The Drill Sergeant's Women

by E. M. Lohr

The story follows Allen Sparks (known to all as Sparky), a Drill Sergeant in the Army, as he pursues and is pursued by several women, both married and single, including his ex-wife. Along the way, he raises his step-daughter from his failed marriage through the birds and the bees, homework assignments, piano lessons, and repairing her torn relationship with her mother. Join Sparky as he navigates the minefield of romance while philosophizing about life’s meaning with witty Sparky-isms.


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Chapter 1

It was another hot, sticky morning in San Antonio, Texas, weather that was typical for the first day of August. Sounds of cadences filled the air as I stepped out of the company orderly room and started toward the open field across from the barracks complex. It was just after 5:00 am and physical training for the student soldiers had begun. As I joined the other thirteen Drill Sergeants on the physical training field, our bright yellow shirts standing out from the students’ dull gray workout uniform, I saw the Company Commander and the First Sergeant chatting on the side.

“Morning Sir, First Sergeant,” I greeted, and presented a casual salute.

The Captain return the salute in the same manner and the First Sergeant shook his head in a mock show of disgust. We were a tight group and, when no one was watching too closely, our formal military front was not the sharpest.

“Drill Sergeant,” Captain Combs asked, “Which running group are you taking out this morning?”

The students were divided into ability groups for the morning run based on their ages and physical abilities.

“I have the straggler control again,” I replied with little enthusiasm.

The straggler control Drill Sergeant was responsible for ensuring that no one got lost and left behind on the road. Many soldiers, for one reason or another, would not or could not keep up with their assigned running group and would fall behind. I did not relish this responsibility as the soldiers who fell behind were usually the whiners, the sick, and the lame. It also meant that I would be the last one back to the company area and have the least amount of time to get a shower before morning formation.

“Good job for you, Drill Sergeant,” First Sergeant said with a chuckle. “An old guy like you needs an easy job with a slow pace.”

I was 36 years old. The rest of the Drill Sergeants were in their mid to late twenties. Most of the soldier students were between eighteen and twenty years old. How I got to be a Drill Sergeant at my age was a story in itself.

The company was made up of soldiers who were attending various medical courses for training. Each course was different and varied from hospital dietary cooks to orthopedics technicians. A medical class would have one or two Drill Sergeants assigned to it, depending on its size. The class Drill Sergeant would also lead the student soldiers in physical training exercises.

I could hear them finishing the stretching exercises with the students and dividing them into their running groups. The company banner was pulled from the ground and was forming the head of the company as the five platoons fell into place. The lead platoon was made up of the fastest runners. Drill Sergeant Smith was yelling at the slow moving mass. They had suffered from his wrath before and wanted nothing to do with it this morning.

“Drill Sergeant Sparks,” the Captain said, poking fun at me, “if you were more like Drill Sergeant Smith, you wouldn’t be doing the straggler control this morning.”

Drill Sergeant Smith was about 24 years old and had legs like a Boston marathoner. His running group was going to be doing a six to six and a half minute mile pace. I was damn lucky to do an eight minute mile.

“If I was like Drill Sergeant Smith, I wouldn’t be hanging out with old guys like you. I’d be too busy chasing skirts,” I answered back with a grin.

Drill Sergeant Smith was known as a ladies’ man and we in the company orderly room, the Captain, the First Sergeant, and I, all kept our eye on him because of all the young female students that were in our company.

Hardly a week went by without one of the 95 Drill Sergeants on the Army Medical training post being suspended for fraternizing with the female troops. The females would arrive from basic training, an eight week period with little to no outside contact with the world, with hormones oozing out of control. Add young male dominating Drill Sergeants to the mix and it was a recipe for disaster. Many a male Drill Sergeant ended his military career by thinking with the wrong head.

“At your age, you probably can’t remember what to do with them if you caught one,” the First Sergeant chimed in. He was about the same age as me, and the Captain was a couple of years younger.

The company was moving out and the last platoon was beginning to move forward as the Drill Sergeants called out the cadence. Then lead platoon broke into a run and was soon out of sight.

“Well,” I told them, “I need to get my old self moving.”

I presented a salute to the Captain and jogged out behind the company. It was dark and the street lights overhead cast eerie yellow shadows on the asphalt. Off in the distance, sounds of the Drill Sergeants shouting out the cadences and the troops yelling them back filled the early morning air. We soon left the streets and proceed into the semi-darkness of the outer roads. The company had not gone more than a quarter of a mile when I came up on my first straggler. As usual, it was a short legged female. Her legs were so short that it seemed like she was waddling instead of walking.

“Let’s go soldier!” I yelled at her.

