Soldiers are probably some of the best practical jokers around. I have long ago lost count of the jokes played on me and the ones I have inflicted on others. The best jokes involve sending newly arrived soldiers on errands to get a fictional something or other. I was pretty good at inflicting this joke on new GI’s but, I have to confess, I got caught more than once myself.
I was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 36th Field Artillery in Germany and worked in the motor pool. I was in charge of the parts room. One of the drivers popped in one morning and asked me for a wuffle gear for his five-ton truck. Being a new solider in the unit, I wanted to be responsive to his request. You know, I spent the entire day combing through parts manuals (this was in the days BEFORE computers) and diagrams looking for this elusive wuffle gear. The saddest part was my Sergeant KNEW I’d been had and let me go the whole day before he told me. I was the butt of jokes until the next new guy arrived and was similarly treated. Pretty much every soldier goes through it at least once. The slower ones would get “taken” more than once.
There was sweet revenge later when I had made Sergeant and had my own new soldier to deal with and victimize. He was a newly trained helicopter crew chief. I sent him to the hangar for a bucket of “prop wash.” He dutifully went from hangar to hangar looking for a bucket of prop wash. Each stop he made, the people there picked up on the ruse and sent him to another shop with the promise that they routinely kept such an article there and would gladly surrender all he required. He did not return until very late in the day. He was a very large young man from Louisiana. Have you ever seen a large man from Louisiana when he discovers he has been had? He actually took it pretty well but, I had the feeling that I and all who helped me in this practical joke would do well to watch our collective backs.
There were a number of imaginary things that we sent people for. Things like:
- A tent stretcher
- A yard of flight line
- A tube of night vision
- A bucket of radio frequency
- A bag of grid squares
- And my all time favorite, a gallon of muzzle blast
Your tax dollars at work.