When Desert Storm rolled around, and the 1st Armored Division was ordered to deploy, only two of its three brigades were to deploy. My brigade was still waiting to reequip from M113s to M2 Bradleys. The decision was made to send a brigade of the 3rd ID in our place.
But of the two brigades of 1AD that were to deploy, both infantry battalions were pretty short handed.* The decision was made to raid the non-deploying infantry battalions of all spare personnel E-4 and below, leaving just the officers and NCOs, and just enough people to man the unit Bradleys when they showed up, and to transition while the division was deployed.
I was about an non-essential as it got, so I was detached from A/1-6IN and attached to C/7-6IN. Now, “attached” versus “assigned has a specific technical meaning in terms of the Army’s regulations and personnel policies. Think of it like one team loaning a player to another instead of trading him. Theoretically, I was supposed to go back to 1-6IN as soon as we got back from the desert.
And being “on loan” I and the others who got shanghied often felt we were treated like second class citizens in our new unit. We didn’t have the benefit of months and years to train with and socialize with the units members, building relationships of mutual respect and trust. 7-6, on the other hand, thought we were a bunch of whiners, and felt we’d missed the hard work of getting the unit and its vehicles ready to deploy, and loading them for shipment.** Finally, most of us loaners had either wives or girlfriends back in Vilseck, our home base, and wanted to get back to them as soon as possible. It was a tedious trip from Bamberg to Vilseck. Plus, damn near all our stuff was in storage there.
But there was a war on. And the Army, being the Army, had a plan. While there weren’t a huge number of casualties in Desert Storm, the possibility of an extended campaign and large numrs of casualties existed. So the Army needed a pool of manpower ready to replace losses. Some were stashed in Saudi Arabia. But rather than housing and feeding a lot of Privates and PFCs in the desert, the Army also sent a ton of newly enlisted troops to Germany. Specifically, the backfilled all the slots us “non-essential” folks had vacated. And then some. For the first time ever, 1-6 wasn’t shorthanded. Instead, it was overstrength, way overstrength, by about 30%. And virtually every one of these new guys was a young, single Private straight out of training at Ft. Benning. Being single, they lived in the barracks, not on the economy. All these new troops not only filled up the beds that had belonged to us, they had so many new guys, people were sleeping on mattresses on the floor.
So after our triumphant return to Bamberg, we “non-essentials” were more than a little butt-hurt to learn that our own parent unit didn’t want us back. Couldn’t even take us if they did.
It was like both the real parents and the foster parents couldn’t wait to get rid of us.
As a post-script, once 7-6 finally figured out they were stuck with us, some good leadership from the battalion commander and Sergeant Major started to make life a little better. And aside from being separated from friends and family at Vilseck, Bamberg was a great town. Things got better. But with a little more thought and care, they wouldn’t have had to get that bad in the first place.
*A chronic situation, especially in mechanized infantry battalions.
**Actually, we’d spent a good part of the previous month helping other units load up vehicles.