Corrections unit aims top put Marines back on course
March 6, 2003
CAMP HANSEN, Okinawa — It’s easy to see why some Marines call this a “mini-boot camp.”
No one wants to spend their days picking up trash, wiping down walls, breaking large rocks into smaller ones. No one likes having to march everywhere in formation or having every waking minute carefully choreographed by someone else.
No one likes being watched constantly, spending evenings being re-educated on fundamentals of being a Marine or spending long, lonely nights in the brig.
It doesn’t matter that their infractions were minor and their time here is short. The Correctional Custody Unit here is a wake-up call: Shape up, or next time, you’ll be shipped out.
“This is a program for re-education, refocusing and re-greening,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Kate Brown, commanding officer of Camp Hansen’s Marine Corps Brig.
The program “provides commanders with another punishment option that’s in between the usual nonjudicial punishment — like restriction to barracks, extra duty, forfeiture of pay — and a court-martial,” Brown said. “This allows them to detain Marines and sailors they consider still salvageable.”
Field-grade officers can send persons given punishment at Article 15s, or nonjudicial hearings, to the CCU for up to 30 days. Punishment at the company level can last up to seven days. Those sentenced to CCU are called “awardees” because they’ve been awarded punishment.
“CCU lets the Marine know that this is their last chance,” Brown said. “We tell them to go through, learn what they can learn and make whatever changes they need to refocus their lives and go back to their units and finish their enlistments.”
Some, once refocused, even stay to make the Corps a career, she said. “We had a chief who came through here for personal inspections,” Brown said. “When he was younger, he was sent to a CCU and he turned himself around. He showed them it was possible to make it through and continue their careers.”
The schedule is demanding, Brown said. “The awardees are up at 5 a.m. each morning and participate in heavy physical training. One of our goals is to return that person to their unit more physically fit than when they were sent here,” she said.
After breakfast, awardees start work. “We have a long list of units that have requests for work details,” Brown said. On a recent Monday, awardees, with a “watchstander” standing guard, wiped down walls and mopped floors.
Awardees spend most of the day doing menial labor. “We do a lot of things that enable the other units to focus on their primary assignments,” Brown said. “We’ll have them do janitorial work, move furniture, clean fence lines — anything that needs to be done.”
And then every Thursday, it’s back to the “rock pile.”
“It’s part of our work program that instills discipline, teamwork and continues our emphasis on physical fitness,” Brown said. It consists of breaking large rocks into little ones — by the numbers. Seventy-five heavy lifts and down-strokes per session. Then, it’s rest and watch another team make pebbles the hard way.
After dinner, awardees face a full evening of classes, usually on subjects such as military bearing, courtesy and history, then remedial physical training. After a brief period for personal time and showers, the lights go out at 9 p.m.
“I don’t think anybody has any trouble sleeping in the CCU,” Brown laughed.
Most of the awardees in CCU are there as second-time offenders, often on an alcohol-related charge.
“We hope our Okinawan neighbors see this as something additional we are doing for our sailors and Marines to help correct their behavior,” Brown said.
Pfc. David Blaylock said being assigned to 30 days in the CCU for underage drinking, drinking while on restriction and drinking in the barracks was “a second chance.”
“Marines that are sent here should be glad they’re not in the brig and that they have a chance to turn their lives around,” Blaylock wrote in response to a query from Stars and Stripes.
“It let me realize that the things I was doing could have gotten me in a lot of trouble. The PT is great, and I learned a lot during the classroom instruction.”
But he was not a big fan of other aspects. “I didn’t like that we had to go around and do all the work the other people didn’t want to do,” he said.