The Dumbass Chronicles: The Belt Lift
By Kelly Crigger
“Major Babyface thinks he can belt lift more than me.” It was an innocent enough statement, but one that completely belied my true intentions.
“He’s smoking crack,” O’Brien adds pouring more soju for the table. We ate barbeque and drank death in Seoul with the greenest of green Lieutenants. Not that we were Patton’s ourselves, but at least we’d been in country six months. Fresh off the plane the newbie was wide-eyed and chasing tail the moment he hit Korean soil. He was a good dude, but no amount of virtue escapes initiation.
“What’s belt lifting?” he asks. The mouse was sniffing the cheese.
“One guy lays on the ground and the other guy grabs his belt and lifts him straight up in the air,” O’Brien says. “It’s like deadlifting with humans.”
“Four beer cans high is the Camp record. MY record. And one I don’t intend to fucking lose.”
“Cool. When’s the next, um…competition?”
“Probably after the Battalion formal next week. How much do you weigh anyway?” I ask looking the newbie up and down like a wrestling coach.
“Well if you can get down to 170 maybe I’ll use you as the liftee.”
“Liftees have to be under 170. That’s the rule.” O’Brien is such a good liar I have a vision of him giving a speech to an awestruck crowd of the elderly on the benefits of going to hell and they’re happy to get started.
“I can do it,” the newbie says. “I can get under 170 in a week.” The cheese is tastier than I thought.
A week later and more well-placed subterfuge has the newbie not just brimming with team spirit, but vehemently voicing his unfettered belief in his buddy, the belt lifting champion of Camp Page. We tell him to keep it quiet because really he’s our secret weapon. He’s starved himself down to 165 pounds, five pounds lighter than anyone else who usually gets lifted, so we don’t want the rest of the Camp to know it. Our plan is to pull him out of the crowd at the last second instead of the regular guy I always lift. It’s genius.
“That’s fucking genius!” he says. He’s a Boy Scout who’s never been so anxious to earn a badge in his life and I start to feel bad. But then I don’t.
“Lieutenant, I challenge you to a belt lift!” The Battalion XO bellows at me from across the formal the very second the colors disappear and the mess is deemed closed. I’m large and somewhat outgoing so belt lifting came naturally to me.
“I accept, Sir!” I yell back and am actually surprised at how quickly the mess empties into the back courtyard to see the circus about to unfold. It’s snowed recently and there’s little room for a belt lift, but we clear a small area.
The First Sergeant pulls the newbie aside, throws an arm over his shoulders, and gives him a pep talk. “Now listen, Sir. You gotta stay stiff. You hear me? Fucking stiff. There’s a lot riding on the line here. A lot of unit pride. You need to lie down, stiffen up like a fucking board and close your eyes so you don’t anticipate his lift. He’s gonna wrap that belt around you and from then on you’re a board. You hear me, LT? A god damn board!”
“You got it top!”
“A top is a fucking toy. I’m a First Sergeant. But I tell you what. We win this lift and you can call me top all you want to.”
“Yes sir! I mean First Sergeant! Roger that!” The mouse is not just eating the cheese, he’s gorging on it.
The cans are stacked. It’s a five-can challenge. The highest ever. The crowd starts betting. Out of the corner of my eye I see the Battalion Commander smile and hope this ruse will erase his memory of that time I…nevermind.
The liftees, mine and another newbie from C Company, lie down, get strapped and do as they’re told.
I lean down and grab the belt. “Stiff newbie!”
“You got it brother!”
“It’s okay to be a little scared. There’s no courage without fear after all.”
“Nevermind! Close your eyes so you don’t anticipate my lift.”
I let go of the belt. He opens his eyes and sees me back away. Our eyes lock as the trap closes and he knows deep down inside he’s been royally fucked. It’s priceless.
A hundred gallons of ice-cold water, beer, snow, and possibly urine from every direction drenches the liftees. The C Company guy jumps up screaming obscenities and challenging everyone to a fight. Stupid. My newbie is paralyzed by and lays still for a second. Slowly he rises, shakes like a flea riddled dog, and finally laughs. “I’m such an idiot.”
“No,” I say. “You’re just inexperienced, thank God.”
“We can fix inexperience. We can’t fix stupid.”