Dave Heafner

Dave Heafner, H&S 3/5  Most of my youth was lived as an Air Force Dependent, living in South Carolina, Washington and Georgia, with the final two pre-USMC years in Savannah. I enjoyed Cub, Boy and Explorer Scouts, where I gained much of the influence in order and discipline that led me to the Corps. Joined on Delayed Enlistment Program during Senior year at Robert W. Groves High School, and departed for Boot Camp at Parris Island, SC on September 10, 1965. Went to Platoon 369.

After Infantry Training School at Camp Geiger, I was flown directly to Camp Pendleton and attached to 1st Military Police Battalion, which had just activated for the Viet Nam Conflict. There, along with most of the 'Newbies' I received OJT (on the job training) as a 3051. Later (possibly because I could read), I was moved into the 'supply' office, and trained as a 3041.

Work was important to me, as I had done it in some fashion since the age of six. Besides my Corps duties, around the barracks, I shined shoes, did laundry, and stood duty for other guys for a few extra bucks a month (had to support a 'female habit' I developed with a Carlsbad cutie I met at the Oceanside skating rink my first week in town).

During this five-month training cycle at Camp Pendleton, many events occurred. The Battalion Commander, Lt. Col. P.G. Stavaritis, held a contest for the design of the 1st MP Unit Crest. The winner was to be given a 96-hour pass. I'm still waiting on that liberty chit!

Got in a lot of fights at that age, both on base, off base, and in Tijuana. There seemed to be a chip on my shoulder, apparent to all but myself. My 'mustang' Company Commander, Captain Leonard Knapp tolerated it (God only knows why), as I stood before him at least three times that I can recall, the last on the day we departed for RVN. We sailed on the MSTS (now MSC) ship, USNS Upshur (used at the end of the war to exchange our POW's with the North Vietnamese). A L/Cpl friend (although 'military acquaintance might better describe our relationship), Barry Connaly and I got into a fight over something 'stupid' and I made his head swell so badly he almost got medevac'd. I was sure the CO was going to bust me and take my proud PFC Chevron away! Instead, he threatened to send me straight to North Viet Nam when we landed if I didn't "square away." But I was nineteen, and the warning didn't score a 'bull's eye.' My last incident in the fist fighting chapter of my life occurred in Yokohama when I duked it out with another Marine in the Battalion. His buddy clobbered me in the head with a brick, and I recall the incident every time I feel the scar. After that, I retired my gloves, and decided to become a lover, rather than a fighter!

We landed in Da Nang harbor on May 26, 1966. I had competed in a contest to earn the right to ride 'shotgun' on the CO's jeep. After the driver debarked over the side of the ship, I tried to follow, and became the Unit's first Viet Nam casualty. The ship's Jacob's ladder broke and I fell 35 ft. onto a 3/4 ton truck canvas top. There's more pain today than I thought at the time, but I spent my first six weeks in the Da Nang June 'oven' taped from neck to abdomen.

H&S 1st MP's was located roughly mid way on the airstrip at Da Nang, across the runway from the U.S. Air Force. At the time, 1st MP's was the Air Base Defense Battalion, and H&S company was the emergency reaction company. I worked a regular job during the day, stood rotating guard or went on area sweeps or ambush patrols at night. Guard became my most hated of all duties, except burning the 'crappers' or filling those never-ending sandbags. Later, I worked as a bartender in the Staff & Officer's Club, which I was tasked to help build, by a man whom I learned quickly to admire, Sergeant Major Edgar Huff.

In RVN, my main job was in Battalion Supply. Later, a reassignment to H&S Company Supply, added additional duties as Embark NCO, Ammo Tech, Police Sergeant, Prisoner Chaser and Platoon Sergeant for the reaction platoon. We decided to develop a 'cruise book' for the Battalion, and I was assigned to do most of the prep work. I extended for an additional tour, and went home on basket leave for a month, and the new Sergeant Major had to complete it. However, the crest I designed (for which I am still awaiting a 96-hour pass) adorns the front cover.

My extension kept my Dad, T/Sgt Marion 'Mack' Heafner, from having to come in-country from Clark, AFB, while my only other adult male relative, uncle CWO4 Edward Heafner, was the ship's boatswain on the USS Enterprise. The Enterprise was sailing the 'Yankee' line at the time.

In July 1967, Da Nang was bombarded with what was described as the worst rocket attack of the war to that time. I was injured (blown thru the air) when an ammo dump exploded. This ripped the ligaments in my left ankle, and I had to wear cast for six weeks! It made patrols and ambushes difficult, but gave someone the opportunity to teach me more about that infernal guard duty! In the fall I was sent to Okinawa for Embark School, my first 'formal' training in the Corps. As a Corporal, I applied for a change of MOS to 0431 (Embarkation Assistant).

