/r/TalesFromTheMilitary is about sharing yours and others experiences while working in the military. It can be about anything as long as it regards the military of your country.
Hello and welcome to /r/TalesFromTheMilitary brave warriors of your country! Come and share your experience on what life was like in military. Anything regarding the military is an acceptable tale. And finally, everyone can request a AMA about a certain area where a veteran has experienced!
-the story must be about what you have experienced in the military. Any position in the military can post.
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Back in '97 I was a holdover in Fort Leonard Wood.
As a holdover, I had to report to our arms room/supply room to get daily assignments. It wasn't terrible work, as long as I toed the line.
Part of my route in the morning took me past a bank of four or five vending machines behind one of the shopette PXes. One morning I noticed a bunch of junk food hung up in the dispensers of the vending machines. Using a trick I'd learned years before I jolted the machine just right and knocked all the "no-vends" loose. I stuffed my pockets and went on to the next machine.
By the time I was done, my cargo pockets and the blouse pockets on my BDUs were bulging with assorted vending machine fare. When I got to the arms room, I emptied my pockets onto the counter. Twinkies, cupcakes, candy bars, potato chips, beef jerky... It looked like a huge Thanksgiving spread if Willy Wonka had set the table.
The supply sergeant and armoror looked at all the stuff and gave me a funny look. "Stuck in the vending machine."
As drill sergeants started filtering through, they noticed the spread. "Who brought the candy?"
"You bought all this, Private? You trying to bribe us?"
"No Sergeant!" I explained what I'd done and explained why I thought the vending machines were so fuitful: there were several large banks of payphones in the quad about 50 yards from the vending machines. When privates would get phone priveleges, one or two would sneak off to buy a candy bar or two. Quite a few times, the items would get hung up. I just shook them loose.
Word traveled fast in my unit. Soon, a few of the Drills would be waiting for me in the morning to see what I'd brought. At least twice a week, I'd lay out the spread and they would take their pick of whatever they wanted. They'd cycle through and grab whatever I'd snagged. Towards the end of my time there, they'd tell me to pick what I'd wanted, too.
I would always set aside two or three of the favorites of the Sergeant who had CQ duty that particular night and make sure they got the prime pickings.
Somehow I quickly became the Private chosen to be in charge of the easiest details and the one who got a remarkable degree of slack.
On one memorable occasion, I was filling in on CQ duty at the barracks when one of the drills came in. I stood up from the desk and he told me to go grab a cup of coffee from the drill sergeants room in the barracks. I was still in the "stepping and fetching" mindset so I got the coffee doubletime.
I came back with a cup of coffee and a few packets of creamer and sugar. "Here you are, Sergeant. I wasn't sure if you wanted cream or sugar so I brought some of both."
"Oh, no, Private... that's for you." He motioned towards the desk. "Go ahead! Sit down!"
That was a bit of a mind-fuck. There I was, sitting at the CQ desk, drinking coffee and taking phone calls while SSG. Dennick sat in a chair off to the side watching TV and the rest of the unit Drills came walking in, acknowledged me, and sat in various chairs in the office.
I think they liked me.
Tracers light up the pitch black horizon almost resembling the aurora skies. Movement, is it a comrade or death coming to steal my life away like a thief in the night?. A brief delay, I pause, hesitant. I hear My Squad leaders voice, faint but stern; say “ friendlies” heavy panting, my heart beating out of my chest. I can barely put a sentence together to say “You good Sgt?” He replies, Roger but there’s enemy close. Just over the crest of the mountain we climbed over earlier. “Claymore is down”. Even tho I’ve seen combat before this seem different, my fear seem different. My hands with and uncontrollable shake. Would I even be able to engage the enemy accurately? Thoughts from the past on a middle eastern mountain top.
There I was. Thanksgiving day waiting for my flight to Viet Nam. Not much to give thanks for.
Noon chow time rolled around and they had a full blown turkey dinner. At least that was something nice.
Evening chow rolled around and there was another full blown turkey dinner. No choice other than that. Oh well.
Got loaded on a plane with the rest of the unfortunates for a 5 1/2 hour flight to Alaska. Halfway there and they came around with another chow call.
What else, another turkey dinner! Managed to eat that one too.
Refueled for the next leg which was a 6 1/2 hour flight to Japan. Of course they fed us again. Yet another turkey dinner. Nobody wanted another turkey dinner, but there no options.
Refueled in Japan for the 6 3/4 hour flight to Saigon.
They fed us again. You could feel the whole plane praying for something other than turkey!
EGGS! SAUSAGE! HASH BROWNS! HOORAY!
I (and the rest of us I think) were never so happy to see something other than turkey.
Just found this sub and thought I may share a story which might be giving some giggles. For the purpose of storytelling ill use NATO Ranks to show difference in rank due to military ranks all around the world.
Back at the time of the story i was around ~19 years old, a small OR-3 and working a military office for safety issues. In the army I worked in superiors will often/always talk to you with your last name and formal speech, not your rank. Which is wildly accepted but not per regulation normally. When you talk to superiors you always use Ranks.
I was working with 2 other OR-3 and a OR-9 ,who was not in office that day. In comes our protagonist , OF-4 Douchebag. OF-4 Douchebag approached me and started the conversation like
OF-4:"Mr. Inragee(leaving rank) here are my documents for safety thing XYZ"
Me:"Good Morning Mister OF-4, let me check those documents and we probably can get this process going"
OF-4:"There is no need to check, Inragee (leaving Rank and the formal Mister), its all there and correct of course."
Me:"You may think so OF-4(i started leaving the formal speech), but there are many mistakes to be made by people who are not working in this field on daily business"
OF-4:"Bollocks , im longer in the army then you are alive Inragee! I know how this works"
At this point im pissed. I dont mind officers using only my last name, im fine with it. But the dickhead was giving me issues so I gathered my knowledge learned in basic training and used it to the most possible correct way against him.
