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Part Two.. Not Recommend for the Good Conduct Medal

Story ID:9997
Written by:Charles Dishno (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:Fresno CA USA
Year:1956
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Part Two..Not Recommended For The Good Conduct Medal
By Chuck Dishno
9/15/14

The IG inspection…
My next and final duty assignment was to Fort Lee, Virginia where I was assigned to the entertainment branch. Fort Lee is a large base and the company I was attached to had over 1000 men.

Since I was married I was allowed to live off base. Life was pretty leisurely there, the only exception was that I was still a private and wasn’t allowed to eat at the mess hall unless I paid for the meals and couldn’t use the base laundry facilities. As a result we had to use a local Laundromat. Sometimes two weeks of clothing would pile up. This didn’t matter too much since I wore mostly fatigues with the occasional Class A uniform.

I was assigned to the Main Theatre, my job being keeping the projectors and equipment running in the three post theatres. (I had been a projectionist in civilian life for about 7 years.) I also ran the projectors in the main theatre which gave me a much needed $2.00 a night. Marge also worked at a variety store so we weren’t doing too badly, money wise.

One evening just before going home I got a call that they were holding a surprise IG inspection at the Headquarters Company barracks at 8am the next morning and all personnel, including the off post personnel had to be there. Everyone had to stand by the end of their bunks and display their footlockers and clothing. The off post personnel didn’t have bunks but they still had to participate and stand with their clothing against a wall.

I went home but all I could find was about 2 weeks of soiled and wrinkled clothes. Marge didn’t get off until 9pm and I had duty that evening in the projection booth.

I wasn’t really too worried about the inspection so the next morning I just crammed all my fatigues into a duffel bag along with my boots and reported as instructed. When I got to my assigned barracks room, my heart sank. All along one wall were the off post guys, not just privates like me but even a few Master Sergeants. All had their starched clothing laid out in front of them with boots you could see your face in.
Needless to say, I was a bit worried but had no choice; I just dumped the barracks bag full of clothing in front of me including a pair of combat boots that looked like they had come right out of a rice paddy in Korea. I did have a clean pair of fatigues on and my boots were somewhat shined.

After about 20 minutes the IG inspector came in followed by a cadre of sergeants and corporals’. The Inspector General, actually a colonel, started down the row of bunks with the soldier standing at attention next to their display. He then went across the room and proceeded to inspect the off post personnel. All went well and he was moving fairly fast until he came to me. He stopped abruptly, looked at my pile of clothes and boots, then gingerly picked up a boot with his finger tips, held it up then dropped it saying, “Private, when is the last time you polished these boots? No don’t answer that question; I don’t think you even have a boot polish brush.”

He then turned to one of his cadre and said, write this private up and assigned him a bunk back on base until he gets this mess all cleaned up and approved by the company commander.

I was then ordered to gather up all my clothes and assigned a bunk. The CO told me to go to a laundry and get the thing straightened out and he would let me go back home. I think he thought it was funny that I had ruffled up the IG inspector.

I had nothing to do the rest of the day until that evening when I had to go back to work. On leaving the base and going back into Petersburg, I remember seeing One Hour Martinizing dry cleaners so I stopped there and dropped off my duffle bag of clothes. They told me they would have everything ready by early afternoon. I then went home and polished my boots to a high shine, one that General Patton would be proud of.
After picking up my starched and super clean clothes, I went back on base, showed them to the CO and got my release. He did warn me that he would have to write me up to satisfy the inspector.

Second IG Inspection

I was well into my second year and had earned my first and only stripe. I was now a PFC which was still just about as low as a soldier gets but I did get a slight raise in pay. I think my monthly salary was less than $175 a month but that combined with working 6 nights as a projectionist and Marge working, we were doing fine. I was now a seasoned soldier. I figured I couldn’t do too much wrong in the 6 or 7 months I had in my hitch.
Being assigned to the post theatres had its perks. One being that the main theatre was one of the only buildings on base that was cooled by refrigeration, a major plus in the humidity of Virginia. It was a large 1000 seat theatre with a legitimate stage complete with stage lighting and about 6 dressing rooms behind the stage.

I was an avid Pepsi drinker and drank several 16oz bottles a day. I not only drank the Pepsi at the theatre but also at home so it didn’t take long to pile up a large collection of empties.

One day I decided to load them all in my VW and collect the 2 cent deposit at the base commissary.

I went home for lunch and loaded about 100 bottles in the VW. Upon returning to the theatre, I found the parking lot full of staff cars. I had forgotten about a Officers Logistics meeting that was being held in the only cool place on base.

By the time the meeting was over, it was too late to do much with the empties since I had to get ready for that evenings movie. I drove around the back of the theatre, went through a side door and stacked them neatly in a long hallway that provided access to the dressing rooms. Several weeks went by and I continued to add to the collection figuring that they would be safe as no one ever went back stage.

One morning the Special Service Officer came over and told us that there would be an IG inspection today of the entertainment branch and they would be at the theatre by mid afternoon.

There were only two of working at the theatre so we got busy polishing all the brass, wiping down the popcorn and candy machines and sweeping the auditorium. I took most of the day, but by 2pm we were finished. I retired to my projection room and waited for the IG inspector with his group to pay me a visit. This time it was a full colonel who seemed very impressed at the room and the spotless projectors.

After they left and went back down stairs, I heard them enter the auditorium and began to feel the backs of some seats for dust and the carpet for foot prints. They seemed very thorough but couldn’t find anything to complain about.

The group then headed for the stage followed by my boss, the Special Service Officer a lowly major. He seemed proud of his theater and its cleanliness. My heart did a flip when I saw the entire group go behind the screen.

I had forgotten about my stash of bottles in that dark hallway. All of a sudden I heard a crash of glass and the IG yelling some choice expletives demanding what all those bottles were doing and who put them there. After what seemed like an eternity they came back through the auditorium still fuming.

I had been watching all this through one of the projection room ports and didn’t know what to do or where to hide.

A few minutes later the Special Service Officer came into the projection room mad as hornet. He knew I had stored those bottles and it ruined his spotless IG inspection and the entire theatre was going to be written up, especially me. He was just glad that the IG wasn’t laying back stage bleeding to death.

This was my last transgression as far as I can remember.

I had about 4 months to go in my two year hitch and wasn’t about to re-up as there was no incentive, no bonus, no G.I. bill or even student loans. I was a peace time G.I.

A few months later, I got a call from my Mom saying my Pop was dying and could I find a way to get home. I wrote a story about this “The Last Goodbye” #9820.

Upon discharge from the Army at Fort Ord, CA, I was handed my discharge papers that had stamped across the page, “Not Recommended for the Good Conduct Medal” That didn’t bother me too much as I was out and ready to tackle civilian life again.