24.4.07

Leroy Takes Charge

This blog post and the other three

below it on this page

are actually four parts of one continuous story

that is read from here to the bottom of the page.


One day on Okinawa in 1970, I was over in the 30th Artillery Brigade Headquarters office building's little snack bar sitting on a stool at the little snack bar lunch counter there while eating a two-bit fried bologna sandwich and sipping on a nice cold, Grape Nehi soda.

The snack bar was run by an Okinawan husband and wife who were very friendly and great jokesters; they had outstanding Americanized Okinawan comic timing and were easy to get along with. I always enjoyed my times with them.

There was this African American U.S. Army captain in there that day, Capt. Sawyer, whom I had never seen nor heard of before. He was sitting over at a table and talking to a buddy of mine, Sp.4 Marion. Marion was a clerk somewhere in the 30th Arty Bgde Headquarters.

Marion was asking the captain about what could be done in retaliation if Marion’s suspicions that his wife had a live-in lover, back home in America, were true. For some reason, Marion had been reading strange things between the lines of his wife’s letters to him that made him believe that the monthly, Army dependent checks, which the Army was sending to his wife and their two kids, were not only supporting her and the kids but also a new man in her life. Marion was a pleasant, sober thinking and acting married guy, but he had some bad things to think about that day, which would cause most people to contemplate doing the wrong thing.

Sp.4 Marion said to Capt. Sawyer, “Can I cut the checks off?”

Capt., “No you can’t do that, it’s illegal. There are rules that keep the paymaster from doing that without a lot of the right paper work going through, and that could only happen if you and your wife got a divorce. But, then you would probably have to pay her alimony and child support.”

Sp.4, “I can take care of stopping those checks without getting a divorce; between what I can do at my desk, and who I know at other desks, I can get it done.”

Capt., “Aha! Then I can get you for bloobidy blabidy (I wasn’t listening to every word they were saying or hearing it all clearly, because of my usual comic interactions with the husband and wife snack bar hosts).”

Sp.4, “But what if I blimpity blampity, and then that will get her good.”

Capt., “Ahh. Well then I’ll get you for shippity shmapitty.”

Sp.4, loudly, “Well what if I go home on leave, when they don’t know I’m comin’, catch him there in my house with my wife and kids, and beat the livin’ daylights outa him.”

Capt., sneeringly, delightedly, “Yeah! Then I can get you for all kinds of charges and put you in the stockade to do hard time.”

My attention had fully peaked by then, and I heard every word of those last two statements clearly.

I couldn’t believe my ears. Capt. Sawyer was relishing the thoughts of punishing Sp.4 Marion for doing something that he had not done yet, probably couldn’t get the nerve up to ever even attempt to do and so most likely wasn’t ever going to do.

Them two soldiers went on with their conversation a bit longer, until, all totaled, I had heard Capt. Sawyer say the words, “Then I’ll get you for,” or “Then I can get you for,” at least eight times.

In my time in the Army, I had witnessed too many men getting Dear John letters and other bad news from home.

There’s an old dogface soldier saying:

“What’s the best thing that can happen to a soldier?

Answer= “Getting mail.”

“What’s the worst thing that can happen to a soldier?”

Answer= “Reading it.”

Usually, when a guy is in my buddy Sp4 Marion’s position, some other one, or several, of us soldiers, who know him best, helps him to work it out somehow. We talk with him, we walk with him, we sit with him, we stay with him till we’re sure that we have done all that we can to ease his troubles.

On several occasions previous to that, I had overheard Jilted Johns being warned not to do something stupid, which they had just told one of their higher ranking comrades that they were contemplating doing. But, up until that day, the higher ranking soldier had always given his lower ranking comrade that warning not to do something stupid in a tone of voice, and with obvious body language, that indicated that it would cause him personal pain to have to levy the required punishment on his lower ranking comrade.

Capt. Sawyer was the first and only GDSOB who I ever knew to relish the thought of getting to punish a lower ranking soldier for loosing his grip over his own personal family problems.

As I sat there sharing jokes and laughs with the snack bar hosts, I had been glancing over towards the heartless Capt. Sawyer, and I kept thinking,
“Who the fk, what the fk, where the hell did you come from?”

The next thing that Capt. Sawyer said to Sp4 Marion was, “When I take command of headquarters company in three days, things are going to change. I’m going to straighten that mess out over there. I’m going to clean the place up and change some poor attitudes, or they will suffer the consequences.”

Capt. Sawyer was talking about the barracks that Marion and I lived in.

I took a good, hard, cold, but slightly grinning, look over at Capt. Sawyer and projected the thought towards him, “You and me is gonna tangle. Real soon.”

The 30th Artillery Brigade Headquarters Company Barracks wasn’t any kind of a mess. I assure you that our attitudes were adequate for the given conditions.
Most of the guys who lived there in barracks worked in the main office building, which was catty corner across the street from the barracks. They were friggin’ easy goin’ 9 to 5 clerks for kryste’s sake, not a bunch of hard charging infantry guys who had too much steam to blow off after training hard all day playing dangerous war games.

We kept the place as clean and as orderly as it was supposed to be.

Most guy’s personal hygiene was fine. Those men who’s personal habits began to stink were told so, and they were threatened with retaliation, in a reasonable manner, by the barracks mates who had to live near them.

And there was only one drunken fist fight in the barracks, during the whole time that I was there.

Nobody got too noisy in the barracks, especially when others had to sleep.
Conversations were always cordial, and often comical, in the chow hall. The day room was always clean, comfortable and relaxing.

I rarely ever heard of any nasty arguments amongst my barracks mates, and only one came close to physical violence, when Andy couldn't take anymore of his roommate J. T.’s twisted tormenting.

Andy was a self controlled, sensible man who was a dedicated karate student. And Okinawa was the best place in the world to be a karate student.

J.T. was a part time stereo salesman up at the Main PX, and he looked, dressed and acted the part. He gave me great advice and good deals on stereo components.

They both worked together in the company commander’s office.

J.T. could get under anybody’s skin, if they spent enough time with him. I learned quick not to invite him to drink alcohol with us, because, when he got drunk, he could really screw up a good time. He got way too drunk way too fast. I still have a set of color slides of him getting drunk and demented at a typhoon party.

When Andy had finally had his fill of J. T.’s jabbering jaw one day, he still had just enough self control left to keep him from hitting his fellow soldier, but he had to hit something, so he smashed his hand against a cinder block wall and broke his damn hand in several places.

Us guys who lived in the 30th Arty Bdge Headquarters barracks were well mannered army men. I had no idea where that new captain got his dipshit ideas, that we needed to be reigned in and retrained.

When Capt. Sawyer took over command, he immediately began to push everybody around.

His first big clean up the barracks and straighten out the bad attitudes technique was to make us scrub down the squad bays and rearrange the furniture in them.

When Capt. Sawyer took over at the 30th Arty Bge HHB, in our twenty man squad bays, we had double stacked, bunk beds set up with make shift room dividers placed between each pair of bunks. The dividers were made of wall and foot lockers. From left to right, first there was a side by side pair of wall lockers, then a pair of side by side foot lockers on two wooden stands, then another pair of side by side wall lockers.

We had the double bunks arranged across from each other in an alternating pattern that gave us the most possible privacy. It was the best pattern that anyone could come up with for any privacy at all.

On the evening of Capt. Sawyer’s first day in charge of the barracks, while the bays were being scrubbed down and the furniture was being rearranged, I happened to be CQ Runner that night.

The CQ Runner and CQ (Company Quarterly) are two guys from the unit who stay up all night, in the day room, to be there to answer the phone and/or rouse the troops in case a war breaks out or some other emergency like a fire in the barracks arises. CQ duty times were 5 PM to 9 AM on weeknights. The CQ had to stay in the day room, and the runner could only leave on official business. They both had the next day off work.

It was unusually quiet in the day room that evening, because all of the other guys, who lived in the barracks, were upstairs doing the captain’s bidding by cleaning every nook and cranny up there while totally rearranging the furniture. The CQ and I didn’t know all that yet though. We only thought that there was a big cleanup going on; we did not know about the furniture being moved around, till the next morning.