Me:"Douchebag , I know you are probably longer in the military then I am but *showing on the paper* here, here and here are mistakes. Please correct them and come back"
OF-4 who was fuming since i used his last name and no formal speech:" How dare you , its Mister OF-4 for you Inragee!"
Me:"Douchebag , you are calling me by my last name, ignoring my rank and the formal speech , therefore i thought we are talking on a friendly level and you would say nothing against my approach of using your last name as you are using mine. Since there are 2 other OR-3 in here you actually HAVE to use my rank+last name so we all know who you are talking to."
OF-4 , clearly pissed:"This will have consequences Inragee!" and off he goes. My 2 OR-3 mates were dying of laughter since it was a big deal due to the rank difference. But we had a great laugh about it.
I was later told to get to my OF-5 Head of Department , who giggled when I walked in , due to the incident. He told me , even tho i was "technically" correct, it was not the best way to solve this problem since im only an OR-3 and the officer was an OF-4. He told me to be nicer next time even when im right.
I know its not the best story but I always have to giggle about it due to the rank difference and since I was very good at my job back in that time I knew my bosses would cover my dumb actions.
Hope this story give you a little giggle too or maybe a funny reminder of your time in the military.
So, my grandpa was part of the guns crew on a ship back in WWII. At this point of it, tensions were kinda high, so sometimes there were arguments on ship during downtime.
At one point, my great grandpa decided to head down to his station, and make sure everything was as it shoulda been before he went to bed. He was about to sit down when he heard someone behind him
Dude: hey! What are you doing here?!
Great grandpa: I'm officer great grandpa. This is my station.
Dude: oh, really? I've never seen you here before! And I'm here everyday!
Great grandpa: I'm… also here everyday. Are you blind or something?
The guy kept arguing with my great grandpa for a very long time. My great grandpa hates taking people's shit, so eventually he decided to do something a bit drastic.
Great grandpa: of course it's my station. I do this to it every day.
My great grandpa pulled down his pants, whipped it out, and started peeing on the seat. When he was done, he just pulled up his pants and sat down. The other guy was utterly speechless. He just stood there, jaw agape like a fish who just watched his wife get caught on a hook.
My great grandpa was told to never do that again by his superior officers afterwards, but no one ever touched his seat ever again during his service.
RIP great grandpa. This was the best story you ever told.
I'm the only active mod, the others are gone or spamming k-pop shit. This sub isn't exactly active but we can keep it free of bullshit. I may be slow to respond, but I see those reports and act on them.
Why I don't believe in conspiracy theories I do love them and may have started 1 or 2. Why I was stationed at a certain weapons test facility in NM. You know the one that has had everything from cannon balls to the first atomic bomb tested their. It a test facility so not everything boom when it suppose to and is scattered threw out the range. This is the main reason why people aren't allowed to wonder around the range plus the whole new weapons thing. So in when I went east instead of west one weekend stopped for some lunch. I over hear some conspiracy types and who think the reason is because of ET and UFO are the real reasons no one allowed out there. Being the type of person I am I couldn't help it. Saying no we don't have any UFOs. I mean if we know who and what have the fact they came from a dual star system about 3000 light years away. Who figured out the light speed problem it can't be unidentified know can it. When I notice they started paying attention I said oh shit I didn't say that out loud did I. Than got up and quickly left
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So we had this guy at work, let's just call him Nigel. Or Nige for short.
So we were on a road run (as truckies, we do a lot of driving, kind of our jam) and Army changed from "Here is the money for your time away" to "here is a card to use to account for the money you spend while away"
However they gave us Credit Card A, which wasn't accepted at a lot of places, so after a few months, they told us to get a buddy card to it as Credit Card B, which was accepted many more places.
If the place didn't accept Cards A or B, just go somewhere else, as between the two you got 99% of Servos and restaurants.
So Nige decided that he wasn't going to fill out the one page form to get Credit Card B, and had never made the five minute phone call to activate credit card A.
Which meant that he couldn't buy food at all while on the road, constantly bemoaning how the old days of cash in hand were better.
Yeah they were but that's life.
Anyway, we gets to this one servi, we went in, pissed, grabbed food, standing around eating, smoking, talking, waiting to do the next leg.
Nige comes out with food.
"Nige, where'd you get the food? Thought your wife said no spending money on the road?"
Which is true, Mrs. Nigel had exploded at him for spending big on big meals on the road.
Nige: "Yeah well you see, I swiped my card and it declined..."
LCPL: "Is that because it's still not activated Nigel?"
Nige: "Well yeah, but nah, I rang them and they're working on it, but anyway, I swiped my card and it declined"
Other PTE: "...And then?"
Nige: "Well this old guy behind me stepped forward and offered to pay for my lunch"
LCPL: "He fucking what?"
Nige: "This old guy paid for my lunch"
LCPL: "And you let him?"
Nige: "Well yeah, he said thanks for all the great work we do, and it's the least he could do"
Other PTE: "All the great work we do Nige, you do fuck all"
LCPL: "Where is this guy, you'll go pay him back now, I din't give a fuck if your wife tells at you"
Nige: "He drove off, after he paid for my lunch he paid for his fuel and drove off"
Thankfully, I don't have to work with Nige anymore, he's been moved elsewhere for being him, I have heaps more stories on him, bit they'll have to wait.
Why do you actually LIKE/ENJOY working in the military, either as enlisted or as an officer? What keeps you in the military?
Edit: except from health insurance;)
I joined the Air Force as an Aircraft Mechanic straight out of high school - but having been around workshops literally all my life.
