Days Rated: 116
Average Day: 2.06
Many people think that officers run the army. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Other people feel that the army is run by a conspiracy between right-wing politicians and the military-industrial complex. They are closer, but still way off. Others blame aliens, and they are the closest yet, but still miss the mark.
In the book “Catch-22”, there’s a character named Ex-PFC Wintergreen. This disgruntled mail clerk was as low as you can get on the official totem pole, however his job gave him access to all written communications passing through the Southern European theater. This meant that he would arbitrarily dispose of memorandums he disliked, block transmissions from officers that had angered him, and cause all sorts of mischief. When I first read this book, before I joined the Army, I found this amusing, but ridiculous. Later, I would learn how close to the truth this is, even over 60 years later. Somewhere there’s a private who is at the center of the 21st century Army and exercises capricious power over vast resources and personnel.
In our unit, I will refer to the person in this role as “PFC Eugene”. PFC Eugene works in an office in the headquarters building. His official job is some sort of low-level clerk. However, he is actually the nerve center of the battalion. Nothing gets done without his approval. I give you two examples.
Example #1 – Coach needs to turn in his leave form.
I enter the headquarters office and am immediately stopped by three intimidating soldiers, two of them staff sergeants, who bar my way. They greet me with a barrage of questions. “What are you doing in here?” “Do you have an NCO escort?” “Can’t you see we’re busy?” One of them tries to take my leave form, but I clutch it tightly to my body. PFC Eugene’s flunkies are well trained at screening their master from the demands of his congregation, and I know if I give up my leave form they will immediately shred it, then call my first sergeant with a report that I was “causing problems up at headquarters”. These winged monkeys don’t scare me. I need to see the Wizard. “Where’s PFC Eugene?” I demand. They’re not helpful. “He’s at lunch.” “He’s busy with the colonel.” “He doesn’t see anybody without an appointment.” Undeterred, I lower my head and push past the guards, ducking around a cubicle to where I find PFC Eugene, sitting with his back to me, playing solitaire on the computer. PFC Eugene sniffs the air, detecting my presence. “Why is there a filthy grunt in my work area?” “I’m sorry,” one of the staff sergeants says, “He got by us somehow.”
“Go Away.” PFC Eugene says, “I’m Busy.” He continues playing solitaire.
“My leave form,” I mumble, “Need to turn it in. Please help me. I’ve already been here five times. I’ve redone it as one of your henchmen ordered. It’s in triplicate carbon copies using that special form that you like, the one that is only available from you. It’s signed by my first sergeant, my CO, my mom, a representative from the airline and the mayor of Anchorage. Please, please take it. My flight leaves tomorrow.”
PFC Eugene swivels in his chair slowly, malevolently until he’s facing me. I cower, clutching the leave form tightly in my sweaty hands.
“Dance,” he commands. “Caper for my amusement.” One of the sergeants begins drumming on the wall of the cubicle with two pencils, providing a beat. I have no choice, and I begin to dance.
“Faster.” he says, and I fold my arms and kick my legs like a mad Russian. I put my beret on the floor and hat dance around it. I do the Macarena. I conclude with the Coach Dance at frenetically high speeds.
Finally, PFC Eugene is satisfied, and nods his head imperceptibly. Exhausted, I place the leave form into a folder he indicates. His thugs seize me by the arms and begin dragging me away.
“You’re lucky I like you, Coach,” I hear him say. “Don’t think that you can get away with bringing me these forms all the time. We have serious work to do around here. Make sure you bring us back some home-baked goods when you return to check back in from leave. Oh, and don’t try anything funny with the baked goods. I have a food taster in my entourage.”
Example Two: Sergeant First Class “Jones” needs to reserve a rifle range for training. He’s somehow able to connect to PFC Eugene by phone after waiting on hold for twenty minutes.
PFC Eugene: Yeah, what.
SFC Jones: Yeah, what? Is that any way to answer a phone? Who is this?
PFC Eugene: What do you mean who is this? I don’t have time to waste with people who don’t even know who they’re trying to call.
Half an hour later…
PFC Eugene: Headquarters, PFC Eugene.
SFC Jones: Dammit, I’ve been on hold for a half an hour. I don’t appreciate being smarted off to by some private. Let me talk to the person in charge up there.
PFC Eugene: Hold, please.
(He sets the phone down and goes to take a dump, returning ten minutes later.)
PFC Eugene: Headquarters, PFC-in-charge Eugene speaking.
SFC Jones: (sighing) I need to reserve a rifle range as soon as possible.
PFC Eugene: We have something available on April 26th.
SFC Jones: But that’s more than a month from now!
PFC Eugene: I could get you a classroom in two weeks. You can’t shoot in there, but you could give a Powerpoint presentation on shooting safety or something.
SFC Jones: That’s no good either!
PFC Eugene: How about some plastic claymore mine trainers? I could have those for you by next Thursday.
SFC Jones: GODDAMMIT I DON’T WANT NO PLASTIC MINES. I WANT A RIFLE RANGE AND I WANT IT THIS WEEK. I AM SICK AND TIRED OF YOUR BULLSH1T, PRIVATE. YOU WANT ME TO COME DOWN THERE AND SQUARE YOU AWAY? I’LL CUT OFF YOUR HEAD AND CRAP DOWN YOUR NECK.
PFC Eugene: My apologies. What did you say your name was?
SFC Jones: THIS IS SERGEANT FIRST CLASS JONES FROM CHARLIE COMPANY, YOU LITTLE MAGGOT, NOW LISTEN HERE…
PFC Eugene and his underlings begin frantically typing away at their computer terminals. Ten minutes later, SFC Jones has his promotion points reset to zero, 100% of his monthly pay automatically donated to the Army Emergency Relief charity, his AKO email account filled with child porn and orders cut sending him to Antarctica immediately…on a cargo plane…filled with plastic claymore mines.
You don’t f*ck with PFC Eugene.