I already knew that Capt. Sawyer was the kind of SOB to make them guys do more work than was necessary for the given tasks, and I informed the CQ of that fact. Consequently, when no one came down to the day room, all evening, to watch TV, play pool or anything, we thought that they were just cleaning the place up for longer than usual.

While we were doing the first part of the CQ shift, just before 11 PM bed time, we had a couple of guys drop in from upstairs with weird looks about them. They were hot, sweaty, dusty and tired, which was normal for the kind of work they were doing, but they had weird, flustered, pissed off looks on their faces and in the way that they walked and moved. And they weren’t talking at all. Everyone else in the barracks were either already cleaned up and in bed or still taking their turns at showering and shaving.

The guys who came into the day room were all obviously having a severe, weird reaction to something. It turned out to be Capt. Sawyer’s new Feng Shui (pronounced Fung Shway), that he had instituted up in the squad bays. Those poor, tired, quiet furniture rearranges could only sit down and stare at the day room TV for just a bit.

Oh, in case ya don’t know what Feng Shui is: it’s an ancient Far Eastern system of arranging a positive home or an environment. Unfortunately, Capt. Sawyer was a thoroughly negative individual.

Our barracks mates’ weird ways caused the CQ and I to look at each other with puzzled questions on our faces, then to inquire of them as to what they had been up to up there. They only shook their heads a little and muttered mumbled words that amounted to, “You won’t believe it.”

When I went up to go to bed in the morning, I couldn’t believe it.

Most of what little privacy that we had managed to secure before, with the old furniture placement pattern, was kaput. The place looked crowded and cramped.
It was dismal.

Capt. Sawyer must have gotten the idea on how to rearrange things from a scene in an old 1940s war movie, when the future war veterans were still recruits in basic training.

Brand new Company Commander Captain Leroy Sawyer had made all of the squad bay residents take all of the wall lockers and line them up back to back, side by side in a long row down the center of the large room.

Then they had to take the top bunks down and put all of the bunks side by side, about three feet apart, perpendicular to and between the outside walls and the wall lockers, all the way down the room. The foot lockers on stands were placed at the foot of every owner’s bed. There was one long row of bunks on each side of the wall lockers, with the head of each bed placed about two and a half feet from the wall lockers.

Sure, we only had half of the beds on each side of the wall lockers, but all but the guys on the end bunks had one pair of someone else’s snoring nostrils to agitate each of their ears as they slept.

All of that previous meager privacy, that we had had, was greatly diminished. Gone were most aspects of privacy for everyday things like dressing, writing emotional letters home, quietly reading a book, just sleeping—people don’t like to be looked at by others when they’re sleeping.

The rearranged furniture definitely wasn’t placed according to the usual arrangement of a 1970 era US Army fully trained soldiers’ barracks, which afforded barracks mates as much privacy from each other and comfort with each other as possible. It made my stomach wretch and my face turn away in disgust, when I walked into the bay and saw what Leroy had done.

That was a miserable morning. There was nothing that I could do but crash out in my public area bunk.

About noon time, I was awoken by a commotion. I looked around and realized that two non-Vietnam Veteran, lifer, sergeant, clerks were re-rearranging the squad bay Feng Shui again. One was an E6 and the other was an E7. They were both married men and had homes off post. So this was interesting to see them taking care of something that normally was not their problem. It didn’t take but a few moments to find out why.

E6, “What the hell happened?”

E7, “Aw, they went to the Inspector General, the Chaplain, The Mole Hole guys went to their section chief, one who works in Colonel Hergert’s office complained directly to him, somebody called their congressman, all totaled at least a dozen of them made formal complaints to five different higher ups. Now we gotta do this.”

Them two lifers were at it all alone for the rest of the afternoon. They put every thing back the way that it had been up till the day before. Our most possible privacy was once again restored to what it had been.

Eventually, I had to get up and go take a walk. I sure as heck weren’t gonna pitch in and help, like I woulda done if I had held just a smidgen of respect for them two individuals.

The next day, a bunch of 4×8 sheets of ½ inch plywood were delivered to each bay. The two unhappy lifers came back with an electric drill, some screws, and attached one sheet of plywood to the back, inside edges of each of the two inside, side by side, wall lockers, that again had the two foot lockers on wooden stands placed between them. That added a nice bite more privacy.

Shoot, it got even better later on. An Army directive came down from way up above us, and it declared that from then on all Army barracks living quarters, at least on Okinawa, were to be set up and decorated pretty much like the residents living in them wanted to do (see http://okinawa1970-71.blogspot.com/2007/04/rockin-on-rock-okinawa.html ).








Penciled In Changes

During that first encounter of mine with Captain Leroy Sawyer, up in the snack bar, I had realized that he and I were going to tangle soon after that. He had come to the 30th Arty Bdge looking for trouble, and I was it. He was a heartless, arrogant, dumb GDSOB, and I wasn’t in the frame of mind for suffering quietly through juvenile jackass attempts at bullying myself and my comrades at arms.

It only took a week and a half till Leroy and I tangled. It was a good one.

I was scheduled to do CQ Runner Duty on a Sunday. That meant that my duty times were from 12 PM Sunday afternoon to 9 AM on Monday morning. That gave me Monday off work. It was a long stretch of added duty, but almost everyone got it sooner or later.

Saturday CQ Runner Duty had the worst deal. Duty times were 5 PM Friday evening till 12 PM Saturday afternoon. Then there was no time off, because the CQ and CQ Runner had plenty of time to get a good night’s sleep before Monday morning.

On the day before my CQ Runner duty was scheduled to take place, I didn't roll out of my bunk in the barracks till around 11:40 AM.

Ever since I was in high school, I usually showered and shaved when I woke up, because my hair has lots of body, and it looks goofy thanks to ‘bed head’ when I wake up. It is always out of style and hard to manage in the morning. I wash my hair every time that I shower, so that the water puts my hair back into the style that I like it in.

On that fateful Saturday morning, at almost noontime, in the 30th Artillery Brigade Headquarters Battery barracks, I decide to eat lunch down in the mess hall, then do my morning shower, shave, and brush my teeth routine. I don’t remember if I was hung over from the night before, but I was feeling low in the saddle. I put civilian clothes on and went into the latrine, peed, and washed my hands and face.

I looked hard at myself in the mirror and thought that I looked awful, with my morning beard hair stubble growing and my sagging soul clearly visible in my cloudy eyes. It was not a happy to still be alive type of start to my day. (You will have to read The Illegality and Immorality blog entry to see why I felt do low.)

I walked on out of the latrine and down to the first floor of the barracks where the mess hall was. Then I moseyed on over to the first floor bulletin board, where the CQ Duty Roster was posted. We were all required to check the duty rosters posted there every other day. I had checked it earlier on the Friday morning the day before that Saturday, and I saw that I still had Sunday CQ Runner Duty. There was a duty driver roster on that board, but I never had a military driver’s license, on purpose, so that did not affect me. And there were also one or two other duty rosters on there that did not pertain to me.

The duty rosters were changed every Wednesday, that was when I saw my Sunday CQ Runner posting. I had checked it again on Friday morning after breakfast. Army Rules and Regulations required that we only had to check it every other day, but I felt like looking at it on Saturday morning anyway, just to double check. I was hoping that I had been moved up to a weekday, when the duty times are 5 PM to 9 AM, and then we got the next day off.

Instead, I had been mysteriously moved back to that Saturday.

My name on the roster had been scratched out with a pencil, the name of the soldier who was originally scheduled for Saturday was scratched out with a pencil, and our names had been switched and rewritten in pencil.

Holly O’ Jeezus!

The first thing that a CQ Runner had to do on a Saturday was to take head count at 12 noon lunch. He had to stand at a podium in the entrance to the mess hall and take head count. Guys who lived in the barracks had meal cards, and they had to sign the head count sheet, put their meal card number down and show the head counter the meal card. Married men who lived off post got extra pay for meals at home, so they had to sign in and pay for their meal.

