We were inspecting several lots of grenades. While everyone was concentrating on the task at hand, I held up a spare pin and asked, “Has anyone seen my grenade?”
SMSgt. Dan Powell, from rallypoint.com
We were inspecting several lots of grenades. While everyone was concentrating on the task at hand, I held up a spare pin and asked, “Has anyone seen my grenade?”
SMSgt. Dan Powell, from rallypoint.com
The military has a long, proud tradition of pranking recruits. Here are some favorites from rallypoint.com:
• Instructed a private in the mess hall to look for left-handed spatulas
• Sent a recruit to medical-supplies office in search of fallopian tubes
• Had a new guy conduct a “boom test” on a howitzer by yelling “Boom!” down the tube in order to “calibrate” it
• Ordered a private to bring back a five-gallon can of dehydrated water (in fact, the sergeant just wanted an empty water can)
My 90-year-old dad was giving a talk at our local library about his World War II experiences. During the question-and-answer period, he was asked, “How did you know the war was over?”
He replied, “When they stopped shooting at me.”
Lynette Combs, Norfolk, Virginia
In college, my freshman-year roommate was in ROTC and came from a long line of military men. Trask (his last name) used that heritage to lord it over me. But I had the last laugh.
One night, he returned to the dorm in his perfectly pressed uniform, his newly acquired name tag in his hand. Reluctantly, he showed it to me. In large gold letters was printed: TRASH.
Gary Severson, Nooksack, Washington
1) In World War II, a German U-boat was sunk because of a malfunctioning toilet.
2) American combat dolphins, deployed in the Persian Gulf, surrounded and captured an Iranian battleship.
3) The pen used by the military meets 16 pages of military specs.
4) At the real-life Topgun program—the one the film was based on— there is a $5 fine for any staffer who references or quotes the movie.
5) The Franco-Prussian War ended in a stalemate and had to be settled by a winner-take-all game of backgammon played by the two countries’ prime ministers.
Answers: 1-T; 2-F; 3-T; 4-T; 5-F
After my niece returned from her second tour in Iraq, I remarked how beautiful her complexion looked. “What do you use on your face to keep it so smooth?” I asked.
“Nothing,” she said. “I’ve been sandblasted.”
Wanda kaltreider, Wrightsville, Pennsylvania
During orientation at Fort Sill, in Oklahoma, our first sergeant stated that if anyone lost his locker key to see him, as he kept a master key in his office. Sure enough, a few weeks later, I lost my key. I walked into the orderly’s room and asked Sarge if I could borrow his master key.
“Why, certainly, young man,” he said, as he reached under his desk and handed me a large pair of bolt cutters.
John Dannar, Pasadena, Texas
• We made a private sweep all the sunshine off the sidewalks. It took the poor guy all day. —benSavageGardenState
• Our squad leader was yelling at a soldier when he abruptly stopped and said, “I’m done yelling at you. It doesn’t work.” He stormed off and returned carrying a small potted tree. “You will carry this tree with you wherever you go. If anyone asks you why you’re carrying this tree, you will say, ‘It’s to replace the oxygen I stole from everyone else.’” —Tain01
• A recruit thought he was special because he was an Eagle Scout. The drill instructor picked up on this and took him into the woods and made him build a nest. Then he had him squat over it in order to keep his eggs warm. —V_E_R_S_E
When a soldier came to the clinic where I work for an MRI, he was put into the machine by an attractive, young technician. Sometime later, when the examination was over, he was helped out of the machine by a far older woman. The soldier remarked, “How long was I in there for?”
Joanne Korman, Bedford, Nova Scotia
Coffee tastes better if the latrines are dug downstream from an encampment.
While in Kuwait, shortly before we deployed to Iraq, a major general told our meeting that we should expect to cross “into Iraq in less than 24 hours.” He then opened the floor to questions.
A lieutenant stood up and asked, “Is that 24 hours our time or 24 hours their time?”
Jesse Kane, Iowa City, Iowa
My gunnery sergeant and I were inspecting a Marine training exercise when we spotted a second lieutenant ambling about. “Where is your foxhole, Lieutenant?” I asked.
He snapped off a salute and responded, “I don’t know, sir!” Turning to the sergeant, he asked, “Gunnery, where is my foxhole?”