Very shortly, we were joined by other soldiers from the company. By the time we got back to the company area, I knew there would be about 40 soldiers in my care. The next few soldiers were like the first. Then our group encountered a couple of males, walking and chatting. With 10 or so soldiers in my group it was time to put some military order to it. I tagged one of the short legged females to step out of the formation to set the pace and call the cadence. Her high strung voice sounded odd in the early morning air.

“Get the formation into double time,” I told her.

“Double time, March!” the female commanded in her high squeaky voice and the group laughed at the way she sounded. Guess it was time for me to step in.

“Mark time, March! Group halt,” I barked at them.

They stopped and stood at the position of attention, anticipating what was to come.

“Get down and knock them out,” I commanded.

The group complied and assumed the up position for doing a push-up exercise. Push-up exercises are used to discipline soldiers for minor infractions.

“In cadence,” I continued, “Exercise.”

Their combined voices start counting “One, Drill Sergeant, two, Drill Sergeant,” as I lectured them on military bearing and maintaining it while in formation regardless of who was in charge.

“Ten, Drill Sergeant, eleven, Drill Sergeant,” they continued, counting out the push-ups with less enthusiasm.

Most were faltering and barely hanging on. Having taught the lesson, there was little point in being cruel.

“On your feet soldiers,” I commanded.

They clamored to their feet and stood at the position of attention with faces red from the exertion. I turned to the female soldier I had placed in charge and who had been watching this with some sense of horror.

“Get them moving soldier,” I barked at her.

She called out the commands and the group responded without laughter or giggling. Lesson learned. I had to admit that she sounded funny, but that was no excuse. Down the road we continued, picking up more stragglers. Some were limping, some had the smell of vomit on their breath, but most had just given up with trying to keep up with their running groups. One by one they joined our rag tag group that was moving at a snail’s pace. It was like herding goats or chickens, keeping the stragglers moving through the four mile course.

Dawn was starting to break on the horizon, making it a little easier to see the running course. My little group had grown into a small platoon. I relieved the female soldier I had placed in command and pushed the pace up a notch. If the soldiers are not back to the company area in a timely manner, many will not have the time to shower and eat before the morning formation. And I would catch hell for it.

After what seems to be an eternity, the straggler platoon reaches the company. I slowed the pace to a walk and let them cool down a little. At the company, I led them through a series of stretching exercises and released them with a reminder not to be late for the morning formation. It was already 7:00 and they had to shower, clean the barracks, and eat breakfast to be ready for the next formation at 8:00. Time is never their friend.

I drove up the hill to one of the barracks that had a vacant room that was unofficially reserved for Drill Sergeants to shower and change in. After showering, shaving, and putting on a pressed uniform, I donned my brown round. The brown round is the Drill Sergeants’ symbol. It is a hat that is a circle disc with a dome on the top. I don’t know who decided it was the hat for a Drill Sergeant, but it was uncomfortable, hot in the summer, afforded no protection from the cold, and hard as hell to keep clean. It can be seen from a long distance and sets the Drill Sergeant apart from all other soldiers in the Army. It is also what Smoky the Bear and park rangers wear as an icon of authority.

The dining hall, or as known to all soldiers of the world, the mess hall, was clearing out as I went in. The omelet with onions, cheese, and mystery meat was good and I washed it down with two glasses of orange juice. As usual, I ate alone as the other Drill Sergeants had already eaten and departed to their morning activities of getting the soldiers out of the barracks and ready for morning formation. And Drill Sergeants did not sit and socialize with the troops.

After breakfast, I walked around the corner of the building and entered the orderly room. The company orderly room is the command center for the company. The Company Commander, First Sergeant, and Operations Sergeant all have their offices there. And I was the company Operations Sergeant. All Drill Sergeants had additional duties beyond caring for the troops. Most Drill Sergeants had both a medical class and a barracks wing assigned to them. But as the Operations Sergeant, I had neither. Instead, the responsibility of company reports, administrative requests, processing disciplinary actions, and the oversight of the casual platoon was my assignment.

The casual platoon was composed of soldiers who had arrived for classes that had not yet started, soldiers who had failed out of classes, and soldiers waiting discharges for medical or disciplinary reasons. All were waiting for something. Because they did not attend classes, they were assigned to do various tasks on the military post. Each training company had to provide so many casual soldiers to the post detailer each day for trash pickup, furniture moving, grass cutting, and other assorted tasks. From the casual platoon, I also picked my help to run the orderly room. They answered the phones, typed reports, ran errands, and other chores.

“Good morning, Drill Sergeant,” a smiling young female soldier greeted me as she rose from her chair.

“Carry on,” I told her and she sat down and continued her work at the computer.

