November 19, 2012

Thirty Can Cases of Beer.....

Carolyn and I were driving back from an errand when she noticed that the local Walgreens had a beer ad on their electric sign promoting a 30 can case of beer for $14.99.  I don't know if it was this new beer called Beer 30, but it did remind me of a story from early in my military days.

We had a special "holiday" called Pass-Over.  This isn't to be confused with Passover because this is a uniquely military...at least Air Force, phenomenon.

For the Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs) in the Air Force, the opportunity for promotion comes but once a year.  You have to take a couple of exams, one which tests your job knowledge and the other your general Air Force/Military knowledge.  These tests were sometime in the summer and the results would come out all at once at the end of the season or the beginning of the fall.  If you were getting promoted you'd have a "line number" and would have a reason to celebrate.  If you missed the cut-off you were "passed over".

There were always more people getting passed over than promoted, but either situation was a cause for drinking, hence the "Pass-Over" party.

We also had an even more informal tradition that if you got your line number on your first try you bought a keg for everyone else when you sewed it on.  When your line number was up and you actually put on your rank you generally bought everyone a couple of beers.

Junior Airmen had their own promotion system and officers were a whole other system I never really understood.....but I didn't need to.  Sometimes the results for these other systems came out about the same time.  In the fall of 1994 I had found out that I made Senior Airman Below-The-Zone (BTZ).  My supervisor, a total ass-hat, was really screwing me over and his boss stepped in and took over some of the supervisory details, like putting me in for the BTZ board.  Thank you TSgt Boyer!

Australian for Delicious
To celebrate I bought everyone a beer.  In a situation like this most (poor Airmen) would by a couple cases of beer which would give all the guys one or two cheap beers.  I bought everyone either a big (25.4 oz) can of Fosters or an equally large Steinlager.  Of course the guys complained at first because they each only got "one" beer, but they quickly realized I wasn't screwing them over any.

Fast forward a couple of weeks when Pass-Over came around.  Our unit had been plussed-up a bit with another post closing down recently, so we had a lot of NCOs that were buying beer.  A couple hours after the beer light had come on we were all doing pretty well and our Commander comes in to join us.  He brings news that the Officer promotion board results have been announced and a Major from up at Corps (a higher echelon whose headquarters were on the other side of Ft. Lewis) is being promoted to Lt. Colonel.  This new O-5 will be coming down to the Squadron as our next Commander in the spring when our old one moves on.  In order to celebrate and share the good news with us, he had given our Commander some beer "for the guys".

None of us had really ever met this Officer, but....hey, it's free beer!  Although we have enough because of Pass-Over, we could always use more!  Well this is what we thought until we saw that the Major's contribution was a couple 30 can cases of cheap-o beer.  Seriously?!

One of my buddies, then a rather hard-drinking man of Irish descent, immediately commented how pitiful this contribution was.  He put things into comparison, noting that I, an E3 had spent at least twice as much on quality beer just a week or two before.  If this O4 was trying to get on our good side, sixty cans of cheap-o beer wasn't going to cut it.

About as cheap as beer comes.
One thing that might be pertinent is that my buddy can be a bit of a mean drunk.  There was a reason I noted he was of Irish descent.  He gets it in his head that we should save the beer for a later date.  Several others think this is a great idea.  The cases get stashed in my trunk for the next couple months.......

.....until the Squadron Christmas Party.  The Commander-Elect, along with the rest of the guys from Corps were invited and at the party, in front of the entire Squadron, the Major was formally presented his two cases of beer back and informed that the appropriate thing to do was buy the unit a keg when he made Lt. Col.

Yes, it was a dickish thing to do, but it was in keeping with tradition.  You make grade the first time you buy a keg.  Most everyone had a good laugh and he took it in stride.  The Major's wife, however, was PISSED.  She wasn't so made that we gave the beer back and made a deal out of it, but instead she was ripped that her husband stooped to purchase something for enlisted men.  Yeah.....she was one of those types.  Thought of herself as Mrs. Commander.  Liked to park in the VIP parking spot and tried to order the enlisted folks around......

......but that is a story for another time.


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