The inspector general (IG) was a dirty word to me and other young soldiers. We knew virtually nothing about the IGs, just that they were powerful and could cause you a lot of grief if your ducks were not in a row.
We knew that the bad boys, the ones always getting bad counseling statements and “bad paper,” understood a little more about the IG that the rest of us… Yeah, well that’s because they were always getting in trouble and threatening to notify the IG on their commanders. Sure, for a private to do that
would be like kicking himself squarely in the Johnson.
Once, one of the boys started carrying out a fear speech to the more gullible guys in the barracks. He spoke of the IG, the power of the IG, and how the IG could ruin our lives.
He threw in quotes from chapters out of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), the document that describes the ins and outs of punishment that is available to dole out to soldiers who just couldn’t seem to fly right.
“Don’t listen to that d**k, Geo… know why he is such an “expert” on the IG and UCMJ? It’s because he is a clown and has been in trouble his whole time in the military.”
Well now that made a locked and loaded magazine of common sense to me, and then it came to be that we were advised that the IG selected our Company to conduct an IG audit. At the time I noticed a distressing lack of guidance from our leadership. They were panicked about their own portion of the audit.
The only morsel of instruction they gave us was: “Clean the hell out of the barracks and get haircuts,” and yet the world kept turning. If the leadership wasn’t going to include us privates and employ us to their advantage then we would follow their two-pronged order to a T — clean and haircuts.
“Let’s clean first then we’ll all cut each other’s hair here in the barracks.”
“Nawww man… do the haircuts afterward and you have to clean again because of the hair all over.”
“He’s right, man.”
Before anyone had a chance to produce a wet cleaning rag, one of the privates came to the hall pushing a wheeled rack with buckets on it.
“Anyone here married? No, no of course nobody is or we wouldn’t be living in these here barracks, and we bachelors don’t clean — we paint, right boys?”
He popped open a bucket to reveal a fresh consignment of near-same-colored paint as our barracks walls. There were many approving grins.
“Do we have rollers or brushes?”
The paint delivery boy only offered a blank stare as an answer. I wasn’t going to wait around for resolution to the great paintbrush paint roller deficit; I rummaged my space and quickly produced my shoe/boot shine brush. I pushed my rack (bed) back away from the wall and threw down a sheet as a drop cloth.
I drew a doubtful dunk of pain with my brush and gave a swath across the wall. It was amazing how well that brush covered the wall. I announced to the barracks that boot brushes were the ticket, though tough on the brush it probably would be ruined in the end. Nobody cared.
“Dudes, they’ve already started with haircuts in the lounge if you don’t want to wait.” I dropped my brush and headed for the lounge where they promptly hooked me up with a Mohawk haircut for motivation — hooah! The spirit abounded as the boys sloshed paint on their walls, shirtless, sporting Mohawks.
Everything was “hooah” this, “hooah” that, just… hooah!
As we finished the walls, vacuums and carpet cleaners hummed throughout the barracks; the fixtures in the rooms and bathrooms gleamed. I spray-painted all of my belongings in my room Olive Drab (Army OD) green and did not touch those items that belonged to the barracks. On my desk, the first things that appeared when you opened the drawers were painted OD green, and I staggered my drawers open so you could see inside all the drawers at the same time.
When the IG team and my battalion sergeant major came into my barracks room their mouths were still hanging open in awe from the room before. My all-OD-green room stunned them into a temporary state of suspended animation. My sergeant major finally said:
“Sergeant Hand, if I were to cut you would you happen to bleed OD green?”I clenched a fist and reached out to him with my arm the way you present your arm for a blood drawing. The quorum chuckled lightly.
The next morning I took my worn-out brush with a vestige of paint still on it and gave my boots a quick buff before the morning formation.
“Men, you did an outstanding job yesterday for the IG inspection. The only gig we got was for the Mohawk haircuts; by Army Regulation AR-670, we, as Soldiers, are not authorized to wear the Mohawk-style haircut. I thank you all tremendously.”
As the formation broke up my sergeant major passed by:
“Damned good-looking boots, Sergeant Hand!”
“Hooah, Sergeant Major!”
By Almighty God and with honor,