Upon return to the States (1/1/68) I was assigned to MCSC Albany, GA for two and a half years, before returning to RVN. There were no billets in the T/O for an 0431, so I held a series of jobs: office work (dull, hated being a Sergeant that did nothing all day but make coffee, sweep up, and go make copies of things for civilians), warehouse work (I really enjoyed this), until finally drafted into the Base Band (a former friend told the Band Master I had played a trumpet in school).

While at Albany I discovered I wasn't that bad at football, and played on the Company team. I still hold the distinction of being the only defensive end from Headquarters Company to ever intercept a right pitchout, run it to the end zone, and score, while unconscious. Yes, unconscious. You see, I kept looking over my shoulder to see if one of those fast guys was about to tackle me . . . and ran into the goal post. I went out like a light!

3/5 Connection (8/70 - 3/71)

As a Sergeant with an 0431 MOS, I was assigned, by the Division Embark Officer, to H&S 3/5, for duty as their Embark NCO. Upon arrival, however, (August 1970 at hill 57), another 0431 had the job. I was assigned to Battalion Supply (due to secondary MOS's of 3051/3041).

The following month, we made a combat move to Landing Zone Baldy, and several weeks later moved deeper into the territory to Fire Support Base Ross, to provide the ground security for an Army artillery battery that provided fire support to the area.

Late in the year (October/November) we failed the Division Embarkation inspection with a "Total Unsat" score. The Battalion Commander fired the Corporal holding the Embark NCO job, and reassigned me to the S-4. He issued verbal orders to pass the re-inspection after the first of the year. I told him it could be done, but I would need his complete support. He gave me an open ticket to use 'whatever resources I could gather' to get the job done, including a brand new, fresh-from-Okinawa-Embark-School-Lieutenant, John Walsh, who was a decent person, and fine Marine Officer. We worked in the S-4 for Maj. M.O. Fletcher.

With the assistance of many good Marines who either volunteered or were assigned as working parties, and some Vietnamese we hired from the local village, I rebuilt the entire Battalion's mount out capability, from the ground up. To accomplish this, we 'bartered' anything we could to trade for the needed materials in Da Nang. The unofficial use of 'captured' weapons as trading material was not in the Marine Corps Supply Manual, but the normal system would not provide us with the wood, paint, barrier paper, etceteras, that was required for the job. Since it was monsoon season, and the wood was wet, I built a 'kiln' to dry the lumber. This consisted of two GP tents sewn together with immersion heaters in both ends. With this device, we kiln dried all the wet lumber so the new 'mount-out' boxes could be painted and tac-marked.

    In January 1971 when re-inspected, Third Battalion, 5th Marines received the only 'Noteworthy' Embark Inspection mark of the Viet Nam conflict.

In February, I discovered the importance of the inspection: we were given 'stand down' orders, and, after a month on a hill near Da Nang (I think hill 10, but don't recall for sure) I loaded the unit on ship for a return to the States. I was elated, thinking of going home early. But the excitement it was short lived! After the last pallet of equipment was loaded, I hoisted my seabag and headed aboard. The S-4 officer greeted me with a set of orders, with a reassignment to Force Logistic Command (FLC).

Between March and my departure in July, on the last official plane load of Marine Corps unit members, we had loaded 26 ships of supplies, equipment and personnel, and shipped them back to either Okinawa or San Diego.

Orders took me to Camp LeJeune, NC for a job at Division Embark. While there, I attended Air Transportability School at Ft. Eustis, VA. I learned the reason for this, when I once designed the loading plans and loaded a RLT on Air Force C-5a's and C-141's for a Latin America 'police action' that never transpired. Also loaded many ships for Mediterranean and Caribbean cruises, and served as the 6th MAB Embarkation Chief for Operation 'Strong Express.' For the back-load on that Operation, Colonel Skinner (the Wing Detachment CO) took my helo and flew into a mountain top. I'm glad he bumped me off the chopper, as the recovered parts were few and far between.

Opened a fresh fish and seafood market on LeJeune Boulevard (next to the 'Driftwood Lounge') which my partner (fellow S/Sgt, Darrel Goodwin) and I named 'Fish-O-Rama.' Our wives ran it when we worked, went to the field, or on NATO cruises! Sold the business to Darrel in 1973, when I volunteered to go to Drill Instructor School.

Probably to my fortune, I didn't make it to DI School. The Camp LeJeune screening board Doctor said I had an "internal propensity to maltreat" people to teach them the hard facts of life. (I don't know where that came from - I had retired my 'gloves' years before. After my final year at LeJeune (serving as Embark NCO for 2nd Shore Party Battalion) I got orders to Recruiter's School, at MCRD San Diego. At the time, Recruiting Duty was the most dreaded assignment in the Corps, and I left all my fingernails on Camp LeJeune's Main Gate!

