by Jim Foreman


Schultz walked into the barracks one Saturday morning just before inspection, looked at Goldberg's empty bunk and asked, "Vhere the hell is Goldberg?"
       Every man on that floor of the barracks had pitched in to keep Goldberg's bunk and clothing in perfect order. Goldberg's bunk was next to Obert's pigpen, so in comparison, it couldn't help but look good. In addition, having Goldberg's bunk next to Obert's kept anyone else from having to sleep next to him. Goldberg's boots were always spit-shined to a mirror finish and every piece of clothing was hanging in exact order. The US on the blanket was perfectly centered, exactly thirty-six inches from the foot of the bunk. Goldberg's bunk and clothing had stood a number of inspections and never received a single gig.
       "Probably on KP, Sarge. He was gone when we got up this morning and there's a towel on the foot of his bunk," Arthur Arthur Arthur replied.
       "How come he is always on KP, guard duty or some other detail every time I try to find him?" asked Schultz. "I haven't seen him in so long that I can't remember what he looks like."
       "Don't be silly, Sarge, you know what Goldberg looks like; little short, fat Jew, 'bout so tall," said Arthur Arthur Arthur, measuring with his hand. "You ought to remember what he looks like. You chewed his ass out the other night for being late when he reported for guard duty."
       "Oh, Yeah, I remember him now," replied Schultz. "Too bad the rest of youse bastards can't keep youse areas a neat as Goldberg. Anyway, I came to tell Foreman that Captain Sanders wants to see him. Get down to the Orderly Room on the double."
       "What the hell have I done now to get the Captain on my ass," I thought to myself as I hurried along the company street toward the Orderly Room. "Surely it's not about my losing Goldberg, or Schultz wouldn't have asked about him when he came in."
       Schultz was always asking about Goldberg and someone would always tell him that he was on some sort of detail or assignment which kept him out of the barracks. It had become a game to see who could come up with the most outrageous story to tell Schultz when he was looking for Goldberg. Then, perhaps the Captain was wise to the scam and was having Schultz ask one last time to see what we would tell him before he lowered the boom on me.
       Saluting smartly, I reported, "PFC Foreman reporting as ordered, Sir."
       "At Ease, Foreman," answered Captain Sanders, returning my salute. "There are a couple things that I wanted to talk to you about."
       "Two things! Goldberg and what else?" I thought to myself.
       "I have noticed that you are wearing an Acting PFC armband. I haven't issued any of those in this unit and was wondering how and where you got it."
       "Fort Sill, Sir. It was issued to me before I left there. It is on the orders which transferred me here and I figured that I could just keep wearing it," I replied.
       "Oh, I see. I had also noticed that you are usually at the front of most formations and seem to take charge in a lot of situations. Have you had prior military service of some sort?"
       "Not before now," I replied. "But, I have always tried to be a leader." I knew that those are the sort of answers officers like to hear and it never hurts to spread a little bullshit.
       "I like to see men exercise leadership when it comes to them naturally," he replied, "And I plan to recognize those leadership qualities with promotions."
       I don't know what he is leading up to, I thought to myself, but so far this meeting has a lot better than I had anticipated.
       "The other thing that I wanted to talk with you about was the possibility of your applying for Officer Candidate School. I've been going over your 201 File and you certainly qualify," said the Captain. "I'd like to recommend you for OCS school."
       "What would be involved if I go to this school?"
       "You would be sent to a three month Basic Officer Candidate School and after completion, you would become a Second Lieutenant."
       I could see that this wasn't going to be the ass-chewing that I had expected and that I should make the best of it. "Thank you, Sir. I appreciate your faith in me and was wondering when I would receive proper recognition."
      There is an old Texas saying that goes, "If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit." I wasn't about to admit that the reason why I was usually at the front of formations was because Schultz wanted the tallest person at the front.
       "Would the time I've already served and that in school count toward my discharge date and would I return to this unit after I become an officer?" I asked.
       "Upon graduation, you would be discharged as an enlisted person and be sworn in for three years as an officer. Once you were commissioned, you probably wouldn't return to this unit. My guess is that you would go to the infantry or artillery, that's where they really need officers."
       "In spite of all of the benefits of being an officer, I think that I had rather serve the 15 months that I was drafted for and get back to the business that I left when I came in," I replied.
       The meeting was going so well that I figured that I might as well press my luck. "Since I have been acting as a Squad Leader, and you consider me as being officer material, how about making this PFC stripe permanent?" I said.
       "Actually, I am way ahead of you on that," replied the Captain. "Your promotion to PFC is already on orders which come out tomorrow. I just wanted to be the first to congratulate you. Now, for the other thing which I wanted to talk with you about."
