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The Battalion Dance

November 19th, 2010 by skippy

80. Not allowed to wear a dress to any army functions.
81. May not bring a drag queen to the battalion formal dance.

Both of these events are part of the same story.

One day, a long time ago, when I was still in the Army a horrible thing happened.  Someone, presumably a spouse of an Officer, or a high ranking NCO, had two unrelated thoughts collide in their head.  The destruction wreaked by this collision was so great that it somehow launched itself out of the brain that spawned it, sailed across the post housing, and landed square in the middle of the Headquarters of the 6th Psychological Operations Battalion.  Where it promptly became our problem.

For the first thought let us imagine it as if it was a high capacity passenger train, just crammed to the gills with innocent commuters going about their daily business.  This thought was some variation of, “Say, I’m married to a guy who has rank in the military.  That basically means that I have rank too, and I can make people in the Army do stuff.  Anything I want to satisfy my own crushing insecurities.”  While I don’t know if this is exactly how the thought went, I do know that it originated somewhere in the vicinity of the Family Support Group.  And while I understand that organizations such as that are a tremendous asset in times of war, such as we have now, they were sort of nightmares for all of the single soldiers in the attached unit during the time that I served.  Civilian wives would try to issue orders to soldiers.  Civilian wives would try to issue orders to other civilian wives.  One of my supervisors got punished because his wife wouldn’t attend a higher ranking wife’s party.  I once narrowly avoided having to manhandle a Captain’s wife who would not accept that she was not allowed to be in a secure classified area, and use the computer, only because her husband returned to said office a few seconds before my life got really complicated.  She wouldn’t accept that an E-4 was allowed to tell her to leave.  See also: This Lady.

For the second thought, let’s pretend that it’s a semi hauling some kind of highly dangerous substance.  Maybe some 2-4-5 Trioxin.  Perhaps it’s nuclear waste.  Maybe it’s even a new kind of self-replicating nano-machine, that disassembles organic compounds into their component atoms.  In any event, it’s scary, it’s incredibly harmful, and it’s stalled right across the tracks.  And this thought goes, “Say, I never did get to go to my prom…”

Ka-boom.

And it became my problem.

Now I don’t know why patient zero decided that we needed to have a formal dance. And I’m not sure why nobody with rank decided to put a halt to things. But people with a higher pay grade decided that Operation PSYOP Prom was a go, and the rest of us got to participate.

At the time, I was still a 25M, which is a multi-media illustrator. I worked with several other soldiers in what amounted to a medium sized graphic design firm, just without most of the quirkiness and whimsy that comes from being in a room full of artists. And since we worked in graphic design, we got to make things for the prom. Invitations. Place setting cards. RSVP notices. Custom labels for the wine bottles. Basically, imagine every stereotype from a bad romantic comedy movie. The kind where the good-hearted female lead rescues the male lead from the horrible woman he is going to marry. Specifically, the part where they show the horrible woman going all batshit over all of the non-essential trappings, just to show you how wicked and crazy she is. Now imagine that instead of a B List Hollywood actress, the person in the dress is your Sergeant Major.

That was my nightmare.

For about a month, my entire detachment did nothing but make products for this dance. Your tax money at work folks.

It gets worse, of course.

To pay for this festive abortion of military decorum, we held car washes. As in: more than one, because the first one didn’t raise enough money. As in: everybody got to spend a day being used as manual labor out on the local economy, so that our leadership’s wives could feel a little better about getting whatever stood up/knocked up/called fat/bucket of pigs blood/crippled their psyche in high school.

We got to make the signs for that too.

At one point it was determined that the Army really shouldn’t be making the soldiers work to raise money for a dance. Presumably the money was donated to some worthy cause or another; I wasn’t high enough of a pay grade to be privy to the details. All I knew is we went from raising money through the power of automotive hygiene, to never mind we’ll have to pay for this some other way.

So instead they decided to charge money for the tickets. And then they passed around the sign up sheet. Pretty much the officers, a few high ranking NCO’s and maybe three lower enlisted were all that were interested. And frankly the lower enlisted where only signing up because they were up for a promotion board soon.

And then the announcement came out. Not enough people had signed up, so now everybody had to go. And pay for their ticket. And there was a formal dress code. And no Class-A uniforms either, rent a tux, get a suit, or buy a dress. Oh yes. One hundred soldiers, broke and angry, and attending an event with an open bar. This was going to be a magical evening all right.

It was around that point my enthusiasm for this venture began to wane.

