My first unit was in the 25th Infantry Division (Light), 4th Bn 27th Infantry at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. This was the peace-time army, late eighties-early nineties. We trained hard and we played hard, hell I was a young man. Working hard and playing hard we’re showcased twice a year with an off-island deployment. For our unit it was a time to shine, that meant they would work the snot out of us, we saw it as a challenge. Like the scene in Raging Bull, “Ya never knocked me down Ray. Ya never knocked me down.” We knew they’d also give us a chance to challenge ourselves with a little hard playing.
For a young man fresh off the prairie of Minnesota the orient was a grand adventure. We toured the Pacific Rim, sucked it up and drove on in nasty assed jungles, humped ungodly loads up and down hills for inhuman distances, got snowed on and froze half to death and then they’d give us some time for sight-seeing, travel and interacting with the local culture. We can share the stories of our grand adventures in this category.
In my good old days the Army still operated under “Big Boy Rules,” commonly defined as “to play by rules that should not have to be said.” Those rules were commandments in the Sergeant Major’s Beer Tent. You can see by the picture above it was an ancient tradition and I believe they spoke Latin in the Primus Pilus’ Wine Tent when they wrote the Big Boy Rules.
.Each deployment begins with a few days or a week of getting everyone and everything transported and unpacked, then ends with re-packing and transporting. Each deployment begins and ends with the Sergeant Major’s Beer Tent. It opened after release each evening and stayed open as late as deemed appropriate by it’s owner, the Command Sergeant Major. Beer, both local and American, was readily available to every soldier, the Army still holding as policy that old enough to serve implied old enough to drink. The modest profit provided the Sergeant Major with a slush fund to use on challenge coins and such until the next time the tent could open for business. There were “wahr stories” to be told about the last deployment or the last trip to an exotic oriental paradise and the adventures there. There were spades tournaments every night, movies, music and ample opportunity to step outside the Big Boy Rules.
You didn’t have to step outside yourself, you could witness someone else stepping or occasionally leaping outside the BBRs. The leaps were legendary, Hellraiser kind of legendary. Discipline in those days was meted out instantly, hopefully at the lowest possible level. A Sergeant didn’t have the years of experience that a Staff Sergeant did. A Staff Sergeant’s mind was not as warped and grinch-like as the mind of a Sergeant First Class. Woe be to the poor bastard who incurred the wrath of a First Sergeant or, god forbid, The Man Himself.
Like the two Staff Sergeants who drunkenly got into a fight over a card game inside the tent. Outside the tent would have been bad enough but inside was like pissin’ in the Command Sergeant Major’s canteen. A First Sergeant or two broke up the fight shortly after it had emerged from the tent and escalated from fisticuffs to entrenching tools. The First Sergeant barked “At Ease” and commanded to the air, “Get These Dumb-asses’ Platoon Sergeants, Now.” It was a two-part command issued with a parade field voice. A dozen pairs of feet turned around and left with a quickness.
When the Platoon Sergeants arrived the First Sergeant chewed their asses for the sorry, undisciplined state of their Non Commissioned Officers and suggested that these two idiots were a direct reflection of their leadership. The throbbing veins on the Platoon Sergeants foreheads foretold the legendary remedial training that was in store for these two. The two First Sergeants exchanged a glance of understanding and a flicker of wicked grin, privately acknowledging the suffering that was in store for this felony level breach of the BBRs.
It began with full battle rattle and ALICE pack and traveled across the street to a suitable place to use entrenching tools as god had intended. Each of them dug armpit deep fighting positions with 18 inches of overhead cover for two consecutive nights, under the constant up-close and personal supervision of their Platoon Sergeants. I don’t know what kind of private hell they lived under for the rest of that deployment but the black clouds followed them around for several months. The BBR’s were conservatively followed for the rest of that deployment.
This category is for those sometimes bawdy, sometimes touching tales we lived. So come on in the the Beer Tent, grab a cold one, deal some cards and swap some tales. I’ll tell you about the time we wrecked a tuk-tuk in Bangkok.