Charge of Quarters - Always a Riot

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For anyone who has contemplated joining any branch of the military, I have one piece of critical advice for them:


"If you can't function well without sleep, forget it."


If there's one thing that the military absolutely HATES, it is sleep. Whether it is war or peace, the military operates on a 24/7/365 basis. Various governments and individuals have tried various drugs over the years to extract more non-sleep from their service members and themselves, with the German’s widespread use of a form of amphetamine called Pervitin during WW2 probably among the more infamous applications. Elvis Presley was allegedly on speed while in Germany, the speed-freak Krauts providing a potent over-the-counter amphetamine called X112, which came in liquid and tablet forms. During the 1991 Gulf War, U.S. pilots, feeling the need for speed, were also jacked up with some form of meth.


When soldiers are in garrison and in their own barracks (or billets, take your pick), not a day goes by when they aren't being babysat by the Charge of Quarters, or CQ. The CQ was usually a junior Non Commissioned Officer ("NCO") who was assigned one or two enlisted men who were called CQ Runners. In addition to the babysitting function, the CQ handled any off-hours business that affected the unit, such as alerts. The arms room, of course, was checked frequently. After the final formation and everyone who lived off-post went home, it was usually fairly boring and uneventful during the week, but the weekends were usually the total opposite. The following is a fairly typical example of what happens during weekend CQ duty, which lasts for 24 hours; neither the CQ nor the runners are supposed to sleep during this whole time.


Shortly after I had Corporal stripes pinned on me (the worst rank in the Army), I got CQ duty. One of the reasons I was “promoted” was that the unit at the time had a shortage of junior NCOs to pull CQ, among other things. The duty kicked off at 0800 when I read the previous log (DA Form 1594) and discovered that a FISTer (Fire Support Teamer, also known as a forward observer), on leave and apparently drunk, went berserk and called in, threatening to kill the Battery Commander (“BC”), the Executive Officer (“XO”), the First Sergeant (“1SG”), and a few select others.


The day was fairly routine, except during the last formation; someone who had just separated (but whose wife was still active-duty) and reeling drunk, dropped by to loudly cuss out the BC. Nobody intervened because everyone hated the BC’s guts, including the officers. His ex-section chief and a few others managed to remove him from the scene, and we all got a good laugh, as the BC was a total dick. If the guy had physically attacked the BC, nobody would have intervened, not at first, anyway.


The night (a Friday) was fairly typical. It was relatively quiet until about 2100 (that’s 9:00 PM), and after that, the games began. Among the troops going out were two new guys in my section, one of whom was named McClellan. McClellan was a strange dude, who was always kind of spaced-out. He was a mediocre soldier, mostly because he was completely devoid of initiative, which made me laugh, as the Civil War Union General McClellan evidently had the same problem. I called him a voice-activated robot, because he would literally do what he was told; nothing more and nothing less. At first I thought he was messing with me, but others who went through training with him said that’s just how he was. OK then. I advised them to stay out of trouble.


As the evening went on, I had a woman who kept calling for someone else who eventually settled on me to try to have phone sex with. I had another one who called every ten minutes looking for someone who wasn't there, and was accusing me of hiding him. Three black dudes in the unit, a tall one, a medium one, and a short one ditched a cab earlier, and I had an angry cabbie trying to recover his fare. Although I knew exactly which three he was talking about, I explained to the cabbie that it was an old soldier's trick for someone to be picked up from a different building so they'd be more difficult to track down after ditching the fare. The cabbie described them perfectly, among other things as being tall, medium, and short black dudes. The cabbie eventually left, empty-handed. As the barracks cleared out for the time being, I spent most of the next couple of hours alternately dealing with Ms. Phone Sex and Ms. I Know He's There, among the other callers.


