Picture it: Skopje, 1995
Husband was, as you may recall, deployed to Macedonia for the United Nations mission. Something about peace, and walking…. the important thing is that he was there and wearing the cutest beret.
Powder blue, you guys. How fucking adorable is that?
So he and the rest of his battalion were deployed there for a period of six months. Why six months? Because the US Army has a rule that if you’re deployed for longer than that, they have to pay you more for your time there. Sort of like that shitty retail manager who schedules employees for two three-hour-and-forty-five minute shifts to get out of paying them for breaks and lunch.*
Husband was in the fourth rotation of this mission, the purpose of which was basically to provide a visible and visibly patrolled (so lucky they had those powder blue berets, right?) border for the relatively new Republic of Macedonia, which had recently split from Yugoslavia and even more recently had its independence recognized by the United Nations. The history lesson is now over, since you can easily google the rest.
The first rotation had brought an entire battalion’s worth of Humvees with them, because the entire purpose of this mission was to drive around from one observation post to another, and back to headquarters. Obviously, these vehicles would break down from time to time, but the goal was Maximum Operational Readiness (has to be MOR, not MORE, because military acronyms have three letters. I didn’t make that up, the TLA is a Thing and they take it seriously.) To that end, if a vehicle came in needing only a new mirror, they’d put one on order and then swipe a mirror off another vehicle that was waiting for, say, a transmission or something. Always a few vehicles a bit cannibalized, but by and large they were GTG (that’s “good to go.” Please keep up.)
Now, the Army’s pretty serious about keeping track of its shit, so it seemed odd when they arrived that one vehicle was straight-up missing: Headquarters 5.
Yeah, they name everything.
HHC-5 (oh, you thought I was kidding about the three letter thing?) was supposed to be the official personal vehicle of the Executive Officer, and it had been missing since just about forever. No big deal, he’s a headquarters jockey with a desk and a comfy chair, what’s he need with a Humvee?
One fine day, the wrecker operator comes into the motor pool and says, “hey guys, come look what I found.”
Those two long beams form the base of a military Humvee. All other parts are bolted to these. And oh, what’s that? According to the manual (they’ve got a binder for everything) those are the only part of a Humvee that cannot be replaced. Everything else can be ordered and strapped back on, but the vehicle can’t be “scrapped out” unless those are damaged. And these were not.
Husband was gonna have to rebuild a Humvee from the ground up. Literally.
So he sat down with the parts catalogue, and started his shopping list. Looking up the recipe for a humvee, if you will, and filling out his order.
|Side Panel||Missing||Order part # 365848352|
|Steering Column||Missing||Order Part# 365241785, 348584785, 841352869|
|Body||Missing||You get the idea|
Flipping through the manual, Husband came across the accessories section.
XO doesn’t really do anything. (He’s like the vice president… of the PTA.) He doesn’t need extra radios, or a machine gun mount – he doesn’t have a machine gun, and it’s actually surprisingly difficult, in the military, to just order extra weapons. In fact, there is only one military weapon on which all parts are line-replaceable.
|Flamethrower||Missing||Order part # 856135143, 568435218, 385451358….|
Holy shit, the United Nations was going to buy this guy a flamethrower, and Husband was going to build it! Sure, the XO technically needed to sign off on the list – because ordering shit was his sandbox – but the UN was paying for everything, so it’s not like there was a budget to worry about. Surely XO will just sign off at the top and history will be made, right?
No. He actually went through and read every goddamned line.
Page nine of twelve, he looks up and says, “why would I need a flamethrower?”
Without missing a beat, Husband answers, “Why wouldn’t you need a flamethrower?”
There is a pause – just one glorious beat, mind you – while the XO considers this. Husband watches as the possibilities float past the man’s pupils, as his face falls when he realizes that a flamethrower will only enable him to get into the worst kind of trouble on a slow day.
Yeah, he crossed out the whole line and signed off on a boring regular humvee.
Which husband built, bit by bit, from the rails up. And on the day that he started it up and took it for a test drive there was much cheering and accolades.
But no flamethrower.
* The Commander, of course, flew out a day early and stayed a day later in order to collect that sweet Temporary Duty pay. **
** Yes, this was the same guy who famously pointed at the wrong hill and got turned back at the Albanian border after attempting an illegal crossing on foot while making his driver/lackey carry the heavy-ass satellite radio. We have more stories about him, if you’re interested.