Not even while in formation, marching from class to the barracks was I able to keep from pissing someone off. This time it happened to be one of my classmates behind me by the name of Bob.
We had one civilian in our class. His name was Tom as well.
He had no idea how aggravating it was to be forced to march back to our barracks in 100-degree heat. All he wanted to do was lighten the mood of the 50 or so sour-pusses as we trudged in lock-step down the road.
So to that end he started pretending to be a Drum Major, leaning way back, high kicking as stroking the air with an imaginary baton. I found it irritating and more a mockery of us than funny.
“Knock it off, Tom,” I shouted as he high stepped past me.
He immediately stopped, saying, “Oh, sorry.”
Tom dropped back and returned to walking normal. Meanwhile Bob yelled at me.
“Shut the fuck up, Darby!” he said, “You ain’t in charge of him!”
Technically he was right – but I was in no mood to put up with Tom’s antics. Now it was Bob’s turn to catch my wrath.
“Mind your own business, Bob,” I countered.
“You think you’re the shit ‘cause you got that rope on your shoulder,” Bob shot back.
Now I was really pissed off and I wanted to rip him a new asshole. I waited a minute so I could calm down before I said anything else to him.
“You’re going on report!” I finally hollered.
I could feel Bob’s glare burning a hole into the back of my head.
Less than 15 minutes later, our formation formally broke between the chow hall and the post office. As everyone scattered to do whatever, I shouted for Bob to stop.
“I wanna word with you,” I demanded.
“Fuck you,” he responded.
“Oh, is that what you think?” I asked, as he continued to walk away from me, adding “we’ll see how you feel about it by tomorrow morning.”
With a seething anger raging through me I walked along the outside of the barrack, to the outside door closest to my room. I didn’t want to hear the snide remarks made by anyone as I passed through the hallway about how I couldn’t make anyone do anything I ordered them to do.
Later that evening, Frank dropped by to ask me how everything was going. I unloaded on him about how disrespectful Bob had been to me and how I couldn’t control any of the a-holes in the flight.
“We’ll do you want to place him on report or not?” Frank asked, boiling the entire conversation down to one question.
I didn’t hesitate, “Yeah.”
“Fine,” Frank replied, “Consider it done.”
He left soon afterwards. That left me alone in my room to ponder and worry over whether I was doing the right thing or not.
“Dammit!” I said aloud as I turned off my light and dropped into bed, “I hate my fucking indecisiveness!”
The following morning we once again fell into formation, marched up the rise to school and fell out. Before we had a chance to take our seats, Bob was called out of the room.
He returned a few minutes later. I could tell he wasn’t happy.
Before long though, I realized I was the one being considered the son-of a-bitch, as most everyone was avoiding me. It was Mike Gorsline who finally broke the stalemate by sitting next to me in the chow hall.
After a few minutes of silence, he stated in a matter of fact tone, “Sometimes you gotta do the hard thing to make others do the right thing.”
I looked at him for a few seconds and finally responded, “Thanks, Mike, but I still don’t feel good about it.”
After lunch and back in the classroom, Bob was called to the Commanders office; he was going to be formally placed on report. By now my anger had subsided completely and I was feeling sick to my stomach, realizing this all was happening because I yelled at Tom.
A few minutes later Bob reappeared in class. He went to Frank and spoke to him in a whisper – then Frank pointed at me and then the door.
He stepped outside it along with Bob. I followed seconds later.
“You’re requested to make a formal statement to the C.O.,” Frank instructed, “That means both of you need to get there, pronto.”
With that we walked towards Captain Smith’s office. It was Bob who broke the silence.
“Man, I’m sorry for acting the way I did the other day,” he said.
I was stunned.
“I got two kids and wife and I can’t afford to be fined the hundred dollars a paycheck Smiths going to impose on me,” he said mournfully.
“Look,” I said, “I’m sorry this has happened, but I can’t back out now because I’ve been pushed too far by some of the others.”
“I know,” he replied.
“I’m not blaming you for their actions,” I continued, “rather I’m jus’ trying to get everyone to understand this ain’t high school or a college frat house.”
“I hear you,” Bob said.
“I don’t wanna see you get busted,” I commented, “so here’s what we’ll do.”
I explained my idea as we returned to our fast pace walk to the Captain’s office.
Within minutes we were both standing in front of Captain Smith, who was seated at his desk. To both Bob and my surprise, Frank was standing against the wall as we entered.
“So you think its okay to disobey someone I’ve placed in command?” Smith started as he spoke directly to Bob.
“No, sir” Bob answered, “it isn’t.”
“Then why did you do it?” the Captain asked.
“Because I let my temper get outta hand,” answered Bob.
“What do you have to say about all this Darby?” Smith questioned.
“Well, Captain Smith,” I replied, “Since this took place he and I have talked it out and come to an understanding…”
“Really?” Smith interrupted as he looked at Frank.
“And…” he said.
“We both agreed that we were angry and each did and said things that made the situation worse than it was,” I continued, “and sir, if you don’t mind, I’d like to chalk this up to a learning experience on both our parts.”
Smith glanced back and forth at the two airmen standing in front of his desk. Then he looked again at Frank.
“Tech Sergeant,” he stated, “what do you think?”
“Sir,” Frank replied, “if they say they worked it out, we ought to wait and see if it’s so. I’m sure if it isn’t we’ll know soon enough then we can revisit the subject then.”
“Very well,” Smith agreed, “You two – get out of my office!”
Both Bob and I saluted, pivoted and exited the way we entered. I couldn’t believe it had worked.
“Thanks, man,” Bob said as we continued back to class.
“I had no idea you had kids,” I said, “let alone were married.”
He pulled out his wallet and showed me pictures of his family. Bob and I got along from that point on and he eventually helped lessen the hostility some of the others in our flight felt towards me and the other ropes.