Around midnight, one guy came in staggering drunk, and we put him on the drunk bunk next to the CQ desk. A drunk bunk is a bed frame without a mattress that excessively soused soldiers are put on to keep them under watch and to prevent them from doing things like choking on their own vomit and/or setting something on fire. After that, there was three different loud verbal and physical altercations within a few hours; two in the parking lot and one in the barracks. All over women, and all involving alcohol. While checking the arms room, I noticed a car full of our guys in the back parking lot with the unmistakable aroma of marijuana smoke billowing out of it. I noticed the Staff Duty Officer (“SDO”, which is the officer’s version of CQ) on his way and shooed them off. Just then, someone in the barracks starting cranking Metallica at maximum volume on their stereo. Running up there, I unlocked the door to find a guy passed out drunk, with a pyramid of empty beer cans on a table in addition to the ones strewn about the room. Drunk bunk candidate #2.


I had just killed the stereo when the SDO came in; he proceeded to chew my ass over that one, but I pointed out that it was a pretty busy night, but he didn’t care (“The maximum effective range of an excuse is zero-point-zero meters.”). After that settled down, I found myself playing a cat-and-mouse game with a mousy-looking soldier who was trying to smuggle some pussy up into his room. Females were strictly forbidden from being in the rooms, but I felt like a total hypocrite for enforcing it, as I had also smuggled chicks into my room on a couple of occasions. I was content to sweat him, which I successfully did, but then gave him enough time to at least bust a nut before finally rousting her; the freshly-inseminated whore was "persuaded" to depart around 0330.


Around 0400 or so, things began to quiet down. Everyone in the barracks was crashed out by this point, and when the phone didn’t ring for about ten minutes, I figured everyone had finally called it a night. Around 0500, some of my guys I had seen leave earlier came back, but without McClellan. According to them, McClellan “got lucky”, and some chick took him home, which I found hard to believe for some reason, but whatever.


Just before I got off duty at 0800, McClellan came staggering in, looking like he spent some time in an industrial dryer but otherwise OK. I asked how it went, and he was lost in thought for several seconds before finally blurting out his answer:


“I fucked her in her mouth, I fucked her in her tits, I fucked her in her pussy, and then I left.”


After recovering from the mild shock, I said, “And she told you to do all of that too, didn’t she?” He nodded his head slowly, and solemnly said “Yes”, before blankly walking off to his room. A few minutes later, my relief showed up, and I was finally off duty, or so I thought. For the first time in a couple of hours the phone rang; it was the relief runner, who needed to be picked up from a motel after being cleaned out by a whore. I had to stick around for another half-hour before finally hitting the rack. Another CQ session successfully completed.


