In 1999, I was in Bosnia as part of the NATO Stabilization Force (SFOR6). While deployed and receiving “hazardous duty pay,” it was a pretty cush assignment. Unlimited food. A great gym. No bills. What more could a young Lieutenant ask for?
Well, quite a bit, actually, but that’s beside the point. Overall, we were living a comfortable and rewarding existence. Bosnia was recovering from a horrible civil war and we were there to help maintain peace. I liked it. I even tried to extend my tour.
One day, a fellow Lieutenant and I were waiting for a meeting to begin. As I looked to the Major sitting to my left, I noticed something shiny inside his uniform cap. As I continued to look, I realized that the shiny stuff was tin or aluminum foil.
The Major, from a New York Army Reserve unit, worked in a civil affairs outfit.
Per some unwritten rule, I immediately alerted my buddy. We were perplexed.
We were also brash, for better or for worse.
“Hey, sir, I notice some shiny stuff in your hat. What’s up with that?”
“Well, Lieutenant,” he spoke with one of those Frasier-Crane-style educated voices, “you know how we have a bunch of satellite dishes pointed toward the sky in the southwest US?”
Recalling a picture I saw of a line of dishes pointed at the sky, I replied. “Yes, sir.”
“Those are sending waves into the air in hopes of reaching alien life forms,” he replied.
I interrupted, “You have stuff in your hat because of satellite dishes in Arizona?”
“No Lieutenant, that’s not logical.” His Frasier-Crane-voice became more Frasiery. “You see, aliens are doing the same thing to us, but they are more advanced, and they access data in our brains…”
“Sir…….I……,” I stumbled. I heard my buddy suppress a laugh to my right.
“Buildings shield most of the rays, but outside I need the aluminum foil to deflect the alien rays and keep them out of my brain.”
An amazed glance was shared with my fellow LT. This matter required investigation.
What followed was a series of questions by my buddy and I to ascertain the extent of the crazy. It was a wonderful distraction from otherwise mundane duties.
Once back at the office, we gleefully reported our discovery to the rest of the crew–when we weren’t disabled by uncontrollable laughter.
After recovering, stomachs still aching from convulsions of laughter, we broke it down by the numbers. What we found was disturbing, annoying, laughable, and sad.
- Military customs and courtesy dictated that we call this man “Sir.” To do otherwise could be a punishable offense.
- We were two ranks below him (First Lieutenant – Captain – Major). We would not be eligible for promotion to his rank for approximately 8 more years.
- His pay was nearly $3000 per month more than ours.