There’s several different kinds of Duty. We’ve already touched on Extra Duty, so let’s cover CQ (Charge of Quarters) and Guard Duty now.
There’s the CQ and the CQ runner. The CQ is usually a lower ranking NCO or a senior Spec4 and the CQ runner is an enlisted man.
The CQ is just your basic babysitter. He does his regular job throughout the day but once the workday is done he takes over as Charge of Quarters. His duties include answering the phone, logging in visitors to the barracks and generally just keeping order. His runner is just that: a runner. His sammich bitch, if you will. He fetches people (if he happens to like them) that have phone calls, relieves the CQ so he can go eat, piss, or whatever. He’s also the one that is sent up to tell people to turn their music down, break up fights, helps drunks to their rooms, etc etc.
The CQ desk was situated so that it’s the first thing you see when you walk in the door. That desk has to be manned at all times by either the CQ or the runner. To the CQ’s left was the admin offices of the company (orderly room, CO’s office, Top’s Dungeon) and the troublemaker’s rooms. To the right was the female wing behind locked door and directly behind the desk was the mail room.
CQ and runner were overnight duty so you worked your regular workday and then reported for duty after work, giving you the next day off so the best day for duty was Thursday, that way you got a 3 day weekend.
The worst days were Payday Weekend and for a solid week immediately following a field problem. You’re battling drunks all night long, man. Top was cool about it though – if you went to the field, you didn’t pull duty for the first week or ten days in, that was reserved for the 3-4 clerks who stayed behind, pulling rotating shifts.
When you reported for CQ, Top would give you a once over making sure you were in a clean uniform and then he’d hand over Teddy with the instructions “Don’t fucking call me unless the MPs or Polizei are involved or somebody is hospitalized. Handle in-house shit yourselves.” The instructions were pretty clear seeing as Teddy was a sledgehammer handle soaked in motor oil many years ago and guaranteed to not splinter, crack or break. Motherfucker did have quite a few dents in it, though.
Why was it named Teddy? Speak softly and carry a big stick.
Most nights CQ was pretty slack. If it was a quiet night I’d wait til about 9 PM, go up to Hollywood’s room and get the keys to the mail room, then I’d mosey on down to the team room and grab a cot to set up in the mailroom. At 1 AM one of us would take a 2 hour nap, then from 3 to 5 the other guy would. Most nights you could grab a full uninterrupted nap. When the lifers started to arrive, both of you were bright-eyed and bushytailed ready to enjoy your day off.
There were nights though that were one long series of fights. When payday fell on a Friday… holy shit. Fucking music blasting so loud that you’d have people in the housing area an eighth of a mile away complaining. You’d hear that shit and run upstairs and have them turn it down and then somebody else on another floor would crank it up.
And fights… all. night. long. Motherfuckers would get along great for 29 days, but on payday weekends they couldn’t wait to get fucked up and beat the shit out of each other.
We kept a log and were supposed to record each time one of us left the desk and why, with a detailed summary of every incident. I tried really really hard to handle everything myself and turn in a clean log every time with the only entries being meal and potty breaks, but I can remember a couple times turning in a fucking log book with See additional pages written in it.
Teddy occasionally got a workout on those nights. Not often, but it happened every great once in a while.
You’d hear a ruckus upstairs, so you’d go to the room and find yourself standing in the middle of a 6-way fistfight, I mean motherfuckers would just be whaling on each other. Some CQs would wade right into the middle of it getting some stick (or payback) time, some would try to break it up by talking but unless somebody was in serious danger of being injured, my normal inclination was to just let ’em fight themselves out. Fuck it, why should I risk getting hurt? They’re almost done anyway. Look at it this way: By the time I heard it and got up there, a full minute has passed. They’re already wore out – you try fighting hard while drunk for a good sixty seconds and tell me you ain’t sucking wind. They may, just maybe, be good for another 30 seconds or so and what damage can they cause in those last few seconds that they hadn’t already inflicted upon themselves? As long as there isn’t any weapons, broken limbs or ganging up on somebody, I’m gonna kick back and watch the last of the fight. Keep it fair boys and work those frustrations out. I don’t give a fuck. Next month you can show me the same respect.
