OPINION

Once upon a time the Army had more boats than the Navy and more airplanes than the Air Force.  It's true...and a huge fleet of locomotives operating all over the world.  Somewhere in the sixties when I wasn't looking, someone in the puzzle palace decided it wasn't kosher that the largest navy in the United States was the Army...and the Air Force masters said, "Yeah!"  

So the decision was made to take away almost all of the watercraft jobs in the Army and reclassify those soldiers to some job more fitting of the Army.  And they gave the boats to the Navy.  And the Air Force said, "Yeah!"  and made a play for all the airplanes, too, 'cause it wasn't kosher for the biggest air force in the United States to be the Army.  And they got all the big planes.  The Army managed to hang on to the helicopters (because no matter what anyone tells you....NO ONE likes helicopters).   Most of the railroad stuff is still around but the majority of movements by rail are done by contractors now.

Anyway, by the mid-80's it was extremely rare to meet anyone in the Army who was a boat driver.  It was a rare and coveted position.  But meet one I did when he was fired from his boat job (having to do with inappropriate diddling with lower-ranking female soldiers).  I was called into the Truckmaster's office and introduced to Ron, who was going to be assigned to my platoon as a driver, even though as an E-6 Staff Sergeant he was entitled to some sort of leadership position.  The conditions of his assignment were made clear to me and I did what all good troops do...salute and execute (metaphorically...NCO's do commonly salute each other as a sign of respect, but it ain't official or required).

Ron could drive a truck, loved chocolate milk shakes, and lived right across the cul de sac from me in the Army family housing area.  And he loved the Seattle Seahawks.  On the occasions when the Seahawks played the Raiders,  we could hear the cheering over at his house (as they probably could hear us when the Raiders scored - this was the middle eighties;  the Raiders knew how to score in those days).  And apparently, Ron kept up his extra-marital activities when he was on the road.  I heard rumors but had no firm proof.  I warned him a time or two, but I never actually caught him in the act,  so...

We had a standard commitment of 3-8 trucks every week to the Army Reserve Center in Los Alamitos - near Anaheim.  It was rotated between the platoons so we would send trucks to Los Al every three weeks.  The guys loved it because it was at least one overnight and sometimes two.  Los Al was a half-mile from the race track and walking distance from Disneyland (Steven Wright says that everywhere is walking distance if you have enough time).  The drivers were billeted in a fairly nice visiting officer billet...kind of a military motel.  

I started hearing rumors that Ron was bringing ladies into the visiting officer quarters (VOQ) when he was on that trip.  Again, I never saw it,  I just heard about it.  One of the problems with this particular activity is that in the civilian world, it is none of my business who is zooming who.  But not so in the Army, friends.  Adultery and other lewd behaviors are chargeable offenses under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).   And when NCO's don't obey the law...every Joe in the platoon knows about it and it does affect discipline and order...and respect for the other NCO's.

Then one week there came a special commitment from Los Al to Reno that required extra trucks and senior leadership to go along on the trip...in this case,  that meant me.  We went to Los Al with our normal weekly loads plus about eight other trucks that were empty that would load at Los Al for the special trip.  We arrived and got unloaded and spotted all the trucks to get loaded for the trip to Reno (Actually to Fallon NAS, some distance from Reno).  

We spent the next day getting loaded and securing the loads and checking things out for an early morning departure the next day.  

In the morning I was with my two squad leaders discussing a breakfast when I spotted Ron leaving the VOQ with a large blond woman.  They were too far away for me to yell and I wouldn't have anyway;  I was going to save it for a more discreet time.  After breakfast we formed up all the drivers and guess who wasn't ready to roll out yet?  I pulled him aside and unloaded on him.  I am not a screamer;  in fact, I have on occasion brought grown men to tears without raising my voice at all.  I explained to Ron that in the dry-foot Army, Staff Sergeants are leaders who are expected to set an example, not be a laggard that causes the unit to miss a departure time.  I guess the opportunity to learn leadership is limited when you are stationed on a boat with only three other soldiers.  I finished up with a final warning, "...and further more, there will be no more fat-butted blondes traipsing out of your room at 0500...is that clear?"

Ron was visibly upset, angry for being upbraided, I figured...but the talk did some good.  He actually improved his performance in the weeks that followed that trip and got to the point where I could trust him to be in charge of things and act like a real sergeant.  But I always felt bad about that morning...after I dismissed him from our little counseling session and he went off to finish getting his gear loaded and his truck started and all that, one of the squad leaders leaned into me and quietly informed me:  "Uh, Sergeant...that "fat-butted blonde" ?  That was his wife, she drove down yesterday so they could go to dinner together last night"

So every time, like tonight, when the Hawks and Raiders play, I think of Ron and "fat-butted blondes"...I never came up with any way to apologize for that one.  I am sorry, Ron.

 


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