28. July 2005 · Comments Off on Rites, Practices and Legends # 16: Golden Flow · Categories: General, Iraq, Media Matters Not, Military, sarcasm

OK, so reading the scathing comments here and there about “Over There”— the drama about the war in Iraq which is supposed to be ripped from the headlines— are amusing enough; Hey, Mr. B, dude, if you are ripping stories from the headlines, let’s rip them from the right decade, ‘kay? The description of one of the main characters as a serious doper, though… An active-duty member of the military today, smoking rope on a regular basis? Yeah, shu-r-r-r-e. Right. I have two words on that for Mr. B.; two words and a Bette Davis-sized eye-roll…. And the two words are “Golden Flow.”

Yes, back in the day, there was a lot of smoking of the eeeevvil weed. There were legends from my early service days, about how to baffle the drug-sniffing dogs by mixing cayenne pepper into the floor wax, about small marijuana plants growing among the shrubs underneath the barracks windows, from so many people throwing their stash out the window shortly in advance of a shakedown search. I personally saw the stash kept by one of my tech school classmates under the passenger seat of his POV— so as not to implicate his roommates in the event that someone got off their ass and searched the dorm rooms. One of my own roommates indulged on occasion, although the two of us who did not asked her very nicely to keep her stash out of the room, and us in ignorance of her pot-consuming. Even in the late 1970ies, being busted for possession was grounds for being thrown out. And yes, I know what the stuff smells like, and I had friends who indulged, although Blondie was completely horrified to find out this, she being the product of a Catholic education, DARE and every other sanctioned youth drug-abuse-prevention program, and six years worth of AFRTS substance-abuse spots.

Which brings me to my next point, which is that DOD began landing like a ton of bricks on the consumption of pot and other illegal substances, especially at overseas locations. A part-timer at FEN-Misawa was busted by the Japanese cops with a shopping bag-full of the local stuff, and implicated so many other people when he began to sing like a demented canary that the unit he was assigned to had to shut down operations for a couple of days while everyone in it trooped obediently in to the local gendarmerie to be interrogated. He also fingered half of the FEN staff as well. I wasn’t one of them, fortunately— as MSgt. Rob elegantly elucidated, I was so notoriously clean-cut I probably gift-wrapped my garbage. The stuff grew wild in Japan, and the temptation was too much for some. It was to the point where the base Security Police offered a certain courtesy service: if you had just bought an automobile, they would have the sniffer dogs go over it, just to establish that any traces of dope they found in it could be held against the previous owner.

I am not sure exactly when they began to do regular random urinalysis tests on military personnel, and am too lazy to thresh through the mountains of data to pin down the date, but it must have been by the early 80ies, because I clearly remember being escorted to the hospital at Hellenikon AB, and asked to fill a small plastic cup; the nurse who proctored did so from the other side of a restroom stall door. That courtesy had gone by the board by the mid-80ies, when I was tasked with proctoring piss-tests ordered on members of the unit at EBS-Zaragoza, as the senior female assigned. I had to eyeball the stream of urine as it left the body and filled up the cup. How degrading and personally embarrassing this was for me, and for every female junior troop who worked for me can be imagined. One poor airman had bashful kidneys; we would be guaranteed to spend at least three or four hours waiting in the hospital waiting room, with her swilling soft drinks, and me telling her silly jokes and inwardly fuming, thinking of all the things I had left at work that I should be doing, except that the Air Force thought this was a much more important use of my time. A male Senior Airman at EBS was busted cold by one of these random tests— he was demoted back to E-1 and out of the Air Force in about six months, and the fact that he had been a sterling citizen, and otherwise an ornament to the unit had no effect at all on the mills of justice. He was out. From his account, he had only smoked it once, inveigled by his girlfriend, a fair Spanish maid and in bed after a rewarding evening…. No, it was plain and clear to the most clueless that polluting the temple of your body whilst in service to Uncle Sam with illegal substances was not only ill-advised… but a short-cut to all kinds of unpleasant outcomes, beginning with a bust in grade, dismissal from service, et cetera, et cetera. And the piss-tests were supposed to be legally iron-clad, and very, very sensitive. Hell, I have even been careful about what I baked and took in to work: nothing with poppy seeds. (I really didn’t want to count on the government lab being able to tell the difference between opiate derivatives… and lemon-poppy-seed tea bread.)

The subsequent investigation of anyone busted by a random urinalysis would take in a whole range of other parties; not just their friends, but their unit, known associates, everyone they had ever talked to, or even thought about talking to. This is something that everyone in the military culture post 1980 knows: a doper will be caught, sooner rather than later. When they are caught, they will bring grief down on every known associate, which has the result of dopers being about as popular as child molesters. The military of the late 1990ies was most emphatically not the military of thirty years before; in a lot of ways it was much more puritanical. I cannot, for example, imagine any of the practical jokes the broadcasters played on each other at FEN-Misawa in 1978, being even considered at AFKN-Seoul in 1994.

I do not think the Army has changed their corporate culture all that much in ten years. Sometime in 1994, AFKN pulled an exercise recall of all their staff, at 4 AM, ordering everyone to report for duty at once… and as soon as we signed in, the Readiness NCO handed us a lidded plastic cup and directed us to the lavatory.
“Oh, you sneaky, conniving bastard!” I told him, as I took the cup. They tested every one of us, in one fell swoop. No, I cannot see a doper lasting for more than a couple of months in the military as practiced today. I may have been out for eight years, but the kind of corporate culture instilled for two service generations… sorry, Mr. B. It doesn’t pass the smell test.

It also doesn’t look like anyone in Hollywood reads milblogs. Pity about that. Lots of good stories there, too. I am doing the best I can— you can lead whores to culture, but you just can’t make ‘em think.

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