I was chatting with some friends about who had been in the coldest situation, and it reminded me of a small incident when I was a young troop.
My company was in the field on Ft. Carson, CO one cold, snowy winter. And by cold, I mean, below zero. Just existing was a bit of a challenge. We weren’t getting much training done. Mostly we were just trying to keep ourselves from freezing to death. And as a result of environmental concerns, the training areas had porta-johns scattered all over the place in rather random clumps. The Army had contractor that would service the porta-johns on some schedule that was known only to them. It seemed that wherever we were stopped, the porta-johns were full to a degree that induced a great deal of nausea in any poor soul unfortunate enough to require one. Sadly, over the course of a two week trip to the field, chances are, you’re going to need to use a facility at least once or twice…
Now, my boss at that time, SFC Perkins was a man’s man. Burly, Irish (complete to the shock of red hair), ruddy faced, and loud. He was also a tough sonofabitch, able to carry enormous loads like a packmule, and go for days with no sleep, and the bumps and bruises of infantry life concerned him not a whit. To say the least, he was an imposing figure.
It came to pass that one evening, as the sub-zero wind whipped around my tent, and my team and I laid in our sleeping bags, desperately trying to keep the clutches of hypothermia at bay, that SFC Perkins stuck his head in the tent (and annoyed us greatly by letting in a blast of cold air and snowflakes) and told me to get dressed. “Hurry the hell up, I need you to drive my Bradley.” I wasn’t a Bradley driver. I wasn’t even on his crew. I’d never even been a Bradley driver. But I didn’t dare hesitate. I grumbled, sure, but I got dressed quick like bunny, and hustled after my boss.
While I was finding where the hell I’d left my gloves, SFC Perkins was busy rounding up the crew of one the tanks from the armor platoon attached to us. They didn’t even work for him, but when he told them to fire up the tank and follow us in the Bradley, it never even occurred to them to argue. They fired up their 70-ton, 1500 horsepower jet turbine powered behemoth, and fell in line.
Off we go. I’m having the challenge of my life trying to keep control of the Bradley on the icy trails, with SFC Perkins loudly and repeatedly urging me to go faster and faster. After about a 20 minute drive that took about 5 years off my life, and gave me my first grey hairs, SFC Perkins told me to pull over.
Off to the side I go, and I hop out of the Bradley to see where he was going. He’d seen the toilet contractor drive by, and had me chase him. Coming up right behind the contractor, he found a nice, freshly serviced and cleaned Porta-john. A couple of quick hand and arm signals, and he had the jet powered exhaust of the accompanying tank heating the toilet to a comfortable temperature. And thus, at the expense of Lord knows how many gallons of diesel fuel, and the $200 a mile maintenance cost of driving a tank, SFC Perkins was able to answer the call of nature in relative comfort.