I don’t have a copy of my DD Form 4 right in from of me right now, but I’m fairly certain one clause of the enlistment contract clearly stated that as long as I had been promoted once, I had a lawful right to gently haze Second Lieutenants. Not to show disrespect, but to tease in subtle ways.
Every so often in an infantry unit, we received a crop of nice, shiny young LTs fresh from what was then the Infantry Officers Basic Course. Some would go on to be very good junior officers, and some would gently be told that their success in life would likely lie in another career field. Some were from ROTC programs, some were from historically military affiliated schools such as The Citadel, and some were from West Point. Some were outgoing, some were a little reticent. Some were pleasant young men, and some were jerks. Some took to leadership like a duck to water, and some struggled with it. Some failed. But they were all terribly young and naïve.
So it came to pass that in 1993, my company received two young shavetails. At the end of their first short trips to the woods, I was passing the time making “how do you do” type small talk with one of the new Lieutenants. In the course of our chat, I was a bit taken back to find out that not only did this fine young officer not smoke (no big surprise), nor drink (fairly uncommon in the Infantry), nor did he fornicate (pretty much unheard of in the infantry). It took about 5 minutes for that last bit of news to spread throughout his entire platoon. And pretty soon, in those halcyon non-politically correct days, lots and lots of pics from Playboy, Penthouse, Hustler, and any number of other similar magazines began to appear, taped to the interior walls of his Bradley. Eventually, our nice, upstanding Lieutenant expressed his disapproval of all the nudity displayed in the vehicle. And so the driver and gunnernremoved all the visible incidences of such pornography.
Instead, there’s any number of places that aren’t immediately visible to the casual observer in the back of a Bradley, or in the turret. For days and weeks after that, our young butterbar would find some new niche in his trusty mount, only to find it was decorated with graphic representations of the female form. Close the turret basket door? Say hello to Miss March. Open the plenum/coax doors? Twins! One on the inside of each door! Open the gunshield to the 25mm? There’s another lovely.
My favorite bit was the periscopes. Armored vehicles have small glass prism periscopes to view outside the vehicle while they are buttoned up. But to prevent any light from escaping at night, they have velcro fastened blackout curtains on them. And honestly, it was pretty durn rare for us to ever use the periscopes in the turret. So it must have been a couple months before our innocent Lieutenant ever discovered that his crew had very carefully placed pictures of ladies naughty bits in each and every periscope at the commander’s station in his vehicle. Nothing like pulling down a little flap of canvas and seeing up close and personal at a range of maybe four inches a nice pic of a hoo-hah!
Today, there would be a 20 minute segment on 60 Minutes, uproar and condemnation from countless media outlets, and hearings in Congress. But in those days, this particular young Lieutenant bore this trail with good grace and a fair amount of humor. He remained steadfast to his commitment to chastity, but understood that there are few saints in the barracks. And in so doing, went a long, long way to earning the respect and admiration of his men.