General Trinh is delivering papers
by: Walter Guest
That much of the "world," as represented by army basic training, was a great disappointment to Steve Kincaid. He had thought coming to the Army would be a step upward on the road to manhood. In his old neighborhood there was nothing but boys playing their macho games, trying to emulate men. Kincaid did not confuse that with maturity. He had felt he had nothing to learn there. He wanted to associate with real men. How else could he know if he measured up? And it was important for him to know.
But the people in basic training were more childish than those in his old neighborhood. The Army taught mature subjects, things on which his survival would depend. But these things were taught by children. His platoon sergeant would have problems lasting a week in some portions of LA.
He thought on these things often.
The time was coning for Kincaid to choose his next step in the Army. He had scored well on the aptitude tests so many choices were open to him. There were many service schools he could go to after basic training. Only one interested him. He wanted to get into Special Forces. Everything he had heard, everything he had read, indicated that this was where the men were.
The Special Forces school was closed to anyone just out of basic training. You needed time in the service to get it. You needed rank to get in. Kincaid had neither. His second choice was the infantry.
"Kincaid!" The Drill Sergeant kept his distance while shouting his name. "Get your ass to the orderly room! Report to the Company Commander!"
Kincaid had been napping after lunch. He sat up on his cot and started pulling on his boots.
"That means now!" Sergeant Walker shouted, still keeping his distance.
He didn't look at the Sergeant. With exaggerated slowness, Kincaid tied the laces and got to his feet. The Sergeant gave him plenty of room to pass by.
The Company Commander was a Captain Jacobson. Kincaid reported and saluted. The Captain returned the salute without looking at him. He appeared to be engrossed in some papers on his desk. Every now and then he would peek at Kincaid out of the corner of his eye. Kincaid remained at attention. Finally, the Captain put down the papers, settled back in his chair, and looked up.
"You're a trouble maker." Jacobson entwined his fingers across his belly. His head was nodding up and down as if in agreement with himself.
Kincaid remained at attention.
"I've got it all right here," the Captain said, still nodding. One hand broke loose from the other long enough to gesture towards the papers on the desk. "You're a trouble maker." The hand went back to its mate.
Jacobson stared expectantly, waiting for Kincaid to speak. Kincaid's eyes focused on the wall above and behind the captain. He said nothing.
"Do you have anything to say for yourself?"
"No sir." Kincaid spoke in a quiet voice instead of the parade ground shouting in which recruits are taught to respond.
Jacobson's head stopped nodding. His right hand moved up on the desk top. The index finger began tapping at the desk. This was hard to figure. Most recruits came in here pissing in their pants. This one seemed to be challenging him. The captain studied him.
A chilling thought suddenly struck Jacobson. The man was a plant! He felt a searing pain in his gut. There was a tightness in his chest. That damned chaplain had gone to the Base Inspector General's office. All this because a couple of pansy kids had got a nose bleed. There's always some who can't take it. That's what basic training is for. Weed out the pansies. They don't want kids like that in the army anyway so why does anyone listen to them?
He could feel the sweat break out on his brow. He brought up his left arm and wiped the sleeve across his forehead. Why doesn't the man say something? The captain had to fight a desire to let his mind go blank. It was a tendency that came on him in stressful situations and had seriously hurt his military career. That was the main reason he had wound up here as an overage captain commanding a basic training company.
He struggled to find something to say, anything to say. "H-how do you like basic training?"
"Just fine, sir." The answer came back coolly, calmly.
That helped to start Jacobson's mind working again. It occurred to him that this man hadn't been forced to do anything that could be regarded as against regulations. Had he? Of course not. The man hadn't been in the ring. He had even been made acting platoon sergeant. So what was the problem? All of this Kincaid's reports would have to be about the good treatment he had received.
Another idea came to Jacobson. He could turn this around to his advantage. Maybe he could find out what he could do to please the brass. Maybe he could find out what the brass thought about him.
Jacobson swiveled the chair back to look at Kincaid who had been at attention all this time.
Kincaid relaxed slightly, almost imperceptively.
"I'm told you don't approve of a portion of our recreation program." Jacobson tried to keep his tone light and friendly. The effort was noticeable.
"Sergeant Walker tells me you have influenced the men in your platoon not to fight among themselves."
"Why is that?"
"Fighting is childish, sir."
"Childish!" Jacobson shouted. Of all the words to describe the nightly company fights, "childish" would have been the last to come to his mind. "Do you really think fighting is childish, soldier?" The captain felt on firm ground here. Weren't they supposed to be training these boys to become fighting men?
"Fighting with fists is childish, sir."
Jacobson contained himself with great effort. Perhaps this was the view of the top brass he had to find out. "We're soldiers. Soldiers are supposed to fight."
"Not with our fists, sir." Kincaid's tone and expression hadn't changed from the beginning. His eyes still focused on the wall above and behind the captain.
"It's good training. One on one combat. All the men have to know how to handle themselves in that situation. It occurs all the time in battle." The captain had made this argument to himself and others many times before. Almost everyone had agreed with him. It was also great entertainment, but he would never mention that.
"Never with gloves on in a ring, sir."
"Don't you see that this prepares a man for the real thing? It's the situation that matters. One against one. That's what this is all about. Get the men prepared for that situation. There's no better way to get the men conditioned for combat."
"Yes there is, sir."
Captain Jacobson wasn't sure he had heard correctly. "What?" He stared at Kincaid's mouth to make sure that the words were coming from there.
"I said, there is a better way, sir."
"A better way," Jacobson muttered. His eyes went blank as he tried to digest what the private was saying. "How could there be a better way?" he asked, almost to himself. His voice rose. "What are you talking about? How could there be a better way? What better way?"
"I was thinking about hand to hand combat at night, sir."
Jacobson sucked in his breath. "Hand to hand?"
"Without weapons. Just man to man. That's something that could happen in combat. The men could profit from that kind of contest, sir."
The captain didn't like the idea. The show would be gone. Where was the entertainment in two men fighting in the dark? But? Was this Kincaid's idea or had the brass thought it up? He couldn't turn it down out of hand without knowing. I don't see how that could work," he said doubtfully. "What would be the rules? Have you thought this out?"
"The only rule would be no killing or maiming." Kincaid paused, then said carefully, "You could set up infra red lights. Anyone wearing infra red glassed could see everything."
Captain Jacobson didn't notice that he had neglected to stick a "sir" in there. The idea suddenly seemed workable. The equipment was available. He considered building stands to seat friends and important visitors. "Where would these 'ah' contests take place?"
"The best place nearby would be the obstacle course. There would be just enough cover and not too much."
"Yeeeeees." Jacobson dragged out the word as he thought. There was already some good seating at the obstacle course. It could be enlarged very easily.
"We could do a demonstration tonight, sir. Sergeant Walker and I would be glad to volunteer to show you how it works."