I looked down at my civilian clothes, rubbed the palm of my hand across my beard stubble and realized that I had less than fifteen minutes to get back upstairs, shower, shave, scrub my teeth and gums and run back down to the mess hall. I don’t know that I could not have done that, but I sure as hell was in no mood to do it.

When a CQ Runner was late, the CQ took head count. When they were both late, a cook took head count. I figured jeeze o’ wiz, I’ll let the CQ do headcount, take a shower, by One O’clock, and come back down and finish the twelve hour duty shift.

I knew at the exact moment that I saw the penciled in changes that those penciled in changes weren’t right, well I knew at the time that they weren’t fair.

I will tell you this now, instead of at the end of this part of my 30th Arty story, because of what happened that was too late to help me on that Saturday morning. I found out many months later, from a close friend, just before I received my Army discharge, that changing the names like that was 100% illegal. The company clerks were required by Army Rules and Regulations to retype any changed duty rosters, and replace them on all of the company’s bulletin boards with the new rosters at least three full days prior to any changes on said rosters. Either a Major or a Warrant Officer, in our brigade, told this to a friend of mine, just before I was discharged. The officer was a section leader in The Mole Hole, and my friend worked there for him.

The officer was a hard working, no nonsense technician. He didn’t play any Army games; he did his important job right and expected the same from his men. According to my friend, the officer didn’t like the way that my total screw over by the 30th had gone down. He knew that the photo lab was illegal, it was in his work area, but he couldn’t risk his career over it. He knew that the incident that I am now in the middle of telling about was wrong too. But it really wasn’t his place to do anything about it; he told my friend that the officers in my section should have done something about it. The officer sent this message to me through my friend in order to help me deal with what had become a miserable situation at the end of my time on Okinawa.

I believe that I do remember his name and rank now, but the memory of that tiny bit of support that he gave me, when I desperately needed it most, keeps me from revealing his name to you. He may still be alive, and he don’t owe me a thing.

After seeing the penciled in name changes on that CQ Duty Roster, I shuffled on back upstairs with the heavy weight of some kind of bullshit bearing down upon my shoulders. I didn’t know exactly what it was, but it sure did stink.

I went into two friend’s on mine’s double room on the third floor and told them about the penciled in changes, and that I was going to go back down to do my CQ Runner Duty after I showered and shaved and put my army fatigues on. But I was in no mood to have anyone come hassling me in the latrine, when the CQ sent guys looking for me, so I decided to wait at least a half-hour before getting ready for duty. One friend put a record on his turntable, so that I could listen to it while those two went down to eat, but they stayed there with me for awhile anyway.

All of a sudden, we heard doors being banged on loudly, down the hall, by two barracks mates and voices hollering forcefully, “Is Crews in there! Is Crews in there!”

One barracks mate was my buddy Sp4 Marion, and the other I didn’t know. Man, I couldn’t figure Marion to act so shook up on account of the CQ wanting to know where I was; the CQ was only an E5 Sergeant or Spec. 5. Marion should have just come to me on the Sergeant’s behalf, and I would have explained the pencil in changes thing and all and Marion would have denied seeing me. The other guy, I would have told what it was that I was doing and why and that he could go on down and tell the Sergeant what ever he wanted to.

As the banging and hollering moved quickly in our direction, my friends frantically asked me what I wanted to do. I said I’ll tell them what I plan on doing and that they can go away and leave me alone.

My friends said, “Crews, they sound serious, let us hide you.”

I said, “Where man, where? There ain’t nowhere, I can’t fit in a wall locker. I’ll just tell ‘um to calm down and go away. They either know I’m that way or they can learn it real fast.”

My one good friend said, “Uh uh man, no, let me listen at the door. (He puts his ear against the door.) Holy shit man! I’m tellin’ ya, they sound all shook up, you can fit in his locker, look he’ll show ya, get the fuck in there.”

My other good friend helped me get into his locker. It was the smart thing to do, because as the two Crews hounds got closer, I could hear what my friend listening at the door meant, them two, who were coming our way fast, out in the hall were like a couple of hound dogs hot on a Bob Cat’s trail.

BANG, BANG, BANG, BOOM! Went the knock on the door.

One friend opened the door and said, “Hey man! Take it easy. What’s all the noise about?”

“Is Crews in there! Is Crews in there?”

My other friend said, “Whoah! Hey, slow down! You see Crews in here? Look around. You see Crews in here? He ain’t here. What the fuck’s all the noise about? How come you want ‘im so bad? What’d he do?”

“He has CQ Runner, and he didn’t show up for head count. Captain Sawyer was in his office for half a day, and he came into the mess hall and saw the line waiting for the head count guy to show up. He told us two to go look on the board and see who’s supposed to be on CQ Runner. He’s taken over head count himself. He’s standing there yelling all over the chow hall that he’s gonna have the stripes of the man who’s on CQ Runner.”

The two hound dogs ran on down through the squad bay howling my name all over the place, the door closed, and I was let out of the locker.

My friends were concerned for me. They looked far more worried than I felt. There faces were all drawn in tight around their mouths.

I was pissed. I knew that GDSOB Sawyer had set me up somehow. He was looking for a fight. A fight that an enlisted man could not win against an officer.

Gahdamn man, what are you gonna do Crews?”

“I can’t go down there now. That gahdamned fuckin prick Sawyer will make me stand at attention while he tries to ream me out in front of everybody. I know what it is gonna be like. He’ll start yelling at me right up in my face right there at the head count podium. He’ll have the whole mess hall full of guys there watching him from behind me. He’ll make quick glances past me to check out the looks on everyone’s faces as he does it. He will be in his idea of heaven. It will be his finest military hour. That lousy son of a bitch. I won’t be able to take it. He ain’t no combat bad ass. He’s been fuckin’ with us since he got here; and everybody went over his head against ‘im when he rearranged the bunks in the squad bays, so he has it in for us all. He wants to prove somethin’ to the whole company that ain’t true. It won’t be with me. I won’t be able to take it. He sure as hell isn’t my idea of a fine, respectable leader of men. I will grab that fukin bastard by his throat, and bang his head against the wall. I won’t even know I did it till I already did. He’s bigger n’ me. But he won’t expect that. He ain’t no hand to hand combat bad ass. Does he look like a boxer to you? Don’t look like a boxer to me. He’s a lame ass nuthin. I won’t be able to hurt him too bad, before some of the guys pull me off of him. Definitely Andy will, he’s Sawyer’s clerk, he takes karate all the time, he’d have to jump in. He has to. He won’t hurt me, just stop me. I would if I was him. It’s his ass in a sling if he don’t. But I’ll be put in the stockade, sent to Ft. Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary and given a Bad Conduct Discharge. I can’t go home with that. Can’t get a good job. I’d be done for. Maybe never see my family again. That gahdamned fukin piece of shit ain’t worth it. I’ll go down after lunch and do the rest of CQ Runner. You two go on down and eat, then come back up and tell me when that asshole leaves. He ain’t getting’ away with tryin’ to make an example out of me. That penciled in crap just isn’t right. Something’s wrong about this. He set me up somehow, I know it.”

It was the break that Capt. Sawyer was looking for. He knew that it was unlikely that I would have had enough time to see that penciled in duty roster change, before I was supposed to be at headcount that day. His normal office hours were from 9AM to 5PM on weekdays only, he didn’t have to be in his office on that Saturday morning, but he was. His well stated number one goal in the 30th Arty Bgde was to always look for someone to get for something that they had done which was against Army Rules and Regulations. I knew that Capt. Sawyer was out to put on a show of power that day in front of a whole mess hall full of men, but, unfortunately, I did not know at the time that he was the only one who had broken any Army Rules and Regulations in that situation.

At one o’clock, I went down and did the rest of the CQ Runner shift.

The story that I got later, from company clerks, about the penciled in change was: the guy who originally had Saturday CQ Runner Duty and his family had been invited to a big, family style picnic. It was some official or just big important affair. Important to his wife anyway.

He was married and his wife and two kids were living on the island with him. She did not drive so he could not leave her the car to take the kids and go be with her best American girlfriends who were living on the island. Shoot, women need buddies to help them through too.