Dino Manalis Added Oct 29, 2018 - 1:31pm
 Everything that lives has to sleep, it reinvigorates us!
John Minehan Added Oct 29, 2018 - 1:43pm
Having been a CQ Runner, a CQ and an SDO, I can say with great confidence, "If it can go wrong it will."
The difference between being a CQ/CQ Runner and SDO (which I found hard to adjust to) is that a CQ is really trying to "keep things under the radar" and the SDO, like it or not, IS the radar. 
When what the Warrants call "Real Live Officers ("RLOs") get involved, it becomes official.
The trick, therefore, is to try to only get involved where you need to be.
Nobody's Sweetheart Added Oct 29, 2018 - 1:57pm
@ John M. - The vast majority of the SDOs I encountered pretty much left us alone as long as things were kept more-or-less at a low rumble. Loud stereos and lights on unnecessarily seemed to be their pet peeves. The SDO I mentioned didn't write me up, which I found surprising, because he was as "RLO" as they get. However, the level of discipline was markedly lower stateside than it was in USAEUR. It took a few months for my gung-ho-ness to wear off. And I thought that the Cav was supposed to be badasses, lol.
John Minehan Added Oct 29, 2018 - 2:10pm
Cavalry units have gone down hill since  CPT Brittles and 1SG Quincannon and SGT Tyree retired and Trooper Smith got killed at Sudroo's Creek. . . .   
John Minehan Added Oct 29, 2018 - 2:14pm
I passed through Bliss a number of times.  Due to some odd circumstances, I spent part of a BCTP as an LNO from 1st CAV to the 3d ARC R-Main.  It is a different place.
In late 1991, 3d ACR R-Main really seemed to be somewhat "Old Army" and fairly well organized.
John Minehan Added Oct 29, 2018 - 3:15pm
"Everything that lives has to sleep, it reinvigorates us."
True, but not as CQ . . . .
Nobody's Sweetheart Added Oct 29, 2018 - 3:32pm
@ John M. - "Cavalry units have gone down hill since CPT Brittles and 1SG Quincannon and SGT Tyree retired and Trooper Smith got killed at Sudroo's Creek. . . ."
I'm lost on that one, lol.
Anyway, I'm glad to hear that 3d ACR eventually got its act together. When I got there, it was quite a mess. We did so bad at NTC in May of 1989 that we had to go again just six months later; I was too short to go, and had a LOT of fun on the rear detachment while I was clearing, lol.
The 62nd Colonel, COL Robertson, eventually became a Major General, and was killed in Germany in a Blackhawk crash in 1992. I was his orderly once when I aced the guard mount inspection, although I got a day off instead of being a house mouse for the Colonel; I didn't find out until many, many years later that a letter of commendation with his signature was sent to my mother.
FacePalm Added Oct 29, 2018 - 7:46pm
Just websearched "sudroo's creek," and you know what turned up?
This thread.  Nothing else.  May have been a misspelling.
Thanks for taking the time to elaborate on the abbreviations.  Had to re-read a few times to refresh the memory, but i appreciate the effort.  Minehan, OTOH...
Anyway, well-written and i liked the illuminating descriptions.  i knew a guy like your McClellan while in-service; his name was "Edmunds" but as his head was very disproportionate to his body, got the nickname "Headmunds."  He didn't much care for it, which made it funnier...and naturally, increased the frequency with which he was addressed thataway.
Then there was "Fast Eddie," who didn't get his nickname because of his love of sprinting, if you know what i mean...and if not, it was a gal that gave it to him.  Frustrated gal, probably.
Troll Hunter Added Oct 30, 2018 - 1:33am
The army in the 80s!
Steel Breeze Added Oct 30, 2018 - 8:28am
been there,done that,you nailed it.back before i joined the Corps i asked a friends older bro who jus got out what it was like,he said...."ok....if ya dont like sleepin"..
John Minehan Added Oct 30, 2018 - 1:52pm
I figured everyone who was in an ACR had seen She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949).
Lindsay Wheeler Added Oct 30, 2018 - 8:45pm
Fantastic read. It brings back memories. 
Ward Tipton Added Oct 31, 2018 - 9:00am
No Time for Sergeants
James Travil Added Nov 1, 2018 - 11:23pm
Good read Michael!
And Dino STFU, sharks are alive and they never sleep! 
Ward Tipton Added Nov 1, 2018 - 11:32pm
If they did sleep, they would drown ... irony ... or is that why they have such a bad reputation? I would be cranky too if I could never sleep. 
John Minehan Added Nov 3, 2018 - 6:29pm
A friend of mine, a very well-respected lawyer, had served as an MP Officer in the States in the early 1960s, just before Vietnam. 
He told me one time one of his tours as an SDO had literally been a riot . . . they had one when he had the duty.
The more things change . . . . 
Nobody's Sweetheart Added Nov 3, 2018 - 8:15pm
Thanks all, for the comments, I see I'm not alone in experiencing this! Although I was Army, I think that any service member can relate to this to various degrees, lol.
Nobody's Sweetheart Added Nov 3, 2018 - 8:17pm
@ John M. - I never saw any riots outside of particularly large barroom brawls, but racial incidents were very, very common, and I saw several occasions where they probably would have turned into full-blown riots had not cooler heads on both sides prevailed.
John Minehan Added Nov 4, 2018 - 8:14am
That incident, from what my friend told me, had to do with a lot of Reservists who had been called up and unable to drink, essentially assaulting an NCO Club.
Most of the serious incidents I observed in the Army involved alcohol (or other drugs) . . . .
Nobody's Sweetheart Added Nov 4, 2018 - 8:55am
@ John M. - Agreed. Alcohol was behind at least 90% of the bad things I experienced or saw. I didn't really see any drug use that I thought was serious; hash was common in Germany, but it wasn't a cause for things like fighting, DUI's, etc. Fort Bliss was a different story altogether, with cocaine use widespread. The didn't piss-test us nearly as frequently as USAEUR, so more people did it.