Her name was Amy Powell. She had been working for me in the orderly room for about four months. Amy was a Private with a pay grade of Enlisted-1, the lowest pay grade in the Army. A medical review board was looking at her ankle injury and determining whether or not to discharge her from the Army with disability compensation. The medical review board can take up to six months to render their decision. Meanwhile, like all the soldiers in the casual platoon, she waited.

I could tell she liked working in the orderly room. It gave her a sense of purpose and a regular job every day. Most soldiers in the casual platoon did something different every day based on the needs of the post. She kept her desk and the office neat and orderly. When she finished tasks that I had assigned, I allowed her to play games on the computer or read. Many times, she would be writing in a notebook. I often wondered what about.

The orderly room was really three offices with a restroom. You entered into the reception area where my desk and my assistants were located. There were two inner offices on the right, one for the First Sergeant and one for the Company Commander, and the restroom was to the left. In order to access the inner offices, one had to enter through my area. And I was the gate keeper. Only the Senior Drill Sergeant could enter the First Sergeant’s or Commander’s office without the go ahead from me. This is how the First Sergeant and the Commander wanted it and who was I to argue.

The orderly room is also the place the Duty Sergeant was stationed during the night. This duty is assigned by roster to the teaching cadre assigned to the Medical Academy. It runs from 4:30 in the afternoon until the next morning around 8:00 when either myself, the First Sergeant, or the next individual reporting for Duty Sergeant on the weekend, releases them. The Duty Sergeant is the babysitter for the company during non-duty hours at night, on weekends, and on holidays.

“Good morning,” I said to the Duty Sergeant. “Have a quiet night?”

“Another boring tour,” he replied, looking at me through tired red eyes.

I glanced at my watch. It was about 7:45.

Looking at the event log from the night and seeing nothing out of the ordinary, I told him, “Sign the log and you can leave.”

He scrawled his signature on the bottom of the form, gathered his things, and departed into the morning heat. I took the event log and placed it on the First Sergeant’s desk. He liked to review it before passing it on to the Captain. Both of them would be in shortly as morning formation was not far off.

The orderly room operates with me and two assistants. I would need to pick someone from the casual platoon this morning to fill an open vacancy. If I did not keep a full staff and one of the casual soldiers working in the orderly room left on short notice, which is the way it always works, I would not have a trained individual to depend upon. And having to train two assistants at the same time is a pain. Normally, I let the more experienced one do most of the training for the new individual.

“Private Powell, do you know of any soldiers in the casual platoon who might want to work in the orderly room?” I asked. “Bear in mind that I want someone who might be here a while and who can keep quiet about what happens in the orderly room.”

One of the problems I faced all the time was the gossiping that the soldiers do with each other. Especially about those who are facing disciplinary action. And my assistants get to hear and see most all of the paperwork that passes through the company.

“I know a couple of people who are interested in working here,” Private Powell replied cautiously.

She had been with me for over four months and knew what I expected from someone who worked for me. I sensed that she was pleased that she would have a chance to recommend someone who would work with her. But at the same time, she really did not want to name someone who might not work out.

“Someone who is a non-smoker,” I reminded her.

The smell of stale cigarette smoke on a person’s clothes and breath in our tight quarters could be a bit overwhelming. I had already advised Private Powell not to wear strong perfumes because of the same issue.

“Private Allen and Private Knox both are waiting for medical review board results and have told me that they would like to work here,” Private Powell volunteered.

I tried to remember what I knew of the two. Allen was a tall blond with a flirty demeanor. A good looking girl and probably would be trouble. Private Knox was a short plump girl with glasses. Not an ugly girl, just plain. If she could manage not to get caught up in the gossip issue, then she probably would work out just fine.

“Thanks for the recommendations,” I said to Private Powell. “I’ll be assigning someone to work with you this morning.”

She seemed pleased with being thanked. From my brief time with her, I had assessed that her self-esteem was not high and any compliment or acknowledgement of doing something positive meant a lot to her.

“I know you will train the new person well,” I told her and she actually blushed.

“Attention!” Private Powell called out loudly as the door opened and the Company Commander and the First Sergeant stepped in. She came to her feet and we both stood at the position of attention.

“Carry on, Drill Sergeant,” Captain Combs said to me.

And although he did not directly acknowledge Private Powell, she knew to go about her business. The Captain went into his office and I followed the First Sergeant into his.

“I put the night event log on your desk,” I told him. “There was nothing worth looking at. Also, I wanted to let you know I was going to assign a new person to the orderly room this morning.”

Although I didn’t need his permission, I figured it was a good idea to keep him in the loop so a new face in the orderly room was not a surprise to him. He appeared pleased with being kept informed. Some of the Drill Sergeants in the company didn’t have much respect for him because he had come from the Academy and not from the field. I was always respectful, regardless of what I thought. Something that came with age, and as noted earlier, most of our Drill Sergeants were quite young.

