Extra duty is a mild form of punishment used in the military for minor fuck-ups, anything from not getting a haircut to failing inspections to being drunk in public to being a general pain in the ass.
You can be ‘awarded’ extra duty from damned near anybody in any kind of position of authority over you at the company level. If it’s coming from somebody above the company level, extra duty is the least of your worries because you’re probably going to lose a pair of stripes and some pay as well as some stockade time.
Your Section or Team chief can give you extra duty.
Your Platoon Sergeant can give you extra duty.
Your Platoon Leader can give you extra duty.
Your First Sergeant can give you extra duty and finally,
The Executive and Commanding officers can give you extra duty.
That’s a lot of motherfuckers you’ve got to keep from pissing off.
In reality, a Section or Team Chief hardly ever handed down extra duty to an individual. I know I never did. These guys are in no real position of authority and usually don’t even have rank on their team members – they’re in charge solely by time in grade, not superior rank or ability. Besides, who wants to be known as a lifer prick?
A Platoon Sergeant gives out extra duty for shit that happens on a platoon level and so is dealt with on the platoon level. Not being where you’re supposed to be or not doing what you’re supposed to be doing (also known as ghosting or shamming) and arguing with your platoon sergeant will get you extra duty real quick.
Platoon Leaders technically could hand it out but being second lieutenants and still not entirely sure of themselves, they just usually pass that shit down to the Platoon Sergeant so they could spend more time popping their pimples, chewing bubblegum and reading comic books.
The First Sergeant handled anything pushed up from the platoon level, and reviewed any incidents that happened off post no matter how minor and anything unusual that caught his eye as it passed through his hands. I’d say Top handled a good 90% of the punishments before the CO caught it.
If you got extra duty from the CO, that means you fucked up pretty good and just got an Article 15. You probably lost a stripe, a months pay, and picked up a minimum of 2 weeks extra duty – that’s 2 hours a day for fourteen days.
Article 15s are fucked up. When you go into his office, there’s already a presumption of guilt. You ain’t there to plead your case, you’re just there so they can see the look on your face when you hear what that drunken brawl at City Hotel or DUI just cost you. That gives them something to laugh about later that night over drinks in the club. They read the charges, then ask if you have anything to say. Your best hope here is that you can tell such a good story that they’ll lessen your punishment. After that waste of time, the CO will pronounce your punishment and it’s done deal. It’s my understanding that you can refuse the punishment, but if you do that you face a general court martial. Nobody in their right mind wants to face a court martial. Not only will you lose but the penalties are increased.
Before you ask, no. I have never gotten an Article 15. I have stood up before Top a time or two though.
I don’t know if Top administering punishment was regular practice in many other units, but it damned sure was for us. I mentioned something about Top handing out extra duty to a buddy of mine in the 237th Engineers and he just looked at me kinda funny. His CO handled everything and he was grateful for that because his First Sergeant was so fucking hardass he made his wife and kids do PT every morning.
Monday was the day that they heard cases, which made sense seeing as there was more shit going on over the weekend – more people drinking and fighting, more people off post drinking, shit like that.
Yeah man, You be standing there in formation first thing in the morning and the platoon sergeant would announce a couple names and tell you to report to the First Sergeant’s office right after formation. No biggie, unless you’d blacked out with no witnesses, you knew it was coming anyways.
Top had a pretty good sense of humor. He was a hard motherfucker but fair, and he was somewhat reasonable. I’d be standing at Parade Rest in front of his desk with him reading the report muttering “Whaaaa…” and “Are you fucking kidding me?” and “You didn’t really…” making it sound way worse than it really was and maybe he should kick this up past the company level and perhaps have me executed or something.
The first couple times I was sweating it but once I figured out that was just him, it was easy to ride out. He’d finish the report and if he didn’t break a pencil while he was reading it, that meant he was gonna be the one to handle it. He’d just look at you over the top of his glasses and pronounce his sentence: “X number of hours at my discretion.”
