Military Stories 4 - somebody’s going to jail
“You’re going to jail !!” was the drill instructor’s favorite threat when somebody was really screwing up big time, usually by not performing some feat of physical coordination with enough skill or persistently not folding their underwear neatly. We were threatened early on that we were now subject to the Uniform Code Of Military Justice and if we screwed up our commanding officers had the power to summarily sentence us to a term in the federal penitentiary at Leavenworth. This was almost true and for most, it was a meaningful threat. Some people had already had some brushes with the law and a few had been offered the option by a judge to either enlist or go to jail. This was all well and good until the day about 2 weeks into basic training when this captain from the Judge Advocate General’s Office who looked about as young as everyone else (much younger than me, actually) delivered a lecture on the Uniform Code Of Military Justice.
I had already learned that the rules were different in basic training, when I read in the airman’s handbook they gave us and discovered the section on the dress code that said a person could have a moustache as long as it didn’t grow down past their upper lip, and sideburns that didn’t reach below the earlobes. “Cool, I’m gonna grow me a moustache !” That lasted until somewhere around lunchtime the first day when I was informed that I would NOT be allowed to grow a moustache in basic training, no matter what the rule book said and to go get a proper shave right then. So anyway, during this lecture the Captain let slip that the UCMJ could not legally be applied in full to recruits until after they had graduated form basic training, because before that they were presumed to be untrained. Except in the case of a few violent felonies, the worst they could legally do to someone who screwed up in basic training was denounce them as unfit for military service and put them out with a general discharge. Not even a Dishonorable discharge unless they had committed a real crime on the level of a felony in civilian life.
Some of my compadres were draftees and they hadn’t really wanted to be there from day one. Two weeks of military discipline had failed to improve their disposition much. So that very afternoon, when the DI left us alone to polish up the dorm two of these malcontents went into the DI’s little office and bedroom right there in the dorm. This was absolutely forbidden of course. We could tell from the sounds that big fun was coming. When the DI came back to make an inspection of the dorm, these two guys were not standing at attention in their appointed positions. “Were are they ?” “I think they are in your office, sir.” One of them had taken the office and the other the bedroom. When he opened the door one of these old boys was kicked back in his chair, smoking one of his cigars, feet kicked up on the desk scrunching up and generally disorganizing the papers. The other one had taken a dump in the middle of the bed and was n the process of emptying out all the drawers, having already thrown all of the hanging clothes in a pile which he was standing on while working on the drawers. They were escorted out by a couple of MPs, never to be seen anywhere around there again.