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In The Field (Pfaffenhofen)

Private Verlier feels all alone during a 'dark and stormy night' of a German field exercise.


The instructions had been crystal clear: during this field exercise, no soldiers were to sleep in the trucks. Private First Class Verlier desperately wanted to get the stripe back that he had lost due to sleeping on guard duty, so he was determined to follow the rules, no matter how seemingly arbitrary they may appear..

Unlike the instruction, the German night was entirely typical for a late October night in Bavaria. Incredibly dark, very windy, with a driving rain that changed direction whenever the wind changed direction, which was about every ten minutes or so.

His platoon had worked well into the night, as usual, setting up the Pershing missile and preparing it for firing. Except, of course, the missile was a dummy. The only live nuclear missiles in Germany were in places known to the soldiers as a CAS (Combat Alert Site). These field exercises were just...well, something to do, basically. To even erect the missile, even though everybody including the Russians knew it was just a dummy, would be considered an act of war.

After being dismissed for the night, PFC Verlier, who didn't have overnight guard duty for once, went to the truck that he had thrown his duffel bag earlier in the day. And 'earlier in the day' means three AM that morning. He rifled through all the things that were apparently necessary for his survival in the field, yet which he rarely to never used, and found his tent half and pegs and pole and sleeping bag. He jumped out of the truck and went to find a 'sleeping buddy' with whom he could build a pup tent and hopefully get at least a semi-decent night's sleep.

What he didn't know, but probably should have by now, is that most of the rest of the platoon was at a nearby gasthaus drinking beer. Even if he did know, he wouldn't have gone with them due to his wanting his stripe back. PFC Verlier trudged through the forest looking for someone, anyone with whom he could build a tent and get some sleep.

The driving rain kept getting stronger, and PFC Verlier kept getting wetter. He couldn't find anyone, anywhere. In fact, he thought he was getting lost when he happened upon the convoy of trucks. Well, there has to be someone around here, he thought, even if it's just someone guarding the trucks. Once again, PFC Verlier was wrong. He set out again to find somebody.

Not only did he not find anyone, he didn't find any tents either. Where was everyone? The light he had seen in the distance was now out. The gasthaus was closed for the night.

PFC Verlier kept walking through the night, getting wetter, and wetter, and wetter. He didn't know how one acquired pneumonia, but he thought this was probably a pretty good way to do it. Right when his hopelessness became achingly acute, he saw Sergeant Stevens.

"Verlier! What are you doing out here?," asked the sergeant.

"I'm looking for someone I can build a tent with," the PFC answered.

The sergeant shook his head. "I think everyone else is asleep now. You're going to have to make a lean-to."

A lean-to would be absolutely useless in this weather, and they both knew it. Sgt. Stevens marched off to wherever he was going. PFC Verlier kept walking through the woods, utterly bereft of any hope that he would find any rest for the night. Am I really that wicked?, he thought.

After making another huge circle, he came back upon the convoy of trucks about one hour later. Suddenly, Sergeant Reeves stuck his head out of the rear of a five ton truck. "Verlier! What the hell you doing out there?"

Verlier looked up at Reeves, and said, "I couldn't find anyone to make a tent with."

"You took that crap seriously?," he asked disdainfully. "Come on and get in here before you get hypothermia!"

Reeves stuck his hand out, and Verlier stuck his hand out. Reeves grabbed Verlier's hand and pulled him into the dry confines of the back of the truck, in which about ten soldiers were sleeping soundly.

Sometimes salvation comes in the form of a slightly inebriated red headed buck sergeant.

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