She had bitched at and bullied him about her and the kids missing the picnic, because he had CQ Runner Duty on Saturday. I heard that she was extremely nasty about it. For some reason she had to go to that picnic, or she was going to leave him and go back home to the states.

Dependent families had more than their share of depression and other similar problems on The Rock. Some people are not travelers and adventurers. They couldn’t get into the cool Asian Culture and make treasured friends amongst the Okinawans, like some military dependent women and kids did. Some people have to live close to where they grew up, and that’s all there is to it. I understand.

The Saturday guy had bitched and moaned, miserably, to the infamous Leroy and his unfortunate clerk, Andy. Then the penciled in changes were made.

All that married man had to of done would have been to ask me if I would swap duty days with him, to try and make a trade of something like a promise to switch a duty day with me later on. That’s how stuff like that was done by most guys. And like most guys, I would have asked the guy if he was crazy or something, at first.

But then, if he had told me about them kids stuck over there away from their grandparents and cousins and all, and then them not getting a chance to have fun at a rare, neat event like a picnic, I would have done it for them alone.

I would have understood his dilemma with his wife, but hey, he was tappin’ her tush, not me. Ah, OK, I wouda’ made the trade, but my price woulda’ been steeper if it was just for her sake. Say, maybe, that promise of a future duty day switch, plus a free ride in his car to the PX and back on the next payday.

He could have told me he wanted to switch days. He could have bitched and moaned to me. It may have turned my stomach, but I would have understood his dilemma. I would have made the switch.

I knew what we men went through while dealing with our emotional problems there in the barracks, even though our friends were there to help us and sometimes our wild party ways definitely did let the good times roll. I would have made the switch, even for a woman who’s husband had said that she had been a nasty bitch about it. She deserved a break from going through some of the same things, and worse, that I was. It had to be difficult and lonely at times, for her type of a woman, being stuck at home most of the time in military housing with two little kids to raise.

I would have made the switch for that family.

Okinawa was Lifer’s Family’s Paradise, but many of the low ranking two year draftee, or three year enlisted men’s families, had a right to be miserable; they never wanted to travel the world in the military and to be taken to a strange land, where most of the American families out ranked them. In the society of military dependents, a soldier’s rank is his family’s rank. The lower the rank the less the living standards are.

The Saturday CQ Runner guy had most likely enlisted for three years, one year more than the draft’s requirement of two years, so that he could be guaranteed his choice of an overseas duty station, and he had chosen Okinawa, which meant that he would not be going to Vietnam.

When I was in basic training, several guys there serving with me had done that third year enlistment for a guaranteed overseas duty station deal. They all had tried for Germany, for the white women and the strong-dark beer, but there was a waiting list for Germany that went on for many months ahead of time no matter what state the guy had enlisted from. So they took what ever was left. The Army could only make a soldier do one overseas duty tour per three year enlistment. It was all about not going to Nam, baby, all about not going to Vietnam.

When I enlisted, I had thought about pulling the overseas guarantee trick myself. It would have been a four year deal for me though, because I was definitely in for some job training that would last me my lifetime, if I didn’t get killed in Nam. I was due to become a two year draftee in less then two weeks from the day I enlisted. My recruiter offered me an Army school of my choice for one extra year enlistment. Then he filled me in on the overseas guarantee and that his waiting list for Germany was full up for at least a year. I told my Army Recruiter that three years was enough, that I wasn’t sure whether the Vietnam War was right or wrong, that I’d take the gamble, because there was some action going on over there that I might like to check out, but it might get me killed, so I am not going to ask for it. My recruiter neither encouraged nor discouraged me from signing up to go to Vietnam.

On the Monday morning following the CQ Runner incident, I was told to report to Captain Leroy Sawyer’s office to receive my second Article 15. Leroy was in his putrid prime. He had finally gotten to get somebody for something.







Leroy Reads


On that Monday morning after the penciled in changes situation, waiting for me in the 30th Artillery Brigade's Headquarters Company Commander’s Office, sitting there behind his desk, was Capt. Sawyer in his swivel, halfway comfortable desk chair, with the First Sergeant stiffly standing at ease behind the captain, and also there was an E-3 private first class, a pfc, company clerk sitting there to my left looking all scarred and worried and sitting as deep down as possible into the pant-seat polished hard wooden planking of a 1950s era, plain, oak or maple, office waiting room type chair. The clerk was there as the one required witness.


I walked up to the front of the desk, saluted and said, “Sir Specialist Fourth Class Crews reporting as ordered, sir.”

Leroy returned the salute, and I dropped mine.

He told me, “At ease.” And I went into the required stance of legs spread shoulder width apart and hands placed together behind my lower back.

I was terse and tight all over. I showed neither respect nor outward disobedience for the purported authority in the room nor fear of punishment.

Then my legs started wiggling tensely; they wiggled sort of wildly at my knees, with my knees going forward and back to lock position like plucked strings on a stand up bass fiddle. It was a manifestation of unadulterated, deep, justified anger.

Just then, company clerk Andy came from my right, looked down and noticed my plucked-like-bass-strings knees, and stood in the doorway that led between his office and the commander’s. As I looked over my right shoulder at my friend Andy, he crossed his arms slowly up onto his chest and leaned, tensely, up against the door frame. That put karate guy Andy next to but slightly behind me, where he could stop me quick and easily, just in case I went after his boss with violent intent.

When I had looked over at Andy, his face betrayed that he was suffering from serious turmoil and seething anger down inside of him. He was pissed at the Captain for pulling that penciled in fast one on me, and he was pissed at me for letting the Captain get me.

Andy hated the Captain just like the whole company did. And Andy had to work right there in the SOB’s office every day. That had to be real bad.

I nodded slightly to my buddy Andy. He looked straight at me without changing his expression a sliver. Neither of us were in a position that we wanted to be in. We were both clearly, thoroughly pissed to have to be there, but with our own individual best interests in the forefronts of our own minds. He would do what he had to do; I wasn't planing to do anything to cause Andy any problems.

I had never seen a look like that on his face before. It was serious business to him. His military record was on the line. He timed that move into the doorway for effect. He wanted me to know that he was there because he had to be, but if it came down to him or me, he was fully intent on coming out on top.

We both knew that he would probably stop me from hurting Capt. Sawyer too bad, if I lost my grip completely and jumped over the desk at him. Also, we each knew that he would only as much force and inflict as much physical pain as was necessary to stop me. But only I knew for sure that I would never hold it against him if it had come to that.

I wouldn’t have trusted a justifiably angry buddy of mine, like I was as that day, either. A buddy might forget all about our friendship and go all out to hurt anyone who tried to stop him from whomping and stomping all over the captain.

When a soldier receives an Article 15, they must be read their rights. They have the right to accept their charges and punishment without question or to refuse the punishment and take it one step higher to a court marshal and fight the charges. That means a chance of dismissal of charges, or an increasingly more severe level of punishment.

The rights are read to the offending soldier by the commander, from an approximately six inch by ten inch card. The lettering is rather large and clearly printed. Leroy had a dickens of a time reading that card. It wasn’t because he needed reading glasses, he was dumb, period.

We all four other soldiers who were in Capt. Sawyer's office knew that he was dumb as dirt when it came to handling soldiers efficiently or fairly, but this scene with him reading me my rights was 'off the scale' for each of us. Our company commander couldn’t read any word that had more than five letters in it.

He would get to a part that goes: if you accept this punishment---and it would be, “If you assep--asss-a--eccc-assip.”

The first Sergeant had to look over his company commander’s shoulder and pronounce the word for him, then Captain Sawyer repeated it.

He went on and on with, “Thisss pun-pahnis-poon-poonis.”

The rights are about six sentences long. They are a whole, complete, well written paragraph.

Captain Leroy Sawyer couldn’t successfully read more than three words in a row without the First Sergeant leaning forward to see what the next word was and pronouncing the word for him, then the Captain repeated it to me.

First Sergeant was pissed, pissed, pissed, pissed! He turned slightly pale, then pink, next he was looking up and mouthing something to a merciless God while beginning to glow red from ear to ear; then his complexion went bluish; and by the end of his excruciating, God fearing ordeal, he was a purple faced fool. His lips were moving involuntarily in a slight trembling motion, but his thoughts were silent. He was nearly out of his mind with rage. He had to of wanted to throttle that idiot captain from behind and throw him out the window.