RECRUITER SCHOOL: Since I had to go, I decided to do well, and graduated #2 in my class. Still didn't get my choice of duty, as the rumors had always indicated. My first assignment was to Muskogee, Oklahoma (Merle Haggard speaks with a forked tongue) for my first tour as a recruiter. I loved the community, made lots of friends, and rebuilt the Marine Corps reputation that had been tainted by a string of recent my predecessors. After learning how to work with a negatively charged chain of command (NCOIC and OIC), I became 'Recruiter of the Year.' This earned me a Meritorious Promotion to Gunnery Sergeant, just prior to my tenth year in the Corps. I was a month away from a repeat performance of that award, when I got orders to go to Recruiter's School as an Instructor.

While in Oklahoma I learned the value of community service. I became active in the Disabled American Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, Masonic Lodge, Scottish Rite, Shriners and my church. I also completed an Associates Degree. Since then, I have often reflected on this tour of duty as the highlight and turning point of my career.

The assignment at Recruiter School was supposed to be three years, but I remained for seven. Nearing the three year mark, the Corps decided to test a 'pilot' program for recruiting: a career force of recruiters, with the assignment of MOS 8412 as a primary. I volunteered for the program, in return for a promise of never having to be transferred again (not that it was a lie, but neither was the 'free medical for life' I jumped at before joining). I had the pleasure and honor of being selected as one of the very first 8412's in the history of the Corps.

The San Diego community became my new home, and I immersed myself in her activities. During this tour of duty, I was able to complete a Bachelor's Degree and some Graduate Studies, operate a part-time insurance-income tax practice, and take some acting lessons. When a project came to the school to develop a series of about 30 refresher sales training videos for the field recruiting force, I volunteered to be on the team. After the first tape was produced, no one wanted the job. They needed someone with acting experience, writing abilities and the contacts to get the job done, so I inherited the project. It was as this project began that I was promoted to Master Sergeant, nearing my fourteenth year as a Marine.

When it was time to leave Recruiter School, I accepted an offer as NCOIC of the least productive Recruiting Sub-Station in San Diego -- RSS El Cajon. Within a few months I assimilated the 'College Grove Shopping Center Office' into the Sub-Station, and went on to become the NCOIC of the year. A repeat performance was on track to happen, but I decided to retire early and challenge the civilian world. Prior to my departure and retirement, I recommended two of my recruiters (for their production, hard efforts and loyalty) for meritorious promotion to Gunnery Sergeant. Both Carol Pirro and Jeff Baulknight were selected, to my satisfaction. Finally, I retired in March, 1985.

During my first year of retirement I experimented with several financial venues, experienced a lengthy and brutal divorce, and finally began my present business. Having become quite accomplished as an instructor, or teacher, I gathered a lot of resource material, interviewed many experienced sales representatives, and developed a financial seminar on "The Five Reasons People Fail Financially." Initially I offered insurance, annuities, and income tax services. My practice has since expanded to add a full portfolio of financial and consulting services, and operate from coast to coast. A web site is under construction at www.heafner.org.

    In addition to my usual financial tools, I have assisted a number of people in the establishment of businesses, many of whom are former Marines. Entrepreneurship intrigues me, and I've always been willing to assist someone in getting ahead. I've added this service to my practice., within the limits of my capabilities.

Dave and Leslie


Many a fellow Marine has voiced their feeling that the Corps was something they loved and hated simultaneously. Personally, I know exactly what they mean. My twenty year tour was filled with more wonderful experiences than not. On some occasions, generally as a result of certain individuals, I had my fill of the situation, and would much rather have been elsewhere. But the greatness of our Corps prevailed, and today, I would trade nothing for the experience.

My eternal gratitude for our Nation and its Corps of Marines that provided the opportunity for me to 'grow up' and find myself. Like any 'organism,' our Corps consists of myriad entities. She contains many people with distinct personalities, diverse backgrounds, unusual attitudes and special abilities. I ran into a lot of these in my time. 

A few stand out from the crowd, as those in whom I could again place my trust. Some come to mind as having provided me an appropriate venue for a positive challenge, at the right time. Marines like, Leonard Knapp, Edgar Huff, Ray Ney, Steve Martin, A. King Dixon III, Bob Robichaud, Gary Johnson, and John Atkinson, are a few who come to mind, from each of whom I gleaned at least one lesson. They will never understand how valuable they were in my life. Many others were challenged to get their jobs done. Some went out of their way to create opportunities for negative influence. I have difficulty finding words to describe some others.

Some day you will be able to read about all of them in my book. Until then, you might wonder, "Will I be there?" 

Semper Fi, Dave Heafner

H&S 3/5 website

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