“I’ve got to get the morning report ready for the Battalion,” I told him and stepped out of his office.

Battalion was the next level up in the command. They wanted the company morning reports by 8:30, which made it a little rough as the morning formation was at 8:00. The morning report was a document that listed the number of soldiers in the company with a breakdown of number of soldiers on leave, in class, in casual status, and of course, absent without leave or AWOL. It was a daily head count.

Actually, I already had Private Powell working on the document at the computer. She had all the numbers from the day before, new arrivals during the night, and departures from yesterday. All that was needed was the update from the Drill Sergeants that they would be giving during the morning formation. I had created a spreadsheet on the computer to make it easier to track and it would generate the document for delivery to Battalion.

I picked up my brown round, adjusted it on my head, and stepped out into the large open space under the barracks building where the company was forming up. The air was heavy with moisture and the heat of the day was beginning to be felt. Drill Sergeants were massing their platoons and preparing for the morning formation. The formation looked like a horseshoe. The person in command of the company would be facing the company from the large opening at the head. Soldiers on casual status formed up in a platoon at the end of the horseshoe. I had assigned a Specialist Four to be in charge of the casual platoon so I could get my morning duties accomplished.

As I approached him, he turned and stated, “I got them all here, Drill Sergeant.”

“Good job, soldier,” I replied. “Give the status during the morning formation and when the company breaks up to go to class, have the platoon do a police call of the company area. I’ll be out with the daily assignments at 8:30, so have the platoon formed up back here.”

“Yes, Drill Sergeant,” he acknowledged.

I walked behind the platoon and hung back as the Senior Drill Sergeant stepped to the open end of the horseshoe-shaped company.

“Company!” he bellowed.

Each Drill Sergeant, standing in front of their platoons, echoed over their shoulders with “Platoon!”

“Attention!” he gave the command of execution and all the soldiers snapped to the position of attention.

“Report,” he commanded.

Beginning with the platoon on his right, the Drill Sergeant reported the number of soldiers in his platoon and whether they were all present. I was taking notes.

“First Platoon, 58 present,” reported the Drill Sergeant.

“Second Platoon, 60 present and two on sick call,” was the next report.

“Third Platoon, 46 present, two on sick call, and one in the barracks,” the female Drill Sergeant reported.

“Fourth Platoon, 53 present, one on sick call, and one unaccounted for,” the Drill Sergeant yelled out.

“Who is not accounted for?” demanded the Senior Drill Sergeant.

“Private Kerr,” replied the Drill Sergeant.

My interest picked up as I noted the name on my sheet. The soldier would not be considered absent without leave, commonly called AWOL, until he was missing 24 hours. But the name would be part of my morning report to Battalion.

“Casual Platoon all present or accounted for,” the Spe¬cialist reported to the Senior Drill Sergeant.

Casual platoon did not report numbers because of the diverse places the soldiers might be. Some were sleeping in the barracks from duty the night before, some had already departed for details in the wee hours of the morning, and some were on duty in the orderly room. It was up to me to keep track of them.

The Senior Drill Sergeant turned about 180 degrees and waited for the Captain to approach him. Sometimes it would be the Captain, sometimes the First Sergeant, who would take charge of the company, depending on what was going on.

They exchanged salutes and the Senior Drill Sergeant stepped off briskly to the right of the Captain. The Captain commanded the company to stand at ease and began to talk to them about the coming weekend and, if they wanted to be released to enjoy it, the barracks had to be in tip top shape. He continued with other topics, but I was no longer interested as I was thinking about the morning report and other chores I had to get done.

The Captain turned the company back over to the Senior Drill Sergeant, who in turn, released the platoons to their Drill Sergeants. Each platoon exited the company area with Drill Sergeants calling cadences on their way to classes for the day. The casual platoon, under the command of the Specialist, headed to the end of the company area, spread out in a long line, and began to pick up trash.

I went back into the orderly room and sat down at my computer. After inputting all the numbers and a note about the missing soldier, I printed the morning report and took it into the Captain to sign. He looked the morning report over, commented about the missing soldier, and then signed it.

“Private Powell, take this over to Battalion Headquarters,” I ordered, as I handed the morning report to her, “And don’t dilly dally.”

The casual platoon would be finishing up shortly and waiting for their daily assignments. And I wanted to select someone to work in the orderly room before the post duty person showed up with their list of needs.

“Yes, Drill Sergeant,” Private Powell acknowledged and departed the orderly room.

“Drill Sergeant Sparks,” the First Sergeant said from his doorway, “I need a couple of soldiers today to work in the barracks.”