When a beer bottle or whatever gets picked up though, that’s when you gotta get involved. If you can get a decent shot, give him a courtesy shot to the solar plexus, not too hard, just enough to stagger him back a couple steps and get his attention. If that don’t work, whack him a good one across the thighs. If he’s still bent on killing somebody, go to town on that motherfucker, just don’t hit him in the head. You can justify breaking a rib or two, but not beating him to death. That shit would really piss Top off. It was rare that somebody would get a beat-down with the CQ stick but it has happened.
I remember one night just when a fight was winding down, a couple of other guys ran into the room to help their buddies out. It was an admirable notion but their timing was a bit off. Well shit, they were already there so they restarted the fight and I wasn’t in the greatest of moods and besides, this shit wasn’t fair so I skipped the courtesy jab and whacked the nearest one across the midsection right out the gate. He grabs a table leg and turns towards me so I took a fencing stance – right leg bent, left leg behind me – and hollered “En garde, motherfucker” holding my stick straight out. It struck the dude so funny he started laughing, put his club down and walked out with his partner following.
I told somebody about it, I don’t remember who, and he thought it was so funny, yet effective that he tried the same thing a few months later and promptly got his ass kicked by somebody that had no sense of humor at all.
It was the same rooms that gave the CQ the most trouble – the ones with the 24 hour parties. Strangely enough, the Redneck Rooms weren’t on that list. They were located down at the end of the hallway so there wasn’t a lot of foot traffic past them, the music was kept to a reasonable level and 90% of the fights that took place in there were just brief flurries.
There was never any trouble in the female hall. Not a single one that I can recall. We never went there when we doing doing a walk through and while the entrance to their hallway was to the CQ desk’s right, it was closed off with a bulkhead complete with locking door. They kept their music down and they didn’t fistfight amongst themselves when they got drunk.
I was CQ runner one night and was manning the desk while the CQ went upstairs to grab a book or something when I heard this high pitched squeal and then running feet. I went to the stairwell to see what the hell was going on and damned near got ran over by the CQ who had this wild-eyed look on his face. “A rabbit! A great big fucking rabbit!”
“A what, man?”
A FUCKING RABBIT ‘BOUT THIS BIG!!!” he yells as he holds his hands up to his ribcage.
“You got any of that shit for sale, man?” I was laughing because his face was bright red, he was shaking and spraying spit everywhere. And he actually looked like he believed what he was saying.
“GO LOOK! THIRD FLOOR!” he says. Okay, I will. I got about 3 steps up, turned and went back and grabbed Teddy. Just in case, you know? I got up to the third floor and just as I stepped into the hallway from the stairwell, I saw something out of the corner of my eye run into the latrine down at the end of the hall, so I walked down that way. I don’t know exactly what I was expecting – I mean, it’s not every day you get a giant rabbit running rampant in the barracks, right?
Man, I stuck my head around the corner and the biggest motherfucking rabbit I ever saw charged my ass. I screamed like a little bitch, flung Teddy at it and hauled ass and as I was thundering down the hallway I could hear the CQ yelling up the stairwell “I FUCKING TOLD YOU SO!!!”
We formulated a plan that involved me rounding up the next two drunks coming through the door and capturing Bugs with a sheet. The next two guys were black guys from fucking Chicago or Detroit, city boys, so I started pumping up the size of this rabbit, how it had fangs this fucking long and how it almost ripped my arm off taking Teddy away from me. They thought I was bullshitting but the CQ was nodding his head so fast and his eyes were so wide open they began to believe me. Shit, I was beginning to believe me.
We got a sheet and was creeping up on the latrine when a door slammed down the hallway behind us, startling the other 2 guys so bad they took off running to their rooms. Oh well, it looks like it’s just me and the Big Bad Bunny.
It was actually pretty anti-climatic. I took a deep breath and stuck my head around the doorway and there was that monster rabbit in the middle of the floor, calmly licking Teddy. I tossed the sheet over it and then piled on. Once it quit struggling enough I grabbed it by its ears to control it and went downstairs to show off my conquest.
When I got downstairs, the CQ backed into a corner. When I pulled it out and showed him he told me “You stupid fucker, you got its baby. Mama’s still up there.”
It was a European Hare, kind of like a jackrabbit on steroids. I swear that damned thing was 3 feet long and weighed a good 10-15 pounds. I’d seen them before, but never within 50 yards or so and had no idea they got that big.