And I examined my options carefully. I didn’t own a suit. I certainly wasn’t going to buy one. I wasn’t particularly interested in renting a tux. Well, technically I was allowed to wear a dress. A female interrogator in my unit offered to let me borrow a pretty green sequined number that she owned. The way I figured it, if my chain of command was going to spend an evening making me uncomfortable and awkward, the least I could do was return the favor. Besides green totally brings out my eyes.

My supervisor, a man who I will refer to as SSG Enabler, was surprisingly supportive of my fashion decision.

“The outfit you have procured meets all of the standards set forth for this assignment Specialist. Good work. Besides, you definitely have the legs for that dress.”

Unfortunately, about a week or so ahead of time someone went and told our 1SG that one of her male soldiers was considering wearing a dress to the dance. Which she thought was funny joke, right up until the moment that my name was attached to that plan.

“SCHWARZ!”
“Yes First Sergent?”
“Is there a dress?”
“Well if you want to be technical-”
“Is. There. A. Dress?”
“Yes?”
“May I see it?”
The pretty green sequined dress was produced.
“Good choice, the color really brings out your eyes. Now leave it at home. If I see you wearing that dress, I will bury you in it. The only way that dress is going to our formal is if you manage to get a date and stuff her inside it. Do you understand me soldier?”

And so with a heavy heart I went out to a local coffee shop that night, to meet some of my friends. As I approached the table, I see my room mate, his girlfriend, her room mate, and a third woman who I did not recognize who was evidently heading up to the front to the register to buy something.

This third woman looked good. She had curves, a scandalously tight dress, and she didn’t just walk across the coffee shop, she slinked across it.

I sat down at the table and casually asked about the new lady I had just seen.

And my friends enthusiastically started to talk up this woman, and how I was just her type, and she was single, and she’s coming back in a minute, and they should totally set the two of us up together, and really that should have clued me in. Because you see, my friends were all assholes.

So the vision of loveliness returns to our table, for the purpose of this writing let’s call her “Madame X”, which sounds neat and mysterious and is probably a copy-written superhero somewhere already. My friends enthusiastically introduce us, play me up for her benefit as a great guy that she would probably enjoy getting to know. Madam X was charming, and gracious, and seemed to have larger hands than me. And an Adam’s apple.

I grew suspicious that my friends might not have my best interests at heart in this endeavor.

“Ahhh….you’re in drag, aren’t you?”

My “friends” fall out of their chairs, peeing themselves with laughter.

“Yes I am sweetie. Sorry to disappoint you. You’re not mad are you?”

Well I was a little mad, but to be fair, I totally would have done that to one of my friends if I ever had the chance, so I couldn’t really hold a grudge.

I grew suspicious that my friends might not have my best interests at heart in this endeavor.

Everyone had a good laugh at my expense, including myself, and we did the typical drink coffee/complain about our jobs/solve all the problems in the world routine that just about every person in their mid-twenties does.

Suddenly, an idea thundered into my head like a blow to the skull from my own personal muse wielding a mallet of inspiration.

“Madame X. Would you be adverse to making a whole bunch of military officers reeaaally uncomfortable?”

“Not really. You want to set me up with your commander or something?”

“No, this is better. You see, I have this pretty green sequined dress….”

Epilogue:

SSG Enabler was giddy with the thought that I was going to be attending the formal dance with a drag queen. Another NCO, who we will call SGT Killjoy, overheard our conversation and was not. SSG Enabler went to bat for me, insomuch as he informed Killjoy that they were not, under current military policy allowed to question my choice of dates, nor was I obligated to answer any such questions. And that my choice of dates in no way violated any current military policy. After all it’s fine if a soldier associates with gay people, as long as no actual homosexual conduct takes place. As he put it: “Specialist Schwarz is following his instructions to the letter. If the chain of command wants to re-state those instructions in some way that doesn’t violate any Equal Opportunity regulations, they’re welcome to try. But you and I both know that Schwarz is way better at this sort of thing than they are.”

Shortly thereafter mandatory dance attendance was canceled. It’s unclear that my actions had anything to do with this decision, as it turns out that the chain of command is really not supposed to tell the soldiers to spend money on a dance for their wives, nor can they order soldiers to appear in any uniform that was not issued to us.

But I did get to have another conversation with my 1SGT about following the “spirit of my orders”, as well as a lecture on being “a dumbass” but I didn’t get in any real trouble and I didn’t have to go to the dance, so I call that a win any day.

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29 Responses to “The Battalion Dance”

  1. Timothy Covington Says:

    This is great!

