The Adventures of Private Peabrain
In every unit, there is always inevitably going to be ‘that guy’. The one who tries his or her best, but inevitably just fails miserably each and every time. For us, that was the lovable Private Peabrain (name changed to protect the stupid). Cleverly disguised as a supply soldier, he was the human equivalent of a potato. The supply sergeant who was put in charge of him got so frustrated with his inability to learn… well… anything, that he often just sent him away with menial chores for hours on end. That is where the story begins….
The year was 2013, and my team was freshly back from an Afghanistan deployment. Private Peabrain (We’ll call him Pea) was a new addition to the unit, fresh out of AIT and plopped into 1st Special Forces Group as his first duty station. The first time I ever met Pea was when I opened my team room door to find him mopping the floor… at 9am…. on a Monday. Kind of weird, but not unheard of. I went around him and went over to the B Team to ask about something, and heard a discussion taking place about what to do with Pea between the SGM and Pea’s supervisor. Though it was agreed upon at this point that Private Pea was a lost cause, it was too late for him to be transferred out of the unit, as we were already in preparation for a company-wide trip to the Philippines. We just had to figure out a way to make it work. I laughed it off and remember thinking to myself, ‘I feel bad for the poor bastard who has to supervise this dude’. Famous last words…
Well FML, I end up on the B team for a few weeks during a reshuffle of the company in preparation for this upcoming deployment. Before this, my interactions with Pea were limited, and I got to enjoy the constant temper tantrums and exasperated story telling of people who had interacted with him. In my mind, I’m thinking ‘he can’t possibly be that bad. People are just too hard on him’. Here are 3 very quick stories illustrating the man that left us all in bewilderment at his ability to sham.
Story 1: The Lost Lawnmower
One morning the SGM comes in and gives us a task, he says that the lawn needs to be mowed out front in preparation for some stupid change of command ceremony, and to stick Pea on it. No problem. Perfect no-brainer task for him. I call Pea in, explain exactly what I need, make him write it down so he doesn’t forget, make him repeat it back to me, and send him on his way. That was mistake #1.
Around 2pm the SGM comes in and asks if the front lawn has been mowed. I reply “Yes SGM, I put Pea on it right after you tasked us with it”. That was mistake #2. He replies “yeah…. you may wanna go check on that”. Sure enough, the front lawn has not been mowed, and there is no sign of Pea. I eventually find him, and ask him why the lawn has not been mowed. His reply was, “SGT, I didn’t know how to start the lawnmower, so I didn’t do it”. Instead of asking anyone, figuring it out on his own, or coming back to me and telling me his issue, he was playing video games on his phone in the supply room.
* Deep Breath * Okay Pea, let’s go get your lawnmower working. Where is it?
Pea: “I lost it”
Me: “What do you mean you lost it?”
Pea: “I don’t know where it is.”
Me: “Well where did you last have it?”
Pea: “I never found it. I couldn’t start it because I couldn’t find it.”
Me: “It wasn’t where I told you it was? I made you write it down in your notebook where the lawnmower was.”
Pea: “Ohhhhh, I forgot about that.”
Guess who had to physically watch Pea mow the lawn to ensure it got done? This lucky guy.
Story 2: Pea Cam
Private Pea was notorious at this point for being assigned a task such as ‘go grab a mop’ and disappearing for hours on end without anyone knowing what happened to him. After about the 10th time of not being able to find him, I had enough. I went and found his locker (it was unlocked, of course) and took out his helmet. I brought it upstairs, and took out a GoPro camera we had in the office. I duct taped it to the top of the helmet so that it looked like some horrible night vision device, and waited.
Pea wanders in sometime around lunch, and I sat him down. “Private Pea, because you keep disappearing for hours on end and won’t answer your phone, you will wear this helmet with the camera on it for the rest of the week. As long as you are in this building, you will wear this helmet and keep this camera rolling. Do you understand?” He replied that he did, so I had him put on his helmet, and continue on with his day. Everywhere Pea went within the building, he had to have his GoPro helmet on him. When the SGM saw it he asked “Private Pea, what the F*ck do you have on your head?”. Pea responded “SSG said I disappeared too much, so now I have to wear this camera so they can see where I go during the day.” The SGM pokes his head around the corner of my office area and I’m thinking “uh oh..” but instead he just says “let me know what the video shows” and continues on with his day. He got it.
When we reviewed the helmet cam later that week, we soon discovered what he had been doing. Either he completely forgot he was wearing it, or he didn’t understand the purpose, but we watched him wander the building for hours aimlessly. We finally saw him go into a storage locker tucked way back in the corner of one of our loading bays and stayed there playing on his phone. When we shut down his access to the locker, he seemed completely surprised that we had found his hiding spot.
Story 3: Drivers Ed.
Fast forward a few months, and we are in the Philippines. My team is co-located with the B team and Pea. Pea is still mainly relegated to being the do-everything helper since he still hasn’t figured out his main job yet. One of the jobs was to collect the trash once a week, drive it to the on-post dump site, drop it off, and drive back. You could literally see the dump site from our camp, it was probably only a half-mile away. At this point we know how Pea operates, so we hold his hand the entire way. This means driving with him to the dump multiple times to ensure he knows the route, etc.
Week 2 comes around, and we assign him the task of collecting the garbage and taking it to the dump. An hour later the truck is piled high with trash, and everything looks like it is progressing as it should. I see Pea as he gets in the driver’s seat, and think to myself ‘Dude’s getting it’! I go back to doing whatever it is that I’m doing, and come out 4hrs later to see Pea still sitting in the driver’s seat, all the trash still in the truck.
Me: “Pea, what are you still doing here?”
Pea: “I forgot where the dump was.”
Me: “Okay, I’ll go with you and help you unload this stuff.”
Pea: “You can’t, the truck won’t start.”
Me: “Did the battery die? Why won’t it start?”
Pea: “I don’t know where the key is.”
Me: (having flashbacks to the lawnmower incident) “Pea, you’ve been sitting here in the truck for the last 4 hours because you forgot where the truck key was?”
Pea: “Yeah, but it’s fine because even if I remembered, I still couldn’t find where to dump this stuff.”
Me: “Why didn’t you ask someone where the key was or where to dump this trash?”
Pea: * shrugs *
Me: “Okay, well, let’s get you the keys.”
Pea: “Oh, and I don’t know how to drive a stick shift, so I can’t drive this truck. I tried the other day, and it wouldn’t move.”
Me: “Pea, this is an automatic transmission, you just have to put it in drive and go……”
Long story short…the gear shift was near the steering wheel…Pea was activating the emergency brake in the center console and thought he was ‘shifting’ into gear.
I got tasked with emergency humanitarian assistance a few days later in the aftermath of the Cat 5 Typhoon and left the camp. I changed locations with my ODA and didn’t have to deal with Private Pea again that trip, but from what I heard, he 1) Forgot where the dump was again, and was throwing trash in the drainage ditches of the camp instead. 2) Lit the trash on fire to try and burn away the evidence when people started finding it. 3) Caught a poisonous snake and tried to keep it as a pet before someone found it and denied him the chance. 4) Was fooling around with a taser and zapped himself. 5) Put unleaded gas in one of our diesel trucks. The list goes on and on. Comedy of errors.
He was transferred out to a different unit soon after we returned, but not before he got married to a girl he met the first week he got back from deployment. Wherever you are today Private Pea, God help you.