Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Army Burnouts

  • In Vilseck, Germany, I knew two corporals, each with about eighteen years of service. Both had been busted some number of times, all due to incidents involving alcohol.

    One, Corporal Enwright, had a twin brother in the Army. They had enlisted at the same time and served together for a while until reassignments split them up. Enwright had risen as high as Sergeant First Class (E-7) before acquiring his problem, and had been busted three times. When I knew him his brother was a First Sergeant (E-8) while he was an E-4.

  • In Grafenwoehr, Germany, I knew a Private (E-2) named Paine who had eighteen years in. I never saw him sober, morning, noon, or night. I don't know what the highest rank he had held was.

    I recall one morning when the First Sergeant had the whole company in formation. There was to be a visit by the Inspector General and the First Sergeant wanted to make certain that everything was just so. Most of us would be at work when the IG arrived, but everything in the barracks and in the company area was to be perfect. He ran down a list of items and asked the company, "Any questions?"

    Paine raised his hand.

    First Sergeant: "What is it, Paine?"

    Paine: "What time is it?"

    Paine would soon have his twenty years in and would not be allowed to reenlist, and when I left Germany the company was making a valiant effort to straighten him out enough so that they could promote him to E-3 and then E-4 for his retirement.

  • In Corpus Christi, the payroll section in which I worked was nominally headed by a Specialist Fifth Class (E-5) named Kent, who was a burnout. I believe he had about sixteen years in, and he was just marking time. I don't know exactly what his problem was, but he was a nervous wreck, and he was terrified of being sent to Vietnam.

    I say "nominally headed" because although I was a Specialist Fourth Class (E-4), the Personnel Officer had instructed me to run the department and Kent to do whatever I told him to do. Kent bought in without a murmur.

    The payroll section consisted of four men - Kent, a draftee who had about six months remaining before discharge, a new man - a PFC (E-3), and me. Our outfit was a special project, and when the batallion went to Vietnam the finance records would remain in Corpus Christi. There would be one enlisted man from the finance section accompanying the batallion, to handle payroll matters on site and to communicate with the Corpus Christi Office. I talked to the Personnel Officer and we agreed that Kent would be inadequate for the job. That left unohoo.

    Made E-5 a couple of months before we went, though.

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