Many years ago I’d gone off to my IET as a reservist and came back to find my unit in the process of being deactivated. Needing a job and an education, and having apparently suffered a brain injury during my training, I opted to seek out an active duty slot.
As it happened, the economy was sh*t so there were a lot of former soldiers (and a few Marines) who also thought that was a perfectly reasonable idea. Those of us who got the regulation waivers and DoD-authorized signatures to return/transfer to active duty were all bundled together and sent to Ft. Leonard Wood. To a basic training battalion.
That’s an important part of this whole story.
In fact, it’s *the* important part of the story.
For all intents and purposes were were back in basic training, except for the whole training, and marching, and getting yelled at thing. We lived in the BT barracks, ate in the BT chow hall. We even went through the reception battalion bullsh*t once again; physical, sign here, shots, sign there, issue of new uniforms, etc. and then…basically left alone until our orders to ship out to a duty station came through. We generally got tasked for a menial detail or two to start each day, but by lunch time it was a lot of hurry up and wait while being left alone to do whatever we wanted.
Knowing our orders could drop at a moment’s notice, we were given very clear instructions to *not* take our brand new, sterile uniforms to the cleaners to have our badges and patches sewn on. If your flight left the next morning before you could retrieve your stuff, you’d be on the hook to buy all new gear at your duty station. Naturally, we ignored this instruction, so anyone who had anything to brag about had at least one BDU top that accurately reflected their qualifications and experience.
And so it passed that one morning a dozen or so of us were voluntold to be ready before first light to board a 5-ton which would take us to a range to conduct some maintenance. No biggie. We’d be done in a few hours and there would be any number of on-base establishments that would be happy to provide us with beer. So up we got, and on we went.
Among our group were a Ranger and a long-tabber; both combat vets, both NCOs, and both wearing the insignia that indicated as such on their BDU tops.
However, everyone was wearing their field jackets, and for whatever reason all of them were sterile except for name tapes and rank. So when we rolled up to the range before the sun had even risen we were all a little pissed when the back gate dropped and we were immediately greeted by a cadre of snarling, pissed-off drill sergeants. Almost immediately they zeroed in on the Ranger among us who, of course, had his patrol cap fashioned into a Ranger Roll.
“Oh! What do we have here?!? A Ranger wannabe!!??!! Who the F*CK do you think you are, Private Ranger Wannabe!!!” one of them yelled at him, as the rest yelled at us to move our asses and get out of the vehicle.
“Private Ranger Wannabe”, as casually as you like, strolled off the back of the 5-ton and looked the DS dead in the eye.
Without missing a beat he said, “Look. Until you have one of these…” at which point he unzipped his field jacket to show combat jump wings.
“Or one of these…” as he pulled down his jacket’s sleeve to reveal his Ranger tab.
“Or one of these…” as he took his jacket off completely to show off a combat Ranger scroll.
“Until you have have any *one* of these,” he spat, “THEN you can talk to me like that. Until then, SHUT THE F*CK UP!”
The very air itself froze in place for fear that the Apocalypse was nigh and blood would come pouring from the skies. The three or four DS’s each did double-take after double-take with each other, their faces each a complex display of raw confusion and bewilderment.
Our long-tabber saw this as a perfect opportunity to step forward and introduce himself by removing his field jacket showing off a spectacular rack of tabs, Group patches (left and right shoulders) and, just to mix it up a bit, a Pathfinder badge to go with his Airborne and Air Assault wings. He didn’t say a word. Just smiled coolly and enjoyed watching the DSs try to process it all.
Finally, one of the DSs quietly was able to ask, “Who the f*ck *are* you guys?”
When it was explained who we were and why we were in their AO, they were utterly and profusely apologetic. No one had given them a heads-up that they’d be getting a truckful of prior service soldiers, and they’d just assumed we were a bunch of misfit privates without a clue.
Laughs were had all around, and I hope like hell those DSs enjoy telling the story as much as I do.