Anthony W. Pahl and Steven J. Newton


The Old Sergeant had been called to the Green Zone to receive a new TDY assignment from the General. If it had been anyone but the General the old sergeant would have told them to stick it. He liked where he was and what he was doing.

When he was ushered into the Generals office he was confronted with something he had rarely seen: The General chewing someone out and this chewing ranked right up there with some he had given out himself.

“I could give a rat’s ass about your excuses captain! Your company, and I have never said this before, is an EMBARRASMENT to you, me and the United States Army. I brought you in to fix this problem. Now I’m bringing in the big guns. Pappy don’t go anywhere. I want you to hear this.”

“Yes sir,” the old sergeant said as he took a seat as far away from the others as possible.

“Captain… NO YOU JUST SHUT YOUR PIE HOLE… your company has five platoons and a headquarters platoon. Almost 200 men and women who have completely lost the will to be in the military let alone fight! Almost every one of them has turned into a fobbit*! Your sick call has gotten so bad the docs come to you now. It’s a disaster and I have had enough. Your dismissed until reassigned to something more fitting your — — qualifications.”

As the captain scurried out the General turned to the old sergeant.

“Well I’m sorry you had to hear that son. But this is bad. In fact I have never seen any company in all my years this bad. And guess who has 30 days to fix it?”

“Uh,” The old sergeant mumbled.

“Yeah — — Uh YOU.”

“Report immediately to this company; I have already told them your coming and to leave you alone. You have carte blanche. I told them that what you say goes.”

“Jack before ya go?”

Pappy smiled. “You bet boss!”

Five hours later after a long Blackhawk ride the old sergeant arrived at the FOB.* The General was right. This was the absolute worse company he had ever seen.

No one was on security detail around the perimeter. No one was in proper uniform, AND no one had on their battle rattle as far as he could see. He asked the first “soldier” he saw where the top sergeant’s office was and got a non committal shrug and a point to an old Chu.*

The Chu had two offices. One was apparently his and the other was for his corporal assistant, who by the way was asleep in his chair until it was kicked out from under him.

“Uh, you must be the new top sergeant,” the corporal said as he pulled himself to his feet.

“Yes that’s right son. Now you call all the platoon sergeants here immediately.”

“Uh, you mean now sergeant? It’s almost dinner time and the DAFC* will be closing.”

Steely eyed the old sergeant turned and said, “Son what does IMMEDIATE” mean to you?”

With that the old sergeant slammed his knife two inches into the corporal’s desk.

As the corporal ran to obey his orders the old sergeant went into his office.

The corporal was back in 15 minutes with a pained look on his face.

“Sergeant they all told me they would be here after chow.”

The old sergeant just grunted and sat down in an old makeshift desk, pulled out a bottle of Jack and a cigar from his bag and contemplated retiring until a light finally went on.

“Corporal! Get me a line to Australia.”

“Australia sergeant?”

“You ain’t hard of hearing besides being stupid are ya? Yes and NOW! And while you’re at it call my old platoon and have them send dog over.”

When the platoon sergeants finally arrived the old sergeant was sitting at his desk pretending to do paperwork.

“Platoon sergeants reporting as ordered,” one said.

“Say again son? Reporting as ordered? I believe my exact words were, IMMEDIATELY. You’re dismissed. Oh — and your fired. You are all reduced on level in rank and your next highest enlisted will take your place. NOW GET OUT!”

A couple of days later, after replacing all the platoon sergeants, there was a knock on the door.

“Son whoever you are, I would strongly advise you to have an extreme emergency. If not GO AWAY!”

Another knock.

Storming up out of his chair the old sergeant flung open the door and low and behold, standing in the door way with a grin a mile wide was his old Aussie friend.

“Aussie! I was hoping you weren’t dead!”

Smiling and back slapping Aussie said, “Mate you know I’m too mean to die. And when I do I want to go out with my boots on. Now, I hear you have a little problem that needs an old staff sergeant.”

After discussing the situation Aussie looked over at Pappy. “Pappy you know you Americans have always gotten me into trouble. I remember one time when I was on walk about… Oh well never mind. How we gonna do this? Split up the platoons?”