What we never figured out was who smuggled it in to the barracks and how they managed to catch it in the first place.
I was pulling CQ one payday night and the phone rang. It was the MP company across the street informing me that they had Pvt So-and-so in custody for public drunkenness and would I please call the Commanding Officer or First Sergeant so they could come sign for his release? I hung up and went back to my book. “Aren’t you going to call somebody?” the runner wanted to know. He was a new guy and didn’t know the ropes yet.
“Naw, I’ll just wait until we rack up 3 or 4 more before I roust somebody out of bed” I said. Fuck it, it wasn’t one of my buddies.
I heard a whoosh whoosh of fire extinguishers one night and walked upstairs to investigate. As I turned the corner into the hallway, the last thing I saw was bright red – a fire extinguisher headed right towards my head. Knocked me out cold, man. The runner heard the clang all the way downstairs and saying fuck the rules, he left the desk and charged upstairs to investigate, finding me laying in the stairwell. He pulled me downstairs, my fucking head bouncing off every stair and hit me with some ammonia, then as I was trying to clear my head, he called Top before I could stop him. It’s just as well that he did because that entire hallway was white from the fire extinguisher fights the boys were having and he’d have found out anyways.
Top got there and put the entire floor on lockdown, then started beating on doors making everybody come out of their rooms. The culprits weren’t too hard to find – 3 black dudes that looked like Casper. Why did they clock me? Pure accident – they had emptied the fire extinguishers and were throwing the empties at each other to keep them from reaching a fresh one. I just happened to step out onto the floor when one was whizzing past.
In spite of the hassles of pulling CQ, every year at Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year I volunteered for it. They’d get 4 unmarried volunteers and we’d pull the duty over the Holidays. It worked out pretty good – the married guys got to spend those days with their families and for us that was pulling duty, it was 24 hours on, then 3 full days off. Top would get his volunteers and then assign the days by drawing one name out of a hat. That guy was stuck for New Year’s, and then he’d do the schedule backwards from there. Everybody except for the guy pulling duty on New Year’s Eve was happy.
I’ve pulled duty on both Thanksgiving and Christmas. No big deal – I didn’t have family with me and everybody in the barracks was pretty melancholy and homesick anyways, so basically it was just a nice quiet evening for me with the next 3 days off.
CQ was a money making opportunity as well. If you were going on leave or had a weekend planned and needed money, you’d start taking other people’s duty for a fee, 30 bucks for duty during the week, 50 bucks for weekend duty. If you had leave scheduled 4-5 months away, you could make some decent pocket change for your vacation if you were willing to pull duty 2 or 3 times a week.
I had to pull Battalion Guard Duty three times when I was in the army, once when I was with the 26th Signal Battalion and twice when I was in B/44. The 44th’s Battalion HQ was in Mannheim so we got loaned to the 26th Bn for that.
The first time it happened I was a Private E-2 or PFC and my NCOs tried to impress upon me the importance of it all and how I had to pass a uniform inspection, recite my General Orders and all that other good shit.
No big deal. I had a pair of shiny boots, an inspection ready uniform hanging in my locker and a fresh haircut. As far as my General Orders go, well, I could just wing it. I hadn’t been out of basic all that long, they’d probably come back to me.
I went and drew my weapon and a magazine with a whopping 3 rounds of ammo and wandered across the quad to HQ where I stood my inspection, actually remembered my first General Order which was all I was asked to recite and then hung out until we lowered and folded the Colors. After that we headed up to the Guard Room which wasn’t the fucking armory I was expecting – it had 2 cots, a few chairs, coffee percolator and hot plate, a weapons rack left over from when it was a Wehrmacht Kaserne in The Big One and a bookshelf. Other than doing 1 two hour tour of the motor pools, I stayed in that little room reading and napping. All in all it wasn’t that bad a deal when you consider that I got the next day off for basically laying around most of the night.
The next time was about a year later and was a little rougher. For one thing my boots weren’t shiny any more and I no longer had a special uniform just for inspections. Plus I couldn’t remember any of my General Orders or even how many of them there were.
But I got through it all right, passing the night away reading Joseph Wambaugh’s “The Choirboys” for the first time and laughing my ass off.
The third time resulted in me getting my ass beat.
