Garrison Duty

It was a challenge keeping us busy when my company was in garrison for the summer. I mean, let’s face it, when your primary mission is to communicate in bad weather, good weather ain’t doing it a whole lot of good and to be honest, there really wasn’t a whole lot to do.
When we came in from the field for the season, there was a flurry of activity replacing (DX -Direct Exchange) and repairing shit we fucked up over the winter. That lasted maybe a week, ten days and then there was ….. nothing. We couldn’t get into any detailed shit because that would fuck up our alert status – gotta be ready to roll at any time and all that, so for the most part we didn’t do anything that we couldn’t undo in an hour or so.

We fell out in the morning for PT and did our Daily Dozen and morning run, then fell out for breakfast, re-form for morning formation and then fell out to the motor pool. We managed to stretch that shit out til 0800. Only 3 1/2 hours to kill til lunch.

The only people that were supposed to be in the barracks was the 16 guys that were unlucky enough to be on barracks detail that day – each platoon was supposed to give up 4 guys. Barracks detail was a fucking drag – sweeping, mopping and buffing the hallways, cleaning the latrines and basically maintaining the common areas throughout the barracks and admin areas. It helped the day go by somewhat faster but it was boring mundane work. So was the motor pool, but give me a choice between mundane work and mundane fucking off and I’m going to have to go with the mundane fucking off. There’s always the chance that something exciting might happen when you fucking off, but if you’re working, you’re working. Nothing exciting happens when you’re running a mop.

While in the motor pool we were supposed to inventory our equipment. Every fucking day. Radio operators were supposed to count all their repair panel and manuals and pencils and paper clips and shit and tower guys and Cable Platoon were supposed to count their shit up – fucking winches and coils of wire rope and tower sections and other assorted heavy shit.
We knew what we had when we inventoried for DX when we came in. We ain’t used the shit since then so it’s logical that it’s still there and serviceable, right? It was nothing but make-work and a waste of time.
We were also supposed to service our vehicles. Every Fucking Day. We were supposed to check the oil and water, drain the fuel filter and fire them up and idle them for a while. Then it’s checking the tires and doing a numbered visual checklist. Again, a waste of time – these motherfuckers ain’t moved two feet out of their parking spots in a month. It had 2 mirrors yesterday and guess what? it’s got two on there today. Check that off my list.
I tried suggesting a much easier check – look under the truck. If there ain’t no puddles there that means it’s still in the truck – but none of my ‘superiors’ seemed to be able to grasp that concept.

In reality what happened was as soon as the platoon sergeants headed back to their offices to do platoon sergeant shit, everybody disappeared. They either snuck back up to their rooms or they went visiting friends in other parts of the kaserne or if they did stay in the motor pool, they were flaking out with friends that also stuck around.
The NCOs knew what the deal was but they didn’t give a fuck, they pulled the same shit when they were enlisted men. We hardly ever saw the CO out in the motor pool and the lieutenants weren’t really mature enough yet to be wandering around on their own so nobody really fucked with us. For the most part, that is.