First posting out of training school was to a repair depot - servicing components that are removed from aircraft rather than playing with aircraft themselves. As a newbie, you are assigned to a corporal to be your mentor (i.e. you are their bitch).
My corporal happened to be the tool board controller - responsible for making sure that all of the tools in our section were in good condition and that everything that is needed is obtained from the main tool store -who may have it or may have to order it in.
First day there, corporal says to me "The tool board is missing its left handed screwdriver, go grab one from supply". "Absolutely" says I and wander over to the main hanger to chat to the storeman (the guy who you really need to be on the good side of if you want to achieve anything). After a few minutes, he asks why I am there just chatting away with him. I explain that corporal wants a left handed screwdriver, so I am taking the opportunity for a few minutes off.
I wander back to a section full of smirking airmen, my corporal asks "How did you get on?".
I reply "You didn't say what sort of left handed screwdriver you wanted - there are two types. One for left handed people on right handed screws, the other for right handed people on left handed screws. Apparently left handed people working with left handed screws can just use right handed screwdrivers. Before we can order it in, we need to know the specific type"
The section stops, looking confused. Corporal promptly rushes off to ask the storeman what the hell is going on.
5 minutes later he comes back in equal parts laughing his arse off and spitting tacks at having been played.
I was in the air force serving on a maintenance base (where component repair is done rather than flight operations) just after graduating mechanics training. Because of the compressed nature of the first couple of years, you end up accumulating most of your leave.
In my unit, Monday mornings were flight parade (everyone forms up in uniform and is inspected) followed by overall swap (take old overalls to supply for washing, get handed out new set) and then tool inspection and then on with the day.
Friday mornings on base were barracks inspection - you could be at work, but your room had to be squared away and unlocked. Then in the afternoons was workshop maintenance - sweeping up, checking tools, etc - generally annoying.
A useful fact I cottoned on to was that the Monday parade and the Friday inspections did not apply if you were on leave.
I was told that my accumulated leave would not carry over into the new leave year, so I had to use it in the next two months or loose it - and that I couldn't take a block of time anywhere due to training and workload constraints. Checking the calendar I worked out that I could take every Friday and Monday off for two months to use my leave and not have to do parade, inspection or workshop maintenance.
So for two months I worked three day weeks, lying in bed during inspections on a Friday and swanning up to overall swap in my civvvies later on Monday mornings to play cards at smoko. Bliss.
First parade back was a bitch, as was first workshop maintenance.
Viet Nam, I Corps Tactical Zone, March, 1969
I was drafted into the U.S. Army on December 11, 1967. Basic training was at Fort Dix, New Jersey. Advanced Infantry Training followed at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and from there it was on to NCOC training at Fort Benning, Georgia.
I deployed to Viet Nam for my one-year tour of duty around September 21, 1968, and from there I was picked for special training at British Jungle Warfare School (BJWS) in Malaysia. After some of the most arduous training that the Army had to offer it was back to Viet Nam, December 1968, reporting to the 101st Airborne Division as a member of the 557th Combat Tracker Platoon.
The Tracker Platoon’s duties were to be called into a situation where the Infantry had made contact with the North Vietnamese Army (NVA), and more often than not that situation involved a blood trail left by the retreating enemy. We would get the call and be on the Chopper Pad in 5 minutes where a chopper, usually a Huey, would give us a 20 to 30-minute ride into the A Shau Valley. If the chopper could not land in the jungle, we would rappel from the chopper to reach the waiting infantry outfit.
At this point we would assume the point position and follow the blood trail until we would reengage the enemy. This was a very stressful job as we would always be on point. We lost many of our team members along the way, either K.I.A. or W.I.A.
I was quickly awarded my Combat Infantryman Badge (CIB), an insignia that indicated that I had been under direct fire from the enemy. I had already engaged the enemy many times before March, when our unit became part of a large battalion-sized operation that the 101st executed in the A Shau Valley.
This operation was the first foray into the A Shau since the First Cav had left there two years prior. The A Shau Valley, it was a great place – for the NVA. They had long used it for a highway to link North
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Viet Nam to Saigon and the southern parts of South Viet Nam. In fact, the 101st found a road through there that we nicknamed the Yellow Brick Road. They had trucks, machine shops, farms, a hospital complex with a cache of medical supplies and all kinds of supporting trades. Its close location to the Laotian border made the NVA very slippery for the U.S. forces to pin down. It was also the location of Hamburger Hill, which had an upcoming date with history in another 2 months.
On the first day our insertion was carried out by a fleet of Bell UH-1 choppers, the Army’s reliable workhorse, better known as the Huey. These Hueys had been requisitioned from every infantry division in the I Corps Tactical Zone. The choppers bore not only the Screaming Eagle of our own Division but included the insignias from the Americal Division, the 5th Mechanized, the 1st Cavalry, and a bunch of others that I don’t remember. There were even some Marine choppers in the mix. This was a big push into the daunting A Shau Valley.
I was caught up in a whirlwind of surreal proportions. I sat in the open door of the Huey with my feet dangling out over the skids as the noise of the chopper jacked up my adrenaline. Across the open air, I looked over to see other members of the 101st in their respective choppers, close enough for me to see the pimples on the smiling face of the young trooper that was waving to us. Poor kid, 18 years old by my guess; maybe he thought we were going on a picnic. My God, we were flying in formation. This seemed like a joke. Everything in this country was like a pile of jigsaw pieces that needed to be placed in order.
The LZ was hot, but not too hot, as the choppers flared in and we jumped off. A staff sergeant was giving us urgent signals as to where we were to place ourselves. Shots rang out here and there as we positioned ourselves in the rapidly forming perimeter. We hunkered down at the ready over a sheer drop off into the jungle. I was in the prone position, very alert, and had my M-16 ready to fire should an NVA target present himself.
