Saturday, 1 February 2014

A Stint in the Army

When I was up north, and of age, I decided to join the army reserves. I thought it would lead to some stability in my life. I always liked the military.

I think all high school kids should do a cadetship in grade 11 or 12. It would teach them some respect and some discipline. My son did it. I saw the change. It should be mandatory. This country would benefit from a more respectful generation - less drugs so forth.

 I loved filing and answering phones so I was assigned to the recruitment office. There were no computers, everything was done on paper. I would arrange the recruitment course for newcomers and keep all personnel information together. I loved it. This was my future.

Because I had everything organised and had my own filing system the office found it hard to actually let me complete a course. Therefore I was a private recruit. The Sgt Major was not happy about this - I would always walk past him and say g'day instead of saluting. The Colonel argued with him and told him to get over it. "She's needed in the office", he would say. They were always bickering over me. I used to giggle about it.

It was hot up there and my uniform was a dress made out of linen and stockings. I refused to wear stockings. There was no airconditioning, only a desk fan. This would make the Sergeant Major more annoyed. "The girl needs to be disciplined and know the army regulations", he would say. I'm sure the Colonel used to use me to get under his belt. He was American - no one liked him. The Colonel was well-liked.

The colonel offered me full time for a week to do the payrolls as the officer that did them had been transferred. I was to also be his secretary and keep files in order, answer the phone and so on. I agreed on the condition that I didn't have to wear the uniform. He agreed. Well you can imagine the Sergeant Major's response. A private recruit, no uniform and in a high position of trust.

I always liked numbers and was good at arithmetic but was allowed to use a huge calculator to double check that the payroll was accurate.

The Colonel knew I could play pool. After work he would take me to the officer's mess for a beer and a game of pool. The Sgt Major was fuming. He didn't like me at all by now. All ranks thought it was so funny.

The Colonel had a bet with the Sgt Major over a game of pool.
The Colonel said "If you win, Kath is not allowed to come back in. If you lose then shut up – ok?" It was a deal.

The Colonel whispered in my ear "Thrash him!" We tossed for the break. He backed tails, I was stuck with heads. The officers were all calling heads as the coin was tossed. They knew if I won and had to break what I was capable of doing. That was the longest toin coss I remember. Slow motion … heads it was. I saw the look of fear on the Sgt Major's face. I knew I had won the argument. I was centre of attention. Nerves didn't come into it. You could have heard a pin drop. The jukebox was turned off. All was quiet. I tuned into the rack looked up at the Sgt Major and smashed them.

As usual, when I was in kick ass mood in a game of pool against a man that gave me a hard time. Two balls of the same group sunk. Next shot I sank another 3. The Colonel brought me over a beer. I stopped and drank some. The Sgt Major was sweating. The boys said to him "Hey, I hope you've got clean undies on". The Sgt Mjr said, "C'mon - hurry up and miss your next shot so I can clean you up". I just smiled at him. "Thanks buddy", I thought. That's all it took.

I was going to set the 8 ball up a bit better and let him have a shot. Well, that was it! I sank the last 2 balls. I stuffed up and the 8 ball ended up against the cushion instead of over the pocket. The Sgt Major sighed in relief. No way I could get that shot. I stopped had a sip of beer and the Colonel said to me "Come outside for a minute." The Sgt Major asked why. The colonel said it was military business. The Sgt Major said "If she leaves, she forfeits the game". All the boys pointed to the rules on the wall and asked where it says that. The Sgt Major couldn't answer. The Colonel told us to just finish the game. I tuned in with my eye. My hands were steady. I positioned my feet flat on the floor and gently kicked it in. In almost slow motion the ball moved to the pocket and fell in. Everyone applauded. They were yelling "Drop 'em, drop em" to the Sgt Major.

He was fuming. Not only was he beaten by a girl who didn't salute him, but she was out of uniform and a private recruit at that. He left. He never talked to me again. He would just glare. I would smile and say g'day. A deal was a deal. He didn't drink at the mess all week. 

Sometimes it's fun being out of uniform and breaking the rules, but only to thumb my nose at those people who don't show me the respect I deserve.

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