SSG Smif’ had a hard on for me since Day 1 and I honestly don’t know what I did to cause it. Maybe he just didn’t like white dudes. But shit, he treated the blacks and our Puerto Rican the same way too but at least he waited til he had a reason before he started dogging them. With me, it was right out the gate – he was giving me the stinkeye the very first time we were introduced. I always figured I must’ve looked like the dude that was boning his old lady on the side or something.
Anyways, one day he made it a point to have me inventory the tower and came back every fucking hour to check up on me. Luckily Smif’ had never been around a tactical tower so he didn’t know shit about it and he was too fucking stupid to figure it out. It’s actually a fairly easy job – to inventory the tower you have to unload it right from one deuce and a half backed up to another and count shit as you pass it over – it’s the stacking and fitting it the right way that takes up the time. It had to be done that way to maintain our Alert status. If we get called out, we just take both trucks is all. It was no biggie, as long as the bed of the tower truck was cleaned out, I’d paint the bed and reload the tower back on to it at my leisure, which I had plenty of. It normally takes about 4 hours to offload from one truck to another if you take your time so being GIs being GIs, we took 2 days.
Apparently it wasn’t fast enough because the day after we got done Smif’ had us transferring it back to the tower truck. Oh well, it wasn’t like I had anything better to do anyways. Matter of fact, I didn’t have anything better to do for the next two days and that’s exactly how long it took us the second time around too. Smif’ would come out and put his hands on his hips and steam, but we were just making sure it was done right. Fuck that guy.
Friday finds me and the tower team (all 3 of us) sprawled on the grass behind the truck bullshitting when Smif’ comes around the corner and flies into a fucking rage. “LANE YOU LAZY BASTARD WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?”
Shit, is it not obvious? “Why, I’m regaling these young soldiers about my deeds and adventures back when I was in the Old Army, Sarge” (I’d been in about 2 years at that point) and I look around and my young soldiers have disappeared when Smif’ was directing his anger at me and was distracted.
Motherfucker was pissed. I tried explaining we’d just inventoried that tower twice in the past four days and we damned near killed ourselves as well as a borrowed radioman working at that grueling pace. It was Friday and hey man, we were just shamming. He wasn’t very understanding at all – fucking anger issues and shit.
His punishment was for us to rotate the tires on my truck. He’d round up my other two guys and we were to have it done by that night. Then the silly sonofabitch asks me for some chalk from my toolbox. I hand it to him and he numbers my fucking tires and then draws a fucking diagram on the black top on how he wants them rotated “I want #1 where #6 is and…” and then he hands me my chalk back and stalks off telling me he’d be back at the end of the day.
Rotating tires on a deuce in a half is a pain in the ass. Anything to do with tires on a deuce and a half is a pain in the ass. For one thing, there’s likely to be 19 coats of paint over those lug nuts. Not only that but you hardly ever have a reason to actually take a tire off so those lug nuts are seriously rusted on there.
The normal procedure is you put a jack stand in front of the tire, spray the fuck out of the first lug nut with penetrating oil, lay the lug wrench across the jack stand and then have somebody jump up and down on the end of the wrench. Sometimes it works, most of the time it doesn’t. Then you hit it with the torch and heat it up real good, hitting any flames from the penetrating oil with a fire extinguisher. Repeat the jumping up and down part. Move on to your second lug nut and repeat. Go back with the torch and cut off any lugs you couldn’t break. You can see where where it can be time consuming, right? But it is entertaining – for everybody that’s watching that poor motherfucker slip off the lug wrench and bust his ass.
That’s the Army Way.
My guys showed back up, forlorn and heads hanging, bitching about a full day of hard, dirty work ahead of them. Ho, those young men have much to learn. I called them over and reached between the tires and got my hands nice and filthy with road grime and rubbed it all over myself and told them to do the same. While they were grubbing up, I grabbed a rag and my chalk and re-numbered those tires to Smif’s specifications.
That’s the Lane Way.

After a while, even the Battalion brass realized that we were going fucking bonkers doing nothing so they came up with the brilliant idea of Activity Day like we were a bunch of 3rd graders or something.
Activity Day was a day where we could pick something to do that involved some kind of physical activity, hence the name Activity Day. They probably gave some lieutenant a lollipop for thinking that one up. It could be weightlifting, bowling, sparring, football, volleyball, basketball, hiking, anything that would keep you busy and out of the NCOs hair for the day.
My chosen activity was laying up in my room smoking hash. Well, technically I signed up for a 20 kilometer hike but when I reported to the sergeant in charge, he handed us a route map and told us to set our own pace and he’d see us back at evening formation. I figured I might as well change out of my combat boots so I went upstairs and found my roomie Pierce already up there getting stoned and watching Gunsmoke with Wallace who was on shift work and therefor exempt from Activity Day. He had signed up for a run but fell for the shoe trap too when he walked in on Wally smoking a bowl. You can’t turn down a toke, that’s just bad manners.
That’s pretty much how we spent our Wednesdays – getting stoned and watching Best of the West in the morning and General Hospital and the saga of Luke and Laura and Scorpio and The Ice Princess in the afternoon.

