Nineteen seventy-three. I’m wearing khakis because while I thought I looked better in fatigues, which isn’t saying much, the crusty warrant officer (then again, aren’t all warrant officers crusty?) who ran our shop insisted, and I wasn’t one to bend rules at least, not his rules. Our little subcommand had lots of duty stations worldwide, some of them desirable, some of them less so. There was one post, though, that nobody ever seemed to want, and given the fact that transfer orders for enlisted personnel had to get past my desk, rather a lot of individuals who outranked me I was a lowly Specialist Four at the time seemed willing to do me favors to get them out of that assignment if at all possible. I never promised anything, and I never tried to collect on any of those markers, but sure enough, disposition forms materialized, signed by the correct officers, changing their destinations to some preferred location.
This could not possibly last forever, and of course it didn’t. Eventually they decided to fill one particular billet with me. It was a short tour 12 months and it came with a stripe. I shrugged. “I’m twenty years old,” I said, “and I’ve never been east of Boston or west of Amarillo. Maybe I should quit bitching.”
And so I was packed off to the Middle East, which was quieter than it is today and much quieter than some Southeast Asian locations at the time. It was, first and foremost, a duty station, so duty came first; but I did manage to spend some free time wandering about this crazed place without working up too much of a sweat. (Really. Typical middle-of-summer high temperature: 80°F. What was I worried about?) Of course, things can and do happen without notice, and as the phrase goes, everyone’s secondary MOS is Eleven Bravo.
That post has long since been closed, its need for it having largely evaporated and its host country having grown restive, even surly, over the years. Still, a lot of us passed through its gates over the years, and some of us are still around, even though we’re no longer wearing fatigues. Or khakis.