‘His discretion’ meant that if he needed something done after hours, you were his boy. If he happened to notice a scuff on the hallway floor, you stripped, mopped, waxed and buffed the entire hallway that night. And painting? Holy shit. I’ve painted the inside of the orderly room so many times I bet it lost a cubic foot of interior space.
If you had extra duty riding on Tops’ Books, you made sure that motherfucker was gone for the night before you ventured out of your room, otherwise if he saw you you’d be spending the evening scrubbing the grout in the communal shower room.
He still got me one night – I saw him climb in his car, leave post and turn towards the housing area. I got dressed and was headed out of the barracks when the fucking CQ saw me and said “Hey Lane, Top says he wants you to…” and I just thought ‘you sly motherfucker…’
Extra duty wasn’t too bad though. I mean, it was usually mundane tedious make-work shit, not labor intensive for the most part – it was shit like cleaning and general maintenance, although Top could get spiteful at times. I have seen a motherfucker waxing Top’s steel office door, even polished up the door handle real nice.
But yeah, it was usually cleaning the latrine or shower, waxing and buffing barracks floors, painting, shit like that. Hell, 9 times out of 10 after the lifers went home all your buds would stop by the shower room with cold beer to help pass the time, next thing you know everybody’s pitching in and 2 hours worth of work is done in 45 minutes tops.
It was not unusual at all to have somebody stop by the room and say “Hey, So-and-so is cleaning the attic/latrine/basement. Grab a bottle and let’s go.”
Extra duty was strictly a garrison deal – 99% of it was earned while in garrison and that’s where it was done. When we were out in the field we were working anywhere from 12-18 hours a day 7 days a week so what’s the fucking point of adding 2 hours onto somebody’s day? Shit, they’re already exhausted.
You did your extra duty after hours, Monday through Friday. The only time you pulled it on the weekends is if you had so many hours accumulated that you’d likely have to re-enlist to work them off on the 10 hour a week schedule.
And yeah, we had guys like that. I mean, there were stretches where I had 20-30 hours on the books and I think my personal best was 64 hours (I was a spirited young lad) but we had motherfuckers that were permanent fixtures on extra duty. I mean, they had their own personal mops and buckets and brooms assigned to them, responsible for their own paintbrushes and shit. They spent so much time under a paint brush that they had permanent paint spatters on their faces.
I was mopping a floor one evening and this guy walks up to me and says “Hey man, you got my mop.”
Say what? “It’s just a fucking mop. There’s a whole locker full of mops just like it.”
“Yeah” he says, “but that’s my mop.” He’s looking all expectant and shit so I give him the old line “Has it got your name on it?”
He nods and points. Fuck me, it does. I gave it to him and found an ‘unassigned’ mop.
I was in my room kicking back reading, on my first beer with no plans for the evening other than a good book and there’s a knock at my door and then again and again. It looks like somebody needs an asswhipping with the patience stick.
I opened the door and it’s one of my buddies who happens to be on CQ that night and he’s looking all distressed. “Hey bro, are you drinking? I need a huge favor if you’re not.”
“Maybe a half a beer, what’s up?”
“My wife just went to labor” As soon as I heard that I started changing into fatigues “and I want to go to the hospital. I got ahold of Top and he told me to find somebody sober to take my duty. Please?”
“Yeah man, go. Congratulations to you and Mary” or whatever the fuck her name was.
About 10 minutes later I’m at the desk recording what just happened in the log and the phone rings. “Bravocompany44thsignalbattalionspecialistlanespeakinghowmayihelpyousir?”
“Oh fuck, it’s you. First Sergeant here. You got everything under control?”
“Yeppers. No sweat, Top.”
“How come you were in the barracks and not out fucking shit up on this fine Friday night?” He sounded genuinely interested. He was probably drinking.
“Gotta take a break from the mayhem every once in a while, First Sergeant. Plan new shit to get into, lick my wounds, that sort of thing, you know?”
“Ha! Listen, you kept me from having to come in and I’m feeling generous so I’m taking 12 hours of extra duty off your books for this.” Yup, he’d had a few.
“Right on, but I don’t have 12 hours. I’m thinking I’m down to 4.” It was probably 8 but at this point it didn’t matter if he was sweeping the books clean.
