Of course maybe somewhere along the week I’ve gotten sick or turned my ankle. For the normal person, you would probably call in sick, and your boss would say that was okay.
For the military, it was quite a different, and often frustrating process.
Because you couldn’t just be an adult and call in sick. Someone had to give you orders saying you could stay out of work, or not run for a week.
Sick Call started at 6:00 am and went to 9:00 for enlisted. Before the first formation of the morning, I’d have to go down and get a sick call form from the duty soldier (called “CQ,” which stood for charge of quarters. He manned the phones). The form required me to put down what was wrong, my name, social security number, and company.
I’d fall in for formation, and then once the PT started, I would depart for sick call at a troop medical clinic, known as a TMC. Once there, I’d sign in, and do the usual waiting room (though no magazines).
Eventually a corpsman, who was a lower enlisted, would see me. He had this binder on the table in front of him, and it was kind of a flow chart. Like if you got a bunch of no’s, he’d give you a cold pack and send you back to duty.
If it was enough to see a physician’s assistant, it was back to more waiting. Eventually, I’d get in to see him. If he thought I was sick or hurt enough, he’d given me “quarters,” which was medical orders saying that you could stay in bed and be sick.
If I needed to see another type of doctor, I had to get a referral from the PA. For example, if I’d known my feet were flat then, I would have had to go to sick call and request a referral for a podiatrist. If the PA agreed and gave me one, then I could go to the podiatrist; if he didn’t, then that was it.
The referrals were even worse and just as frustrating. I’d call for an appointment, and the earliest appointment was six weeks out. If I had an injury, by the time I got to the appointment, sometimes it had improved and the specialist thought I was faking it.
If it hadn’t gotten better, the specialist would refer me for tests that were surprisingly high tech. The tests wouldn’t show anything, so the doctor would give me referrals for two other different types of doctors. So that was another six weeks each, usually ending with no result.
The problem would still be there, so when it flared back up, it was back to Sick Call to repeat the entire process, right down to the same specialists who would refer me to the same high tech tests and then tell me they couldn’t do anything.
My podiatrist treats a lot of veterans, so he was quizzing on all this. His comment was that it seemed like the military just sent you round and round until you gave up. Yup, that was about right. The Army did not deal well with anything beyond a common cold.
One of the services we were offered was to send out uniforms to a military laundry facility for cleaning and starching. All the sergeants liked the uniforms with a sharp crease, and frankly, I didn’t want to spend my evenings ironing.
The Army would do a payroll deduction each month for the service. I’d stuff everything in a laundry bag with a laundry slip, and drop it off.
The only problem with it was that the uniforms often came back with broken buttons. They would get pressed so hard, the buttons would break. I’d also get wear marks around the buttons. Over time, the circle of the buttons would appear on the uniform, and eventually it would break through. That wasn’t an instant replace on the uniform, because sometimes we needed worn uniforms for the work we did.
The service was discontinued after a while, so it was off to the dry cleaners. Heavy starch. When I got my uniforms back, I could stand them up. I had to break the pants to get into them!
Bedding Turn in
Supply issued us our sheets and pillow cases for our beds in the barracks. Once a week, we would strip our twin beds and fold the sheets up on top of the blankets on the end. The stripping of the bed was to let the mattress air out. While I was at work, one of the supply folks would come around and gather the dirty sheets up and replace it with a set of clean ones.
If you think this sounds great, having someone take care of cleaning the sheets, well … maybe not. They consisted of two well-used flat sheets that only departed life when they got torn. Some of the sheets had stains that we were probably better off not questioning.
Despite the name, this wasn’t anything fun. Sometimes the first sergeant would go through the barracks and not be happy at how they looked. So we’d go to the last formation of the day and be told that we had a GI Party.
That meant clean the barracks until first sergeant was happy. Sometimes that was hours, pretty much cleaning the same spots we’d cleaned that morning, or getting down on our hands and knees, stripping the wax off the floor.
The platoon sergeants would come in at some point, inspect the barracks, say it was fine, and we were done.
Men on the Floor
Men could come into the female area during the day, or later in the evening. However, they had to announce themselves before they entered so if anyone was like on the way to the shower, they could get out of sight.
The typical phrase was “Man on the floor!”
Though some of the guys were like, “Man! On the floor!”