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About 2 feet from me I saw some movement in the undergrowth. Son of a bitch, it was a snake. Not very big, but very deadly. A Bamboo Viper, evil looking and heading right towards me. I tapped my team member on the arm to show him that it was getting close. He started freaking out. Some kind of snake phobia, I guess. I looked around, summed up my chances to get away with what I was about to do and gave myself the green light. I flipped the safety off my M-16 and leaned forward, placing the barrel of the rifle as close to the head of my deadly stalker as I could. I took one more look around to make sure no rank was near us and pop, no more Mr. Nasty. Luckily, the noise from my single shot was missed in the overall confusion. I refused a kiss and took a hug from my buddy as we got the word to move out.
Our tracker teams were split up and we wished each other well as we were paired up with the infantry unit we would be working with in the various parts of the A Shau Valley. Our team consisted of a Black Lab tracker dog, along with his handler and a visual tracker. Completing the team were two cover men, one for the dog handler and one for the visual tracker. My job during this operation was cover man for our visual tracker, Sgt. Bobby Baldwin (a.k.a. Chief), a full-blooded Navajo Indian and our team leader. When Chief was tracking, I walked behind him as he looked for signs that the NVA had left. I looked past him, hopefully to spot any enemy that may be lying in wait for us.
The tracker team took point if there was a blood trail and if there was no Scout Dog. On our current mission we did have a Scout Dog, a German Sheppard named Bizz, and his handler Sgt. Leroy Jackson. Sgt. Jackson didn’t have a cover man, so I was somehow appointed to the job. We had a few days filled by scattered engagements with the NVA. No casualties, which was a good thing, but things were about to change. Jackson and I worked well together. We could communicate with the unspoken word of a hand signal or a head bob where quiet was the optimal mode.
The next day before we headed out, Headquarters prepped our route with a couple of AH-1 Cobra Gunships. These gunships were either equipped with rocket pods carrying 72 2.75” rockets or the M129
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grenade launcher, which fired 40mm grenades at the rate of 400 per minute. Their pride and joy, however, which ground troops appreciated most was the M134 miniguns that cranked out up to 4000 rounds per minute. They didn’t sound like any kind of a rifle or gun you’ve heard before; they made a loud grinding noise when they fired and the tracer rounds lit the path of the bullets fiery red. Every fifth bullet was a red tracer round and the rate of fire made their path look seamless. This helped the Cobra pilots direct their fire as they circled above the jungle canopy to lay down their payload ahead of us.
We started out on the planned route and I was amazed what a good job those Cobra gunships had done. It looked like there wasn’t a leaf on a tree or bush that didn’t have a bullet hole in it. Any waiting NVA ambushes got surprised by this tactic; it helped us make good time. Forward progress came to a halt when we came to a bomb crater that was on our route. A call was placed to headquarters and the ensuing discussion resulted in the infantry platoon leader coming up to Jackson and I with a pointed finger on the end of his extended arm and the words, “Let’s go Scout Dog. You and your cover man move out and we will follow.” His finger was aimed top-dead-center on the bomb crater.
This crater was the biggest one that I had seen in-country. I didn’t know the weight of the bomb that made the crater, or what kind of an aircraft delivered it, but it looked more like the scar of a comet that had pummeled the earth. The huge area of ruptured brown earth looked so out of place surrounded by the vibrant green of the jungle. The crater started near the apex of a hill and spread out in a flare pattern near the bottom. It was at least as long as a football field from top to bottom, and at least a third that much across, getting wider at the bottom. Jackson and I asked the Lieutenant if we couldn’t go around the fringe on one side or the other of the crater. This would give us more cover and we promised it would not take as long as going up the center of the crater.
While he mulled it over, we looked at the hardened faces of his men, who had stayed in the jungle for months on end. There was no sympathy for us in their eyes. I got that: they didn’t know us and they had
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no emotional investment in us. I didn’t blame them. If somebody was going home in a body bag it was better if they didn’t know them well. Jackson and I were interlopers in their world. We may have point while we were there, but we came in and out often and had a hot shower and a hot meal waiting for us at Camp Eagle, our base.
Finally, the Lieutenant turned toward us, giving us the full force of his presence. He was a ruggedly handsome leader; he had a few days stubble on his muscular face and he reeked of authority. But an unlit cigar stub in the corner of his mouth? Who the hell did he think he was? John Wayne, Aldo Ray…give me a break.
He spoke, “I got my orders and you got yours.”
Jackson and I turned to the bomb crater to start this dangerous and absurd ascent. The faintest of words on the decibel scale got into my head by way of my ears. I don’t know who said them but they did have a tinge of Ebonics, “White Cracka.” A whisper escaped my lips, “Yeah, White Cracka.” I looked over at Jackson and his dark face had the faintest of smiles as we started our ascent of the bomb crater.
These moments I will never forget. The raw fear that I felt was tempered with the strenuous physical exertion of climbing that steep sand pit. For every two steps Jackson and I took we slid back one. Jackson was kept off balance by Bizz, who was tugging on the leash that was tethered to Jackson’s hand. This exacerbated our predicament as we were in the middle of a wide-open area with no cover. Any NVA in the area would have all the advantage. I swiveled my head back and forth 180 degrees hoping to spot something, anything, to give us a reason to lay down and start firing at the enemy before they took us upright and helpless. Sweat streamed from our faces in the hottest part of the day in that sweltering jungle heat as Jackson and I struggled on the incline while trying to keep the load of our rucksacks high on our backs.
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Something my Dad once said popped into my head. It was about eight years earlier, on a Sunday morning, when I was 14.