The quiet, frightened clerk sitting over in the plain wooden chair there to my left looked all scarred at first now looked so shocked to his bones that he ended up nearly sliding out of his chair from the downward pull of both his drooping jaw and his military moral. It was a hard lesson in military madness to him. I didn’t know the guy. I never did, he had a dull, empty personality that precluded him from having the kind of fun that most of us were into. I’m sure though, that he never thought that he would see anything like that morning in the Army. He had sat there fearing me having a violent reaction to my punishment and ended up seeing what the hell my growing reputation of openly rebelling was rebelling against. The last I remember of him was, he was all slumped down, hanged jawed in the chair staring stupefied somewhere off into the office air.

As Capt. Sawyer screwed up the verbal reading of my written rights, I perceived that Andy’s vibes were getting tighter and tighter, from where he stood next to me, while he tried to focus on what karate moves to start with if I exploded violently onto Capt. Sawyer. Any half decent martial artist thinks and plans out their available moves in a situation like that.

My buddy Andy sounded like a determined, self controlled torture victim being slowly squeezed in a giant vise. His tight breathing was barley audible but, to me standing so close to him, it was clearly escalating in intensity. The cloth of his uniform rustled lowly, as he slightly shifted position with every mispronounced word that came out of his boss’s mouth.

Of the five men in the company commander’s office that morning, my guess is that, only one of us didn’t feel gut sick for the rest of the day. The other one felt like he was God’s gift to the 30th Artillery Brigade Headquarters Battery. He wasn’t, but he was too dumb to know better.

Andy and I talked it all over after supper that evening.

First I must say, due to the fact that, at the time, I thought that the penciled in duty roster changes were perfectly legal, I never mentioned that to my friend Andy. What ever he may have known, about it being against Army Rules and Regulations, he had to keep to himself. In the world of the military, except in a combat situation, when it comes down to my butt or theirs going into a sling, I can’t hold it against someone for choosing themselves. Would you have wanted to rat out your commanding officer for making illegal changes to a duty roster, a self righteous jerk like Capt. Leroy Sawyer, then have to go work in his office next to him? I doubt it.

Anyway, I couldn’t figure out how such a poorly educated man could be awarded the rank of captain. During my short Army career previous to that day in Captain Leroy’s office there had been other Army officers who were mean, arrogant, self righteous, back stabbers who had turned my stomach, but at least they were able to read efficiently and had never screwed me over personally.

Andy informed me that Captain Sawyer had gotten were he was through affirmative action. I knew that Leroy Sawyer did not deserve that affirmative action promotion, but some other African American GIs did.

Andy’s statement made me think of several African American GIs whom I knew of who did deserve to be advanced in rank through affirmative action, because of their segregated lives growing up in the USA and the ongoing prejudices of the Euro American civilian and military power class made for an unfair disadvantage against them. I thought of several black guys stationed on Okinawa at the time whom I would be glad to have serve under if they had been commissioned as officers.

My old Ft. Dix basic training company’s first sergeant stood out foremost in my mind as a black man who deserved the benefits of affirmative action the most of all who I knew. He was an impressive soldier to us recruits in basic. His uniform was perfect every day, not Dandy Dan type perfect but military strack. That man could guide lower ranking men through their Army training difficulties or their personal problems better than any human being I have ever known. When he gathered us troops around him to talk to us, we listened with awe and respect. The man was kind, gentle, and generous with his respect for us. We loved him.

By the way, Leroy didn’t take all of my stripes, like he had sworn to do in the mess hall. The 30th Arty higher ups only allowed him to take one stripe, that lowered me to PFC, Private First Class. But that only bothered me on payday. Exposing Leroy’s complete incompetence might have been worth that loss of pay though, let me think about it; I’ll let you know after this story of mine gets around some on the World Wide Web, if somebody reads it to Leroy Sawyer, it was worth it.








Leroy Inspects the Troops


It only took me till about a week after receiving that Article 15 from Capt. Sawyer till I had my chance to partially get him back. It was during his first, formal command inspection of the barracks and the troops.

We had to clean every nook and cranny of the barracks real good for Capt. Leroy Sawyer’s first command inspection. We didn’t mind keeping clean, but everybody figured that that jerk Leroy was going to find something wrong no matter what.

While Leroy inspected the barracks, we all had to stand and wait in formation out back.

After Capt. Sawyer did his thing up in the barracks, he came down and stood in the front of the middle of the formation. As he did that the First Sergeant called us to attention.

Formation, for you civilians, is when the company of troops stands in four even rows at given intervals. Formal inspections meant wearing dress uniforms. Even though we all had to go back to work that day, and some of our jobs were messy and dirty which required us to wear work fatigues. My job sure could be messy, in the chemical filled environment of a photo lab.

I was in the third row back, over on the left side of the center of the formation, where the captain stood to signal the time to stand to attention and the beginning of the inspection, and maybe to address the troops, if he had anything to say. Standing inspections go from his left to right, from the front row, then back to the left on the second row and so on.

When a soldier is standing at attention they must not show any emotion. Cracking a smile or laughing is considered to be “breaking attention” and is a punishable offense. Unless the officer in charge tells a joke and expects you laugh.

As soon as Capt. Sawyer started in on his close inspection of each man in the front row, studiously looking over each man for any unshined brass or crooked lines in his clothing, stuff like that, low and behold, I hada’ fart try to escape my sphincter. It was one of them kinda’ bubbles of gas that felt like they were definitely all air, and easily controlled. I could have let it pass out slowly and silently, or I coulda’ let ‘er rip.

I weighed the facts.

It was not against 1970 era Army Rules and Regulations to pass gas, out one’s ass, like a bugler blowing reveille, during standing inspections. Sometime in the past, farting while standing at attention used to be punishable, but before that day in 1970 the Army had somehow been forced to accept farts as uncontrollable natural bodily functions.

But, I had the guys around me to consider. Not just that they had to stand there, while I went rude in their faces, and then they had to smell it, if it stunk (all right, mine stink), but if the solemn looks on their inspected faces broke into grins, giggles, smiles, smirks, or laughter it was their butts in a sling not mine. Capt. Sawyer would have torn into them worse than they deserved, so that they would maybe get real mad at me for causing their uncomfortable run in with the hated Cap’n Sawyer.

Lordy, Lordy. What ta’ do.

Leroy was a comin’ down the line up there on the front row. My butt was merrily bubblin’ inside. Leroy got closer and closer to the guy standing two rows up directly in front of me. My butt wanted to toot its troubles away. Leroy inspected each soldier on the front row faster and faster. I tightened up my gluteus maximus muscles like a nearly fartin' teenage boy sitting in a church pew in front the prettiest girl in the entire congregation. Leroy stopped at the man who was standing at attention directly up there on the other side of the guy in front of me, ahhh man, this is the chance of a lifetime, I gotta’ make it blast like a Moose lettin’ loose and that I did.

It was a loud, perfect, comedy movie style fart: baaraaraaraaruupp!

Fortunately, nobody broke being at attention.

Captain Leroy Sawyer had to go on about his inspection like nothing had happened.

Some of the guys grumbled about it to me a little right after we were dismissed from formation, but most of ‘um where right in tune with it. They only wished that Capt. Sawyer had been right behind me at the time, to receive the full blast of it. They were glad that I had the guts to pull it off and the backing of the Army Rules and Regulations to get away with it.

And a belated, “Excuse me,” to the poor fellow who was standing directly behind me when I passed gas.


Now, before you go too far in believing that I was just a disgruntled, lone wolf soldier who thought up a bunch of excuses to convince myself that I had a right to be disrespectful to all of the sound reasons why periodic military inspections are necessary for the health, safety, and general well being of the inspected troops, read this next tale of a military inspection that I was a part of. If you take into consideration what happened during the next inspection, you will see that just about the whole gahdamned 1970 era US Army must have had lackadaisical attitudes about inspections. Here is the link to that story:
http://okinawa1970-71.blogspot.com/2007/01/generals-laughing-wazoo.html








16.4.07

Rockin' On The Rock (Okinawa)


Here is the ‘musical soundtrack’ to my
working manuscript about my time as
a U.S. Army Photographer during 1970-71.

