Boredom and the desert make for great pranks.
We were at NTC (The U.S. Army National Training Center out in the California desert) doing the tear-down of equipment and stuff to ship back to our unit so we could get the hell out of there. As an E-4 due to be promoted in the next few months to Sergeant, I got stuck running this detail.
For those of you who’ve never had one, the MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) we were stuck subsisting on, came with a nifty little chemical “heater” in the hopes that adding heat to the main entres would help offset the fact that most of them tasted like mashed feet.
You just slide the food pouch into the sleeve, dump some water into it, and then lean it up against a “rock or something” to heat. Literally, there was a diagram on the package of the package leaned up against a “ROCK OR SOMETHING”. Obviously both the manufacturer and the Army didn’t give us much credit for brains. That’s probably why they didn’t consider that we’d figure out that the chemical reaction released a lot of gas.
One of the good things about this detail was that we could cut out and go raid a mini PX (convenience store). After wrapping up 3+ weeks in the desert we were gorging on ice cream bars and gatorade, and weren’t really paying attention to the crappy MREs we’d been forced to eat until someone noticed that the ventilation hole in the Port-a-John outdoor toilet was the exact width of a 32 oz bottle of Gatorade.
It’s at this point of the story where I wish there was some complete jerk involved, or even some clueless, hapless private deserving of his fate by some twisted, junior-junior-NCO sense of logic. But there wasn’t. There was just PFC Seifer. Or was it Seeder? Crap, I don’t remember his name, but it’s not important. Blonde guy, about 20. Nice kid.
But he was about to be a casualty of bored soldiers in the desert.
I’m not much of a story teller so there’s no glorious climax to this tale. We ripped apart 5 MRE heaters and crushed up their contents using improvised mortar and pestle drawing upon our caveman roots or the native spirits of the land or some other bullshit. Then we dumped it into an empty, sun-dried Gatorade bottle, added water, screwed the cap back on, and shook it up. Standing on the back of another soldier I dropped the improvised gas grenade down the ventilation shaft and into the portable toilet, which was occupied by PFC S-whatever.
I say I’m not much of a story teller because by now you’re probably expecting this guy to run screaming out of the toilet with his pants around his ankles and a severe chemical burn on his ass. But naa, no such greatness was achieved this day. The Gatogrenade did make a loud report, like the sound of a shotgun blast or a car backfiring, muffled by the enclosed green plastic walls of the mobile outhouse. And there was a yell from its occupant, but it wasn’t one of pain; just surprise and anger.
And I wish we’d had the foresight to remove all but the barest essential amount of toilet paper. Because fortunately for PFC S. there were two full rolls in there that he could use to clean himself up after the explosion splattered the basin’s contents back onto the parts of him that were exposed at the time. Apparently it did take the two full rolls to accomplish this, and he still smelled like shit and whatever chemical additive they put in there in a futile effort to cover it up.