       Damn, could this be about Goldberg? Surely he wouldn't call me in to give me a promotion and then hit me with losing Goldberg."
       Captain Sanders went on, "Winter is coming on and, as I'm sure you know, all heating on this base is done with coal. I need someone for a permanent detail as fireman to keep the water heater and furnace stoked and going. It is a filthy, dirty job, but whoever does it will be exempt from all inspections, details and formations. I have a man for the second barracks and the mess hall, but I need someone for the first barracks and the officer's quarters. Do you have any suggestions?"
       "I have the perfect man for that detail; Shoat Filpot. I mean Recruit Filpot, Captain," I replied. "I can't think of anyone more suited for that job."
       "Shoat Filpot?" the Captain laughed. "That name certainly fits him. I understand that Sergeant Cook threw his ass out of the mess hall because he got to be so filthy. You didn't happen to have anything to do with giving him that GI bath that nearly killed him, did you?"
       "Gosh No, Captain," I replied. "You can't possibly think that I would be involved in such juvenile antics, would you."
       "Naturally not, but I'd have given anything to have witnessed that struggle; it must have been something. We could hear it all the way over in Officer Country; sounded like you guys were having a free for all. Some of the officers wanted to come over and break it up, but I told them to let you men work it out among yourselves."
       "He did put up quite a struggle."
       "Well, your first duty as a PFC and squad leader is to give Filpot the job of fireman," said the Captain.
       "Incidentally, Shoat and I come from the same town and have never gotten along too well, so I might have a bit of trouble selling him on the idea of being the fireman. I had much rather have him want to be the fireman than to simply tell him that he has to do it. Since he will be exempt from all other details anyway, how about letting me use this Acting PFC stripe as an Ace in the Hole in case that I need it to close the deal?"
       "Now, that's what I call leadership. Do what you want with that armband," replied the Captain, "I've never cared for acting ranks and have no plans to issue any of them. If a man is worth promoting, I'll see that he gets it. Give the thing to Filpot if you like, it doesn't mean beans around this unit anyway."
       "One other thing," he said as I turned to leave. "Next time that you come to see me, leave the bullshit at home. I've been in the Army a lot longer than you and have seen and heard it all. Be honest with me and we'll get along just fine."
       My feet barely touched the ground as I headed back to the barracks. I had been in the Army less than a month and I already received a promotion to Private First Class. Perhaps the Goldberg thing is so far gone that they will never tie his loss to me when it is finally discovered.
       "Obert, have I got good news for you," I said as soon as I walked into the barracks. "I just lined up the sweetest deal in the world for you. I was in the Captain's office and was able to get him to agree to let you be the fireman for this and the officer's barracks."
       "What kind of shit are you trying to hand me?" asked Obert. "Why would you do anything for me? You never liked me and I damn sure never liked you, especially after that damn bath that nearly killed me."
       "Well, we home town boys have to stick together if we are to get along in the Army," I told him. "I know how you hate to stand inspection, and if you are the barracks fireman, you can move your bunk and stuff down into the boiler room where the officers will never see you. Just think, no more inspections means no more gigs and no more walking guard duty every night."
       "I still think that you are trying to screw me somehow," said Obert. "I never trusted you and still don't. What's in it for you?"
       "Obert, you have me figured all wrong," I said. "I just had a chance to do an old buddy a favor and save you from standing inspections; and get you into a nice, warm place for the winter. If this is how you are going to thank me for trying to help you, I'll just go back down to the Captain and tell him to let someone else have the job."
       "You and the Captain can take all that shit about being barracks fireman and go shove it," said Obert. "I don't believe that there is any such job as barracks fireman and you are just trying to get me down in the boiler room so you bastards can play another trick on me. I ain't moving an inch."
       "OK, if that is the way that you want it," I replied. "I forgot to mention that being the fireman for the officer's barracks also means that you would be made an Acting PFC. Not only would you get out of inspections, you wouldn't have to pull any details like KP and Guard Duty."
       "No KP and no Guard Duty?" asked Obert, "And I would get one of those PFC armbands to wear like you wear?"
       "That's right, Acting PFC, no details and you get to stay inside where it is warm and dry while the rest of us are outside, freezing our butts off in the rain and snow."
       "OK, I'll try it for a while just to see if you are trying to screw me somehow," said Obert.
       "Good, pile your stuff on your bunk and I'll even help you move it down into the boiler room where it's nice and warm," I said, handing him the Acting PFC armband. "I know that you are going to be in hog heaven there."

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