In 1970-71, the majority of American military barracks on The Rock (GI jargon for Okinawa) had plenty of personally owned stereo music systems set up in them. Most of those stereos were the first high quality, separate component stereo systems that many of us GIs had ever listened to music on or had even seen for sale in a store. And, they only cost us about 40% of what we would have had to pay for them in the states at the time. Best of all, the other GIs usually played plenty of my kind of music on their stereos.

When I was growing up, in the 1950s + ‘60s, in a blue collar neighborhood, which was flanked by a steel mill on one side and an automobile assembly plant on the other, the very few people whom I ever knew of who had nice component stereos were Jazz or Classical Music aficionados with higher than average incomes. Most of the kids I grew up with, and I, only had little 9 volt battery powered transistor radios tuned into Top 40 Pop Music stations for our listening pleasure, until we received old hand me down, monaural (one small, lousy, built in speaker) record players, or we got a new one for a birthday or Christmas present that for us lucky few like me was an inexpensive stereo with two small, lousy speakers. In my 1960s teenage world, the best recorded music players that we had were them Magnavox brand, long, stylish and polished wooden furniture type, console stereos. They sounded fine at the time, but the audio quality of them big old things was no match for a good component system with its separate high quality amplifier-radio tuner, speakers, turntable, and maybe a reel-to-reel tape deck. These kids today have no idea how much better their little computer speakers and small, personal stereos sound compared to my teenage generation’s average home stereos.

When I was in army basic training, we recruits weren’t allowed to have any radios or record players in our barracks at all; but I did smuggle in one of those little 9-volt transistor radios about half way through my basic training. After basic training, when I was attending U.S. Army Photo Lab Tech School, I had one of only two little radios that were available to be listened to by us photography students who resided on the second floor, twenty-man squad bay of the barracks which I lived in. The one record player we had was a small, white, plastic, General Electric music machine with a turntable and tiny, weak amplifier manufactured into an about 18 x 18 x 7 inch carrying case along with one, cheap, 2 x 3 inch oval speaker built into it. That minimal machine was owned by a Jerry Lewis type character named Bill Dickout (swear to it, that was the guy’s name, and he was a Sad Sack type clown with a high degree of natural intelligence and great taste in music).

Bill and several of our barracks mates bought record albums for us to listen to while we worked to complete our photo course homework, polished our boots and brass, did our barracks cleaning chores, swapped wild stories and true facts about our lives back home, matched wits in all kinds of manly but not too overly aggressive ways (no fist fights broke out), and trepidatiously waited to see if we were gonna’ be sent to Vietnam. I didn’t bring any of my records to that barracks for us to listen to, because I always took real good care of my records, and them guys didn’t care so much as me about not getting scratches and greasy finger smears on theirs, so they weren’t getting their paws on mine. Fortunately for me, we all had a lot of the same albums in our personal record collections, so the ones we listened to in the barracks were my kind of music. Our squad bay ‘theme song’ was Let It Bleed by The Rolling Stones; we’d sing along to it with loud abandon ‘cause it sure enough helped relieve some of them possibly Vietnam bound blues.

We heard some great music for the first time up on the second floor of that barracks: including James Taylor’s first album, and side one of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s first album—Two Virgins. That is the album with John and Yoko posing frontally nude on the front and a rear nude shot of their raggedy asses on the back. Side two of that album is mostly Yoko (Oh, no!) wailing and screaming high pitched vocalizations of her infamous, artistic personality. Ya’ gotta’ take the good with the bad though, and one time we all had to hear side two of Two Virgins completely through. Bill Dickout wanted to listen to the whole album at least once, and when some one of us ripped the record off the turntable after we had heard about sixty-six seconds of that awful, assaulting noise on side two, Bill went into a rage, grabbed a hold of his record player, raised it up over his head and threatened to smash it to bits if we didn’t let him play side two all the way through just one time; unfortunately, we were such low paid soldiers that none of us could afford the twenty-five bucks to buy another record player like Bill’s; nor could we afford to go to the enlisted man’s club and have a few beers for a while, because it was too far past payday at that time; and, it was too cold outside to go sit out there and study our homework or just hangout together for awhile; so we had to bitch and bear it—twenty some freakin’ minutes of Yoko’s vocal, artistic assault on our senses, or Bill was definitely going to smash that record player to bits, which was treasured by all. That’s how much our music meant to us average GIs in 1970.

You can now imagine how fantastic it was for me when, after graduating from Photo Lab Tech School, I arrived on Okinawa and discovered that there were high quality component stereo systems well placed in every barracks and their owners were often cranking out rockin’ sounds from them. They were rockin’ on The Rock.

On The Rock, the variety of recorded music that was available for listening pleasure was outa’ site. Some of us GIs had brought as many of our record albums as we could to The Rock, and the largest retail store on my U.S. Army base over there, the Main PX, not only sold record albums at the lowest prices that I had ever seen, there was an outstandingly large number and selection of them.

I had been collecting record albums since I was thirteen years old. I was one of the first kids in my high school to buy the first albums of John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, Cream, Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Country Joe and the Fish, Zappa, Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, plus I had albums by The Animals, The Yardbirds, The Blues Project, Muddy Waters, West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, and I could keep on truckin’ with puttin’ names this list. When I flew to Okinawa in June 1970, I took about twenty-five of those albums with me, in a psychedelic art covered record carrying case.

But (Hallelujah!) them army buddies of mine on The Rock turned me on to all kindsa’ new music.

My good friend Bart, from San Francisco, had all of Quicksilver Messenger Service’s album covers displayed on his barracks room wall, because that was his favorite band. I had never heard of them till he turned me onto to ‘um. Bart had grown up living two blocks from the world famous 1960s hippie haven known as Haight-Ashbury. When he was a teenager, hundreds of other teenagers were running away from their homes all over America to go to “The Haight” to “Turn On-Tune In-and-Drop Out” but all Bart had to do was walk up the street from his family’s home to get there. Them other kids were infamous for bumming spare change off of strangers in order to be able to buy themselves some food to survive on. Bart said he knew it was a good thing for him that whenever he got hungry all he had to do was walk home and ask his mother what was in the fridge that he could snack on or what was for supper.

I was in Bart’s two man barracks room one day when one of our barracks buddies walked into the room and said, “Hey man, I really dig this cat from England named Elton John, have any of you guys ever heard this album of his, ever heard of him before?”

Bart, his roommate, and I replied, “No.”

Then Bart told him, “No, man, we ain’t ever heard of him yet, but you can put that record on the turntable when this Pink Floyd one is done playing. We’re gonna’ finish listening to Careful With That Ax Eugene first. Crews never heard it before.” Musical adventures like that happened to us quite often on The Rock.

There are two notable but rare albums I first heard on The Rock that are still amongst my favorites: First Step by The Faces, with Rod Stewart on vocals and Ron Wood on guitars, and one of the most finely crafted albums of that era–The Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus by Spirit. Friends, buddies, and new acquaintances of mine over there often insisted that I sit down and listen to some record album that I had never had the pleasure of hearing before.

Some GIs had great selections of Rhythm and Blues albums to play for themselves and us buddies of theirs. They’d add to our musical mix the solid soul sounds of Diana Ross and the Supremes, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Areatha Franklin, Junior Walker and the All Stars, and the hardest workin’ man in show business—James Brown.

I love the fantastic 1960s-70s Top 40 songs that are still played on oldies radio stations today, but there are many other dynamite songs on those music artists’ albums that’re rarely ever heard by most people. On The Rock, and in army photo school, we were into what I have always been into, listening to whole record albums, not just the most popular songs on each album which were issued as 45 RPM singles and played over and over again on radio stations.

We GIs had some great Rock ‘n Roll and Rhythm ‘n Blues and Blues and a bit of Folk and some Jazz and a little Classical music listening times in our barracks on The Rock, during the time that I was stationed there in 1970-71.

We loved our music.