“Why do I have to go to church, Dad? I don’t believe in God,” I said defiantly.
“Well, you are going to church anyway, and remember this: there is no such thing as an atheist in a foxhole.”
My Dad, a World War II veteran. Yeah, okay, I didn’t know what the hell he was talking about but I went off to attend mass at St. Peters church despite my defiance.
This day, in that bomb crater, I got his time-delayed message. A thought ran through my mind, “Please, God, give me strength.”
I thought of my girlfriend Janet, my Mom, my Dad, my brothers and sisters, and our happy house in Saratoga Springs, New York. These were pleasant thoughts and they helped me divert the fear. It was a mental game. Crowd out the paralyzing fear, gain control of your mind and be ready to act or react as the case may be. As we got closer to the top the NVA’s opportunity to ambush us was shrinking in direct proportion to our exposure. For the first time I turned around to look behind us and said to myself, “Jesus, talk about a couple of canaries in a coal mine.” Those infantry guys were a long way back from me and Jackson.
Near the top of the hill there was about a four-foot parapet that we needed to scale. Silently, Jackson and I off-loaded our rucksacks and together hoisted the nearly 100-pound Bizz up the sheer drop-off and placed him on the peak. His feet had barely touched the ground when he whirled around, snapped off a growl, and let out a menacing bark. With bared teeth, he was all business as he scrambled towards our left.
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Bizz had sprung the ambush. AK-47 rounds were flying everywhere and the whoosh of an RPG round went by our heads, harmlessly exploding beyond our position. We got the best cover we could as we returned fire. The guys in the infantry quickly swarmed from the rear, joining the fray and driving the NVA from their position.
Jackson and I helped each other to the top. A few feet away lay the lifeless body of Bizz. We both stood there realizing that we were the targets that the NVA had wanted. Thank you, God, and thank you Bizz.
To Be Continued...
When someone asks me to be patient I reply that I've gone from San Diego, California, to Pusan, Korea, at 12 knots (13.2 mph). That 6079 miles (9783.202 km) in a straight line. And you veterans know we never go in a straight line.
I was stationed in Sicily back in the mid 70s. Assigned to the LOX plant as a secondary duty. One of the bird farms had a casualty in her LOX plant and we were ordered to take our rolly cart (500 gal. LOX) out to top them up. I volunteered as they would have had to put some guys on 12 hour shifts if one of them escorted the tank. ("Always escort the tank, petty officer!")
Anyway, a COD picked up the tank and its babysitter and flew us out of Sigonella in foul weather. I sat in a seat that was on one side of the bulkhead and the pilot seat was on the other. I asked one of the crew why that set-up?
"Well, if the tank breaks loose and shifts forward you are supposed to absorb the impact so the pilot can still fly the plane."
Gave me that old familiar feeling.
My mother was 12 years old when WWII started for the US. By the time she was 15 there was an Italian POW camp down the road. Her parents were sharecroppers, they rarely saw cash money, but they grew produce in the "truck garden" and Mom would take it town to sell. Her route took her past the camp and some of the guys would ask for "samples" from her baskets. She obliged as much as she could, but Grandma expected her to sell what she had so they could buy necessities. (The guards were utterly disinterested in this, they knew the Italians weren't going anywhere.) The next weekend she made her regular run and the POWs signaled her to come to the fence. They had spent the week doing all kinds of carving on wood, including wooden spools and salad tools. Metal utensils were scare because of the demand for war goods and Mom spotted an opportunity. She traded off her produce for the wooden items, a risky chance if she couldn't turn a profit on them. That night she came home with four times the usual take from the farmer's market. Grandma was stunned. This quickly became a cooperative deal, whatever was in season went through the fence and fine pieces of wood carving came the other way. By the end of the war Mom had enough "skimmed money" to buy a nice dress for her wedding. And the Italians got the ingredient to make dishes like they made at home. One small bit of home to help with the homesickness.
Nearly thirty years later I'm in the Navy, living on the slopes of Mt. Etna, Paterno Sicily. Across the street from me is a communal kitchen, shared resources to cook the week's worth of sauces. The smell were awesome and a bottle of Jack Daniels got me a few liters of fine red sauce for my pasta.
There's no real point to this story, except that enemies and allies, they're sometimes hard to sort out, and time heals all wounds. Ciao, bella!
So this story is going back about 8 years ago now, I was a fresh faced digger recently posted into Darwin, and we had this one guy let's call him Steve, and he was the biggest brown-noser you've ever met!
Anyway no matter what the work was this cunt would always go Jack, gotta fill sandbags, he was nowhere to be seen. Gotta run some Jerries up headquarters, he was gone. Gotta chain downloads on the trucks, forget about it.
Anyway this one day Steve decided he needed to go to the loo, so has any self-respecting diggers would do, we decided to park a Mack straight in front of the portashitter.
Now for those of you that aren't familiar with how hot it is in Darwin, for the Americans you can imagine Florida in the middle of summer.
For everyone else if you want to use metric, I can give you 99% relative humidity and about 45 degrees Celcius, for those of you scientifically inclined, you're looking at 318 Kelvin or for those of you from Guam, that's around 115 Farenheit.
Anyway we left Steve in there for a good 20 minutes, that was until one of the environmental health guys decided to take a drop past because he needed to use the facilities as well. At this point Steve was pretty hot and bothered in there, but once he got out he decided to stop being a fuckwit for the rest of the exercise.
We did get a good ripping from the Sarge whom was his best mate, but we copped it on the chin because it meant that we didn't you have to pick up all this guys slack anymore.