“I’ll see what I can do,” I replied. “That shouldn’t be a problem unless post demands all the available casual soldiers for some special project.”

I walked a fine line between the demand for labor from the company and the post detail. And the Battalion sometimes also wanted bodies. Of course, I always took care of the company first, although the post protocol stated that post had the first priority.

The door opened and Private Powell came back into the orderly room and sat down at her desk. She was all smiles and humming to herself. I watched her out of the corner of my eye as she began to write in her notebook. She had been writing in this notebook on several occasions that I had noticed. I once again wondered what she was writing. It looked like some sort of diary.

“I’m going to make the casual platoon assignments and will return shortly. Hopefully with some help for you in the orderly room,” I told Private Powell as I put on my hat, grabbed my clipboard, and headed toward the door.

She looked up from her notebook and nodded in acknowledgement. I wondered what was so engrossing about what she was doing. Sure did seem to keep her occupied and I guess that was a good thing. The Specialist had the casual platoon assembled and waiting as I stepped out of the orderly room.

“Platoon, attention!” he called out as I approached.

He turned about to face me and presented a salute. I returned the salute and assumed command of the platoon.

“At ease,” I told the platoon.

Looking at my list of tasks that called for 35 soldiers and counting only 25 in the platoon, some of which would be going on medical appointments and other personal activities, I sighed and mentally divided them up.

“Listen up soldiers,” I commanded. “Those of you that have medical appointments fall out to the rear of formation. Make sure you have your appointment slips out for me to see.”

Four soldiers moved to the rear of the platoon.

“Private Knox and Private Allen, fallout and meet me outside the orderly room,” I continued.

I figured that one of them could be the help the First Sergeant wanted and the other could start training as my new assistant. The Privates stepped out of the platoon and walked over toward the orderly room. That left me with less than 20 soldiers to work with.

“The post Detail Sergeant will be here in about 5 minutes to pick you up. If anyone has an appointment that I am not aware of, speak up,” I told them.

One of the soldiers in the second rank spoke up, “I have an appointment with the Reserve Sergeant Major at 10 hundred hours, Drill Sergeant.”

“Fall out soldier and meet me by the orderly room,” I told him.

The First Sergeant could utilize him at the company before and after his appointment. I could easily defend why I did not send him to the post detail. He stepped out of the platoon and joined the two females by the orderly room. I called the remaining soldiers to attention and turned them over to the Specialist.

“Hold them here for the post Detail Sergeant. If he has any issue with the number of soldiers, tell him to see me in the orderly room. Make sure they get lunch and they don’t violate their medical profiles and I will see you at afternoon formation,” I told him as I saluted.

“Yes, Drill Sergeant,” he answered, returning my salute.

I stepped off, walked to the rear of the formation, and examined the medical appointment slips of the waiting soldiers. Everything was in order, so I sent them on their way and then joined the three soldiers waiting next to the orderly room. They were standing there looking a little lost and apprehensive. About that time, the First Sergeant stepped out of the orderly room and they all moved to the “at ease” position.

“Are these the soldiers for my barracks detail?” he asked me, looking them over with a critical eye.

“Two of them are,” I replied.

“You and you come with me,” he directed, pointing to the short plump female and the male soldier with the appointment before I could say anything.

They both followed him down the corridor toward the barracks, not looking at all happy. I suppressed my irritation on losing my first choice to work in the orderly room.

Turning to the tall blond female, I said, “I need help in the orderly room during the day. The biggest ground rule is that you say nothing to anyone about what you see or hear while you are working in the orderly room. Are you interested?”

Private Allen nodded her head excitedly and said, “Yes, Drill Sergeant. And thanks for picking me.”

Her voice had a distinct accent from the west coast and her hazel eyes had a hint of mischief in them.

“Let’s go meet Private Powell, who works for me now,” I told her, suppressing a smile. “She’ll show you the ropes and get you started with things. Remember, no talking about what goes on in the orderly room and exercise your military bearing.”

As I followed her into the orderly room, I couldn’t help noticing that her uniform was filled out nicely both on top and bottom. I turned her over to Private Powell with instructions to get her oriented with the workings of the company. They both were all smiles and I could see that I was in for a time with these two females if I was not careful.

It was an uneventful morning with all the paperwork being routine except for one item. Private Guide, a National Guard soldier, had failed out of a course for the third time. When a soldier fails out of a course, they usually have a couple of options. It could be to start the course over again, change to a different medical course at the Academy, or revert to the infantry, depending on their attitude and other factors. Based on the selection of the soldier and their Drill Sergeant’s recommendation, I would present the case to the Company Commander for approval. Most soldiers got two chances before being sent to the infantry to serve out their term.

