
The Veterans History Project of the Library of Congress collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war veterans so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war.
Richard Sherard joined the United States Marine Corps before graduating from high school in Cheyenne, WY. He had relatives who had been in the US Army and in the USMC. His thought was that if he had to go to war, he wanted to get the best training available. In August of 1981, he left the comforts of home and made his way to San Diego, CA then to Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD).
Even with a night arrival, a greeting committee met this young man and others. Their loud voices, constant belittling, and presentations of “I’m the Drill Instructor and you’re not” were relentless. At night, the recruits obtained their new haircuts, new uniforms, and the awareness that things had “changed”. They went on until about 0230 hrs then slept in to 0500 when they were awakened to the same day, just a little different. The main push here is to instill in the new men that they are no longer civilians, they are in-training to be the greatest warriors ever known to mankind! (...or something like that).
The 60 new men were housed in a barracks that needed to be re-cleaned, of course. When it was time to head to the mess hall, the men always moved in formation. If mistakes in marching happened, they stopped and practiced until they got it right. On arrival at the mess hall, the leader announced to the food service personnel that “such and such platoon of such and such company was present for the meal”.
On with the training... marching, walking, physical fitness, customs and courtesies, and the USMC uniform were covered in detail! The Marines train extensively on weapons. They will spend a lot of time in one week on an exercise called “snapping”. It’s dry-firing a rifle. In the barracks or in a controlled environment, the recruits take up the various firing positions and concentrate on eight steady-hold factors that will ensure successful shooting. When this exercise is managed meticulously, the trainees know how to shoot before they get to a rifle range. When they arrive at the rifle range the following week, things are again managed in detail so that no one gets hurt.
Graduation came on time and soon Richard was on his way to Camp Lejuene, North Carolina so he could train to become a Combat Engineer. Specifically, he focused on plumbing, water purification, and power generation.
From 1980 to about 1985, the military in general, was undergoing significant change. Many soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who were part of the Viet Nam War were leaving the ranks in retirement or were being medically retired. An epidemic was also working into the ranks. It was nicely known as drug abuse. The problem was with many of the Officers, the Non-Commissioned Officers and even in the trainee members. It came to a point that the Commandant of the Marine Corps and the Command Sergeant Major went to this facility and admonished the recruits and staff. “Fix it or get out!”
Richard made it through the advanced training and was sent across the Country to Camp Pendleton, California. When he reported in for duty, he presented his orders to the administrative people. Going through the next three levels of acceptance, each person he confronted said “I’m sorry”
He finally got to the desk of a specialist who was from Cheyenne, WY. He read his orders and also said, “I’m sorry” about the next assignment for Richard. As things progressed, he was to be a part of a Company of men who were in constant contact with the brig (jail). It was like when some were ready to be discharged from the brig, another group was headed in. ..a rotation plan. Discipline had broken down. About 80% of the men in his assigned group were discharged from the Corps because of bad conduct.
Richard’s responsibility was to keep himself away from the negative forces and train in his field, which he did. The culture of the Marines had to change. For the Marines, it happened as a result of the bombing of the Marine Barracks in Lebanon which killed 220 Marines – the most Marines killed in one place since WWII. It was a time to return to the basics. Richard found several good veteran members of the Corps who he could trust to lead the way. He served at Camp Pendleton for nearly two years then deployed to Camp Hansen, Okinawa.
In time, this Marine was to leave the Corps. He was away for about eleven months, and he began to miss the camaraderie and military in general. One of Richard’s friends recommended that he get back into the military by way of the Wyoming National Guard. Keeping his eyes open for opportunities, this enlistment resulted in his finding an Army-Guard/Reserve (AGR) position in the finance field which was essentially full time work. He stayed in the Wyoming Guard for about 13 years.
Desert Storm had come up in the scheme of things. Richard had to report with his unit to Fort Carson, Colorado. A piece of reality here is that the active duty military forces had a certain tendency and push to see the National Guard and Army Reserve as the “B” team. The writer knows they were lodged in sub-standard housing and trained with sub-standard equipment. It took time for the entire system to accept the Guard and Reserve as peer soldiers. They deployed to the theater of war. Things went as expected and the unit performed to standard...plus!
It became time to re-deploy to Fort Carson, CO then back to Wyoming. Richard did more work in the supply field. He had networked with others and learned of a civilian/military job with the Illinois National Guard. He took advantage of the opening.
In 2003, on Valentine’s Day, Richard’s unit was having an official formal function when they were notified that they were going to be deployed to the Middle East. Drilling Guardsmen and Reservists don’t worry too much about such a calling. They seem to just pass the worry on to the full time staff so that when it becomes time to leave, things will be ready. It’s the wrong approach to have.
Richard became more of a specialist in the Quartermaster Corps of the US Army. It is still a field of supply and accountability. He continued to find chances for promotion and learned that he could apply to be a Warrant Officer in that same field. The Warrant Commission was not handed to him. He had to take the prescribed courses of study and dedicate himself to the Warrant Officer Candidate School. After serving as an enlisted man, becoming a Warrant Officer answered a long time ambition.
Richard earned the Meritorious Service Medal, the Bronze Star, the Army Commendation Medal (4), the Army Achievement Medal (3), the Southwest Asian Service Ribbon and Iraqi Service Ribbon as well as a basket of additional medals and ribbons.
Chief Richard L. Sherard, you performed in an exemplary manner! Thank you for your service!