The jeep pulled-up in front of the Quonset hut and stopped. The driver checked his watch and knew he was right on time, which was really important. He couldn’t afford too many more screw-ups in his Army career, and today he knew he had to make a good impression.
The newly arrived 2nd Lieutenant emerged from the hut, looked around, and then strode purposely towards the waiting jeep.
“Morning, sir,” the driver said, saluting smartly. “I’m PFC Walcott, sir, your driver.”
“Good morning, Private,” the Lieutenant replied, returning the salute and climbing into the jeep.
“Where to this morning, sir?” Walcott asked.
“Show me around my command, Private. Let’s start with the perimeter and work inwards. Any questions?”
“No, sir,” Walcott replied, putting the jeep into gear and slowly moving towards the north.
They drove for a few minutes without saying anything until Walcott couldn’t hold it in any longer. “Sir, I do have one question?”
“Of course, Walcott, I’m always open to the people under my command.”
“Well, sir, it’s that me, Private Gomez and Sergeant Wilcox know that you just got out of West Point. This is your first posting, right?”
“That’s right, Private. I’m a proud member of the Class of ‘22.”
“Okay, well, you must know how the three of us screwed up to get posted to this dump of a Command, sir,” Walcott ventured. “So, we were just wondering what you did to merit this as your first posting? Musta been a doozy, sir, if you don’t mind me saying so.”
The Lieutenant smiled and said nothing for a few moments as the jeep navigated the pock-marked road. Clearing his throat, he then replied, “Well, Walcott, I’ve read your three service files and am well aware of what brought you three here. You, for instance, made a pass at the General’s daughter at your last posting. Am I correct?”
“That’s right, sir. I didn’t see nothin’ wrong with it at the time, though.”
“She was twelve years old, Walcott,” the Lieutenant observed, his gaze on the road ahead.
Walcott just shrugged and kept on dodging potholes.
“And as far as Private Gomez and Sergeant Wilcox, I won’t reveal their mistakes, although I’m sure you are well aware of them. Am I correct?” the Lieutenant asked.
“Yes, sir, I know just what they did. And you won’t see no nooses being hung up around here by them, sir. No way! They’ve learned their lesson,” Walcott admitted.
“That’s good. So, what you want to know is why the Army would post a fresh-faced 2nd Lieutenant who had a spotless record and who was a Regimental Commander at The Point, who had a 3.95 GPA, and who was the point guard on the basketball team, to this odd little command. Is that about it, Private?”
“That’s about it, sir. With all due respects, sir.”
“So why, if I had my choice of any Branch of the Army, be it Infantry, Armor, the Engineers, Intelligence or even Finance, would I end up here? Right, Private?”
“Well, for one thing, Walcott, it is a Command, is it not?” the Lieutenant observed.
“That it is, sir, that it is. And 2nd Lieutenants just don’t get Commands right off the bat, in my experience, sir,” Walcott added.
“But now you’re thinking that this wasn’t my choice, but that I was sent here as punishment. For some big mistake I made somewhere along the way. Right, Walcott?” the Lieutenant continued. “And what the Army really wants is for me to just resign my commission and walk away. That’s what you’re really thinking isn’t it, Walcott?”
Walcott nodded as he veered the jeep to the left to avoid a small animal in the roadway.
“And you three probably have a bet going on just when I’ll turn in my bars. Am I getting close, Walcott?” the Lieutenant probed.
Walcott sheepishly agreed and conceded, “It seemed to us that to be in Command of the Army’s Porta-Potty Testing Center in Pahrump, Nevada would be just too big a let-down for a hard-charger like yourself, sir.”
“Which leaves us with the sixty-four thousand dollar question, doesn’t it, Walcott?” the Lieutenant concluded, looking over at his driver.
“Yes, sir, that it does.”
Clearing his throat, the Lieutenant continued, “And that is just what gigantic mistake did I make to get posted to this dump of a Command, as you so eloquently call it, Walcott?”
Walcott gripped the steering wheel of the jeep tightly. He couldn’t remember being this excited about anything since he made that pass at the General’s daughter. This new green Lieutenant was about ready to fess-up to his career blunder. And what the Lieutenant didn’t know is that the bet between Walcott and the other Private and the Sergeant was whether Walcott could get the Lieutenant to confess to it! Walcott had bet three month’s pay that he could get this snot-nosed little officer to spill the beans. He was already thinking about how he was going to spend it in Las Vegas.
“Well, Walcott, I’m not going to tell you. You’ll just have to live with that as long as I am your Commanding Officer,” the Lieutenant concluded.
Walcott visibly sank in his seat as the jeep continued to lumber past the endless rows of portable toilets within the perimeter.
Few people knew what really got the Lieutenant posted out in the middle of nowhere. He didn’t get caught running the longest-running poker game in West Point history until right before graduation. And they hushed it up for the good of the Corps. But by that time, he’d pocketed enough money on the side to live whatever life he wanted.
But when they told him he was being posted to Pahrump, Nevada, a stone’s throw away from Las Vegas, it was all he could do to maintain his calm and not jump up and shout “Yes!”.
He felt kind of bad for Walcott, though. He knew what was on Walcott’s mind the second he walked out of his Quonset hut earlier. After all, you don’t operate the longest-running poker game in West Point history for four years without learning something about degenerate gamblers . . .