This National Guard soldier had failed the first course and had been approved for a second different course at the Academy. He failed the second course, was recycled, and he was dropped as an academic failure after the third week. Three strikes and you’re out. The difference is that National Guard soldiers have to have a slot when they return to their state units after training. So I would have to consult with the National Guard Liaison before a decision could be made. If the state unit where Private Guide came from did not have a slot open for an infantry position or did not want to fill one, then he would be discharged with no obligation. The National Guard unit had already paid for his basic training, travel, and wages. If the soldier was discharged, all that money would be lost and the tax payers of that state got to foot the bill. Needless to say, there was a lot of pressure on the National Guard Liaison to not let that happen.

I grabbed my hat and told Privates Powell and Allen that I would be out for a while at the Student Personnel Center, a single story building located about three blocks away. Not worth driving to, even in the summer heat.

It was mid-morning when I arrived at the center and went in the main entrance. The inside consisted of a long counter with several civilian clerks at desks behind it and a series of offices along the opposite wall. The door with the National Guard logo was standing open and I knocked on the door frame.

“Come on in, Drill Sergeant Sparks,” the woman behind the desk invited in a friendly voice.

The woman was Sergeant Major Ann Grout. She was about 45 years old, getting a little on the heavy side but not fat. Her hair was turning grey and she was coloring it to hide it. Not a bad looking woman with a good disposition.

“Sit down and take a load off,” she invited with a big smile.

I sat down and took off my hat. Military regulations require that all uniformed soldiers remove their hats while indoors. There are a few exceptions to the regulation and Drill Sergeants were one of those. But I found it to be more personable and friendly when I took mine off. Besides, this woman was fine looking and friendly.

“What do you have for me this morning?” Sergeant Major Grout inquired.

She knew that this was not just a social visit as I never show up just to chat. Not that I didn’t take the time to socialize when I was there to see her. We usually would swap stories and sometimes make sexual innuendoes with each other. She was really good company. I sighed and told her the story about the National Guard soldier, Private Guide. At the end of the story, I said, “The question I have is whether the state Guard unit wants another infantry soldier or to cut their losses.”

It was her turn to sigh. The state Guard units had a limited budget and spending it on a soldier that did not make it was a waste of resources. And the states did not hesitate to complain to the upper command about how the Army wasted their money when a soldier washes out. “I’ll check with the unit’s command group and see what they want to do,” she replied. “This is Wednesday. I should have answer for you by Friday. Should I tell them what your recommendation is?”

Most units wanted to know what the cadre at the training company thought, although some did not even ask. The Company Commander normally left it up to me to make that recommendation and this time was no different.

“You can tell them that the Command thinks they’re wasting their money. This guy is a dud. Even if he makes it through the infantry training, he will be nothing but trouble for them when he gets back,” I replied.

“The Command thinks that or you think that?” the Sergeant Major asked gently.

“Between me, you, and the wall, I think the guy is a dud,” I replied. “If you want to talk to Captain Combs about it though, I’ll set up an appointment.”

Sergeant Major Grout smiled and shook her head no. “I figured that you were speaking for the Command. Just was wondering if you would admit it was you making the decisions.”

“Officially, I don’t make any decisions. Unofficially, I make most of the decisions on the disposition of the soldiers in the casual platoon,” I admitted, glancing at her shyly.

“Your secret is safe with me,” she replied. “Hell, you make better recommendations than anyone else that comes in this office from the other training units. Most of them just want me to tell them what to do,” she stated with a little annoyance in her voice. “I always figured that the person dealing with the individuals had a better perspective than me. I never see the soldier, don’t even have a clue what they look like, let alone, know anything about their potential.”

I was watching her while she was talking. Her breathing was increasing as she was getting worked up and there was color in her cheeks. The light green blouse she was wearing stretched taunt against her breasts. And I caught myself staring at them.

“Sorry about getting a little annoyed,” she apologized. “Sometimes dealing with some of the training units gets a little old.”

“Don’t mention it,” I replied, lifting my eyes from her chest and feeling guilty for staring. “We all can get a little aggravated about things at times.”

“Are you doing anything special the rest of the week?” I asked, changing the subject.

“No, just going for a run tonight and on Friday. Want to join me?” she asked, looking at me with interest.

I knew from previous conversations with Sergeant Major Grout that she was married, but not very happy with her current domestic situation. Seems she had a stronger sex drive than her spouse and it was leaving her with an itch that she wanted someone to scratch. I just was not sure about being the one to do it. But it was very tempting.

“Got plans for tonight,” I lied. “Maybe on Friday, although you would probably put me to shame with your physical abilities.”

