Each person in the company was assigned to the fire-watch schedule. For one hour, we had to sit up in the middle of the night and make sure none of our fellows burst into flames by spontaneous combustion. When our hour was up, we’d wake the next guy and go to bed. On the wall to the door leading out of the barracks was an access list. If someone wasn’t on that access list, they were not permitted in – regardless of rank.
Occasionally, drill instructors or military officers would test the trainee on fire-watch by requesting entry, even though he was not on the access list. The fire-watch guard would request the ID be slipped under the door, then he would compare the ID to the list.
A friend of mine shared this story that happened in his barracks. One night the captain of the training division came calling. He was not on the access list. He requested access and slid his ID under the door. The guy on duty looked at the list and said, “I’m sorry sir. Your name is not on the access list.”
“Do you know who I am, Trainee? I’m your captain! I have access to any facility in this division.”
“I’m sorry sir, but my orders are not to allow anyone inside who isn’t on the list,” the trainee said in an uncertain voice.
The captain began shouting through the door, threatening to do everything from physical beatings to court martial if the trainee didn’t open the door. He finally intimidated the young recruit and he pushed open the door. The captain burst into the room, pointing his finger in the trainee’s face and shouting, “You violated your orders, Private. You’re dead. Everyone in here is dead. I’m the enemy and you just let me in! Now you are in big trouble and this is going to cost you.”
“But Captain, I couldn’t have prevented you from coming in anyway,” the quaking trainee said.
“What? Why is that!”
“The lock on the door is broken and it won’t latch. Anyone can open it and just walk in.”
“Why didn’t someone report this,” the Captain shouted and looked at the door. He stepped back through to check out the damage. The trainee grabbed the handle and yanked the door shut behind the captain. The captain pulled but couldn’t make the lock fail. “Open the door again.”
“May I see your ID under the door, Sir!” the trainee called back. “It doesn’t appear your name is on the access list, Sir,” he then said with renewed confidence.
I think our comrade will have a long and successful career in the Army after all.
Eddie Snipes 2012
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