And that is exactly what they did. Pappy took three full platoons and whatever stragglers there were, and Aussie took three.

They ran everyone, officers included, everywhere they went. There was no escape. When they went to chow they ran: When they went to the shower they ran.

In the afternoon they would hold classes on what they had learned over the years in warfare. They went over military courtesies, weapons, uniforms. And then they drilled them all.

Every evening they would meet in Pappy’s office and discuss problems and any headway they may have made.

One full week into the retraining Aussie was telling Pappy about his day:

“You did what Aussie? You shot someone?”

“Well mate – I didn’t actually shoot him. I mean my weapon accidentally discharged close to his head when he told me he was too tired for the rifle range. Turned out he wasn’t a bad shot when he put his mind to it. Besides the dill was a bludger who would chuck a sickie without the slightest guilt. Oh sorry mate.”

Pappy just sighed. “Aussie when are ya gonna learn to speak English? No, never mind.”

The next day as Pappy was running his platoons he stopped dead in his tracks as he watched Aussie’s platoons march to bagpipes.

“Aussie what in the blue blazes is that awful racket?”

“Why Pappy old son, I… uh… just brought in a few friends from the 413 RCU Pipes and Drums Band! They’re bluddy bonza, Pappy… even if they’re not Aussies… you’d hafta agree!”

“Aussie this ain’t the Australian Army you know.”

“Aww well cob, no one is perfect. And as you can tell I have my blokes marching like they were on the parade ground!”

And dog did his part too. It’s amazing how fast you can run with the biggest meanest attack dog you have ever seen snapping at your heels.

Dog actually seemed to enjoy it.

Padre dropped by a few times to counsel some Soldiers and hold Sunday services; it all lead to increased morale.

At the end of 30 days the company was spit and polish. The old sergeant and Aussie were proud of them and what they had accomplished.

They stood by while the General himself personally inspected them and declared them to be ready for combat.

Later, back in Pappy’s chu, the General, Pappy and Aussie were drinking Jack.

“Pappy… I didn’t know you had a bottle shop here mate!” Aussie said.

Pappy just looked over at the General and shrugged.

“Well gentlemen you both did a fine job. Rather unorthodox calling in a foreign national for help, especially one that’s not even in the military anymore. But it worked out. In fact it worked out so well that I have appointed Aussie here to be the new sergeant major of this company. Wouldn’t want all that training to go stale now would we?”

Aussie was on his feet in a flash. “General I thank you for the offer but as you so eloquently put it, I’m no longer in this or any other bluddy army. Hey I’m done and I’m heading OS.”

“Well son. I took care of that little problem for you. I called an old friend of mine and had you recalled to the Australian Army and assigned to us here – simple really. No, no need to thank me.” The General said with a smile.

Aussie looked like he was gonna cry.

“Pappy, don’t you smile! I bluddy TOLD you that Americans always get me in trouble. ARRGHGHGHG.”

Straight faced Pappy just handed the bottle over.

“Another Jack, Aussie?”

  • CHU: Containerized Housing Unit (pronounced “choo”) – Aluminum boxes slightly larger [22’x8’] than a commercial shipping containers, with linoleum floors and cots or houses four people, while another is split into two, two-person rooms. The version with a shower and toilet shared between two rooms is called a “wet chu”, which provides less crowded latrine and shower conditions than tents. The CHU gives soldiers a lot more living space than tents
  • DFAC [Dining FACility]: A DFAC is where you eat. Soldiers eat in a dining facility, or DFAC (pronounced dee-Fak). Old soldiers show their age they call it a “chow hall” and if you say “mess hall” it dates you. DFACs are modern looking cafeteria; some decorated it with sports memorabilia, movie posters, and televisions with ESPN on
  • FOB: forward operating base.
  • FOB Taxi: any vehicle that never leaves the FOB
  • fobbit: service member who never goes outside the wire off the forward operating base
  • Dill: polite term for an idiot…
  • Bludger: slack, lazy
  • Chuck a sickie: Report to sick parade
  • Bluddy bonza: really good
  • cob: Abbreviation for Cobber – mate