I had been kicked out of the Armored Corps and into an office after three bouts of pneumonia in a couple of years. The company needed a new Company Clerk and I could type sixty words a minute, so guess what. Really, this was for the best: I was a fish out of water when it came to working with tanks. I had accomplished my main goal, which was to get an assignment in Germany, and I would remain with my company and my friends.
I was moved from a six man room in another building to a one man room in the company's headquarters building. The upstairs quartered some of the company, but mine was the only downstairs room with a bunk and it was almost directly across from the door to the Orderly Room. Through that door were the Commanding Officer, First Sergeant, and the brand new Company Clerk.
Due to a string of coincidences and weird events, there were several changes of Commanding Officers and of First Sergeants during the next year. I took to the new position like a fish to water, and after a year represented the only stability in the company's headquarters. The effect of this was that almost everyone who needed a favor, information, or some action within the company started with me.
Finally, a Master Sergeant whom we'll call "Bully," was assigned permanently to the First Sergeant slot. He was a pay grade E-7 and bucking for a promotion to E-8, the grade associated with his new position. I was nineteen or twenty and he was about thirty-five.
It distressed him greatly that members of the company would enter and turn to me with a question, rather than to him. They would then hear things like, "Why don't you ask the Mail Clerk?" and "Why don't you ask the cooks?" He began to take it out on me, as if I had instigated it. I tried to reason with him, explaining that it was due only to the frequent turnover in his position and that soon people would ask him automatically. He nodded, but nothing changed.
On one occasion a German girlfriend in Vilseck called me at work (the only time this had ever happened). Something important to her had come up. I was at lunch and Bully told her I wasn't there, that I'd been on leave for several days, and that he didn't know where I was.
I found out about it that night when I went to see her. I just filed it away and didn't say anything to him. A few weeks later his wife called and asked for him. Instantly, I told her he was on leave and I hadn't seen him for several days. There was a long silence, followed by a "thank you."
He never said anything about it to me.
I recall that on Saturday mornings he conducted inspections of the barracks and rooms, and once a month these were "full field" inspections, foot lockers and wall lockers open, field gear laid out on the bunks in ordained positions. I worked Monday to Friday and half a day on Saturday. One Saturday afternoon I returned to my room to find that he had thrown all my gear off the bunk and onto the floor and dumped my foot locker contents onto the floor. This was rather extreme - something that you wouldn't see even in basic training - and I hunted down the Master Sergeant who had accompanied Bully during the inspection. He said, "I'm sorry. Bully said something about rust at the bottom of a tent pole and went crazy."
I went back to my room, restored some of the contents of my foot locker and examined all my tent poles. No rust. By now I understood that there was to be no reasoning with him, no recognition by him of the real cause of the problem. In his mind, *eye* was the problem.
I decided to live in the rubble. The following Saturday he was steaming on his return from his inspection, and asked me, "Why didn't you pick that stuff up?"
"You put it there, right?"
"I figured that's where you wanted it."
Seven days later: "You better pick that stuff up, son."
"Sooner or later, Top."
Another 168 hours and he was breathing fire.
Master Sergeant Bully: "Are you going to pick that stuff up or not?"
Donnie: "Why did you do that, Top? Why did you throw it on the floor?"
MSG Bully: "There was rust on the tent poles."
Donnie: "And I say there wasn't. Want to have it refereed? I'll leave everything where it is and Monday morning we'll ask the Old Man to look at the poles and tell us who's right."
Silence. Perhaps two minutes of it, which is a long time under such circumstances.
I grabbed my hat and said, "Right. I'll put it away. See you Monday, Top."
After that he was somewhat more circumspect in his approach to tormenting me, but it was still hostility 24/7.
NEXT: THE BULLY - PART 2