There's a Party Going on Here
Upon being assigned a room on the first floor of our barracks, at Fort Dix, New Jersey, as I prepared to make my way through Advanced Individual Training, I had some decisions to make. The rest of the platoon was on the third floor, and they were in the midst of a G.I. Party, which meant they were scrubbing floors, and cleaning the latrine. My roommate was suggesting that we find alternative methods to the evening's activities than cleaning toilets.
The first night after we came back from chow, we were standing in our room, hashing it out.
“We got to figure out what’s happening here,” said Roy, tying the laces of his basketball shoes. “I know what I would like to see happen,” indicating his feet. He had been practicing his Kareem Abdul Jabbar sky hook-shot all day.
“What about the G.I. Party going on upstairs?” asked Tom.
“What G.I. Party?” asked Roy innocently. "I don’t see any party. except one for Charlie Company, and we aren’t part of Charlie Company.” Charlie Company occupied most of the first floor, but since we were not a part of their company, we were not required to be part of their action.
“But that drill sergeant was looking right at you when he was saying he better not catch anyone sneaking out,” I pointed out.
“Of course he was looking at me, and you and you and at everyone who was in there. That way everyone thinks he’s talking to him. But it’s impossible. We are just another forty guys invading his space for eight weeks, before we move on. They all look the same. Don’t be so nervous.”
“How do you know we can get a basketball court?” asked Tom.
“I don’t, but if not, then we’ll start with handball. Actually, it’s paddle ball, but you use the same skills. If they’re not available, then we’ll lift weights, or go into the sauna. Get it? It’s a gymnasium, and there is plenty to do. All we have to do is be back before nine-fifteen, so that we have fifteen minutes to get ready for lights out.”
“I don’t know, Roy. It seems as though it’s too easy. “What if someone rats us out?” I asked. “I made it through FLW without any hassles, and I can’t let anything interfere with my plans.”
Roy just looked at me. “Are you trying to say that you would go to the drill sergeant, tug on his shirt sleeve, and say, ‘Oh Mister Smokey the Bear, I know three certain individuals who weaseled out on the G. I. Party and I want you to punish them...’ OK. Look. I’m not trying to talk you into doing anything. All I’m saying is that we went up and scrubbed and buffed floors last night, and there were guys spread out all over that third floor. They can’t possibly keep track of us all.”
Tom spoke up. “So you think that if we just go out the front door like we own the place, then no one will notice?”
“No one will notice, and no one will care,” responded Roy.
“What if they ask at the gym, why we’re not here? Scrubbing floors?” I was not ready to let it go.
Roy was quick, saying, “The guy working behind the counter is some guy just like us, who is putting in his shift, and who doesn’t get paid a nickel to care about who comes in to play basketball. If we’re not supposed to be there, it’s no skin off of his nose. He’s not going to get into trouble, we are.” Roy was getting warmed up.
“We are?” I laughed and added, “I’m in. I can’t do one more G.I. party, where I have to clean around the toilets and sinks with a toothbrush.”
“Yeah,” said Tom. “The worst that can happen is that we’ll end up beating everyone in the gym at basketball, get our pictures in the paper, get spotted by Captain Miller, and get thrown in the brig.”
“That’s the navy, and cut it out. If we’re going, then let’s go. We’ll follow you,” I said.
That was fine except it left me bringing up the rear, so it was I who turned around when the voice behind me said, “Hey, you soldier, where are you going? We have a party going on here.” Charlie Company’s senior drill instructor gestured around at the recruits on the bottom floor, scuttling around with mops, buckets and toothbrushes.
In less time than it took for me to take in a deep quick breath, I realized that he meant that we should be helping out with the others around us. He assumed we were part of Charlie Company, the occupants of the bottom floor.
“We’re heading to the gym for some free time. We’re in Delta Company, and the three of us scored highest on our typing tests today, so we’re out of here.”
“Well, good for you. Carry on.”
Barely waiting for acknowledgement, I turned around and headed out the door. And that was the last time we had that discussion. Roy was right; the drill sergeants up on the third floor neither knew, nor cared, that we weren’t there. The barracks stayed ultra clean anyway, because the guys policed themselves so as to minimize the amount of work they had to do, after they had already been in class, done P.T. and done any work details that Captain Miller threw our way.
Captain Miller had attained a reputation, in the short time that he had been at the helm of our company. He was pursuing an army career and was said to be quite ambitious. Unfortunately for us, that meant he wanted to be noticed, and that translated into his volunteering his men for any and every detail that came along. Though we were ensconced in our classroom, six and a half hours a day, they were more than happy that we not have too much free time. After all, time is money, and money doesn't come for free. However, trainees did, and thus we worked so that Captain Miller looked good.