5. THE WORST SOLDIER IN THE UNITED STATES ARMY
I should have known from the second I sat down and looked at Charlie Team and said to myself, “Man, I have some good soldiers,” that it wasn’t going to last.
There’s a saying in the army that whenever you get screwed over in a way that you can only attribute to stupid command decisions, it’s called “being fucked by the big, green weenie.” Obviously, it came from the days that we actually wore green uniforms, but it didn’t make it any less real.
By then I had been at the Reserve about three weeks. I was lying on my cot with a horrible bout of dysentery and hooked up to two different IV drips when Slim walked into the tent and sat down next to me. “How you feeling, brother?” he said, looking at my horrible sunken cheeks and dark eyes.
“I feel like I’m shitting myself to death,” I said weakly. Out of all the terrible illnesses I had contracted in third-world countries, dysentery was the worst. It’s a food- or waterborne illness spread by fecal matter.
Before you judge me for eating and drinking water coated in human shit, just remember that before the wonderful conveniences of plumbing and germ theory, it was incredibly common and sometimes even fatal. I had probably caught it from eating our cook’s fantastic creations—the ones he would leave out in the open air for hours at a time.
“Well fuck, man.” Slim shook his head. “I hate to give you even worse news then.”
“Fuck, what else could you do to me right now? Shoot me?” I gave a weak smile and showed him the two needles sticking into my arms.
“We’re giving you a new soldier,” Slim said.
“New?” I asked. “What about Dirty and Urkel?”
“You’ll keep them. But we’re giving you a third.”
“Who?” I was incredibly wary about his tone of voice. I was the lowest ranking team leader in the squad. No one just gives up a good soldier, especially not to a corporal team leader.
“Creep,” he said, not making eye contact. I slowly sat up on my cot, bracing myself with what was left of my strength.
“Fuck no,” I said, grabbing his arm.
Everyone in my unit knew who Creep was. Creep was in third platoon when the deployment started. He had volunteered to deploy with us from another unit at Fort Hood because we were short on soldiers.
In the short time he had been with third platoon, he had no less than four sexual harassment complaints filed against him. Add that to the Equal Opportunity offenses and at least one restraining order.
Equal Opportunity was a program that the Department of Defense created to address the staggering number of sexual assaults that happen in the military. Every company had an Equal Opportunity representative that you could go to and voice complaints completely anonymously, and your representative was supposed to make sure the wrongdoer was punished.
Of course, that never happened, as Creep had four complaints filed against him for only God-knows-what. Instead of being kicked out of the army, he had been shuffled around to different units. Kind of like what the Catholic Church does with its offenders.
I could almost be okay with having Creep on my team if that were his only shortcoming, but that just scratched the surface. On our pre-deployment field training exercise, Creep had lost the firing pin to his rifle, started crying, and tried to say everything he did was justified because his mother was a colonel in Medical Command.
I think the worst part was that even though he was being transferred to my team, no one would tell me what exactly he did to get completely kicked out of his platoon.
“I’m sorry, man,” Slim said.
“No. I’m not taking him,” I said stubbornly. I was aware Slim was only telling me this way because he was my friend, not because I had any say in the matter. Nothing I could say was going to change that.
“We’ll bounce him around on different teams for the most part, but he’s going to be on your team for administration reasons.”
“You mean for when he fucks up,” I corrected him.
“Yeah.” Slim laughed a little.
“You fucking owe me,” I groaned. “He’s going to poison my kids,” I said regarding Dirty and Urkel. They were young and impressionable, but great soldiers.
He laughed and gave me a few more bottles of water. The worst part of dysentery was trying to stay hydrated as you spent the majority of time ejecting liquids from one orifice or another. Hence the IVs.
Slim walked out of my sweltering tent leaving me to stew on the fact he’d just dropped one of the worst soldiers in our company onto my lap.