“You’re standing in it, sir,” said the sergeant. “All you have to do is remove the dirt.”
Ret. Lt. Col. Joseph Como, Greenwood, South Carolina
“Halt!” shouted our drill instructor. He had noticed that, for the umpteenth time, a recruit kept going to his right on a left command. Our instructor approached the directionally challenged Marine and stomped on his left foot. “Now,” he said, “when I say ‘left,’ it’s the one that hurts.”
Wayne Schroeder, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
It was sheer brilliance. The ship’s operations officer entered the messdeck, his eyes bleary and at half-mast. He grabbed a bagel and took a seat. Unfortunately, the sun was shining through a porthole right onto his face. Rather than move, he called the bridge: “Hey,” he said, “can you shift the ship 15 degrees? Thanks.”
Students are great about sending our troops letters, and the troops love ’em. You can see why:
“Dear Soldier, If you’re having a rough day, remember the most important thing in life is to be yourself. Unless you can be Batman.”
“Dear Veterans, You rock more than AC/DC or Metallica or Red Hot Chili Peppers.”
“I am so happy you are risking your life for the USA! My grandpa Bob was in the Navy. Now he likes peanuts.”
Sometimes I think war is God’s way of teaching us geography.
Comedian Paul Rodriguez
My friend, an Air Force officer, was riding his scooter when he passed an airman who didn’t salute. My friend stopped, turned around, and glared at the airman.
“Thanks for coming back for me,” the airman said, jumping on the back of the scooter. “Airmen’s mess, sir.”
Savita Singh, Noida, India
I was working in Army security when a VIP from another base called to ask to whom he should address an important letter. Knowing my tough-to-spell last name would give him fits, I said, “Just put down Sergeant Gary, as my last name is too hard.”
The next day, I received a letter addressed to Sgt. Gary Toohard.
G. C., via mail
The Pentagon announced that its fight against ISIS will be called Operation Inherent Resolve. They came up with that name using Operation Random Thesaurus.
While on maneuvers in the Mojave Desert, our convoy got lost, forcing our lieutenant to radio for help.
“Are you near any landmarks that might help us locate you?” the base operator asked him.
“Yes,” said the lieutenant. “We are directly under the moon.”
Jesse Joe Wingo, Gaylord, Michigan
During that first roll call in the Army, I waited in dread as the sergeant got to my name: DiFeliciantonio. There was bound to be trouble, and I was right, because suddenly, he fell silent—eyebrows arched, brain overloaded. After a … Read More
When I spotted a Navy captain on the street, I saluted and bellowed, “LST 395,” which was the designation and number of the ship I served on during World War II.
The captain returned my salute and responded, “LMD 67.”
“What… Read More
The only time you have too much fuel is when you’re on fire.
A military base commander called to complain that the weather-forecasting software our company created for them kept reporting unexplainable wind shifts.
“Do you know where the sensor is located?” my coworker asked.
“Of course… Read More
My husband is infantry, and he said the most wonderful things to convince me to marry him:
• The closets could all be mine since he wears the same thing every day.
• I could have as many babies as I want because giving birth … Read More
Humankind has a perfect record in aviation; we never left one up there.
We were an Air Force family, but our son could not grasp that fact. Anytime someone asked what his father did, he’d say, “He’s in the Army.” I told him umpteen times, “Stop telling people I’m in the Army!” It finally seemed… Read More
“Never fly in the same cockpit with someone braver than you.”
“The only time you have too much fuel is when you’re on fire.”
“Weather forecasts are horoscopes with numbers.”
“Airspeed, altitude, and brains: Two are always… Read More
I was in the bathroom brushing my teeth when my squad leader barged in. He was holding a toothbrush, which he proceeded to use to scrub underneath the rim of a toilet.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“Hazing the new guy,” he said … Read More
It’s important that soldiers
learn from their mistakes; otherwise, they’re bound to repeat them at
inopportune moments. Here soldiers share what they’ve gleaned from
• “I was cold” is not a sufficient … Read More
I’m convinced my cockroaches have military training. I set out a roach bomb—they defused it.
