'Deranged Sarge' at Camp Roberts provides relief through humor

By Jana Cornelis

Paso Robles Press

Everyone knows Camp Roberts has weapons, small and effective, big and even more effective.  But they've got a secret weapon, one that only a few know about, often classified as a type of "best medicine" which can be effective against heat and stress - the humor of their very own celebrity, "Sarge at Large" Sergeant Tom Murotake, Public Affairs Officer.

The self-touted "Extremely Deranged" Sarge at Large, is the quintessential bard of life at Camp Roberts, or as he fondly refers to it, "Camp Bob."  Nothing is sacred at Camp Bob - not the heat, not the wildlife, not the living conditions, and certainly not himself.

Murotake has, considering the many jobs and experiences he's had, a gold mine of material for his brand of humor.

He has his own web site which also offers visitors the opportunity to sit in on his Friday evening (9 p.m.) radio show on KTST-FM.  He and his electronic co-host, Ethel the Mistress of Mirth, entertain listeners on a wide variety of topics.

Murotake, almost 47, was born in Denison, Iowa, "the only Murotake to be born in all of Crawford County, Iowa.  I might very well be the only Murotake to be born in the entire state of Iowa - my kid brother and sister were born in Omaha, Neb.  All Murotakes are related to each other, somehow."

At age 13, Murotake's family moved from Iowa to Southern California, and "straight into a Southern California junior high school... culture shock," he said.  He attended El Camino Real High School, where "they specialize in winning, almost every year, the academic triathlon.  We always said there were two kinds of students there, the brainy ones and the rest of us."

For someone who has a definite bent toward performance, Murotake remembered growing up hating the drama department.

"I was in stage crew and, even though they were pretty much our sole reason for existence, we hated the drama department.  We disliked them, and they disliked us, so it was fair," Murotake laughed.

So what turned him on to radio?  "I was always interested in radio," he explained, "even in elementary school.  I made my own crystal radio."

Because his grades were less than stellar - "I was not a star student; that was my kid sister's job.  I've been told I'm very intelligent, but that I just never applied myself" - Murotake wasn't able to take part in the only broadcasting classes available, those at UCLA.

He took a job hanging fliers on doors and selling for the Fuller Brush Company.

As Murotake remembers it, about the time he was trying to decide what to do with himself after graduation, Henry Kissinger "came down and said 'Peace with honor,' so I thought I needed to go down and sign up for something real quick 'before y'all start something somewhere else and I don't get to make a choice,'" he remarked with a grin.

"I would have gone to Viet Nam if I had been drafted.  It wasn't a war that I necessarily agreed with, not because I didn't necessarily agree with the war but with the way it was being run.  If you're gonna whomp somebody, whomp them.  If you're gonna flatten somebody, flatten them or don't mess with them."

He joined the Army right after high school.  That fall his parents returned to Hawaii, his father's birthplace.  "The following year they took my brother and sister.  In subsequent years, they saved so much money not having to feed me," laughed Murotake, "and they invested wisely, so they ... bought an RV and hit the road."

His first career in the Army was as "the old Morse Interceptor ... Basically, the job amounted to ... sitting there with a [headset] on your head taking Morse code.  You just typed it.  If you heard the letter 'A,' you typed it.  What the letter meant was somebody else's job.  The object was to get you to not look at the keys and to get you not to pay attention to what you were typing, because it didn't make sense anyhow, so don't worry about it."

Unfortunately for Murotake, he had learned how to "sight type."  He had to look at the keyboard - they were given keyboards minus letters.  "I got to 12 words a minute and leveled off," Murotake said.  "They called

Omigod -- Someone ELSE has something NICE to say about The Sarge!

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