The Track Adjustment
By Brant Parker III, Army
Writing Type: Prose
By Brant Parker III
Let me start this story by saying that most soldiers arriving to their first units are unaware of the tricks that are about to be played on them. I can speak from experience. Many of us arriving at our first units are eager to be part of the team. We want to prove ourselves as one of the guys and be accepted. I was no different.
I had just arrived at Baumholder, Germany, as a medic in the 8th Infantry Division. I had completed processing in, and the entire unit was headed to Graf/Hohenfels for a 90-day training exercise. I had only been with the unit a week when I was on my first field problem. In ferocious cold, I soon learned the meaning “embrace the suck.” And boy, did I.
I learned what it was like to be a grunt medic in the field and to hump an Alice pack. At first, I wondered who in God’s name was Alice? Over my career, I can honestly say I probably had more encounters with Alice than I did with my two ex-wives. But that’s another time, place and story.
We finally returned to Baumholder from the field exercises, and then it was the motor pool every day. That was like being locked up in jail. We spent most of our days prepping our vehicles for the next field problem, and we were always doing maintenance on the APCs (armored personnel carriers).
The day came for playing tricks on the new guy, and I just happened to be the new guy.
Trine, Jednorski, Sweetman, and Hayes were putting the track back on the APC. We had been replacing track pads for the last week, and I was glad it was over. Or so I thought. I was the gopher for the crew, and they had just put the APC back on line.
I kept asking if there was anything I could do to help because I was eager to be a part of the team. Trine replied with a big grin, “Why yes! I need you to climb on top of the APC and jump up and down so we can check the track tension.”
I should have known better, but I got right up there. Trine and Hayes got down with a wrench and said, “Ok, start jumping as high as you can, and we will make adjustments. Don’t stop until we tell you or we’ll have to start over. Do you understand?”
I was like man, I got this. So, I climbed up on the APC and started jumping as high as I could. I couldn’t see them, but Sweetman was laughing his ass off and yelled, “Brother, you’re doing an outstanding job!” Jednorski went to get the other guys to revel in the prank.
I swear I think I jumped up and down for about five minutes and kept asking if they were finished yet. I heard Trine reply, trying not to laugh, “No buddy, just a couple of more minutes.” By that time the whole platoon was there and rolling with laughter, but they were hiding at the bottom of the hill, and I couldn’t see them. I was dead tired from jumping up and down, but I was on a mission to prove myself worthy to be part of that team.
Well, let’s just say the motor pool was full of onlookers, and I just happened to see and hear all those guys laughing; even the motor sergeant was in on it. Common sense should have told me that there is no way one man is going to budge a 20-ton vehicle by jumping up and down to test track tension. I only weighed 155 pounds at that time.
Once I realized what was going on, I stopped and looked at all of them looking up smiling at me. I realized I had finally been initiated and accepted into my unit. I swear those guys had tears rolling down their cheeks. They laughed so hard and so loud the Russians probably knew about the joke and laughed along with them.
Today, being in retirement, we still laugh at the crazy stuff and those pranks we pulled on one another back in the day. But most importantly, it was about the acceptance and being made part of a family, a band of brothers that will last a lifetime.