Editor’s Note: Geo’s memoir, Brothers of the Cloth, a true account of special mission unit soldiers, is now available for pre-order. You can purchase it here.
The 1st Special Forces Group was a great place to be when they activated in 1984 in Ft. Lewis, Washington state. I made a mad dash to get out of Ft. Bragg and into the First. We were the only Green Beret unit on the post so it was like being “away from the flag pole” as we used to say, or away from the stressful prying eyes of the higher headquarters. That coupled with the novelty of new digs in a new hood just made it a pleasant place to be.
We weren’t even on the main post: We were in a little gouge of a satellite cantonment area across the freeway from the main post. It was very low-visibility and even, shall I say it, cozy there in our outskirt haven.
There the boys were being boys in their own Green Beret fashion and pipes suddenly became vogue on the premises. It seemed that you just might not be cool… unless you were smoking a pipe.
It wasn’t a “stoner-esque” sort of pipe smoking; it was like your grandpa sort of pipe smoking — ol’ geezer pipes that should have been the last thing that made you look cool, and yet somehow they did. It was kinda nice taking a break outside the team room in the middle of the day to go outside and… do a bowl. Except we weren’t doing bowls, we were… smoking pipes. Just, smoking pipes. Then a few taps of the pipe against the concrete steps and back to work.
Conversations took on a vastly different character and demeanor when we were smoking pipes. We could be talking quantum physics while descending the stairs to the porch, but once those pipes were torched:
“Big of a scorcher out today, eh?”
“Looks to be a bit of weather coming in from the nor-east tho…”
“Might be in for a coolin’ off — that’d be nice for a spell…”
Three of my team brothers and I had made a rare excursion to the main post for some harassment and all-around hateful time. Our Company Commander admonished us to “just stay the hell away from that place unless absolutely necessary,” knowing Green Berets over there would always draw attention and scrutiny.
We grabbed lunch at main Post Exchange (PX) and sat outside on a patio.
After lunch, we instinctively pulled out the burners for some pleasing pipe puffing and discussion about the weather. It didn’t take long for a grumpy Master Sergeant to interrupt us: “Excuse me… you men are out of uniform,” meaning smoking pipes. That was most certainly not the case but he was grumpy and decided to call our bluff knowing that Green Berets were not heavy into drill and ceremony, pomp and circumstance. My Team Sergeant, a Master Sergeant himself replied:
“We’re not out of uniform, Sarge, we’re just smoking pipes!”
“And that’s out of uniform!” he huffed.
“Horse shit, Sarge… you know there’s nothing in AR670-5 that prohibits smoking a pipe while in uniform.”
Just knowing the title of the manual that governed the wear of the military uniform was enough of a counter-bluff and the grumpy Sergeant snorted off.
Another shenanigan the seemed to catch on with the A-Teams was bringing dogs to work. All types of dogs. Huntin’ dogs, coon dawgs, guard dogs. Take a break, smoke your pipe, pet yer dawg — Basic Dude Stuff! That concept, the dogs, never had a chance of getting off the ground. It was like a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs: just too much there to go wrong.
Command Sergeant Major (CSM) Douglas J. Turner was an affidavit-sworn baddass. West Point had voice recordings of him from Vietnam calling in an artillery barrage on his own position because he was being overrun by Viet Cong. His voice was as calm as if he were reading from the day’s weather report. I had been assigned to his Battalion before he left the 7th Special Forces Group in Ft. Bragg. We bought him a really nice pistol as a going-away gift when he left. And now we were both in the same unit again.
CSM Turner stepped squarely into a pile of dog crap outside our team room building one day as he headed up to our room. He walked just inside the door of our room and — SPLOOSH — stepped into a puddle of fresh dog p00. He cocked his head down to observe the puddle of crap that he had just stepped in. Raising his head he spied a dog curled up next to one of the men’s desks.
Slowly trending over he reached down to pet the dog, which suddenly snapped its jaw up and bit the CSM on the hand. Douglas J. Turner stood back up, looked at his bleeding hand, and glared at the dog. The room of men became a petrified forest. D. J. Turner sucked the bite wound on his hand as he stepped out the door.
“Wha… what will become of us now?” Pondered one of the men, and we were all sorely afraid.
The next morning we gathered for our usual morning Physical Training (PT) formation. Outside our building the same dog that bit the CSM the day prior was leashed off to the stair rail. The CSM came by and, pointing to an exercise apparatus at the edge of the formation field, directed a man to “Chain that dog to the pull-up bars!” The man did so.
Forming up and not really taking note of the dog fasted at the bars, we were brought to attention as CSM Turner received the morning report. He then addressed the entire battalion:
“YOU MEN HAVE BEEN BRINGING YOUR DOGS TO WORK LATELY. I HAVE BEEN SEEING DOG SHIT AROUND MY COMPOUND AND EVEN STEPPED IN SOME DOG SHIT. YESTERDAY ONE OF THEM EVEN BIT ME!”
“FROM NOW ON THE NEXT TIME I SEE ANOTHER DOG IN MY BATTALION AREA, IT WILL BE SHOT!”
A measured chuckle emanated from the formation. D. J. walked over and stood by the dog. Another chuckle arose. With that CSM Douglas J. Turner reached to his lumbar and pulled out the pistol we got him when he left 7th Special Forces Group. He snatched back the slide, pointed the gun at the dog’s head and fired. The dog froze momentarily in a sort of seizure, then flopped over dead.
The distraught dog’s owner cried out and broke formation sprinting toward the CSM. Several men grabbed and restrained the man, carrying him up to their team room where they placed a guard on him to prevent him from getting out. The CSM returned to his office where he sat and quietly waited for the Military Police to arrive and take him away; which they did. Some say that it was just CSM Turner’s way of telling the world that he had had enough and was ready to retire from it all.
That is the extent of what happened to him. He was retired from the U.S. Army.
Later that day we broke from the team room to head downstairs for a peace pipe ceremony:
“Shame about Ingram’s dog there.”
“Shouldn’t oughtta be bringin’ a bitin’ dog to work that’s not potty trained tho.”
“Course, don’t make much sense a-shootin’ a dog over any of it neither.”
“Yep, nuther scorcher out today.”
By Almighty God and with honor,
This piece was originally published in July 2020.