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.
David Robert Crews
30th Artillery Brigade