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The Sergeant Major’s Beer Tent

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My first unit was in the 25th Infantry Division (Light), 4th Bn 27th Infantry at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.  This was the peace-time army, late eighties-early nineties.  We trained hard and we played hard, hell I was a young man.  Working hard and playing hard we’re showcased twice a year with an off-island deployment.  For our unit it was a time to shine, that meant they would work the snot out of us, we saw it as a challenge.  Like the scene in Raging Bull, “Ya never knocked me down Ray.  Ya never knocked me down.”  We knew they’d also give us a chance to challenge ourselves with a little hard playing.

For a young man fresh off the prairie of Minnesota the orient was a grand adventure.  We toured the Pacific Rim, sucked it up and drove on in nasty assed jungles, humped ungodly loads up and down hills for inhuman distances, got snowed on and froze half to death and then they’d give us some time for sight-seeing, travel and interacting with the local culture.  We can share the stories of our grand adventures in this category.

In my good old days the Army still operated under “Big Boy Rules,” commonly defined as “to play by rules that should not have to be said.”  Those rules were commandments in the Sergeant Major’s Beer Tent.  You can see by the picture above it was an ancient tradition and I believe they spoke Latin in the Primus Pilus’ Wine Tent when they wrote the Big Boy Rules.

.Each deployment begins with a few days or a week of getting everyone and everything transported and unpacked, then ends with re-packing and transporting.  Each deployment begins and ends with the Sergeant Major’s Beer Tent.  It opened after release each evening and stayed open as late as deemed appropriate by it’s owner, the Command Sergeant Major.  Beer, both local and American, was readily available to every soldier, the Army still holding as policy that old enough to serve implied old enough to drink.  The modest profit provided the Sergeant Major with a slush fund to use on challenge coins and such until the next time the tent could open for business.  There were “wahr stories” to be told about the last deployment or the last trip to an exotic oriental paradise and the adventures there.  There were spades tournaments every night, movies, music and ample opportunity to step outside the Big Boy Rules.

You didn’t have to step outside yourself, you could witness someone else stepping or occasionally leaping outside the BBRs.  The leaps were legendary, Hellraiser kind of legendary.  Discipline in those days was meted out instantly, hopefully at the lowest possible level.  A Sergeant didn’t have the years of experience that a Staff Sergeant did.  A Staff Sergeant’s mind was not as warped and grinch-like as the mind of a Sergeant First Class.  Woe be to the poor bastard who incurred the wrath of a First Sergeant or, god forbid, The Man Himself.

Like the two Staff Sergeants who drunkenly got into a fight over a card game inside the tent.  Outside the tent would have been bad enough but inside was like pissin’ in the Command Sergeant Major’s canteen.  A First Sergeant or two broke up the fight shortly after it had emerged from the tent and escalated from fisticuffs to entrenching tools.  The First Sergeant barked “At Ease” and commanded to the air, “Get These Dumb-asses’ Platoon Sergeants, Now.”  It was a two-part command issued with a parade field voice.  A dozen pairs of feet turned around and left with a quickness.

When the Platoon Sergeants arrived the First Sergeant chewed their asses for the sorry, undisciplined state of their Non Commissioned Officers and suggested that these two idiots were a direct reflection of their leadership.  The throbbing veins on the Platoon Sergeants foreheads foretold the legendary remedial training that was in store for these two.  The two First Sergeants exchanged a glance of understanding  and a flicker of wicked grin, privately acknowledging the suffering that was in store for this felony level breach of the BBRs.

It began with full battle rattle and ALICE pack and traveled across the street to a suitable place to use entrenching tools as god had intended.  Each of them dug armpit deep fighting positions with 18 inches of overhead cover for two consecutive nights, under the constant up-close and personal supervision of their Platoon Sergeants.  I don’t know what kind of private hell they lived under for the rest of that deployment but the black clouds followed them around for several months.  The BBR’s were conservatively followed for the rest of that deployment.

This category is for those sometimes bawdy, sometimes touching tales we lived. So come on in the the Beer Tent, grab a cold one, deal some cards and swap some tales.  I’ll tell you about the time we wrecked a tuk-tuk in Bangkok.

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About the Author:

I joined the Army in 1988, served in the 25th IL (L) , 24th ID, The Infantry Training Brigade, The 82nd Airborne Division, Ft Polk and again The 82nd Division until I retired in 2008. I was a mortar maggot and retired with the rank of Master Sergeant.
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Comments

  1. Editor  March 17, 2018

    Fond memories of Scofield myself, and the Tropic Lightning 25th, who we did our war games with in Korea under the name of IX Corps. Tried my last case there, an Army deserter in late ’74. I’ll tell that story someday, too. Walking around the post I had pointed out to me bullet holes in the buildings where the Japanese had strafed the area on Dec 7, just 31 years earlier.

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    • Allen  March 19, 2018

      I was there in 91, the 50th Anniversary. We had a half a dozen old vets give us the grand tour of our barracks. The bullet holes were still there just covered with a few hundred coats of paint.

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    • mike collins  July 2, 2018

      i was there in 67 just before we were shipped out to vietnam. some of those bullet holes were made by a Sargent savage–yes that was his name. when he came back from the shooting range he saved some ammo–he did not get his promotion to e7 so he went into the headquarters and killed a few people because they gave him a bad review. i was with the 11 inf–we were mostly drafted–we trained and then went to war. i dont think i ever saw a px. we get together now–have become close friends, but we still only talk among ourself to try and figger out what really went on.

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      • Vassar  July 2, 2018

        When did you guys go on R&R Mike. And where? Was the 11th in the North?

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  2. Jim  March 20, 2018

    I was there during 1967 Most fun I ever had. J.C.

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  3. mike  July 5, 2018

    look up jungle warriors– that will give you what you are looking for– i tried to forget–and that is one of the few things i did right. i have a few people that if i want answers i contact. they remember everything– never left 1 core.

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