All in all it was a bloody ridiculous exercise but it was all enjoyable because everytime we think back upon it we think about that poor bastard being locked in sweltering heat inside a box full of shit. Definitely one of those cases where you can think "at least I'm not that guy"
Ok, so we're going through an enormous fleet change at the moment (yes,this is a Pogue story, get over it Warfighters :P)
Anyway, the big ex for the year rolls around and me and my busted knee are stuck back in barracks, but I can still drive (huzzah?)
Anyway, one of the best parts of this new fleet is the flat rack loading system which others have had for fucking forever, but we're behind the curve.
Now the way we've been accounting for these is a quantity tracking, we're supposed to have say, 50, as long as we have 50, we're good.
Idea being I roll in with my truck, dump the full one, grab an empty one, any empty one and head home. In and out,20 minute adventure
Anyway, there's a lot to be said for being a decade long digger, cancers busted knees,etc. Plus I like being behind the wheel, not dealing with absolute spastics everyday, unfortunately, the spastics have a bad habit of getting sent on promotion courses so their unit doesn't have to deal with them, then they can promote then and get them posted.
So, in comes CPL Spastic with her grand plan, I'm to drive 8 hours to the delivery at the excercise staging area, sleep a night, then push on another 8 hours round trip to deliver the stores, sleep another night at the staging area,then come home empty.
Now, I'm not a smart man, but I've done my time in Ops (because where do battle units put broken people? Go, shred paperwork in ops, and as a result I ingratiated myself with the OPSO, who actually didn't have a resident truckie to discuss trucks with, so my crippled arse got a desk)
Anyway, not really caring to spend 3 days away on A2 day job, and knowing what the OPSWO had said "An empty truck is the most expensive truck", I clicked off a quick text while having a smoke, sweet.
So I go back to CPL Spastic and let her know, "So I've heard from CPL Bloggs that they have 12 pallets to come back, they can meet me at [Staging Area] tomorrow night, we swap flat racks, we rack out, then I'm back in 2 days and they have their stuff a day early"
CPL Spastic "You are not to swap flat racks under any circumstances"
Me: "Why not?"
CPL Spastic: "Something something serviceability inspections something something can't crossload with other units"
Me: "But...it's our unit..."
CPL Spastic "Doesn't matter, from Ops, we've been told we can't swap flat racks, no matter what happens"
Me (Knowing the OPSWO isn't that retarded, you don't do 37 years as an idiot): pulls out phone, dials OPSWO on speaker "Hey Sir, just to double check on flat rack swapping, so CPL Bloggs has a backload, I'm running up tomorrow with this, am I right to swap a field rack for barracks rack and that'll still be sweet?"
OPSWO: Yeah sure, as long as they're both in date, make sure you take one up that's longer than they have and we'll get that one checked as soon as it's back for a quick turnaround
Me: Sure, no worries, cheers, bye
CPL Spastic: Stares daggers and storms off
Like....I know she's only been in 5 years to my 10....but seriously, common bloody sense is key to a well functioning unit. As they say, prior preparation and planning prevents piss poor performance.
Anyway, Manning came out, guess who is my CPL next year....this will be fun....
During my period of service, I consistently made the mistake of showing up on time and being reasonably competent. This would prove to be a critical error on my part. Rookie mistake, really.
As the old saying goes, the reward for good work is more work, and this would prove to be no different. I was volunteered for additional training as a Combat System Maintainer, which I was oddly well suited for. However, due to some wardroom shenanigans, the role of Fire Control Officer was transferred from an Operator role to a Technical role - and landed squarely on my shoulders. Small Navies - gotta love 'em, right? In fairness, as a technician I could determine the cause of most faults as quickly as I could report them - for example, the Fire Control Radar failing to lock on to an approaching aircraft is the expected result when the Principal Warfare Officer has failed to pass permission for that radar to actually radiate.
I was also weirdly suited to the FCO role; it had a habit of burning people out in six months or less; I held the position for over three years.
On this particular morning, I was sitting at my console, scanning through the local surface traffic. We were sitting off of the east coast of Australia, in the middle of yet another week of exercises, as part of the lead up to the annual Five Power Defence Agreement war games. We'd been out on this particular stretch for about eleven days; the exercises had stopped being amusing about two months ago, yet there were many more ahead of us.
We were running a reduced transmission profile, in order to attempt to look like a large commercial fishing vessel, so we were down to navradar only. I was using the optronics package (effectively, a PTZ security camera with an IR mode) to check silhouettes - on several occasions already in this set of exercises, I'd caught the smaller craft in the opposite faction's fleet sneaking up on us under cover of darkness, using commercial fishing fleets to mask their movements. It's not much entertainment, but when dawn is still hours away and you've nothing better to do, playing with the TV and IR cameras are better than nothing.
A new track appeared, tracking down the coast. As it approached, I trained the camera in it's direction, hoping to discern it's shape from the running lights. After a short while, it became apparent that this was no ordinary fishing vessel, but I'm just a technician - vessel identification isn't my speciality.
Fortunately, there was someone who was...
ME: Surface, FCO. Can you identify the vessel currently on the Director camera?
SU: FCO, Surface. No. What the hell is that?
ME: Surface, that's unidentified track 8219, currently at bearing 030, range 5.0, tracking left to right.
SU: Negative, unable to identify from the light configuration.
ME: Understood. (switching camera to IR) Does the silhouette provide any clues?
SU: Also negative; there's nothing in the expected threat packet that matches that shape.
PWO: Surface, PWO. That's clearly one of the Australian DDGs from the opposition forces! They're clearly unaware of us; FCO, standby to engage!
Engaging, in this exercise, was to illuminate the opposition vessel with some form of weapon control system and then hail them to let them know that they'd officially been "killed". Of course, the target would declare that the attacker had missed and promptly return "fire" in much the same way. If you think that this essentially devolves into a lot of brass yelling at each other in a marginally more adult version of "I killed you/Nuh-uh, I killed you first", then you'd be remarkably accurate.