“Friday would be good. I like company when I’m running. Think about it and let me know,” she said. “I don’t use the post gym as it’s always crowded. In fact, we could meet at my place and go running from there. I promise not to embarrass you too much,” she added teasingly.

My radar was up! So was something else. Did I just hear an invitation to meet her at her house for something physical? My heart was racing as I thought of the possibilities. Was I reading too much into the invitation? I looked at her face and saw her twinkling eyes looking at me in a very suggestive manner.

I gathered up my nerve and said, “If I didn’t know better, I thought I heard an invitation to get physical with you.”

I really was going out on a limb a bit, but needed to know just how far this woman was willing to take this conversation. Reaching across the desk, she gently laid her hand over mine.

“Guess you’ll have to come to my house on Friday and find out,” she said with a flirty smile.

Oh my God, I thought. Now what do I do? It was obvious that more than a run down the street was on her mind. And mine too. Life sure can get complicated in a hurry. I squeezed her hand very lightly and withdrew mine.

“Sergeant Major,” I said, “You are such a tease. But maybe I’ll join you for a run on Friday anyway.”

Looking pleased with herself, she leaned back in her chair and said, “When you come back on Friday, I’ll give you directions to the house.”

“I’ll plan on it,” I said and stood to leave. “But right now I’ve got to get back to work.”

“See you Friday then,” she said, waving good-bye.

During the walk back to the company area, my mind was busy thinking about the possibilities. The woman was not looking for anything permanent as she was already in a long term marriage and had financial security. My sex life sucked. If I got lucky once a week I was doing really good. On the other hand, I had not stepped out on my marriage before and was not sure I wanted to. Why did I leave Friday open-ended when I could have shut down the conversation? That was the part that was really bothering me.

The rest of the day went by without any real issues. I processed the typical paperwork; requests for leave, reviews of student evaluations, disciplinary requests, and other routine documents for the Captain’s review and signature. As I was working on the paperwork, I also showed the new Private in the orderly room how to do it. The afternoon slipped away and it was time for the afternoon formation before I realized it.

“Drill Sergeant Sparks,” a voice asked from across the room, “Are you going to the formation?”

I looked up from my paperwork and saw the two Privates looking at me inquisitively. Glancing at my watch, it read 4:25. Nodding, I stood up and stretched. The mail for the casual platoon soldiers was stacked on the corner of my desk and I grabbed it and my hat and went out the door.

The company was already formed and waiting for the Captain, who was coming across the parking lot from his car. The Captain was a smoker and didn’t want to set a bad example for the soldiers. So, two to three times a day, he would take a short drive in his car and have a cigarette. In private, I laugh at him and give him a hard time about his addiction. Captain Combs had a Ph.D. in early childhood development and was embarrassed by not being able to get control of his nicotine habit.

I stepped in behind the casual platoon and waited for the ceremony to begin. The Senior Drill Sergeant turned over the company to the Captain and briskly stepped away. I listened with half an ear as the conversation with Sergeant Major Grout rolled over in my mind. Her smile and inviting eyes added to the spiciness of the interactions. I suppressed a grin and enjoyed the feeling of being desired. My thoughts were abruptly interrupted by the release of the platoons to the Drill Sergeants. Walking around to the front of the platoon, I took charge of it from the Specialist.

“Mail call,” I called out loudly.

Calling out the last name of the soldier listed on the letter’s addresses, I distributed the mail. Mail call is the highlight of most soldiers’ days. US Postal regulations require an individual that handles mail to be a certified mail handler. That means taking the training from the post office and having a background check. All the Drill Sergeants and the First Sergeant in our company were certified mail handlers.

Returning to the orderly room, I finished the paperwork for the day. The Duty Sergeant arrived and I briefed him on the duties for the night. With him in place and one of the casual platoon soldiers assigned to assist him for the night, I dismissed the orderly room Privates for the day. The First Sergeant was in his office, so I went in and sat down across the desk from him.

“Anything new going on, Top?” I asked.

Top is a slang name used by soldiers for the First Sergeant, making reference to him being the top sergeant in the company’s chain of command.

“Just reading the Article 15’s for the Commander to hand out tomorrow,” he replied. “Expect you’re going to attend the proceedings.”

Articles 15’s are non-judicial punishments that the Captain uses to discipline soldiers for minor infractions. It’s used for things like not showing up for details or assigned duties, failure to obey an order, and other similar infractions.

“What time is the Captain going to do them?” I inquired.

The First Sergeant looked at his calendar and replied, “Looks like he wants to start around 18 hundred hours tomorrow. We’ll do all three of them and get them over with.”