I volunteered because it was before a weekend and I had a day off scheduled for Friday anyways. If I took the duty on Wednesday night it would give me Thursday off too. I checked the duty roster and then asked the guy that was scheduled if he wanted to dump it and explained why I wanted it. He was cool with it so I took his spot.
Now we had come in from the field just 9 or 10 days earlier and as we were dropping the tower, we really dropped a part of the tower 200 feet straight down, destroying that section when the eye securing the winch line broke. If that wasn’t bad enough, we still had the aircraft warning tower light attached to the section and that motherfucker just exploded when the section hit the ground. The tower section wasn’t a big deal, I knew A/26’s tower team had a couple extra sections so I could swap something for one of them (that’s how the real army supply system worked) but that tower light was going to be a problem. I didn’t know anybody that had one. I mean, it was just a yellow rotating beacon like we had on top of our wreckers and fuel trucks but I just didn’t know where to get one. I did the correct procedure and filled out the ton of paperwork that goes along with fucking anything up which includes ordering a new one but anybody that’s ever been in the military can tell you that the supply system moves so slowly that it was doubtful we would receive that light before I was discharged and folks, I am not bullshitting you there. But correct procedure or not, I needed a tower light.
So that night as I’m walking my guard duty tour in the motor pools with my weapon and magazine with probably the same three rounds, I looked over and saw the tower light that I needed laying there unattended and nobody around. Not only that but I was the guard and was supposed to chase anybody off that should happen to wander into the area.
Being a good guard I wandered over to make sure it was secure and yup, it sure was – attached firmly to the top of B/26’s wrecker. It was so secure that a thief would need a ratchet with a 5/8″ deep well socket and a 5/8″ box end wrench and maybe a little WD-40 to get it off. A pair of TLs too.
So I marched my young military ass over to our motor pool, got the required tools and stole that sumbitch. Then I hustled back to our motor pool and put it in its proper place in the tower trailer. When I was done I wandered back to the guard room and reported that all was secure, not even a UFO sighting.
The following Monday there was a surprise equipment inspection from Battalion Headquarters up in Mannheim. We fell out in the motor pool and unloaded our tower which was duly inventoried and any losses or missing items were cross checked with Supply. I was missing one tower section and there was one on order, so I was pretty much cleared on that. I got dinged for some minor shit like having a tower light on order because it had supposedly been destroyed when there was obviously nothing wrong with mine. Heh.
The motor pool however was in a tizzy. It seems that sometime over the weekend somebody had stolen their wrecker’s light. The bad part was one of the mechanics had been standing around and noticed that I had one sitting right there on the blacktop and theirs was missing off the wrecker. Oh, and by the way, wasn’t I laughing just a couple weeks ago about how that fucking tower light exploded when the tower section hit the ground? About how I was picking pieces of it out of trees 75 feet away? Uh-huh. Did I tell anybody at all how I managed to secure another one? No fucking way – some things you keep to yourself because, well, loose lips sinks ships and all that.
Fucking motor pool beat my ass, man. When they were taking a break from kicking my ass I tried to explain that I had stolen mine from B/26, not them, but they weren’t having none of that shit. The proof was back on top of their wrecker, wasn’t it? Even if I didn’t actually steal theirs I was responsible for theirs coming up missing.
I did some checking around later and found out that the Friday night after I had guard duty, a mechanic from B/26 had it. Earlier that day he noticed that some dirty bastard had stolen their wrecker light, so he did the same thing I did – he stole one from another company’s wrecker, the fucking thief… talk about what goes around comes around.
Oh yeah – we managed to swap a spare guy line winch for a light over at 22nd Maintenance which is where I should’ve went to begin with.
So that’s about it for unusual stories about pulling duty if that gives you any indication of how fucking boring it was most nights. Looking back, it seems like 90% of the incidents occurred either on Payday weekend or the first couple days after we came out of the field.
Other than the Giant Rabbit deal, about the only other really unusual thing that happened was a kid tried to commit suicide by cutting his wrists in the shower. He might have been successful but what the fuck, if you were serious about killing yourself you wouldn’t want to do it in a common area, right? I was back in the States at the time on a 45 day leave, and the kid had gotten assigned to the company after I left. By the time I got back from leave it was all over but the laughing about it.