ME: PWO, FCO: standing by.
The target track slowly crept closer on the screen. Finally, it entered surface engagement range - and the PWO leapt into action!
PWO: All stations, now switching to OVERT transmissions! FCO, acquire track 8219 and prepare to engage!
My fingers flew through the necessary actions as I responded. The Fire Control Radar locked on to the designated target.
ME: PWO, FCO - roger, 1 radar on track 8219!
PWO: Gun to 1!
I hit the button, bringing the 5" cannon to bear on the target. Safety still on, of course, but it's not a pleasant feeling to look down the barrel of a cannon aimed in (mock) anger.
ME: Gun on!
PWO: FCO, PWO. FOR EXERCISE, 20 rounds high explosive, 5 bursts, 4 rounds per burst, ready!
ME: PWO, FCO: FOR EXERCISE, 20 rounds HE, 5 bursts 4 rounds per burst, ready!
So far, so good - this was the same surface engagement we'd conducted hundreds of times before. In a live firing, the safety officers would now declare it safe to proceed, the Captain would give final approval, and I'd pull the trigger. In this kind of drill, I would announce a successful firing by declaring, in a loud voice in front of the entire assembled operations team, the word "BANG", once for each round "fired." There's no feeling quite like having a room full of grown men and women intently watch you declare "BANG" thirty times in succession.
PWO: FCO, stand by!
The PWO keyed his microphone, about to announce his kill to the world via the external radios, when he suddenly paled. His external microphone clicked off.
PWO: FCO, PWO, break engage, repeat, break engage!
This was... unusual. However, like a good Fire Control Officer, I disengaged the 5" cannon and Fire Control Radar.
PWO: FCO, what is the position of the gun?
ME: PWO, gun is disengaged and returned to stand by position at ship's head.
PWO: Good, and the Director?
ME: At stand by, also at ship's head.
PWO: Roger. Do not, repeat, do NOT move them from that position again until you are instructed to do so.
This was confusing, because normally I had free reign to conduct whatever systems familiarisation (aka playing with the guns) I felt like, as long as I didn't breach the current transmission policy.
ME: Understood, sir.
The PWO stood up, removed his headset, and walked over to my console. I flicked up my microphone to talk to him, off-comms.
ME: What was that about?
PWO: I recognised that ship. It would have been bad, if they had noticed we had our cannon pointed at them...
ME: How bad?
PWO: International incident, maybe?
ME: What? Who is it?
PWO: The USS Port Royal.
ME: Uhhh... What?
The Americans were NOT involved in our exercise, turns out they were just transiting the coast to a weekend berth in Sydney. I had the opportunity to inspect the USS Port Royal from the wharf a few days later when we also pulled into Sydney; suffice it to say that, if angered, the Port Royal would have left us as little more than a memory of a greasy smear.
PWO: So... If anyone asks, that never happened.
ME: Understood, sir.
And sure enough, it never did.
For those keeping score: we lost the exercise, too - "killed" by multiple over the horizon HARPOON strikes in the early hours of the morning, while we were still in COVERT and most of the crew asleep; we wouldn't even have seen it coming, let alone defended against it.
Not that it stopped the brass from arguing about it - but then again, nothing ever does.
I was a fresh faced young Naval recruit once - don't laugh, it's true! Yes, many, many, many years ago, before these grey hairs and wrinkles made me even more handsome and distinguished.
As a fresh recruit, I knew I was under constant scrutiny for the entire duration of Basic Training - my uniform had to be perfect, have creases you could shave with. My drill had to be sharp and clean, a precision borne of countless hours on the parade ground and untold decibels of the Drill Instructor's gentle corrections.
And I must never, EVER, fail to salute an officer.
My assigned cleaning station was the assembly area deck. This was an Instructor only area, so Recruits were not permitted on the deck - except to clean it. And I was the only one assigned to this station.
The deck itself sat between a classroom and a messdeck, with a covered walkway along the back. As such, visibility was obstructed on three sides, so if you were more than a foot or two from the front of the deck, you could not see people approaching from the sides the assembly area.
This would prove to be a critical issue.
On this fateful day, I was at my assigned cleaning station, sweeping the deck. Having controlled the detritus into a pile, I obtained a dustpan and brush from an adjacent cleaning area (arguably, how to acquire without being acquired from was the most relevant training to take into the Fleet) and began to sweep the dust into the pan.
It's worth noting that the pan was in my right hand, and the brush in my left. This will be relevant shortly, for reasons you may already be able to guess.
From behind me, I heard a slight cough - exactly the sort of sound someone would make if they wanted to get your attention without being explicit about it. I shot a look over my shoulder to spy none other than Missy - a nickname I would earn the right to use later in my career - aka Lieutenant Colander¹, aka my Divisional Officer.
I sprang from my kneeling position to full attention instantly; my right hand snapped up to salute faster than the speed of thought.
Much faster than thought, because my first thought was that perhaps I should have taken the extra millisecond to let go of the dust pan. Instead, I was now standing in the centre of a slowly expanding cloud of dust that was rapidly settling on my previously pristine uniform, saluting sharply with a dust pan.
Fortunately Missy was far too busy barely containing her laughter behind a flimsily maintained mask of professionalism to rebuke me for incorrectly saluting, so merely returned the salute and carried on.
Unfortunately, the crew of my fellow recruits cleaning the messdeck saw the entire incident, and felt no such requirement to withhold their amusement.
I pretended I couldn't hear their howls of laughter as I picked up the broom and began sweeping the deck for the second time.
¹ Names changed to protect the guilty, innocent, and all stages of grey in between.
Sometimes, we're the heroes of our own stories.
