Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Overread in Green Part 2

This edition: The cast of characters from my army days.

The Gomer
He was simply incapable of doing anything right. He couldn't make it to formation on time. He wasn't prepared for inspections. No one counted on him to do anything correctly, with one exception. He was very good at one of the main jobs we were supposed to do. So that's what he did. He was a really nice guy though. It actually really worked out really well for him. Everyone knew better than to give him important jobs, so he didn't have to stress about anything. He'll never need to worry about screwing up too bad because the army will take care of him. We came in at the same time, and when I was screaming at the walls in frustration, he was getting ready to sign up again. He could still be in for all I know.

The Family Man
This guy was unique. He was a young guy, but already married and had 3 kids. He was a big good-ol' boy with a perfect southern twang. He was a cussing, poker-playing SOB who would backtalk the officers and get away with it. He was famous for convincing the NCOs that there was no need to go on the long runs - a good basketball game would be just as good for us. He had been a hard blackout-style drinker, but when his wife asked him to quit cold-turkey, he did. He also had a MA in the history of Arabic people in southern Spain, but he didn't like to talk about it too much. The trick was that he was pretty convinced that he would never be able to leave the army. Even with his army salary and benefits, he was still on food stamps. Without the army services (childcare, health, family support etc...) he said there was no was he could survive on the outside. He hated the army, but he knew how to game the system. He's probably still in, but doing fine.

The Closet Cases
Don't ask, don't tell, my ass. There are plenty of homosexuals and bisexuals in the service, and they're asking and telling, at least where I was. The trick is, that nobody really cared unless you wanted to make a scene. For example, even the woman who went to the middle of the main room at the air force bar and played tonsil-hockey with a civilian woman probably wouldn't have been an issue if she hadn't really wanted out of the air force anyway. On the other hand, one of the strongest, most gifted, most motivated soldiers that I knew in the service got so frustrated with the way things were being run that she went to her superior and simply told him. Of course, he already knew and told her that she shouldn't 'tell.' Then she told him again, and said she meant it. He had to start up the paperwork.

Speaking of trying to get out, I would be remiss if I didn't include the others who got kicked out for one reason or another. The sad case was the guy who was brilliant at the job we did as well as a very important related field. The thing was, that he was a big guy, tall and a bit overweight, too. Now, all soldiers are soldiers first, so he had to be able to do all the soldiering tasks, one of which is a whole lot of running. He ran and ran and ran. We ran with him and tried to encourage him, but eventually, he just couldn't run fast enough. Boot. Then there were the eating disorders. If you tend to obsess over your weight, the army is not the place for you, because, just like if you are unable to run fast enough, if your weight is off, then you're out. So, for the woman who just decided the army wasn't for her, there's one easy (but nasty) way out. Drink ranch dressing. Drink a lot of ranch dressing. Weight goes up, poof! She goes civilian. Of course on the other end of that was the young officer who ran a little under 10 miles per day and once guiltily admitted that as a treat for herself, she didn't peel her 5 grapes that she had for lunch. She was pretty short, but might have weighed 85 pounds soaking wet. The last I heard of her was that the navy 'reassigned' her so she could do a different job while receiving some counseling.

And then of course, there was me :)