—Comedian Jay London
A Military lab has developed a pizza that boasts a shelf life of three years without being frozen, and now the Week has asked its readers to name this durable dish. Here’s what they came up with:
•The Lasting Supper
•In-… Read More
The flight attendant on our trip was handing out plastic pilot wings to some kids. As I stepped forward, she jokingly offered me one, but I passed. Pointing to the Airborne wings on my Army uniform, I explained, “The last time … Read More
My husband’s cousin married a former Marine who now works for United Parcel Service. They bought their four-year-old son two stuffed bears — one in a UPS uniform and the other in Marine garb. When the boy seemed confused, his father … Read More
The military may have invented the Internet, but not all government schemes have worked as well. In the ’60s, the CIA hatched a plan to implant a battery and a microphone in a cat so the furry feline could spy on unsuspecting … Read More
We were marching to the chow hall when we spotted a pathetic- looking recruit standing at attention by a mailbox, a whole book of stamps plastered to his forehead. When our drill instructor demanded an explanation, the man bellowed, “… Read More
When I enlisted in my teens, I took up smoking cigars to make myself look more mature.
Did it work? Well, one time, as I proudly puffed away at our NCO club, an older sergeant growled, “Hey, kid, your candy bar’s on fire.”
James Bushart, Cassville, Missouri
I was standing watch when an old, run-down freighter named Sagar Moti passed by. An officer asked if I knew what it meant.
“Ocean Pearl,” I answered.
He nodded. “It does look like it’s been fished out from the bottom of the sea.”
Sunder P. Shastry, Mumbai, India
In Top Gun, Tom Cruise’s call sign was the very apt Maverick. In real life, Air Force pilots’ handles are also often appropriate—but definitely not as cool. Like these:
Boomer: Accidentally broke sound barrier over a … Read More
A man walks into a barbershop and asks, “How much for a haircut?”
“Twelve dollars,” says the barber.
“And for a shave?”
“All right,” says the man, settling into the barber chair. “Shave my head.”
—Helen Russ, Medford, Oregon
The armed forces have a language all their own. Here’s our Military-to-English Dictionary:
Birth control glasses (BCGs): military-issued eyeglasses noted for their unappealing appearance.
Gone Elvis: missing in action.
Latrinegram: … Read More
My father was transferred to a new Navy base when I was four, so my parents quizzed me about our address. After I recited it perfectly, the test continued.
“City?” they asked.
“Memphis,” I answered.
“Tennessee… Read More
Try to stay in the middle of the air.
Do not go near the edges of it.
The edges of the air can be recognized by the appearance of ground, buildings, sea, trees, and interstellar space.
It is much more difficult to fly there.
You’ve never been lost until you’ve been lost at Mach 3.
Paul F. Crickmore, test pilot
Headline from the Times Herald-Record (Newburgh, New York): West Point Cadets Train for Life in Iraq with Weekend in N.J.
As I headed into a liquor store, a colonel came out carrying two bags. I snapped to attention and saluted. The colonel responded in kind. The result: the soul-crunching sound of both bags crashing to the sidewalk. As liquor seeped into the … Read More
Sign above the toilet in a women’s latrine at Camp Ripley in Minnesota: “If you are reading this sign while using this latrine, you are in the wrong one.”
Mike Lins, Savage, Minnesota
After leaving the Army, I applied for a hunting permit but was told I would first need to take a hunter’s safety course. “I’m a veteran, trained in handling firearms,” I said. “Why wouldn’t I get a waiver?”
The clerk replied… Read More
Few civilians know what a quartermaster does. So during my aircraft carrier’s Family Day, I demonstrated a procedure called semaphore—I grabbed my flags and signaled an imaginary ship. Then I asked a little girl, “Now do you know what… Read More
Combat rules soldiers should know:
• Never share a foxhole with
anyone braver than you.
• Never look important; the enemy may be low on ammo.
• Never draw fire; it irritates everyone around you.
• Never forget that your weapon … Read More
When our ship stopped in the Atlantic Ocean for a “swim call,” the chief boatswain noticed how nervous I was. “Don’t worry,” he assured me. “You are never more than three miles from land.” Then he added, “Straight down.”