Every great once in a while we’d get slated for a survey shot. We’d take off with a dozen guys, set up the tower, bring in some shots and just basically hang out for a few days. It was nice – great weather and no adult supervision. We’d trade some of the locals cigarettes or booze or gasoline for food and homemade cognac or schnapps and generally just relax.

Another thing we’d do about once a month to kill time is take the tower truck up near our super secret squirrel radio site where we had a training area with a great big open field and we’d break in any new guys in the company that wanted to work on the ground crew of the tower. We’d take a day and show them how to assemble the sections on the ground, set the tower base, bury anchors, shit like that. Then we’d build the tower and teach them our fancy specialty language like when we were ready for a section to come up we’d holler “Send that sonofabitch up” and when it was high enough for us to rassle it in and pin it in place we’d holler “Whoa!” Proper communication is important.
That was a pretty nice break too. It was an easy set-up in the field instead of trying to raise it in the woods, and we were close enough to the barracks that we were home at night. Put it up one day, take it down the next.

There were other temporary gigs too. I drove a ration truck for a couple months delivering food and supplies to the guys that worked shift at them. That was pretty cool, just me and an assistant driver/sandwich bitch most of the time, and me by myself the rest.
I also worked in the motor pool helping out the rednecks who were my partying partners anyways. They ran into the same basic problems everybody else did as far as keeping busy – if trucks aren’t rolling, trucks aren’t breaking down. There was the occasional oil change or brake job or hose/belt replacements but that was about it. The best part though is the shop was completely separate from the barracks and the motor pool so they rarely got fucked with.

Garrison duty sucked. Now do you see why we liked being out in the field so much where it was fucking cold and damp and damned near everybody was working a 12 hour shift 7 days a week?
Fuck, at least we had something to do. It beat hanging out in the motor pool all day, that’s for damned sure.

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25 Responses to Garrison Duty

  1. Skip says:

    Write. The. Motherfucking. Book!

  2. mrgarabaldi says:

    Hey Kenny;

    I understand that, I loved it coming back into garrison after 3 weeks in the field and actually having money in the bank to blow on booze and women….and whatever the latest electronic gizmo from the PX.

  3. Timbotoo says:

    Kenny, if you collect all these stories together, you probably have enough for a book. You’re a very entertaining writer and I’m not just blowing smoke. Well, not too much anyway.

  4. Sanders says:

    Heh! It wasn’t much different as an 11B. If you weren’t in the field, you were doing bullshit in garrison. My favorite ghosting hideout was the library. Nobody ever looked for you in the library.

    That’s how I saw the Challenger explode on live TV — we were ghosting in the barracks in my buddy’s room watching TV when the launch came on.

    The words of my First Sergeant, “Shakey” Smiley, summed it all up: “Third Platoon, you fuckin’ sluts! You ain’t worth a damn in garrison, but there ain’t nobody better in the field! What the fuck am I going to do with you?”

    • Gregbee says:

      Some of us were screwing around in the barracks around lunch time, somebody yelled from his room and we all were glued to the tv. Could not believe the Challenger exploded.

  5. One of the many Bill's says:

    I’m thinking audio book. You could read it and we all can listen to it. Only 19.95 at Amazon.

  6. Thomas Doan says:

    Now take that same shit to the Marines… I did not understand why on float some guys would jump to the next Battalion Landing Team coming over and never rotate back to the USA. Then came GARRISON DUTY till your next float, and in the Corps that really sucked because they were going to keep you busy one way or another with some little Staff Sgt. that loves to run 30 miles a day and there was a bunch of them.

  7. Gordon says:

    I always chose bowling on activity day, drinking beer inside the bowling alley at Harvey Barracks.

  8. SgtBob says:

    I know guys who went back to RVN rather than put up with Stateside garrison BS.

    • Wirecutter says:

      Shit, my dad got out of the army in 1977 because he couldn’t stand the peacetime army.

      • Sarge says:

        Jimma’ Carter’s peacetime Army …. after 4 years of Nixon and Ford it really sucked !