    I can think of one thing worse than a battalion dance, a battalion safety dance. Or, it might just be funnier than a battalion dance.

    Reply

  2. ltc_insane Says:

    lol that is awesome

    Reply

    Dan Zelman reply on November 19th, 2010 11:34 pm:

    As a former BOSS President (the guy that came up with “fundatory” things for single soldiers living in barracks to do rather than what they want… i.e. drink themselves into oblivion and play COD all weekend) I have been waiting to hear this explanation since the list came out.

    Did. Not. Disappoint.

    Reply

  3. Harvest Says:

    Ah yes, the “mandatory fun”. A staple of every army, I’m sure. Its right up there with being volunteered for stuff and the fixed number of times you have to redo something before the brass is happy.

    Got to love a good loophole though.

    Reply

    steelcobra reply on November 21st, 2010 3:37 am:

    Not fun: “pool party” advertising a wet t-shirt contest (Only draw, seriously) that was actually a race to take balled-up frozen shirts and put them on.

    Family day that everyone is supposed to attend, single soldiers have to set up/tear down, and is boring as fuck to be at if you don’t have gremlins.

    Fun: Your section/platoon/detachment whathaveyou hanging out at a place with go-karts and a full bar. Then going “sightseeing” afterwards.

    I don’t think this is well understood, though.

    Reply

  4. eyesoars Says:

    Made of Win.


    Cautonim Purity?

    Reply

  5. Kieran Says:

    I will admit that I was curious when I requested these, but the truth far exceeded my feeble imagingings. All must bow before Skippy and his ability to bork the minds of his superiors while remaining within their guidelines.

    Reply

  6. Ihmhi Says:

    If I ever hit the lottery, one of the first things I will establish is the a nonprofit called the Golden Ladle Award Committee. Once a year it will award the coveted Golden Ladle to the greatest shit-stirrer we can find, and Skippy will be the first recipient.

    Reply

  7. Monica Ross Says:

    God Bless You, Skippy! GENIUS! The only regret is no party pix with the D. Q. rocking the fab green frock!

    Capcha: tatemany Man
    Holy… was that his drag name?

    Reply

  8. Susan Says:

    LMAO! Laughed so hard I scared my dog.

    Reply

  9. S951 Says:

    ROTFLMAO!

    You, sir, are awesome.

    Reply

  10. Ian M Says:

    Pure win.

    Reply

  11. Stu Says:

    I really really enjoy these backstory explanations. When will you have enough to publish them?

    Captcha: “nor teencest”
    urm, I don’t wanna know

    Reply

  12. AFP Says:

    Skippy, I have an Internet for you, because you won it. Where should I have it delivered?

    Reply

  13. Pleadians Says:

    Sorry, I got distracted by the link to Army Proctor who thinks that porn is destroying American values and families and thinks that there’s a direct correlation to how much someone like porn and how often they go raping little girls and buying gay mags and anti-black mags, and all of the money they spend slowly circling it’s way into Al-Qedas pockets….

    “All laws are legislated morality.” My fucking ass you son of a….wait, your a female…you fucking bitch.

    Slavery was once allowed, does that mean it was once moral? At one point blacks went to separate schools, does that mean it was moral?

    Ok, done with that. Now the article was extremely funny :D

    I’m just disappointed that the dance was cancelled. It’d be a much funnier story if you actually DID show up at an army dance with a drag queen…

    Reply

    Pleadians reply on November 20th, 2010 1:35 pm:

    Sorry, not in the army, but even then some of that stuff she said annoyed me. And I should change this name from the amusing one I used for that crazy blonde chick going on about draconians…

    Reply

  14. SKD Says:

    You are going to be the death of me Skippy, but at least I will go out laughing.

    Your stories never fail to have me laughing hard enough to nearly pass out from either lack of oxygen.

    Reply

  15. Laura Says:

    wow. I had never questioned these items. The only one I ever questioned was the one about the fruit roll-ups which has been explained ages ago. I just love the explanation though.
    Skippy has a cult following in my house.

    Reply

  16. Jim A. Says:

    Well, there IS a provision for a supplementary uniform allowance for those who ARE required to wear civilian clothes. And that would probably require approval at a level far above that of some local, busybody wives. I can imagine that if everybody sent an official request in, that would close down the charade REAL QUICK. Because the abuse of soldier’s time is easy to ignore, but using actual appropriated funds tends to attract unwelcome notice.

