This organization is established for the fraternal, patriotic, historical and educational benefit of Marine Corps Drill Instructors. It is established as a National Member Association to strengthen comradeship, preserve and perpetuate the memory and history of our fallen comrades and to assist their widows and children.
It is always a good idea to once in a while review our history. There was a time when the Leland D ‘Crow’ Crawford Chapter of the National DI Association was banished from MCRD in San Diego. It was a dark time for the DI Association. At the urging of Charter Life Member (CL-0007) MGySgt Bobby Biers (Ret), the Depot Sergeant Major, SgtMaj Bobby Woods, set up a meeting with the Marines shown below with the purpose of rekindling the Crow Crawford Chapter. The Depot Commanding General, BGen Angie Salinas, put up strong resistance and almost ordered SgtMaj Bobby Woods to stand down. However, SgtMaj Woods believed he could pull it off so the meeting was set and we all met at the Bay View Restaurant to discuss how it would be set up.
In attendance at the meeting were the following: SgtMaj Bobby Woods, MGySgt Bobby Biers (Ret), SgtMaj Dave Francisco (Ret), MSgt Ed Conradt (Ret), GySgt Deveraux Haynesworth (Ret), myself (Gregg Stoner, Vet), and Captain Bill Steffan (Ret), who was a close friend of the former president MSgt Mike West and it was assumed by all present that he might have been at the meeting as a spy for Mike West.
The meeting was lively and everyone had input for the meeting. SgtMaj Bobby Woods had everyone’s support to renew the dead chapter. He rescheduled a second meeting at the DI School conference room to form a new board of directors. At that meeting SgtMaj Dave Francisco was appointed President and I was appointed as Secretary/Treasurer. Dave said he had a couple of guys he would recommend as board members: CWO3 Chip Dykes (Ret) and SgtMaj Ron Hoffman (Ret). MSgt Ed Conradt (Ret) was also added as a board member. We were off and running.
We had no money and no support from National—in fact, National treated us like we were the enemy. Mike West had finally resigned under protest and Vic Ditchkoff took over as National’s president, and then absconded to Parris Island as National’s new base headquarters. Vic Ditchkoff took all the funds, records, and 782 gear materials with him. We had no records of who were members. We were virtually starting from scratch.
We set up a DI reunion and had no financial help from National. Our timing was late in the season and our only hotel available was the Town and Country Hotel in Mission Valley. We had our Duty Hut on the top floor in a small room that was grossly too small for members to sit around and tell their tall stories they were is accustomed to doing. The evening before our scheduled morning breakfast at the mess hall on Friday we were told at the last second that we could not use the mess hall (Duncan Hall) because we had no Memorandum of Understanding with the depot. We had to make a last second switch to go to the Bay View Restaurant, and although it was somewhat chaotic most members got the word-of-mouth news of the switch and they enjoyed a great meal. Our barbeque at the boathouse went well and we raised several thousand dollars from Dave Francisco’s abilities as an auctioneer. Dave pitched all the items being sold as “once owned by SgtMaj Leland D. ‘Crow’ Crawford”. On Saturday morning we held an all-member meeting in the small, cramped duty hut. When the meeting was over Bobby Biers questioned Vic Ditchkoff about replacing his brick that was torn up and mangled at Parris Island during a re-do of their monument grounds, and Vic got upset with Bobby and the two almost came to blows right there in the Duty Hut. The golfers took off for their tournament and we all awaited the evening banquet that was held in an outdoor tent at the hotel. During the banquet Vic Ditchkoff swore-in the officers and then following the dinner Vic Ditchkoff, under the influence, begin to sing—the crowd promptly left.
Somehow the carpet in the Duty Hut was damaged by leaking coolers and we ended up having to pay for the damages—over several hundred dollars. We had no funds to pay, but fortunately Bobby Woods came to our rescue and paid for the damages out of his own pocket—he never asked us to reimburse him for it.
Vic Ditchkoff continued to be a major sore spot with us: at one point President Dave Francisco sent an email to Vic requesting the we get a larger share of the dues Ditchkoff was collecting. Vic denied the request, and for some reason began an extremely negative campaign against the Crow Crawford Chapter board of directors. The Parris Island Chapter viewed us as a bunch of hooligans and the back and forth negative correspondence was insane. It was finally at a point that Dave Francisco called a board meeting. Our meeting lasted just two minutes: a motion was made, seconded and approved to quit the National DI Association. One minute later we formed up a second board meeting and a motion was made, seconded, and approved to reestablish ourselves as the West Coast DI Association, SgtMaj Leland D. ‘Crow’ Crawford Chapter. In a move that still exists today we decided not to charge dues, but rather to rely on member donations for financial support. By doing so all members became (in essence) “life members”. Nobody would be dropped from the rolls like previously for not keep up with dues. Former Depot SgtMaj, SgtMaj Frank Pulley had previously taken $5,000 from the old chapter’s checking account to prevent its loss from the previous chapter’s board. Once he realized that the West Coast DI Association was operating above board he returned the funds to us. Our board of directors even took the precaution to request that Crow Crawford’s widow, Fay Crawford, to provide us with written permission to use SgtMaj Leland D. ‘Crow’ Crawford as part of our name—Fay was most happy to support us and did provide the exclusive use of his name.
SgtMaj Lonnie Long (Ret) took the lead in obtaining an IRS 501 (c) (3) tax exemption. We became an official tax exempt organization, properly signed up with the California Department of Corporations. We hammered out a Memoranda of Understanding that was signed by the then Commanding General, BGen Bailey. We were finally official on the base. We continued to grow and prosper. Our story is ongoing . . .