Tag Archives: US Army

Choose Happiness

Many years ago I was in the Army, and stationed in Germany.

I was the Battalion Commander’s secretary, and Command Sergeant Major Middleton was the Battalion Commander’s right hand man.

CSM Middleton was a bulldozer of a man. I secretly believed he was Frankenstein’s monster.  He looked the part with his large body, squared shoulders and often frightening face. I couldn’t see the bolts on his thick neck, but assumed he’d had them removed with plastic surgery.

I further backed up my theory by the fact that he lived to terrorize everyone. It was his sole purpose in life. Our troops dreaded his visit to their company. CSM Middleton would make them stand at attention while he yelled at them. If he couldn’t find something wrong with them or their work, he would make it up. He didn’t care.CSM Middleton

I had often suffered his wrath, since my office was right next to his. But there was one day when all that changed.

It was the week before Easter, and I woke up that morning in a wonderful mood. Nothing in particular had happened to cause the good mood, I just woke up feeling on top of the world. It was spring, blue skies, colorful flowers bursting from window boxes, and I was walking on sunshine.

I got to work and heard a thundering sound at the far end of the hall that was charging straight for my desk. The Colonel’s driver leaned over and said, “Look out, here comes the Sergeant Major, and he’s in a bad mood.”

Well the Sergeant Major was always in a bad mood. He came to a roaring stop at my desk and started yelling at me. “Did I do this? Did I do that?”

Me at my desk
Me at my desk

Remember, I was walking on sunshine that morning, and no one, not even the Sergeant Major, was taking my good mood away from me. So I did something I’d never done before. I smiled at him. Big! I smiled and said cheerfully, “No, but I will.”

He stepped back bewildered. He didn’t know how to deal with this. He was used to people cowering in fear, not smiling in happiness.

He left the office.

On my lunch hour I went over to the PX and bought a card with Charlie Brown and Lucy on it. On the front of the card, Charlie Brown said to Lucy, “You know what’s wrong with the world?” and Lucy replied, “No.” Charlie Brown said, “There’s too much apathy.” On the inside of the card, Lucy said, “Who cares?”

I bought the card and wrote in it, “I care, have a wonderful day.” And I bought a big chocolate bunny, since it was almost Easter, and I placed the card and the chocolate bunny in the Sergeant Major’s office. Instead of letting him take my good mood away from me, I decided to share it with him.

That afternoon he returned, went in his office and then left. He never said a word about the card or the chocolate bunny.

It was several days later before he came back in the office, and when he did, he had changed into my friend and ally. He was kind, smiled, and shared stories of his travels. He never yelled at me again.

When I left Germany, it was the Sergeant Major who threw me a going away party with cake and gifts. I cared, and so did he.

Every day we have choices to make. I discovered happiness is a choice. I encourage you to choose happiness, and don’t let anyone take it away from you. Instead – share it!

The Barracks of Hell

Merrill Barracks in Nuremberg, Germany became my new home. I was transferred out of the motor pool up the battalion headquarters where I was to be the new personal secretary to the battalion commander, Col. Garrison.

The 71st Maintenance Battalion headquarters resided in Merrill Barracks, an enormous structures that took up an entire block. It was 5 stories above the ground and 5 stories below the ground.

The women’s barracks was on the 4th floor of one wing, and I worked on the 1st floor of another wing. There were other companies that were located there as well.

The over sized complex housed the Officer’s Club, an underground shooting range, along with medical clinics and much more. It was originally built as the barracks to train Hitler’s elite SS troops. Not a very comforting thought!

The rats were the size of a large cat and rooms were cold, in so many ways. But for over a year, it was home!

Merrill Barracks
Merrill Barracks

The Austrian Alps

The Army sponsored the Nuremberg International Ski Club. I was a beginner skier at the time, so this was my perfect opportunity to learn. I joined the club, which organized ski trips every month to the Alps.

The first trip I went on with the group was to Lech, Austria. We had a great bus, with a keg of beer in the back, about 30 people, and Neil Diamond on the stereo. It was a great bus ride!

It was April, late in the season and the snow on the slopes was heavy with a recent rain. I rented some skis and took off. I was going a little faster than I should have and BAM! Lost control. The tip of one ski went straight down in the snow and stuck. My binding didn’t release and did a beautiful turn in mid-air twisting my knee and my ankle.

The very handsome and talented Austrian Ski Patrol rescued me, put my leg in an inflatable cast, and rushed me off the mountain in a great little sled.

In the small village was a doctor in an old house. He spoke broken English and I was a perfect match with my broken German. He checked my leg out and determined that nothing was broken, sent me back to the hotel with some pain killers, and I spent the rest of my weekend with my leg up on pillows.

Back in Nuremberg I went to the Army hospital, where I got put on crutches. But it didn’t stop me. In only a few months after that I was back up on the slopes and ready to learn again!

I love Austria, and for two years was able to enjoy her majestic snow covered Alps.

Beautiful Austria
Beautiful Austria
My first ski trip in Austria.
My first ski trip in Austria.

An Unwelcoming Welcome

I arrived in Frankfurt, Germany first. Then was taken to Furth, where I was assigned to the motor pool.  I went to the company commander’s office and was introduced to him, and he was told that I was his new motor pool clerk.

He was polite enough. He called for the motor pool sergeant to come up and meet me. The motor pool was where all the army vehicles, trucks and jeeps were kept and maintained. The building was right next door to where we were.

The motor pool sergeant was a tall, lean black man. A very nice looking man. But when he saw me, he was not a happy man.

I was instructed to sit in the hall just outside of the commander’s office while they discussed things. The door was left open so I heard everything. Mostly I heard the sergeant angrily yelling that he had never had a woman in his motor pool, and he wasn’t going to have a woman in his motor pool.

Shortly thereafter the two men came out, the sergeant told me to follow him to the motor pool. Talk about tension so thick you could cut it with a butter knife!

We walked over to the motor pool and there was an office, plain and dirty, with a parts room behind it. I sat at the desk and smiled. What else could I do? I was the new motor pool clerk.

Hurry Up and Wait

I made it through basic training, and through AIT (advanced individual training). I had been trained for the position of a 71T, or as we said in the military, 71 Tango. Sounds pretty interesting, doesn’t it? Mysterious? Exciting?

71T is an equipment maintenance clerk. I was trained to work in the motor pool. But that was okay, because I was going to Europe!

The time had come, we boarded a bus for the Air Force base to fly across the grand Atlantic to distant shores. I could hardly sit still. The military does things a little different than in the civilian world. For a military flight you were required to arrive no less than four hours before flight time. Our flight was scheduled to leave at 4:00 pm, so we arrived at the base at noon. Excited!

We had lunch. Excited! At 4:00 pm they announced that there would be a delay with our plane. Still excited!

So we sat and waited. At 6:00 pm they told us we could now go through customs in preparation for boarding the plane. But it was still delayed. Still excited!

We ate dinner. It was late that evening, around 10:00 pm when we were finally able to board the plane. We walked out onto the tarmac and climbed the movable staircase that was pushed up to the door of the plane. Excited again!

Then we sat. And sat. Finally the Captain spoke over the intercom and said that in pulling the stair case away from the plane, they had punctured a whole in the door. Not to worry, he assured us. Stay seated. Not so excited.

They sent an accident crew out to inspect the plane, write up a report, take pictures. It was deemed safe for flight. So we would fly to Maine and check it again before heading out over the ocean. Not very excited.

Stay tuned next week for more!

Off Limits to all unauthorized males
Off Limits to all unauthorized males