Wednesday, March 28, 2012

My Army days. From what I can remember anways.

I was in a tactical signal unit when I was in the Army back in the late 70s, early 80s. My MOS was 36D20, Microwave Antennae Installer Specialist. That's a fancy name for microwave tower construction. Gotta build the towers first before you can install them high-speed miccawave antenners, right?
Anyways, when I graduated firmly in the middle of my class I was assigned to D Co 26th Sig Bn in Heilbronn West Fucking Germany where I built microwave towers all fucking winter long. No shit, we went out in October for 30 days, came in for 5 days to DX and re-fit and then it was time for ReForGer. Then it was WintEx. Then it was Operation Boot-in-your-nuts or whatever, and all of these motherfuckers were back to back. And because nobody could do shit until the towers were up, the tower teams always went out about a week before to set up which was cool with me. We'd knock that shit out in 3 days and then spend the next 4 scouting out gasthouses for when my partners showed up.
I fucking loved it. I loved the field, working 7 days a week, no formations, no fucking petty bullshit, wear damned near anything you wanted as long as there was something green over it, nobody fucking with me.
Once the tower was up and all the shots oriented in, there really wasn't anything for a 4 man team to do so we did odd jobs around the site. I got to be the courier due to rank, my knowledge of the German countryside and locations of all the sites, plus the fact that I was assigned the fucking jeep and nobody else was going to drive it. So when I went to the field we would set up the tower, bring in the shots, then go find something else to do for the next 3-4 weeks until it was time to tear it all down. I'd drive all over Central Germany with another NCO delivering mysterious files to different sites. It was a fucking blast, being paid per diem and eating schnitzel and saurbraten and sleeping in gasthouses 2 or 3 times a week instead of eating C rations and sleeping in tents.

The shortest I ever spent out in the field was 33 days and the longest was 57 days - in for a week to get some stitches out and a little rest then back out for 45 more days. Then the bastards caught on to me and made me go back to the Kaserne. Hey, I was Section Chief, I needed to keep up with both tower teams, right?

An AB-216/U Tower at Kist woods, D/26 Signal. That tower was 180' tall, notice all the radio vans covered in camo clustered at the base.

But the really good times came after coming out of the field - Party Fucking Time. The Battalion Sergeant Major would throw a huge barbecue and beer bash when each company came in and considering the 26th had 5 companies of about 150 men each, the MPs had their hands full for about a month. Our barracks faced theirs and the fucking assholes actually had the nerve to complain that the number of drunks vomiting out of the windows was excessive and repulsive.

Our beer blasts were generally 2 or 3 day events, generally winding down when all the kegs were gone. By then our own indivdual parties were going pretty good and we had whiskey and hash so we'd party like hell up in our rooms and only go down to the company party when we started to get too fucked up and needed to mellow out by switching to beer for a while.
After dark the families would go home and the shit would start. Some drunk young Pfc would decide it was time to whip his Platoon Sergeants ass. The young Pfc was usually in for one hell of a thrill too, because hardcore NCOs don't get to be that way by being pussies. Then there were the bare knuckle fights - sporting, not malicious - where entire paychecks would pass hands. Baton battles were great fun too, but the morning after those really sucked.
We had an NCO that would lick his finger, grin and stick it in a light socket - 220 volts in europe, not 110. Another guy that swore he could kick the ceiling (fuck, he could barely stand up!) and then knock himself out when he fell on his head. Every time. I must've seen him try it a dozen times and knock himself cold every time. We'd just drag him to a corner of the room and Charlie Mike. Fucking guys falling out of 2 and 3 floor windows and getting up and walking away because they were to drunk to realize they were injured. Fire extinguisher fights - not spraying each other with them, using them as weapons trying to clock each other with them. Then of course there was the mandatory gassing of the Officers Club and occasionally the NCO club and a couple of times, the barracks themselves.

When we came in, we'd pitch our tents on the green next to the barracks for about a month to let them dry out real good. For about the first week after we came in, you'd see men sneaking into the barracks from the tents right about dawn. Motherfuckers couldn't go to sleep without the smell of oil soaked canvas and anybody that's ever been in a GP Medium knows what the fuck I'm talking about.

Our shower rooms were just that - a room about 20' x 10' with a drain in the floor and a shower head about every 2 feet on the wall. When we'd come in that room would be packed with fully dressed men washing the mud and crud out of their TA-50.
Later that night, though was paradise. About 2 or 3 in the morning when everybody was passed out, I'd go in and turn on every fucking shower in the room  and stand in the middle and let the first hot water I'd seen in a week or two beat me to putty.

Me and Gregg (Motor Sergeant) got drunk one night and took all the shower heads off and threw them away so we'd have steady streams of hot water instead of sissy sprays. That pissed the First Sergeant off, so he had them replaced. We got fucked up and took them off again, this time leaving them in a pile in the Orderly Room, or so we're told. I personally have no recollection of it. Well, Top blew his fucking stack but couldn't figure out who did it so he took his shit out on the shower heads. He replaced them but this time epoxied the heads back on.
So we got fucked up again and went to the motor pool and got a couple of pipe cutters and took care of that shit real quick. Top had the entire company locked up in formation the next morning but nobody gave us up. Hell, we ALL enjoyed getting beat up by scalding hot water.
Top gave up.