“No problem, I’ll just credit them towards your next fuck up” he says.
Did he really just give me permission to go get in 6 or 8 hours worth of trouble free of charge?
Like I said earlier, extra duty was usually a pretty mundane job but even mundane jobs have the potential to create a minor international incident.
We had this guy named Sanchez in our platoon. We called him Beaner because his name was Sanchez, he was whiter than David Duke and was from Wisconsin. Yeah, he had no clue about his name.
Anyways, Beaner gets pissed off at Sgt Smif’ one day, loses the argument and gets hit with extra duty and because Smif’ has no problem with being known as a lifer prick, he tells Beaner his job is to mow the field Saturday. Fucking Saturday, man.
It’s about an acre, located to the left front of our barracks and behind the chow hall. It’s not our responsibility to mow it, there’s a tractor that mows it bush-hog style every couple weeks, but it also gets mowed regularly by ours and A/26’s fuck-ups. We even shared a Briggs & Stratton lawn mower.
Now our barracks sat right on the perimeter of the kaserne next to the main gate with nothing between us and a fairly heavily traveled street except for the field and a ten foot high chain link fence with a few rusty strands of barbed wired on top.
Beaner’s huffing and puffing and cussing Smif’ and hits a high spot in the field about 10-15 yards from the fence and launches a stone about the size of large marble. This fucking rock exits through the discharge chute and flies through the fence without hitting a single wire in the mesh and smacks Herman the German right between the running lights as he’s walking down the sidewalk and fucking drops him like a pole-axed steer. WHAP! and he’s laying on the ground twitching. One shot one kill. It was like a modern art interpretation of David and Goliath, bro.
Even though this happened in the middle of a Saturday on the sidewalk of a fairly busy thoroughfare with a bunch of people around, nobody actually saw it happen. Herman’s walking down the street flipping though some papers one second and the next second he’s flopped out in the street gurgling and making other funny noises. Hell, even ol’ Beaner didn’t realize what had happened until he looked up and saw a crowd gathering, but being a bright young man and fairly sober he put two and two together and actually came up with four. He sprinted towards the barracks and hollered at the CQ to call an ambulance and then he ran out the gate and over to his Goliath to see if he could render assistance or at least check out the size of his trophy.
He could’ve done better as far as trophies go. This guy was some minor German government official like Assistant Secretary to the Vice Minister of Rural Sewage or something like that.
But Herman was pissed. I mean, I can understand him being upset seeing as he ain’t doing nothing but going to a very important meeting minding his own business and all of a sudden he’s flat on his back all crosseyed and shit, but damn, sometimes shit happens. It was a pure accident. Wrong place at the wrong time and all that, right? Dude needs to calm the fuck down, man.
Once he gets his wits together, he sits up and starts cussing and hollering and raising holy hell. Folks are trying to restrain him until an ambulance gets there but he’s not having any of it. The fucking polizei show up before the ambulance – our dispensary is like 500 yards away and there’s still no signs of life outside it – and start trying to take statements but like I said, nobody saw nothing, up to and including the victim. Beaner gives his statement which basically consisted of “I was mowing the field. I hit a rock. A couple seconds later I looked up and saw Herman the German on the ground doing the chicken. I called for an ambulance. End of Statement.”
Herr Herman wasn’t letting this go. He was demanding justice and getting louder and louder about it. Fucking Beaner realizes that the guy ain’t gonna die and of course he’s feeling a little relieved about that so he lets out kind of a nervous laugh. The German dude sees that and gets even more indignant so he stomps over to Beaner and bitch-slaps him across the face which took Beaner completely by surprise so he smacks the guy back purely out of reflex and knocks him out for the second time in ten minutes.
That was all it took. The GP arrested Beaner and hauled him off to jail downtown and held him without charges for a few days, then turned him over to the MPs while they mulled over what to charge him with. The German and American authorities went back and forth for a while until Beaner had a family emergency back in the States a few months later and flew back to attend to that. I don’t know if he got a compassionate reassignment closer to home or if the military saw a great opportunity to eliminate the problem, but he never came back to Germany.