—Robert McPaul, Millsboro, Delaware
Our drill instructor was at the end of his rope: An airman’s ineptitude was driving him crazy. Getting in the airman’s face, he demanded, “Whoever told you to join the Air Force?!”
Snapping to attention, the airman proclaimed, “… Read More
Visiting a new port is always exciting, and when our destroyer docked in Kiel, Germany, it was no different. In fact, one of my men was awestruck.
“Look, Chief,” he whispered excitedly. “They have Volkswagens over here too!”
During my time in the Navy, everyone was getting KP or guard duty except me. Not wanting to get in trouble, I asked the ensign why.
“What’s your name?” he asked.
“That’s why. I can’t pronounce it, much less spell it… Read More
I didn’t enlist in the Army — I was drafted. So I wasn’t going to make life easy for anyone. During my physical, the doctor asked softly, "Can you read the letters on the wall?" "What letters?" I answered slyly."… Read More
There were tons of vending machines on base, and as the supply sergeant, I was responsible for all of them. So I pulled in a private and had him count the money. An hour later, he was finished.
“Good,” I said. “What’s the count?”
He … Read More
Few people know what a quartermaster does. So during my aircraft carrier’s Family Day, I demonstrated a procedure called semaphore—I grabbed my flags and signaled an imaginary boat.
When finished, I pointed to a little girl in front … Read More
When my very pregnant niece, a sergeant in the New York Army National Guard, accidentally knocked over a glass of water, one of her soldiers volunteered to help clean it up. As he was mopping up the mess, an officer walked in. "… Read More
Upon returning from a stint in Iraq, my sister insisted that the best part about being home was having real food again: "The Lunchables I had for breakfast was great!"
I’d been secretly dating for several months, and it was time to break the news to my very protective father. My mother thought he’d take it better if she explained to him that my boyfriend was a Marine who had just returned from Iraq. This … Read More
I was in our local VA hospital when a clerk began scolding a veteran who’d lit up a cigarette in a no-smoking area. "Sir!" she barked. "When did you start smoking?" The conversation came to a halt when he replied… Read More
After I spoke at a grade school assembly about veterans, a student asked, "Were you ever in a war?" "Yes, two," I said. "World War II and Korea." The girl’s follow-up question: "Which war did you like … Read More
I was in Afghanistan speaking with a reporter as a soldier packed her things. The major came over and noticed some odd-looking pieces of cloth on her cot. "What are you doing with all these eye patches?" he asked, lifting one up… Read More
Before he was deployed to Afghanistan, my brother Ken was lamenting over how many people seemed unaware of the conflict. I had to concede his point when I later mentioned to a neighbor that he was leaving for Afghanistan. "Really?&… Read More
My husband and I were watching Forrest Gump at the base theater. The crowd was pretty quiet throughout the film, until the scene when Forrest graduates from college and is met by an Army recruiter. That was met with a shout from behind us… Read More
During World War II, selective service wasn’t always so selective. My nearsighted friend went before the draft board to explain just how poor his vision was. "If I lose my glasses, I won’t be able to see at all," he told them. &… Read More
After visiting my son at his base, I complained to my brother-in-law: "Security there is so tight, you practically have to give up your firstborn to get in." He replied, "You did."
As the soldier drove up to the Air Force base gate, my husband, who was on security detail at the time, had an inkling that the driver might have had a few. What gave him away? The guy thought he was at a tollbooth and handed my husband a … Read More
The chief and I were on our submarine trying in vain to hook up some fire hoses. The wrenches we had didn’t fit the connections, so he resorted to banging away at the hoses to make things fit. Just then an ensign walked by. "Chief,&… Read More
I served in a parachute regiment. During a nighttime exercise, I was seated next to a young officer. He was looking a bit pale, so I asked, "Scared, lieutenant?" "No," he replied. "Apprehensive." "What’s… Read More
The day after the Haitian earthquake, I got a frantic call from my daughter in Florida. "What’s wrong?" I asked. "Nate’s been called up by the National Guard. He’s going to Haiti," she said. Then came the tears: "… Read More
As a new paratrooper, I was struck by all the T-shirts on base emblazoned with the motto "Death from above!" Later I noticed a submariner with a T-shirt that declared "Death from below!" Then, standing in line for chow … Read More
My father was telling his young nephew about fighting in Vietnam. "Are you a hero?" Jose asked. "Nah," said Dad. "Did you ever shoot anyone?" "No. All I did was aim at ’em." Pause … "… Read More
A brother of a student of mine showed me a photo their father had sent from Iraq. In it, his dad is sitting atop a tank. On the back of the tank is this bumper sticker: "My son is an honor student at Clear Creek Elementary School."… Read More
Marines are known for storming the beaches, not for romance. I witnessed this firsthand at the base in Twentynine Palms, California. One of the enlisted men complimented the receptionist’s flowered jacket. "It’s very pretty," he … Read More
Like any mother, I worried when my son joined the Marines. But later on, when I asked him how things were going, he put my mind at ease. "Let me put it this way, Mom," he said. "Living with you prepared me for boot camp.&… Read More
When the Air Force deployed me overseas, my daughter’s friend asked her where I was headed. "Guantánamo Bay," my daughter said. "Oh, my God!" her friend shrieked. "What did he do?"