Life in our barracks even got a lot better when, sometime in late 1970 or early 1971, an official U.S. Army directive came down from somewhere way up above which stated that we lowly, low ranking GIs living in army barracks could redecorate our places of residence to suit ourselves (with some reasonable limitations of course). At least it was that way on The Rock. The stated spirit of the deal was, “Make ‘um up just like home, after all, they are your home away from home for now.”

Nice coffee tables were issued all around to every one who wanted one in every army barracks on The Rock, and, if I remember correctly, floor and/or table lamps too; portable, wooden, chest high, eight-foot wide office type room dividers were issued. I can’t remember all that they issued, but I do remember that I got one of everything that they did issue. I also got my hands on a comfortable, living room type, well cushioned, bamboo framed chair from somewhere. Can’t remember if the Army gave the chairs out, or I bought it off of somebody, but it was great to have it right next to my bunk were it would have been against Army Rules and Regulations prior to that directive making things more homey.

There were men living in double occupancy, semi-private barracks rooms, and they were told to paint their rooms any color that they wanted to–as long as it was all one color. And they could chose their roommates. My good friend Doug from Florida and his roommate painted their room bright red. Doug loved walking up to our barracks with a few of us barracks mates of his and pointing out the way that his beeerite red room appeared to be jumping right out through the windows.

Men in the twenty man barracks squad bays were given permission to rearrange their bunks in what ever pattern that facilitated their maximum achievable privacy, comfort, and social needs.

In some army barracks, groups of the closest buddies living there would all form various sized living pods in their squad bays. They lined their wall lockers all up into nifty room dividers, that went in a semicircle or squared U shape from the wall then out and around their bunks and back to the wall again; then they put a rod with a curtain hanging down from it across a door sized opening which they had left between two wall lockers in the semicircle.

The pod buddies and the two double room residents, always liked the same kinds of music, which they had amassed in their individual record collections.

I’d go visit some Janis Joplin or James Gang fans for awhile, walk out through their barracks afterward and hear some Otis Redding or Ike and Tina Turner albums playing in a different pod or room, some Beatles playing in just about any pod or room, and the music of my all time favorites, The Rolling Stones, was liable to come wafting towards me from any direction at any time from any barracks on The Rock.

Barracks buddies often followed the same professional and college sports games with a passion, but not always the same teams, we were all from too many places back home. Athletes, science guys, electronics buffs, history buffs, outdoorsmen, book worms (most of us had a bit of that in us) all formed close friendships in their living quarters. Any combination of common interests that could help a wide variety of heterosexual American men to live together comfortably and peacefully in such limited privacy and personal space was the glue that binds.

Due to that Army directive, every barracks received government funds to redo their day room (recreational room). We all were given permission to buy new stuff for our day rooms, paint them up nicely, and arrange them as we felt was best for all. Anything that was still good stayed, anything that needed replacing was replaced.

Well, the other barracks got to do their own day room redecorating, but our 30th Artillery Brigade Headquarters Battery Company Commander, the intrepid Cap’n Sawyer, took over control of our day room project. He used our funds to buy us the lamest, out of style, cheap crap that he could find. He musta’ felt that it was his own, personal space, and we were uninvited guests there. (Much more on Captain Sawyer in other parts of this manuscript.)

Day rooms generally had a TV, a stereo, a Ping-Pong Table, you know they had to have a Pool Table, a reading room stocked with a few books and magazines, plus there were board games and decks of cards for all to share. There was always at least one soft sofa and several soft, comfortable chairs in the TV viewing area.

The men down at one of the Army Intelligence Command barracks, who lived on the top floor, did the most outstanding job of all on their day room redecorating project. For some reason, they had a small day room for their squad bay, instead of just the one large day room on the first floor like other barracks. It must have had something to do with the top secret nature of the different jobs that the men who were stationed in that barracks had to do.

Those guys, up on that third floor, built a wooden wall across the back third of their day room, made from 2 x 4s and plywood. It was about 2 ½ feet thick and hollow in the center. They cut out rectangular holes, put shelves in them and made a recessed component stereo entertainment center. Their TV viewing area was set up in the back third of the day room, behind the stereo system in the wooden wall, and accessed by a doorway sized opening built into the wall, so that the music would not override the sound of the TV. The Pool and Ping-Pong Tables were set up in the front two-thirds of the room where the music ruled the scene.

Now, here’s the coolest part:

Have you ever seen the cover art on the Moody Blues album named In Search Of The Lost Chord?

It has a beautiful piece of art work on it, I’m looking at my CD copy of it now. It’s a soft, mellow, flowing painting of an ancient, wizened man sitting down wearing a robe with its hood up over his head, a human skull is on one side of him and a human fetus floating in its mother’s womb is on the other side. The man’s meditations, dreams, deepest human feelings, the sum of his life experiences all seem to flow upward and outward across the album cover.

One of the guys who lived there on the third floor of that army intelligence barracks painted a perfect mural of that album cover on one of their day room walls where the Pool and Ping-Pong Tables were located. When they showed it off to me, I looked up at it and darn near fell over backwards.

My best friend from Army Photo Lab Tech School, Bruce, from Pennsylvania, was the Public Information Office Photographer for that intelligence unit. He lived there on the third floor, next to the day room where the mural was painted. Bruce was a gentle, humorous fellow. He was ¼ Gypsy. His grandfather had ‘kidnapped’ and married his non-Gypsy grandmother. The kids at Bruce’s elementary school did not believe their little classmate Bruce, when he told them about his full blooded Gypsy Granddad one day on the playground at recess. The other kids teased Bruce something terrible about claiming that his grandfather was anything as mysterious and interesting as a Gypsy. So, one day, Granddad dressed up in full Gypsy regalia, and went down to visit the kids at recess. Way back then, he was one of the only men in America who could get away with wearing a big, round, golden earring in each pierced ear like some famous pirates used to. Bruce was real popular amongst the other kids after that.

The other men who lived on the third floor there, where Bruce lived, had all spent eighteen months going to the U.S. Army Intelligence School at Ft. Holabird, Maryland. I grew up about two miles from Ft. Holabird, it was in my neighborhood. The fact that they had all spent a year and a half in my childhood neighborhood helped us bond as army buddies just a bit easier than usual. And then of course, we had similar record album collections to listen to together.







31.1.07

The General's Laughing Wazoo


Warning: In the interest of historical accuracy, this story has the F word and other cursing in it.



The General’s Laughing Wazoo


One day, Two Star General Smith came to the 30th Artillery Brigade Headquarters Battery Company Barracks to conduct a command inspection of our barracks and us troops (In the interest of historical accuracy, I remember it as being General Smith, but if it isn’t, we can consider it a generic name). You ain’t gonna’ wanna’ believe this one anyway, because, the second or third highest ranking US Army Officer on Okinawa didn’t give a hoot about military manners when he gave his own obligatory, periodic command inspections.

We 30th Arty Bgde HHB troops had our barracks spick and span, top to bottom, inside out for that one. Capt. Leroy Sawyer was in command of the cleanup preparations, so you know it wasn’t about team work, male bonding and clean living; with Leroy in charge, it was more about subordinanteness to his demands than maintaining necessary living area cleanliness. That jackass captain had no clue whatsoever as how to be a good team leader.

On the evening before the general’s inspection, after we had all finished our cleaning assignments, I strolled on out behind the barracks to get some air. It was a nice, warm, although rather humid, typical Okinawa evening time.

A buddy of mine, from the barracks next door, came walking by on his way back from the PX snack bar. He inquired as to why I looked so hot, sweaty and tired in my dirty Army fatigues at that time of the evening, a time when most GIs over there back then had civilian clothes on and were relaxed, clean and casual looking.

I replied that Two Star General Smith was going to inspect my barracks and company the next day.