I wasn’t fully recovered or even walking under my own strength when the first problems with Creep started popping up. Our operations frequency was pretty crazy, and our lives generally boiled down to if you weren’t on patrol you were on tower guard duty. We made sure each tower had at least two people in it during the night to make staying awake a little easier, but Creep never even made it that far.
On his first shift, Perro found him lying on the floor of one of the towers, all his gear stripped off, and sleeping soundly in the dirt.
The worst part was that Creep hadn’t fallen asleep by accident—something most of us did eventually. He had taken off all his gear, gotten comfortable, and intentionally gone to sleep. Not only did that show he was a shithead, it showed he really didn’t care about any of us. If you fall asleep while on guard, you put every soldier in danger. We let him know that.
But in the end, we chalked it up to him being young and stupid and let it go.
Besides being totally unable to stay awake while on guard, Creep had another problem: he didn’t know how to wash up. At the Reserve, we had two working showers. Sure, the water wasn’t hot, and it was harder than rock, but they worked. You could generally shower whenever you wanted, and at least once every few days.
We also had one working washing machine. You had to fill it with water from one of the showers with a bucket, and we had no dryer, but you could still wash your clothes. Creep did neither of those things.
As you can imagine, several days of patrolling in the blistering-hot Afghan sun builds a mighty funk on one’s body. With twenty people living in a tent, that funk could quickly reach levels that would make you wretch.
Gong, Perro, and Guapo all came into my tent one morning when I was still hooked to my IVs and covered in a cold sweat.
“Your boy is fucking up,” Perro said.
“Huh?” I said groggily.
“Creep. He hasn’t washed his ass or clothes since he’s been here,” Perro went on.
I rolled over. “It’s been over a week. No way.”
“He smells like a dead body covered in burnt hair,” Gong added. His tone was surprisingly serious for him.
“Mother fucker.” I pulled myself onto my feet, holding IV bags above my head as I went. I shuffled across the Reserve to their tent. My gaunt, dehydrated, sickly figure was a shell of my former self.
I ducked into their tent and my nose was assaulted by a smell that was as if someone had drunk nothing but vinegar for a month and taken a massive shit on a campfire.
“Creep!” I tried to scream, but I didn’t have the energy. It was more of a crackling rasp. He bolted to his feet and stood at parade rest.
“Yes, Corporal?” he drawled. He was from somewhere in bum-fuck-nowhere Missouri. I never cared to find out where exactly, but I assumed wherever he was from had no problem dating within the family tree.
“Have you washed your ass since you’ve gotten to the Reserve?”
“Well, I was going to Corporal, but…” he started. I saw his teeth for the first time. They looked as if he had brushed them with a handful of rocks his whole life.
“I didn’t ask for a fucking story, goddammit,” I croaked weakly.
“No, Corporal,” he answered, trying his hardest not to make eye contact.
“How old are you?” I asked him.
“You’re older than me, Creep. You understand that? I shouldn’t have to be asking you if you fucking showered.”
“But I—” he began again.
“Shut the fuck up,” I raised my voice into the closest thing resembling a scream that I could. “This isn’t something that I should have to explain any further. You get your nasty ass wet, put some mother fucking soap on, and then you rinse it the fuck off.” I was yelling so loudly that I was getting light-headed. I was still sicker than I thought.
I watched little droplets of spit smack against his face. The places where that spit landed were probably the cleanest part of his body at that moment. “Perro, Gong, Cali,” I yelled. They all rolled over in their cots to look at me. “Escort this fucking retard to the shower and make sure he washes his fucking balls correctly!”
They all laughed and got up.
I shuffled back to my tent and collapsed into my cot. All of the screaming and the simple act of moving had worn me out.
Perro came back into the tent about ten minutes later and told me that their grotesque mission was complete. They had had to take the shower curtain off to ensure Creep washed up. The first time they just waited outside until he was done, and after five minutes Creep walked out bone dry and looking the same way he did when he went in. After that, they pushed him back into the shower trailer and watched him.
“You owe me a beer when we get home,” Perro said. He looked disgusted.
“Put it on Slim’s tab.” I smiled at him.