A letter I received from my son stationed in Baghdad: Mom, Yesterday I was part of a security detail for Kid Rock, Kellie Pickler, and comedian Lewis Black. This morning, I had breakfast with the Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders. War is hell… Read More
My daughter and her husband, naval reservists, have an eight-year-old son. When one of his parochial school classmates told my daughter that Angus had said a bad word, she said, "He can’t help it. Both his parents are sailors."
An officer in my unit in Iraq was on the phone with his mom. She asked if there was anything he needed. Yes, he told her, lots of ChapStick. There must have been something wrong with the connection. His mom sent him what she thought he … Read More
While lopping branches off a tree in his yard, my warrant officer lacerated his leg with a chain saw, requiring a trip to the hospital and stitches. Our chief decided we should clean up the mess for him. On the office chalkboard were … Read More
Soon after being transferred to a new duty station, my Marine husband called home one evening to tell me he would be late. "Dirty magazines were discovered in the platoon quarters," he said, "and the whole squad is being … Read More
I was charged by the Coast Guard to buy a house near Station Rockland in Maine to be converted into military housing. But after many delays on our part, the owners’ lawyer got antsy."I don’t like working with the government," the … Read More
Just after my father, who was a career Air Force NCO, passed away, all my brothers and sisters returned home to be with Mom. As we reminisced about my dad, we found ourselves floating from sorrow to laughter as we brought up fond memories … Read More
Sixteen years is a long time. That’s how far the photo of my husband—looking slim and fit in his Marine Reserve uniform—goes back. Today, he’s about 100 pounds heavier, so it was understandable when my friend’s son asked who it … Read More
As he reviewed pilot crash reports, my Air Force military science professor stumbled upon this understated entry: "After catastrophic engine failure, I landed long. As I had no power, the landing gear failed to deploy and no braking … Read More
Marine Corps pilots and aircraft maintenance technicians have a special bond. So I was unfazed when a flyboy described a vexing problem. "The radio," he said, "worked intermittently … but only sometimes."
Officer candidate school at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, was tough. During an inspection, a fellow soldier received 30 demerits for a single penny found within his area. Ten demerits were for "valuables insecure," ten because the penny … Read More
Distrustful of Army chefs’ culinary talents, my father quizzed the top cook at his base. How did he know when the food was ready to be served? Dad asked. "Easy," said the sergeant, glaring back."When it’s burning, it’s … Read More
Approaching a GI who had just arrived in South Vietnam, I asked him how long he expected to be here. "Well," he replied, "the sergeant told us we’d be here for 12 months and two Bob Hope specials or one Purple Heart, … Read More
The trials and tribulations of our sons, daughters, parents, and friends in the military. In a lecture to a group of Korean officers, Lieut. Gen. Bruce C. Clarke, at that time deputy commander of the Eighth Army in Korea, took two or three … Read More
The trials and tribulations of our sons, daughters, parents, and friends in the military. During my Air Force basic training, I cracked the frames of my eyeglasses. After taping them, I applied for new frames. I didn’t get them, so I … Read More
In honor of Memorial Day, the teacher I worked with read the Constitution to her third-grade class.
After reading “We the people,” she paused to ask the children what they thought that meant.
