What’s the definition of misery? To be assigned to the Rear Det when the guys go to war, just because you’re at loggerheads with the CO. The duties of the Rear Det are few, so long as nobody gets whacked: push stuff forward to the guys, maintain the building, manage the property book.
Ah, the property book. It includes, of course, the arms room, so we did all the usual inspections, but with only two of us (the other guy, Craig, stayed back due to a medical problem), we were on the not-quite-legal side. But it was just a formality, right?
There were not many weapons in the arms room. Most of the M4s had gone forward, as had all the MGs we’d borrowed off infantry units. We had six M16A2s that we’d borrowed from somebody for a flag detail, that they wouldn’t take back for some reason; a few deadlined M4s; and the foreign weapons locker which had about 100 foreign and obsolete weapons in there for mechanical training. (We weren’t supposed to shoot them, without some kind of papal encyclical from Aberdeen that Aberdeen would never bestow on us, but we always did, if they’d headspace. We had tagged the junkers that wouldn’t headspace).
When the unit deployed, the property book (the master list of all the unit’s “stuff” was divided into two separate ones — the stuff that went to war stayed on the unit’s books, and the stuff left behind (like all the wall lockers in the team room, chairs and desks in the office, and those wallflower firearms) were put on the stay-behind property book.
Comes the Inspection Team
So one morning about three weeks into our adventure a colonel and a couple other officers show up, unannounced.
“This is a no-notice inspection!”
We looked with some dismay around the trashed office, and Craig (not his real name) slid his porn magazine into his desk. He was that kind of hornball, and was usually hooking up with barfly women on dating websites (much later, we would discover that, stuck for a nom de jig-a-jig and not being a very imaginative fellow, he was using Your Humble Blogger’s).
“We didn’t know you guys were coming.”
“Yeah, Sarge. No-notice, right?”
It turned out they didn’t care about our scuffed floors or grimy windows — it wasn’t that kind of inspection. They wanted to see all the stuff on our property book.
But they had the original property book and would not be convinced that the only stuff they could find was the stuff on the stay-behind detachment’s book. That took most of an hour, by which time the colonel had concluded that the stay behind det was the two dumbest mo-fos in Special Forces. (When we turned out to be, if dumb, at least right, that did not restore us to his good graces. Quite the contrary!)
Having that figured out, we breezed through most of the unit property. Yep the wall lockers were in the team rooms. All that was left was the commo locker and the arms room, which we’d have to open.
“It’s almost noontime!” Craig said. “Let’s break for lunch.”
“I want to get back to HQ,” the colonel announced. Craig kept insisting. The colonel was getting cross.
“Well, let’s do the commo locker first, get it over with,” Craig said. “And then break for lunch.”
“The arms room is right downstairs,” your humble blogger helpfully announced. “Let’s do it… ” but Craig was making all kinds of cut-off gestures from behind the inspecting officer.
At this point, the colonel got paged by the other unit that shared the armory, and went to take a telephone call, and for a moment Craig and your humble blogger were alone.
We’re missing whaat?
“We can’t let him in the arms room! We’re short a gun.”
W. T. F-itty F?
“I lent a Swedish K to Ben.” (Also not his real name, Ben was a former unit member who was a senior member of the police department in the city where our unit was based).
“Look, he’s going to bring it back when he’s done. He busted a part on his own one and wanted to copy the same part from ours. So I gave him the gun last month. We can’t let these guys into the arms room.”
They were already suspicious as hell of us — with, it turns out, good reason. It was time to lay down the law.
“Call Ben now. Have him bring the Swedish K back, now. Take these [censored] out to lunch and try to get some booze into them. I’ll put the gun back in the arms room if Ben brings it in. Otherwise, all three of us are going to be in Leavenworth.”
Craig hauled the inspection team to a very good local restaurant and proceeded to treat them to a fine lunch (on, naturally, YHB’s money, because he “didn’t have any cash, sorry.”) The colonel’s suspicion meter was pretty much pegged when Craig kept trying to buy rounds. It went right through ALARM and was quivering in the RAMPANT PARANOIA range when he arrived back at the unit to see me walking out of the bay the supply room, and, more to the point, the arms room, was in.
“What are you doing?”
“Craig said you’d be back, so I went ahead and opened the arms room for your inventory.”
The colonel’s face betrayed his disbelief. Over his shoulder Craig mouthed the words, “Did you get it?” and we suppressed the initial reaction, and instead gave him a look of sadness and a shake of the head.
About fifteen minutes later, with the colonel (whose branch we have forgotten, but he couldn’t identify most of the weapons, and was quite astonished that we had everything from BARs to Walther P.38s) sitting in a stack of oddball firearms, he called out the next item on his list:
“Swedish M-forty-five Bravo, two each.”
“Here, and here.”
Craig, who’d been cringing like a whipped puppy, suddenly realized what had happened: Ben had arrived in time (in fact, Ben, outgoing, passed the lunch bunch, incoming, in the parking lot). And we’d just been messing with his head.
At the end of the inspection, the colonel laughed. “I’m getting paranoid in my old age. I was convinced you guys were trying to mislead me, but, you passed the inventory perfectly.”
Little did he know.
Craig, who was hiding (known to all of us) a medical problem (which would have dumped him out of the unit pre-retirement eligibility) was able to stay around to retire, and the inspection team had a memorable lunch and a good inspection. So that would have been the end of it
A few days later, Craig said that Ben had asked to borrow the Swedish K again. It turns out, in the month plus Ben had it he hadn’t actually taken any measurements.
Craig didn’t see why we shouldn’t lend out the K again. His argument did not carry the day. Instead, Ben had to come in to make his measurements here. And there was never any discrepancy in the arms room inventory.
Soon after this incident, the CO was relieved, over in Afghanistan; and your humble blogger was on the next thing smoking in that direction.
War is hell, but Rear Det is really hazardous.