My roommate, Dee Cee, was from the Washington D.C. area. He was Puerto Rican and the first soldier I met who went to college regularly. He was taking Correspondence Courses to improve his economic standing. We could enroll in college courses taught on base at night, however the more seasoned Medics of 12th Evac. warned me that between training and “going to the field” I would be lucky to finish one course. So only a few soldiers took Correspondence Courses. I didn’t look at myself as college material. I believed the work we did was good enough to have a life. Economic standing didn’t appeal to me. However, I came from the American middleclass. Army life, to me, seemed to be an extension of my class standing. We worked, got paid and lived life check to check. Enlisted soldiers, to me, were the workers. Officers were decision makers. Large scale decision making did not appeal to me. I was fine with just going along, doing what someone told me to do and living my life. Let me tell you, life in West Germany, as an American Medic in 1989, was very good.
We had no power over where we got stationed as soldiers. Someone up the chain of command made those decisions for us. I was comfortable with having no decision making powers. I never shared with anyone how I ended up in the Army. We never asked each other those questions. I was nineteen years old, living in Europe and working. It just so happened that I was also a soldier. It seemed like gravy living to me. There were a few soldiers in Medic Platoon whose character caught up with them. One soldier stole a credit card from his girlfriend and got caught. After being caught he was discharged from the Army with a General Discharge. “General” Discharge, to me, meant they couldn’t make it. A few other soldiers were lazy and treated as such. Soldiers, just like in civilian life, get weeded out over time if they don’t make the cut. In the meantime, as per the way we were taught, we carry the new private until they are up to speed. Everyone is under the microscope by management (N.C.O.’s) and peers (junior enlisted) until they prove themselves. If you could conform and survive the rigorous routine as a Medic in 12th Evac., you were “squared away” and left alone.
On post there was another field hospital. 32nd Combat Support Hospital, or “Tres Deuce”, was a more experienced company per capita. A lot of the soldiers from Tres Deuce had extended their tours at the Air Base. An Army deployment to Europe was two years long. At the end of the tour, soldiers could ask for an “extension”. Extensions were formal written requests to extend a tour in Europe. European duty in the Army during peacetime, as I was learning first hand, was considered to be the best duty to serve. Tres Deuce seemed to have a lot of extended soldiers. A lot of them had married each other or moved their families over with them. They didn’t use DEPMEDS, rarely went to the field and I almost never saw them in the Motor Pool. They seemed to have a bigger variety of jobs as well. Tres Deuce had cooks. Chow for Trey Deuce soldiers was bigger, better and had lots of extras. Sometimes, as a 12th Evac. Medic spending long hours in training, I wouldn’t get a desert. We often got to the chow hall with only five minutes left of chow. I can’t count how many times I got to chow to be told there were no cookies left, only to find out some Medic from Tres Deuce had six cookies on their tray.
The Medics of 12th Evacuation Hospital affectionately referred to the Tres Deuce as the”Gay Moose”. When running in the morning our N.C.O.’s would lead us by their barracks singing cadence and shouting Gay Moose at their officers and N.C.O.’s. It was retribution for the unfair cookie distribution. Fuckers. As a 19 year old soldier, with a fondness for cookies, it is safe to assume that I hated Gay Moose.
The winter of 1989 to soldiers stationed in Europe meant the field exercise “Reforger”. Exercise Reforger (Return of Forces to Germany) was an annual exercise conducted, during the Cold War, by NATO. The exercise was intended to ensure that NATO had the ability to quickly deploy forces to West Germany in the event of a conflict with the Warsaw Pact. 12th Evac. went to Reforger for three weeks. During the exercise we built, tore down, stored then rebuilt the hospital a God awful amount of times. We also drew attention from high command. We had Lt. Colonels, Full Bird Colonels, Generals and politicians watching us. There was a lot of attention given to us during the three weeks. We even had Soviet diplomats, surrounded by armed Soviet soldiers come to our hospital. Reforger took place in December. The Berlin Wall came down in November. The historical precedence drew media from both America and Europe. We were told to avoid any contact with media. Refer all media questions to our C.O. was the orders given by our chain of command. I was never questioned. I had just been promoted to E-2 in a group promotion ceremony with other soldiers. NBC news had no interest in me.
Upon return from the field we were given a Base wide “atta boy”. The Army during peace time has tons of atta boys to give. Ours seemed bittersweet. Gay Moose only spent two weeks in the field and had no visitors. Also, because of the cooks permanently assigned to them, they had three hot meals per day versus the M.R.E.’s (Meals Ready to Eat) that 12th Evac. had for chow. It went without saying that along with the hot meals Gay Moose enjoyed there were plenty of cookies. Homemade choocolate chip cookies for the fucking Tres Deuce company.
I was really starting to hate that Gay ass Moose…