      • Rurik says:

        That is why I’m retrospectively glad I was sent to Nam. I’ve got two concrete bridges to my record before they sent me to the motorpool to learn the PLL racket.Incidentally, I still hate rebar just as much as I ever did.

  9. Ben Grimes says:

    Great story! That brings back a lot of memories from my early days. I started in the Army in 87……so not much hash smoking unless you wanted to do the field-grade time. I was Artillery, so also went thru the garrison bullshit. My escape was to disappear into other non-artillery crews areas and hang out with them (commo, POL or PLL). I ended up learning a lot while I was shamming with them (install radios, properly operate the fuel truck without blowing it up…etc). That suff came in handy when I got stuck running a commo shop (why was a 13B doing that??? short on people) in Korea or installing the Btry Commanders radio sets in Germany (Pinder bks, Zirndorf). The guys I hung out with are still in contact with me these 3 decades later. All in all you are right about garrison sucking bad……but the money saved while in the field sure made the garrison party-life more fun.

  10. Bud says:

    ‘changin tires the Lane Way’– fuckin love it!

    • Rurik says:

      There’s the right way, the wrong way, and the Army way … and now the Lane way.
      Actually, we had yet another way in Nam. Lotta deuce-anda- halfs in an Engineer Co. The only thing worse is a five ton dump, of which we had even more. By ’70 there were a lot of Dinks anxious to work for Yankee pay. Wirey little fellers, somehow they’d get the job done.

  11. Fred says:

    Damn, Kenny. I always have flashbacks to my time in camp Eschborn outside of Frankfurt with the 317th engineers every time you write one of your army screeds. It was late 1976 to late 1979 and I swear we coulda’ been in the same unit.

  12. Flashman says:

    Bravo! Kenny, I’m telling you – Write That Book!

  13. Odysseus says:

    Two best gigs I ever had were gym detail at Ft. Polk, and wrecker duty at NTC. No formations, no PT, absolutely NOBODY fucking with you.

    (Although running a 5 Ton wrecker across NTC using blackout lights at 0200 is a bit tense, at times…)

  14. Bootmaker says:

    the only thing worse than makee workee had to be guard duty.
    i was in A battery, 6th of the 56th air defense artillery. we were assigned to spangdhalem air base but had to guard our own tac-park and motorpool.
    the co was new and trying to make a name for himself, so we also had to man and maintain ‘operational readiness tactical sights ‘ 24/7.
    till he discovered that it was less paperwork and consumption of his valuable time to simply stand down to weekly ‘operational readiness deployment drills’.
    but we still had to pull guard duty.
    whether it was standing, sitting, or walking a post…
    creased, greased, and spit-shined in any kind of german weather
    it sucked

    • Wirecutter says:

      We had Battalion guard duty to guard the motor pools and we had to give men for that because we were in the 26th Sig Bn’s area, but all it really entailed was walking from one motor pool to the other, checking locks on the gates. The rest of the time was spent reading or playing poker in the guard room.

  15. RHT447 says:

    156th Maint. Co, in Zirndorf ’74 to ’77. I worked in the small arms repair shop, which had restricted access. If you weren’t on the access roster, you didn’t get in, and we locked the chain-link door from the inside. Nobody else could fuck with us. We had one asshole Sgt., but he was about as intelligent as a box of hammers. It was easy enough to just step aside and let the dumb sob walk into a wall.

    One of the best gigs I had was being assigned as driver for our company XO during REFORGER. We were basically go-fer’s running various errands all over our part of West Germany. Had a blast and got to see a lot of cool shit.

    The other was when I was assigned to an IG team for two weeks. Talk about being a god. I had made Sgt. by then, but was the lowest ranking member on the team, so all the heavy lifting was above my pay grade. They never asked me if I could type, and I never told them. Good times!

  16. Robert says:

    “the lieutenants weren’t really mature enough yet to be wandering around on their own”

    Almost spit out my gin ‘n tonic laughing.

  17. Granny says:

    Reading the comments that you get is the best fun I have all day. You boys are a caution, and changing a tire the Lane way is one of the funniest things I have ever read.

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