One boy raised his hand and asked, “Is that … Read More
Pointing to a pan of chicken wings and legs disguised in the classic mess-hall manner, a young airman asked the mess sergeant, "What’s for chow?" "Air Force chicken," replied the sergeant. "You want wings or landing… Read More
After being at sea in the Persian Gulf for 90 straight days, I went to the squadron command master chief to complain. "Chief, I joined the Navy to see the world," I said, "but for the past three months all I’ve seen is water… Read More
Having helped prepare the annual budget for my unit of the Seventh Army Special Troops in Heidelberg, Germany, I took the report to the office of the adjutant, who signs all official papers. The adjutant was not in, but his assistant, a … Read More
On a business trip, my father approached a security checkpoint at the airport. The National Guard shift was rotating, and a guard, in full uniform, was in line in front of him. As with everybody else, the soldier was ordered to go through … Read More
The colonel who served as inspector general in our command paid particular attention to how personnel wore their uniforms. On one occasion he spotted a junior airman with a violation. "Airman," he bellowed, "what do you do … Read More
When I was an infantry platoon commander, my Marines trained regularly for nighttime reconnaissance patrol. As we moved along, each of us would whisper the name of any obstacle to the person behind so that no one would be surprised and … Read More
Serving as a Marine recruiter in western North Carolina, I found a young man who met all the requirements and was ready to enlist. I explained the importance of being truthful on the application, and he began filling out his paperwork. But … Read More
After joining the Navy, my husband underwent a physical. During the exam, it was discovered that, due to an abnormality, he couldn’t fully extend his arms above his head. Perplexed, the doctor conferred with another doctor."Let him … Read More
Notice seen on the bulletin board of a Florida air base: "The following enlisted men will pick up their Good Conduct medals in the supply room this afternoon. Failure to comply with this order will result in disciplinary action."
Spotted on T-shirts for sale in the Ponce de Leon Coast Guard Exchange: "Support Your Local Coast Guard…Get Lost."
To mail a big package of cookies to my two Air Force sons, both of whom were serving in Saudi Arabia, I was required to attach a label describing the contents. I carefully marked the box "Cookies" and sent it off, but after a … Read More
Safety is job one in the Air Force. Overstating the obvious is job two, as I discovered when crawling into my military-issue sleeping bag. The label read: "In case of an emergency, unzip and exit through the top."
While standing watch in the Coast Guard station in Juneau, Alaska, I got a call from the Navy in the nearby city of Adak. They had lost contact with one of their planes, and they needed the Coast Guard to send an aircraft to go find it. I … Read More
My brother and I arrived at boot camp together. On the first morning, our unit was dragged out of bed by our drill sergeant and made to assemble outside. "My name’s Sergeant Jackson," he snarled. "Is there anyone here who … Read More
One of my jobs in the Army is to give service members and their families tours of the demilitarized zone in South Korea. Before taking people to a lookout point to view North Korea, we warn visitors to watch their heads climbing the stairs… Read More
When my husband visited our son, Michael, at boot camp, he found him marching smartly with his unit. Michael’s father proudly approached the soldiers and began to snap photo after photo. Embarrassed and worried about getting into trouble, … Read More
My wife, Dolores, never quite got the hang of the 24-hour military clock. One day she called the orderly room and asked to speak with me. The person who answered told her to call me at the extension in the band rehearsal hall. "He can … Read More
A Navy dentist’s license plate:“TOP GUM.”
Going over our weekly training schedule one morning at our small Army garrison, we noticed that our annual trip to the rifle range had been canceled for the second time, but that our semi–annual physical-fitness test was still on as … Read More
During basic training, our drill sergeant asked for a show of hands of all Jewish personnel. Six of us tentatively raised our hands. Much to our relief, we were given the day off for Rosh Hashanah. A few days later in anticipation of Yom … Read More
The topic of the day at Army Airborne School was what you should do if your parachute malfunctions. We had just gotten to the part about reserve parachutes when another student raised his hand."If the main parachute malfunctions,"… Read More
"I feel sorry for this soldier," joked my husband as he handed me a flier he’d found in our mailbox. It read: Lost CatBlack and whiteAnswers to NateBelongs to a soldierRecently neutered