Speaking of Top, I remember one time waking up one morning after a company party with Gregg staring at me, smoking a cigarette and drinking a beer.
"What the fuck man, do I have another black eye or something?"
"Naw" he drawled "I just wanted one long last look at my best buddy."
Uh-oh. This can't be good.
"Shit, I can't remember anything past 6 last night. And maybe 8 and it seems like I was drinking with Top at some point." I was seriously trying to remember all the events of my conscience and coherent moments but that was a waste of time. I didn't have many moments like that which was the whole point of partying, right?
"You, you stupid motherfucker, ought to be shot." Gregg blows a smoke ring and smiles. He's obviously enjoying himself so I wait for it. By the way, ought to being shot is Greggs' standard punishment for everthing from dropping a cigarette butt in his motor pool to committing murder. Kind of a catch-all punishment, you know?
He continues "You were sitting there drinking with Top and you told him that he reminded you of an old dog you used to have. He wanted to know if it was because he kept trying to run with the pack but you couldn't leave well enough alone, you said no, it was because that fucking dog was so ugly you shaved it's ass and taught it to walk backwards because it was better looking that way. Said the dogs' name was Queenie and you kept calling him that."
"Nooooooo......." I said while at the same time little bits and pieces started coming back.
"Yeah, and Top got pissed off and told you to shut up and you kept whistling and snapping your fingers going 'Here Queenie. Come on, Queenie. Quit licking your ass, Queenie.' It was fucking great, man. Can I have your Triumph?"
Shit. I was in some serious trouble. Oh well, what's done is done, face it like a man. So I got all fucked up again.
Monday morning finds me in front of Tops' office door, fucking boots are shined, creases are straight, hair's greased back. I ain't even waiting for him to call me. I'm going to go in and take my medicine like a man.
I rap 3 times, get permission to enter and find Top with his boots off drinking a glass of tomato juice, heavily hung over. Hmmm, looks like I'm not the only one that went on a weekend drunk.
"What the fuck do you want so godamned early in the morning, Lane?"
"I'm here about what happened Friday night First Sergeant, and....."
"What did I do now?" he says "I was got so fucking drunk I can't even remember getting home."
"You know, when..... " and then my fucking brain wakes up "you know what Top, you are right. You did have a load on. Shit happens, I'm willing to forgive and forget if you are."
"Yeah, whatever. Thanks. Don't shut the door too loud when you leave. That's a hint. Go away."

Okay, that's enough about my army memories. Didn't mean to bore ya.


Swamprat said...

Neat post Ken, cool of ya to share.
It was a Fun Read.

Always good to look back and remember, when the memories are sorta cool. That was some funny shit man!

Sure wouldn't work nowdays....

wirecutter said...

Hey, I got away with a lot of shit because I knew my fucking job, I loved my job and I did my job without bitching.
I was a fucked up garrison troop but I was a fucking whiz in the field.
But yeah, in today's Army? No fucking way would I have gotten away with half the shit I pulled.

Toaster 802 said...

Thanks for sharing Ken. Never got to Germany so I like to hear about it. Especially the beer.

drjim said...

Great story, Ken.
Even though I've been a civilian my whole life, I'm WAY fucking better in the field than in an office. I get shit DONE, the RIGHT way, out in the field, and go freaking NUTS cooped up in an office.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing, brought back a lot of memories.

I was in Schweinfurt back in the early 90s, still miss the beer!

steiner said...

Window shopping for hookers,the best hash in the world for 50cent a gram and bratwurst so good I get a chubby just recollecting.
Spent time there in 70 with HHC ,2/30,3rd Inf Div.Ledward barracks,Schwinefurt for garrison and Wildflicken and Graphinsomething for the field.At that time almost everybody had done their tour in Viet Nam and was just finishing out their time.I enlisted in 69 a week after I turned 17 not knowing the Army will not ship 17 year olds to combat zones.So I was trying to get sent there while all my friends ,who had already been,were telling me dont go.Hard headed little mother fucker all my life.
Boring?put myself to sleep with this ancient history.

steve tompkins said...

things did'nt change much after high school, huh?

c w swanson said...

I laughed so hard reading this morning this my wife stopped what she was doing and wanted to know what was so funny. She will disapprove later when she reads your post, but whatever. That was some side splitting stuff.

Bob said...

Funny effing story. Thanks for sharing it.

thegunslinger said...

haven't laughed that hard in a while. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

I was in the 26th Signal, apparently shortly after you were there (Sep 81 - Jul 84). I was a Staff Sgt with 10+ years in the Army when I got there and an SFC when I left and I took my discharge and got out when I left. I don't think that 26 Sig was the only reason I got out (I had just gotten married and the constant field duty you described was much harder on a newly wed) but it certainly didn't help. I was assigned to the Bn HQ, and a close-up look at the assholes who ran the Army, even at Bn level disillusioned be greatly. The Bn Co when I got there was a skinny little butt-sucking careerist named LTC Jan Butlak and all of the officers followed his lead in putting their next Officer Efficiency Report way ahead of anything else on earth. Anyway, we had the extensive field duty you talked about, which in my earlier days in the Army I enjoyed, too, but after I got married it became a pain. We didn't have the drunken beer parties, though. The occasional "field days" we had were much tamer than anything you described.
I don't post anonymoulsy. My name is Phil Mickey, I live in Pueblo, Co., and if Jan Butlak wants to object to my description of him, he's more than welcomed to look me up.

wirecutter said...

Hey Phil,
I ETSed in July of 81. The last 16 months I was there I was actually with B/44 Sig Bn. When they reactivated the 44th, they pulled a company from 5 other Battalions to form it up so we had companies in 5 different locations, H&H being in Mannheim.
Yeah, field duty can be a bitch for married men. Our CO was cool about it, he managed to rotate the married guys home for a weekend visit at least once a field problem.
I got discouraged with the Army for much the same reasons you did and I was only a junior NCO, but I could see the same things you describe.
Politics fuck everything up, huh?

Hey, if you want to shoot the shit sometime, my email is in the sidebar.