Thursday, May 6, 2010


Most people have probably heard of the false things to tell is wrong with their vehicle like blinker fluid and bumper bearings. Well, in the military, we have a similar version of that. Only we tend to do it to new guys in the form of sending them on errands to find these things. Here are a few things that I've seen, been sent for, or most commonly, just heard about.

First: Chemlight batteries. For anyone not in the military, chemlight is jargon for glow sticks, those little sticks you crack, shake, and take to raves. They work by a chemical (hence: chem) reaction when you break a little glass ampule and it mixes with the rest of the fluid. I'm not sure of the exact chamicals, but it's all sciency and stuff. Anyways, they work, and not with batteries. It's common to send a new guy in search of them, usually to the supply section or even the Post Exchange. Mostly it's to razz the poor, inexperienced noobs, but it can be used to just get them out of a junior leader's hair for a while. Actually, a friend of mine was sent after these when he got to his first duty station. He's a bit more intelligent than most people, including his then-new squad leader. And this squad leader was also a douche. It was part of his intent to not only razz my friend, but to probably punish him for the inevitiable failure AND by taking up so much time. My friend figured this, and went straight to the PX, picking up a box of real chem lights, on the way home. Then he spent about 20 minutes finishing his plan, and then he promptly took a nap and enjoyed not being at work. The next day, his squad leader and his platoon sergeant (his squad leader's boss) verbally jumped him and demanded to know where he was the prevois day. He assumed his best parade rest and informed them that he had been out procurring the requested chem light batteries. The squad leader smirked and told him that he had better produce them, or he was in even more trouble. My friend then pulled out what he had been doing for those 20 minutes: the glass vials from inside the chem lights. He had cut them up and removed the "power source" for the chem lights. The platoon sergeant thought that this was so funny that he wouldn't let the squad leader punish my friend. My friend was eventually promoted to squad leader and took over another section, while the douche bag that he turned the tables on pretty much stayed stagnant for the rest of his career. Moral: don't be a douche.

Second: Grid squares. For anyone who's not familiar with any form of orienteering or map reading, grid squares are those little sections drawn on the map for determining coordinates. It's common for junior leaders to send young soldiers to pick up a box of them. A friend of mine thought he would be cute when he got sent for them and cut up a map along the grid lines, but instead he just got in trouble for cutting up a GTA, or graphic training aid. Not too much came of it, though, they made him do some exercises and sent him on his way.

Third: Rotor wash. There seems to be an inordinate amount of these things in the aviation corps. Basically, rotor wash is the wind that comes off of a helicopter's rotors. It's just air moved by the rapid rotation of the rotors, and there is no use for it, and it cannot be collected anyways. It's common for young soldiers to be sent looking for a bucket of rotor wash. Once, while in Iraq, I was flying out to go on leave and was waiting with my gear near the flight line. Every time a helicopter would come in, a young private, in full body armor and kevlar helmet, would get up with an old, metal bucket, and hold hit out under the the down draft of the rotors. After the helicopter would lift off again, she would look in her bucket, swear, and go sit back down. After observing this for a while, I fianlly asked her what was up. she told me she had just got to Iraq and had reported to her section, and been sent for rotor wash. she told me she searched high and low, even in the cleaning supplies (I guess she thought it was for actually washing rotors), but never found any. A kind, passing Sergeant informed her what rotor wahs reall was, no doubt simply trying to help this poor girl get back to productive work. She freel admitted that she then asked this Sergeant if she could just collect it herself, to avoid getting in trouble. I'm sure he did a literal face palm at her stupidity, but he did tell her, probably out of frustration, that yes, she could. But, he said, that she had to do it full battle rattle (armor, kevlar, etc.), and it would undoubtably take a while so she should keep hydrated. At least he through this last part in to keep the girl from falling out from heat stroke....

Fourth: Flight Line. I've heard it common for people to be sent for a hundred yards of flight line. Flight line is just a term used to describe where the planes and helicopters are kept/maintained, not any kind of real rope or line. I've never seen or experienced an instance of this, but I'm informed by friends in aviation that this is a common errand.

Fifth (and my favorite to actually use on people): The Eye-Dee-Ten-Tee manual. Pronounced just like that. When you get someone in your section that is dumb enough to actually make work harder, it's good to send them on this little errand. For those that have never heard of this, spell it out short hand. I-D-10-T manual. It looks like the word idiot. And it's not a real manual. We had a kid out looking for that all over post (I'm at a VERY small base) once, each department bored enough to simply laugh, tell him they didn't have it, and "politely" send him to another department. We would get phone calls from the various people telling of the kid's progress. This went on all day until someone finally told him that the post commander had checked out the last copy, and our mark should just go ask him for it. He was too intimidated to go to a Colonel's office, so he came back all dejected that he couldn't perform this one task. We told him what it really was, and welcomed him to the unit. We still have fun at his expence, but he's kinda like a little brother so we look out for him, too. He may not be bright, but he sure is motivated....

Lastly: a quick story on this being used on me. We were in Iraq, getting ready ot turn our vehicles over to our replacements, which was one of the last things to be done before we headed home. We were washing the trucks. Someone told me to go ask the 1SG for some turtle wax. I know that Turtle Wax is a brand of car wax, and I know very well that you don't normally "wax" tactical vehicles. But I was also aware of the oft fickle 1SG who would have us do really pointless and stupid tasks for no reason, so it was not a stretch for me to imagine him wanting us to wax the vehicles. When I asked for some, he asked why. Not thinking, I told him. He ended up smoking (making us to exercises) both me and the guy that sent me on the errand for about two hours. At least we got out of cleaning the trucks....

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