Best Assignment Ever
By RU Rob</strong
I often recall my years in the military and in specific, the awesome places I have had the opportunity to visit or live. A couple of things I have learned over time is that the last place your lived or were stationed at is always better than where you are at now and that your previous unit was 20 times more squared away than your current, soup-sammich, unit.
There is one place that always stands out in my mind as the, all time, best place I have ever served. I was a brand spanking new private, fresh out of basic and AIT and just completed my transatlantic journey from Charleston, SC to Rhein Main Airbase in Frankfurt, Germany on a military charter flight. The Reception Battalion there was just like it was everywhere else, slow, boring and requiring way too much paperwork. Compounding the boredom was the jet-lag which was quickly catching up, but the excitement of being back in a foreign country in which I was already familiar (I grew up as an army-brat spending multiple years in Germany) and the anticipation of where I may be stationed kept me semi-awake but alert.
After everyone from my aircraft completed in-processing, we all just kind of milled around awaiting the announcement of assignments. Everyone was chit-chatting about what they had supposedly heard where everyone was going even though most had no idea the difference between Heidelberg and Heilbron. In the middle of the afternoon, everyone gathered in the big waiting area for the much anticipated assignment call. The first location, Vilseck, was announced, and a slew of names were called and given directions as to which bus to get on. From that point on, name after name, location after location was called and the number of soldiers slowly diminished until there were about five or six remaining, myself included.
A number of thoughts were going through my head, did they forget about me, or did I fill something out wrong? It felt as if I was the last person selected in gym class for dodge ball, and I just knew that I was heading to a shit-hole and was not excited about it.
But then, a young sergeant walked out, called our names, and led us into a small conference room. He went on to explain that we needed to change out of our dress uniforms and into civilian clothes as we wouldn’t be leaving the reception center until late at night. He was purposely toying with us, dragging out our location as long as possible, for he already knew we were going to the primo spot in all of Europe…Berlin. From that point on, and for at least a week, I was all cheesy smiles, as I already knew I was about to embark on an adventure few could comprehend.
From a professional standpoint, Berlin had everything you could dream of. I don’t think I ever recall not having the necessary resources to accomplish our mission, that’s because we really didn’t have one, the wall was down and the Cold War was starting to warm up. The German government provided funding for all of our equipment and training and who were we to tell them that we really didn’t need to be the first ones in the army to be fielded every single new piece of kit. Training opportunities were plentiful and we spent our fair share of time at Wildflecken, Graf and Hohenfels, and each time seemed like a free for all with unlimited numbers of mortar rounds for us to shoot.
Being a single soldier in Berlin was probably the single most adventurous time in my life. With the newly formulated “Single Soldier Initiative”, we were basically allowed to do whatever we wanted to our barracks rooms, as long as we kept them semi-clean (with much emphasis on the semi). We had an office we could go to if we needed any furniture, cleaning supplies, or if we just wanted to chat with the extremely hot British girl who managed all of the barracks rooms. Drunken hallway parties were the norm and it was more of a college dorm than an Army Barracks.
The Berlin nightlife was absolutely incredible! I can recall of no other place on this earth where a club opened its doors at 4:00 am and didn’t start picking up until 6. The weekends were full of drunken debauchery and the best part was that we had to pay nothing for public transportation. Just a flash of our military ID cards and our rock-star status was confirmed. There was many a summer evening where we would leave post with the sun high in the sky and then stagger in the next morning with the sun equally high, all without the worry of getting a DUI.
Our allies from the British and French military were always ready to hit the town with us and we developed some life long friendships with them. Even the Russians who were known to not make but a fraction of pay that we did were always up for an outing and we knew just where to go to find the hottest European women known to mankind. There is something about a warrior that transcends nationality and we warriors owned that town.
As the drawdown and removal of all foreign military forces from Berlin drew closer, the German nationals found many a way to thank us and the United States not only for our service to their country but for those who had come and gone long before we were even born. Free tours and dinners at every single brewery and restaurant in the region were given and devoured. Elderly Germans would recount their personal stories and memories of war to us, providing a perspective of thankfulness that the German youth could not convey or even comprehend. In retrospect, it was a very solemn time for all and I should have paid more attention to it, but I was honestly more interested in the free beer.
Last year, I went back to Berlin and was able to visit what was left of the old McNair Barracks, my former home away from home. A smile came across my face as I peered at my old building and reminisced about times of old. I was proud to have served my country and lucky to have been given the assignment there. But all-in-all, I believe that Berlin was the best assignment ever.
What about you? Where has the military taken you that you absolutely loved?