    Reply

    Raven Prometheus reply on November 22nd, 2010 6:40 pm:

    That provision is really to get non-uniform clothes for people whose duties might preclude wearing a uniform, i.e: CID when they need to be sneaky, recruiters in some areas, EOD and dog handlers that do escort missions with the Secret Service, etc. And you’re right, the Army is real big on fundraisers and not being able to use Soldiers for them. Bad things have happened….

    Reply

    Jim A reply on November 22nd, 2010 11:18 pm:

    Well yes of course. That what those regulations are for. Which is WHY attempting to push the paperwork through for that would tend to bring the stupidity to the attention of higher ups. Because being the reason for a visit from the macom IG is the sort of fun that commanders who haven’t decided that they’re retiring soon try to avoid.

    Reply

  17. Matt Says:

    Reminds me of the last Christmas Party I was to attend in the Army. 1SG was explaining the rules at formation. He gets to the part that wives/husbands/dates etc were welcome. He then looked at me and said, “SGT if you bring a wife, it better be your OWN.”

    Reply

  18. Raven Prometheus Says:

    We had a dining out before our last deployment. Mandatory fun, and we had to pay $26 a plate for it. Then the BC (battalion commander, for the unitiated) pulled our CO aside and told him he couldn’t do that, and no fundraisers would be allowed. He did manage to procure the funding, though (I think he found “sponsors”; business owners that just happened to be “throwing a party” and we were their guests, or something like that), and it was actually a good time, for mandatory fun.

    Reply

    M578Jockey reply on November 24th, 2010 9:07 am:

    Dining ins/Dining outs (never did figure out the difference) were a form of fun I never participated in. My 1SG finally browbeat me into going to one then when the duty roster came out I had CQ that night. That was fine, but they wouldn’t refund my money, at which point I swore I would never go to one. Probably one of the reasons I was a SGT for 12 years.

    :-)

    Reply

  19. kat Says:

    Ah wives…
    My husband tells me that he’s gotten spoken to by his superiors about my “behavior”. I don’t take orders, don’t have a great deal of respect fo rank and don’t go to battalion events unless I can’t get out of it. I left the battalion dance early (it was on a Thursday night and I had to work the next morning) the next day I got a call from the battalion commanders wife asking if I was ok, was I sick or something. I said no, I just had to get up and go to work in the morning. She said, “you really should get your priorities straight” I said something to the effect some of us actually have to work for a living, and it’s nice for her that she doesn’t have to work and has no children to take care of, but some of us aren’t so lucky.

    Reply

  20. JMireles Says:

    I can only remember once having to go through mandatory fun. It was in AIT, and all of us were very unhappy to be forced to be there. We wanted to go to the Hacienda, which is the recreation club we went to on Ft. Sam. Unfortunately, we were restricted to the Company area. I wish someone had thought of a way to make it more entertaining. However, from AIT, I do have a story about someone following the guidelines to the letter. Our final weekend before graduation, we were being kept in the area, and tasked with “area beautification”. When we had finished to the Drill Sgt’s satisfaction, he chose to release us for a few hours. Before doing so, he told us all, “Final formation is at 1800. You don’t have to be in uniform. I don’t care what you wear, as long as you’re there. If even one person is missing, you’re all in deep shit. I know some of you are gonna drink. If you’re a loud drunk, don’t. If you’re a sad drunk, don’t talk to me.” At 1750, people began to wander in. In my case, as well as the cases of a few others, it was more like stagger in. A good portion of the formation seemed to be weaving. However, that paled in comparison with the sight of two of our prior service guys showing up wearing over-coats, shower shoes, and nothing else. I’d never seen that particular expression on the Drill Sgt’s face, and doubt that I could describe it accuarately. Kind of a cross between “what the fuck is that?!” and “Why me?”

    Reply

  21. Beach Says:

    Just want to comment on the THIS LADY link. That will go over like a lead balloon. Let our military get porn on base…there are certain regulations in place so that children cant see them while they are being sold in stores. it doesnt hurt the family. shut up. if anything it makes daddy more amicable. dumbass.

    Reply

  22. Amy Proctor Says:

    Gee, you seem AWFULLY protective of porn, Beach. I won’t ask why.

    How many kids do you have living on a military base? I have four.

    Moron.

    Reply

    skippy reply on December 21st, 2010 11:13 am:

    Hi again Amy.

    I can’t speak for Beach, but I am protective about the freedoms and privileges of our service people. Especially when it’s a case like this, where it’s essentially a “none of your business issue.” As a non pron consumer, the sale of porn to soldiers in no way affects you, so this is really a case of you butting in on other peoples business.

    Reply

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