I knew that Top did not relish punishing soldiers. Then again, neither did I. But it was a necessary evil in maintaining discipline in the unit. I had drafted the Article 15 paperwork based on the statements from the individual’s Drill Sergeants. One was for missing a morning formation three times in a week, one was for not showing up for duty in the laundry room, and one was for not following instructions. I was not happy with the last one and planned to talk to the Captain about it. But before I did, I wanted to discuss it with the First Sergeant.

“Top,” I started, “I have an issue with the Article 15 for not following instructions. Don’t you think that an Article 15 is a bit harsh? A good ass chewing is probably in order. What do you think?”

“Yeah, I have the same thought,” he agreed. “Why don’t we talk to the Captain about it?”

We both rose and I followed him into the Captain’s office and closed the door behind us. Captain Combs looked up from his desk, grinned, and told us to sit down. I guess he had been expecting us. Usually, the day before he administered punishment, we three sat and talked about it. Most the time there wasn’t much to say, but at times, we all would have different opinions on how to proceed. The decision as to what to do was ultimately his, but he valued our opinions and knew we would have to deliver the punishment to the soldier.

The First Sergeant handed him the paperwork on the three soldiers and stated, “These are the Article 15’s for tomorrow. Drill Sergeant Sparks and I would like to talk to you about the last one on failure to follow instructions.”

“The Senior Drill Sergeant signed off on the request,” the Captain noted as he read the charge. “You know I try and support him whenever I can.

All the Drill Sergeants in the company reported to the Senior Drill Sergeant, then to the First Sergeant, and finally to the Captain. All the Drill Sergeants except me; I reported to the First Sergeant directly. And the Senior Drill Sergeant and I did not often see issues in the same light. Prior to becoming a Drill Sergeant, he had served in infantry units and I had spent most of my military career in hospitals.

The three of us in the orderly room all had college degrees. The Captain had a Ph.D. in early childhood development, the First Sergeant had a Masters in sociology, and I had a Bachelor in resources management. None of the other Drill Sergeants had degrees, although a few had some college credits. Being older and more educated gave us a different outlook than they had. Many times the Captain had explained his decisions to the Senior Drill Sergeant, not because he was required to, but rather to get him to see other angles to an issue.

“Sir,” I began, “I think it’s clear the soldier has some issues and needs some sort of eye opener. But an Article 15 appears to be a little heavy-handed. I recommend that you scare the shit out of the soldier, give him a good lecture, and offer him a second chance by putting the Article 15 to the side.”

The Captain leaned back in his chair and looked at the First Sergeant, “Do you agree with Drill Sergeant Sparks?”

“Yes and no,” the First Sergeant replied. “I think you should give him a good lecture, some extra duty time, maybe a week or so, and tear up the Article 15.”

“How about I give him a scare, tear up the Article 15, and turn him over to you for a good lecture and some extra duty time,” the Captain suggested to the First Sergeant. “Would that work for you Drill Sergeant?”

Both the First Sergeant and I nodded in agreement. The First Sergeant was limited by policy to giving up to five days of extra duty. The Captain, through the Article 15 proceedings, could give up to 30 days of extra duty. He could also reduce a soldier in rank, levy a fine, or give all three. And if the soldier had really stepped out of line, the Captain could recommend to the Battalion Commander to take harsher action, such as confinement in the post prison.

“How about the other two requests?” the Captain asked, holding up the rest of the paperwork. “Any recommendations or objections?”

“I don’t think they should lose any money, but a couple of weeks of extra duty might get their attention,” I volunteered.

“Always the easy one aren’t you, Drill Sergeant Sparks,” he said grinning at me.

He knew I didn’t believe in using punishment to get the job done. I believe that if you have to resort to punishment then you have failed to do your job as a Drill Sergeant and had expressed this point of view on many occasions. Not that there were not situations that some punishment was appropriate. Usually, those soldiers in that category were destined to be put out of the Army. But every once in a while, the punishment would wake one up and they would make personal corrections to themselves and become good soldiers.

I grinned back and replied, “If the Senior Drill Sergeant had his way, we would be flogging soldiers in front of the formation. I just don’t think that spanking a soldier too hard has any effect. Besides, when you lecture them, you can point out how much harsher the punishment could have been. Soldiers accept their punishments much better when they think it fits the offense rather than throwing the book at them.”

“Ok,” the Captain said, “I’ll take that into account when I pass judgment tomorrow. Anything else?”

The First Sergeant shook his head and said, “No Sir.”

We chatted about some other things of little importance and then I departed, leaving the First Sergeant to finish his business with the Captain. Time was slipping by and I wanted to get home. It had been a long day and getting away from the company was always a good de-stressor.

I got into my car and drove the 20 minutes home. Traffic was not bad and the drive was uneventful. Waiting at home was my wife Carol, and my step-daughter, Sandra.

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