Other times - like this one - we're just a warning to others.
My late Uncle served in Coastal Command during WW2. Flying as crew aboard a Sunderland flying boat. During a period of refitting and recrewing, one of the new recruits was a young 1/2 Italian lad. (Mother, English. Father, Italian) Most of the crews were suspicious of him, but, my Uncle persuaded his skipper to take him on. (He was from my uncle's home town) After a while other crews were trying to get him into their planes. This chap could cook like an angel, even in the tiny galley on a Sunderland. His family ran one of the best restaurants in pre-war Britain.
I wrote up the original version of this as a comment on one of /u/ITSupportZombie's posts.
It is a description of a section of the Petty Officer Command Promotion Course - P.O.C.P.C. being the least unwieldy short version - which was required to transition from Junior to Senior Ratings. The least amount of service any of the course participants had was six years.
The command course was a requirement for promotion, and promotion was the only way to achieve any sort of significant pay increase. The rules were simple. Staff launch a life raft and turn it upside down. Course participants depart ship, swim to raft, then work as a team to turn it right side up and get inside. Course participants then use the raft's bailing systems to extract as much water as possible, and access the survival equipment on board to survive somewhere between twelve and sixteen hours, depending on when staff decide to wake up in the morning.
No external supplies allowed - literally just the clothes on your back, to the point that we were strip searched first to make sure we weren't hiding anything.
Naturally, we cheated.
Personally, I had a polypropylene shirt taped to each of my shins; Staff never found them, their enthusiasm for searching having significantly waned by the time they got to me.
Another guy had his glasses in a case in a waterproof bag; on arrival in the raft, the case was revealed to be full of boiled sweets.
You get the idea. We cheated as much as we could without getting caught. It did not help make the night any less unpleasant.
Out on the open ocean, sea water is cold. If the command course happened to be in late autumn/early winter, like mine, then it is even more so. So we were freezing when we got into the raft.
Entering the raft wet brought a lot of sea water in to the raft. Bailing it out was exhausting and remarkably ineffective. Attempting to dry off our clothes was thwarted by Staff members, who would silently paddle up to the raft, grab any unattended clothing drying in the sun - even untying tight knots - before racing off as fast as the outboard could carry them, leaving the unlucky owner to spend the remainder of the raft session in their underwear. If they were lucky, there might still be a silver survival blanket to hide their shame for the duration.
The raft would normally have survival rations to feed 25 people. Naturally, being a command course specific raft, it had been stripped of all food items.
The raft included a radio. In order to pass the course, the raft needed to check in once per hour, to simulate sending repeated S.O.S. calls. Failure to do so would mean having to repeat the module again - including the night at sea in a raft.
To no-one's surprise, we were extremely vigilant about the hourly calls.
The safety ship for this exercise was a small in shore patrol vessel; ship was so small that when the mice were leaving it hunchbacked.
Naturally, being assholes, they relocated the ship to ensure they were upwind before firing up a grill and enjoying steak and beers from the quarterdeck. And were our positions reversed, I would have done the exact same thing.
Once night fell, we huddled together for warmth. Or rather, cold people huddled around warm people. Being inside one of these huddles, every time I fell asleep, the short hair on the side of my head would dig into my neighbour's scalp - apparently it was quite sharp. As a result, each time it happened - each time I fell asleep - he'd shove me away, waking me up again. As I was pinned in position by the rest of the huddle, I couldn't actually move away.
So I just didn't sleep.
Only one person actually managed to sleep, and that was because he'd been out drinking the whole night before. Those of us suffering through the night argued whether this was a stroke of genius or lunacy - or both.
It was one of the longest nights of my life; pinned in position, hungry, unable to sleep, core temperature way too cold, surface temperature way too hot, listening to the others take turns on the radio to check in once each extremely long hour. At last, the sky lightened. But more hours passed before Staff decided to reel us in; we were collected in their small boat and ferried back to the ship. The raft was recovered and we all returned to the base.
The end finally in sight, we were all to be officially released from course once the gear was cleaned and stowed back at the building. We were all showered, dressed in our civilian attire, and finishing the last few steps of the clean up, when I was suddenly angrily addressed from behind:
??: WELL!!! AREN'T ANY OF YOU GOING TO SALUTE ME?
I spun around, bleary-eyed, to see a Army officer of some description - a Captain, perhaps, I never was great at cross-service Officer ranks. I'd made the mistake of being the closest person to the road running past the building; clearly this put me in charge of calling the class to salute passing officers.
I very briefly weighed up my options - I could try to explain to this fuming Army officer that: A) he's on a Navy base, so Navy rules apply; B) sailors do not salute when not wearing any headwear, and all of us were bare-headed; C) sailors do not salute while in civilian attire - at most we would be required to tip our caps, which again, we weren't wearing; D) go to hell grunt¹, we've all just been through a literally hellish experience and you're making the best part of it - the end - significantly worse.
Or I could finish the course without having a terse discussion with the Naval Police about my rampant insubordination.
ME: Sorry Sir, didn't see you there. CLASS; HALT!
and I snapped off the snappiest snappy Navy-style salute of my career. He returned the salute (Army-style, and rather sloppily at that, IMHO), and added:
??: That's better. Don't let it happen again!
Then he carried on towards whatever his destination might have been that had taken him past the life raft shed that day.
ME: CLASS; STAND-AT, EASE! CLASS; STAND-EASY.
ME: Are we done with
this shthe cleaning yet? Can we get the fuout of here? Yes? Cool, let's go.
ME: CLASS; HALT! CLASS; DIS-MISSED!
Then we got the hell out of there before anyone else happening past decided to try to ruin our day.
¹ GRUNT: Government Reject - Unfit for Naval Training