I spent three years in a training unit at Fort Polk, Louisiana. It was both the most rewarding work I did in the Army and the most miserable time of my life. I was around some of the smartest, most professional paratroopers the Army had to offer. A wealth of experience. It was also a casual atmosphere which was pretty awesome coming from a line unit. The Sergeant Major (SGM) was a very old man, who has been hiding out in positions that have prevented him from deploying and although only 5 years into the GWOT, everyone else there had deployed and had experience down range. Everyone but him. He was not liked. He was a former 13W, which is a glorified weatherman. Within the Field Artillery community, there were only three recognized MOS’s that were recognized as real artillery; FDC (that’s me), Gunline, and Forward Observer. I will save the disparaging comments, but in my opinion, they were pretty useless, which turned out to be true, because those MOS’s no longer exist.
Now that I have set up how generally unliked the SGM was, let’s talk about the chief warrant officer that worked there. I will call him Chief McDizzle. Chief McDizzle was a known joker. He filmed one of the Majors puking on himself during a trip to Alaska for some “professional development”. He was a consummate joker who was never there when you needed him and always showed up when there was trouble to be had. He was also considered one of the Army’s foremost experts on targeting and radar.
Ok, I think all the background has been laid. I was the low man in the whole unit. A junior staff sergeant surrounded by officers and senior NCO’s; I ended up doing all the shit work. I wasn’t airborne qualified, so I did chute detail, which sucks. I got to go to all the jumps, but I was essentially everyone’s bitch. One day I’m at the house, because we generally didn’t do anything at work if there wasn’t anything to do. My boss is on the line telling me to get to the motor pool (MP) and clean the SGMs HMMWV (hum-v) because it’s dirty and stinky and the mechanics won’t work on it. I say roger, put on my uniform and drive down to the MP. I get there thinking I was going to just spray it down and wipe off the windows. I was very wrong. I opened the canvas door and the smell of rotten fish hit me in the face like rotor wash from a CH-47.
I pulled off the battery cover and found rotting fish, covered in maggots. I then crawled in the back and found the box where the tools get stored to also have a fish in it, crawling with maggots. I realize there was probably many fish in this HMMWV, so I opened every compartment, crawled under the vehicle, checked all the space under the hood, and the whole time I am on the cusp of puking up lunch. I found 4 fish in all. I used a broom to sweep away most of the maggots and went to the pressure washer and spent about an hour just hitting every crevice and cranny trying to get rid of the maggots and smell. I thought I had succeeded finally and brought the vehicle back to the parking space near the maintenance bay and called my boss to let him know it was done.
I get a call the next day that the maintenance people won’t work on the vehicle because it still smells. This time someone else got to go down there and figure it out. They found another fish in the air filter housing. I had honestly not looked there, because I don’t have a devious mind and didn’t realize how devious this perpetrator was. Finally, the whole thing was done, and the vehicle was serviced. Of course, every day in the fox den (that’s what we called the office) I had to hear the NCOs and officers giggle about the ordeal, and the SGM bitch and moan about who could have done such a thing. Oh, and conveniently Chief McDizzle had previously changed stations and hadn’t been gone but a few weeks.
Before and every training rotation, there is a large presentation of both the units training objectives, then after an after-action review and lessons learned for us. This is how we keep improving the training for each new unit and sometimes the officer who builds the slide deck will put in a funny meme or dumb picture like the previously mentioned pictures of the Major puking in a van after drinking in Alaska.
We’re a few slides in and the new slide has a screen shot of an email from Chief McDizzle admitting they put the fish in the HMMWV then a new slide of him holding up the fish next to the battery compartment. Proof indeed that Chief McDizzle had perpetrated the great fish mystery. Everyone is laughing, SGM is steaming and I’m over here wondering who took the pictures so I can make their life hell, since I did most of the maggot and fish cleanup. Of course, Chief knew the clean up would not be done by SGM, but I’m sure that didn’t factor in. I learned from deduction the person who took the pictures. He was in my previous unit in Hawaii, and I decided to leave it alone. He was a good officer and never treated me like shit, unlike my team who reminded me every day I was a dirty dirty “leg” as they called me. That’s what paratroopers call non-airborne personnel.
In the end, everyone had a good laugh, SGM was thoroughly insulted, and I got left with the memory of maggots crawling in every crevice of a tactical vehicle. I know Chief will never read this, but just in case “Sir, well played and fuck you”.