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.

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