Still continuing with my memories of my time in a U.S. Army artillery unit stationed in Germany in 1967-68:
We called him Stud, but that was a natural because his name was Steve Studdart. Steve was in the group just ahead of mine, had arrived in Germany in mid '66, and was supposed to go home in December 1967. He was a real happy guy, a lot of laughs, mostly at his own expense, but as long as he was part of the group, well, so what? Stud was about 5' 3" tall, and almost as wide. He got teased a lot about his huge beer belly.
I was surprised that some guys could be fat considering how they kept us active and fit with PT (physical training) three times a week, and with balanced meals in the mess hall. I never looked so good! Some guys drank a lot, and ate junk food at the PX snack bar. That was Stud. When I would do my duty as charge of quarters every few weeks, I'd be awake in the orderly room overnight and about 2:00 a.m. Stud would come crashing in the barracks, drunk and funny. He'd topple into his bunk but still be up and at formation at 6:00 a.m.
Stud hung out with some German civilians. They partied a lot and they thought he was comical. They had a big blowout for him the night before he was going to go home. At 1:00 a.m. he showed up at the motor pool, a passenger in a young German man's car. My friend Ralph was on guard duty. Stud was drunk, as usual, and told Ralph, "We need some gas. Gimme a couple gallons."
Ralph said, "No way, Stud, beat it before you get caught." No one was supposed to be in the motor pool at the time of the night except for the guards. Stud walked past Ralph and grabbed a gallon can full of gasoline, then walked toward the German's car. Ralph looked around, and as he told me later, "What was I gonna do? Butt stroke him with my rifle?" As a matter of fact, when they found Ralph guilty later of dereliction of duty, confined him to the barracks for a couple of weeks and fined him most of his month's pay, they said exactly that. If a guy is stealing government property you stop him, even if it means a butt stroke to the chin.
Since he couldn't stop him, Ralph was trying to hurry him on his way. But Stud was drunkenly trying to get the gas cap off his friend's car when the sergeant of the guard walked up to see what the commotion was about. He ordered Stud to halt, pulled out his sidearm and while Stud protested that he was flying home to the States in the morning, held him for the MP's to arrest.
This was when, as orderly room clerk, I found out how serious the Army was about protecting property. Stud was trying to steal gasoline which I figure at time cost the Army less than 25¢, but was found guilty by court martial, and sentenced to 60 days in the stockade at Mannheim. They deducted the time he'd already spent in stir waiting for his court martial. Poor Ralph had to testify against Stud at the court martial, and was reminded of his own lousy performance as a guard by Stud's defense lawyer. A couple of Stud's friends testified as character witnesses, but to be honest, Stud was a good guy and a lousy soldier. No one could say he did his job well, or that he followed rules. He ended up in an Army stockade.
Since Stud was supposed to get out the day after he was arrested I wondered how all of it worked. I found out after a month when I got an urgent message from the Red Cross requesting information about Specialist 4th Class Steven Studdart. His parents were expecting him in December and here it was February and where was he? Apparently he hadn't told his family any of this. He hadn't contacted them since sending them a letter in early December saying, "See you in a few days!" Right after I TWX'ed the Red Cross that now Private E-1 Steven Studdart was serving a sentence in the stockade we went to the field. We were on a mountaintop in minus-40 degree temperatures and howling blizzards. In a few days Stud suddenly appeared. For a reason unknown to me he'd been released early, had been sent back to the unit, which meant he had to be escorted to the training area, and then we did the paperwork that accompanied a discharge.
The last time I talked to Stud we were standing behind one of the big guns, freezing, our teeth chattering. I asked him, "Are you glad you're out of jail and going home?" He looked around and then tried to light a cigarette with frozen fingers. "Right now I'd rather be in the stockade."