My buddy said, "What? General Smith! Are you kiddin’ me man? You’re all dirty and tired lookin’ cause General Smith is comin’ tomorrow. What’sa’ mattah’ Crews, don’t you know about his inspections? You ain’t ever heard? He inspected my company about three and half months ago. You know what he does? Let me tell you what the fuckin’ guy does. First, he shows up in front of the barracks in his long, black, chauffeur driven limousine. Then he comes in and eats lunch. He knows it’s the best damn lunch that will ever be served in your barracks. Don’t miss that meal. The officers and NCOs (Non Commissioned Officers—sergeants) in your company will be right up his ass the whole time. They will all be brown nosing and sniffing around for the best angles to get close to the General and vie for compliments from him, that they think might lead to a promotion in rank or somethin’. After the big man finishes his meal, his adjutant (personal aid) will stand up in the chow hall, and ask who are the two best pool players among the lower ranking guys in the company. Then General Smith is going to take them two guys, along with your company’s officers and top NCOs, into your day room. Meanwhile, his adjutant will go back out to the limousine and fetch the general’s personal, custom, hand made pool stick. It’s a beautiful piece of wood, all hand carved and perfectly balanced, it was made in Thailand or Japan or somewhere, I sure as hell wish I could afford one like it. Then the general will play each of them two guys in one game of pool each. He will most likely beat them both. They may loose because they’re scared to beat a gahdamned general, but most likely they’ll just be outranked in skill on the table. Smith is good, real fuckin’ good, I never heard of him loosing to anyone during any of his inspections. After that bullshit, when the kiss asses in your company think it’s time for the big ass general to put on his white gloves and check your barracks over for dust and dirt left in cracks and crevices and then look all you guys over for any crooked creases on your nice clean, starched and strack uniforms, the man will walk out the front door and leave."

"Are you fuckin’ shitin’ me man!!?"

"Crews, my brother, I’m fuckin’ aye serious. Awe man, don’t look so down bro, don’t even worry about it. I’ve been here for over a year, I know what da’ fuck I’m talkin’ about. We all felt like shit when it happened to us. Smith knows that the barracks is in top shape and that the men are lookin’ their best that day. There isn’t gonna’ be any inspection of anything but the gahdamned pool table. He don’t want to look at all you fuckin’ assholes up real close. We’re a fuckin’ peasant army to him jack, nuthin’ but lowly ass, gahdamned fuckin’ cannon fodder. Gahdamn man, the whole fukin’ island knows that General Smith’s inspections ain’t nuthin’ but a bunch of bullshit, how come your dumb ass officers don’t know that?"


(Authors note: What my buddy meant when he said that the whole island knew about those fake inspections is that most of the Army personnel on Okinawa knew about them, not the civilians or Marines, Airmen, and Sailors. The sour look that he had on his face as he was telling me this stuff showed true contempt for that bullshit, so his emotions got the best of him, and he exaggerated a bit.)


The next day, it all went down exactly as my buddy had said that it would.

I did not miss that meal. But let me tell ya’ somethin’, it was a strange scene in my barracks’s mess hall that day. 30th Arty NCOs and officers were hangin’ around that general like a pack of adolescent aged puppies sniffing at their moma’s butt and dried up teats while vying for nonexistent, tasty, nourishing treats, like a good word from the general about their military manners or something—anything to talk about and gloat over later in front all the other soldiers. The sights and sounds of them 30th Arty soldiers kissing the general’s ass like that, well, shit, that sickening scene gahdamned near ruin’t my appetite.

I had gone over to Okinawa believing that any member of the United States Army who has conducted themselves as normally as I had during my basic training and the US Army Photographic Laboratory Technician School has earned the right to stand proud and tall and be counted while being inspected by soldiers who were superior in rank to them. I saw no legitamate reason for anyone in the Army to kiss anybody else’s ass. I believed that we soldiers were supposed to train hard, work hard, do our duty, and show each other proper respect amongst the ranks, not play little political games like Kiss The Higher Ranking Soldier’s Keyster. I may have been wrong about that, but I had never witnessed any soldiers in basic training or Army Photo Lab Tech School acting so worthless and weird the way that those higher ranking soldiers in the 30th Arty mess hall had that day. I may be wrong, but I still can’t see any reason why those 30th Arty kiss asses could not have conducted themselves in a more manly, self respecting, military manner when showing the proper respect which any general’s well earned, high rank deserves and requires for sensible, efficient military discipline.

When General Smith and his aid walked out the front door of my barracks, after they had eaten that good meal and then the general had beaten two low ranking 30th Arty guys on the pool table, I was standing up in my third floor, squad bay, bunk area looking out of an open window and watching down onto the front lawn of our barracks. Several times though, I had looked out over the barracks directly across the street to glance at some comfortably soft looking, well defined, cottony clouds which were floating by in an azure-blue, subtropical sky. It was
absolutely beautiful outside there that day on Okinawa. I had gone up there to the third floor see if the faked inspection was going to end the way that my buddy from the barracks next door had said that it would. From up there, it was a clear, bird’s eye view of mangled military brew-ha-ha. It turned out to be an unforgettable, demoralizing experience.

I heard, then saw, the front door of my barracks open up wide down there below me. General Smith and his aid calmly strolled out the door and onto the front sidewalk.

My 30th Arty HHB Company’s administrative officers and top NCOs followed right behind, or slightly to the sides of, them two military inspection fakers. The 30th Arty butt kissers had a steady flow of useless small talk spilling out through their brown tinged lips, as they were trying to figure out what was happening—they were wondering why the general hadn’t commenced to carefully inspecting the barracks and troops.

As those, higher ranking than me, headquarters company personnel tried to make small talk with the general and his aid, the general and his aid kept turning backwards and sideways to look and delightfully grin at the bewildered, brown tinted faces of the 30th Arty soldiers. General Smith and his aid both had real big, broad, toothy, ha-ha I got ya’ type, mischievous grins on their faces as they continued to slowly move towards their waiting limo—all the while laughing out their asses at the other soldiers.

Them thar’ 30th Arty butt kissers were all smooches and smiles as they kept steadily sticking their distinctly dark brown noses up the general’s laughing wazoo. I clearly saw them each turning slightly back towards the barracks and ever so lamely beginning to limply motion with their hands and arms from the direction of the general back towards the front door of the barracks in an obviously useless, pleading attempt to ask the general about the missing formal barracks inspection. The grinning general’s aid glanced down at the butt kissers’ limp limb movements, and then back towards the limo waiting at the curb, and as he did he briefly brushed his hand across his mouth to gain control of an ever expanding grin and stifle an involuntary snicker. The general gleefully looked right between the pleading eyes of the faked out, fuckin’ dumb ass 30th Arty soldiers, he damn near laughed out loud at their darkening brown noses, smiled with sincere satisfaction, went to his limo, got in and rode away.

My 30th Arty ‘superiors’ looked like a pack of bewildered puppies being weaned from their mamma’s teats for the final time. They stood there and waved bye-bye to the highest ranking Army officer who had ever come into their beloved Headquarters Company. Then they lamely looked at each other, shrugged their shoulders at each other, mumbled some puzzled questions or half-ass explanations amongst themselves, then slowly, without any purpose in their movements, walked back through the front door and disappeared into the barracks.

I had chosen my high angle of view well, like a sniper looking for a safe and secure advantage point to shoot from. I had observed that weird scene from up there and stood at the window without worrying about being seen by them down below because that third floor window was just high enough above them that they most likely would not notice me, but then I could sure enough see and hear them quite clearly.

After that strange scene, which I wish I had never seen, dissipated and went away, I stood there at the window for a moment enjoying a warm, moist sub tropical breeze which was gently flowing in upon me. I looked out over at my left towards the Mole Hole and the 30th Arty Bge HHB Company office building. I didn’t feel anything inside of me, not even numbness; it was an odd thing that I found no humor in the experience, if I hadn't already been through so much soul crushing bullshit because of my illegal assignment to the 30th Arty as brigade photographer, it would have been a hilarious scene to witness—it was like a funny, rib ticklin' comedy skit in a Hollywood movie; on the other hand, I wasn’t angry, disgusted, sad, or anything like that.

On that strange afternoon, on the beautiful, blue skied, warm and humid Far Eastern Island of Okinawa, in the 30th Artillery Brigade Headquarters Company barracks, the demoralizing idea seeped into my psyche that there did not seem to be any worthwhile purpose left in life. I don’t know exactly what happened to me that day, but I lost something which I have been struggling to recover ever since.