FORT KNOX, Ky. — Turning over a platoon to a new leader can be a stressful event for most officers, but 1st Lt. Peter Henry isn't worried about it. His new replacement, 2nd Lt. Heath Johnson, recently graduated from Officer Candidate School and arrived at Charlie Co., 1/26 Infantry, 3rd Brigade Combat Team two weeks ago.
"I like to break in the new butter bars. It was the same for me," said Henry.
After being promoted to first lieutenant and receiving a transfer to the S-3, Henry handed over his duties to Johnson. The small turnover ceremony consisted of Henry pushing the contents of his desk into a grungy duffel bag, throwing it at Johnson, laughing maniacally, and handing the new platoon leader an antiquated thumb drive with a cryptic message: “This is for the Soldiers; take care of them.”
“I don’t know what the duffel bag was about but that was nothing compared to the flash drive," said Johnson, "I mean, it was just full of strange pornography. I mean, some of that stuff can’t be legal. And its nothing but Bitmaps. Who the hell still downloads single image Bitmaps? Shit is not even JPEG.”
Henry was remarkably silent about his accountability for certain sensitive items that were scattered randomly about the company and battalion areas. The situation became apparent when Capt. James Rodgers, commanding officer of Charlie Company, dropped by Johnson’s small broom closet and asked him for the sensitive item inventory. Sitting on a buffer and smelling of Pine-Sol, Johnson didn't know what the commander was talking about.
"I told him to get his ass in gear and get me that damn paperwork," Rogers said.
Later that evening before end of day formation, Johnson wandered out of the Company Headquarters in a panic. Brow furrowed, Johnson waved a stack of papers around frantically. He indiscriminately pointed at soldiers milling about in the motor pool and told them to download the Conex.
Conex, or "conex boxes" as they are sometimes referred to, are shipping containers that often hold equipment for units and can be quickly shipped when they deploy.
After a week of shuffling through closets, holding formations, checking his pockets, and forcing soldiers to put up lost and found posters, Johnson accounted for item after item on his list.
“There were some problems with serial numbers at times, but all it really takes is one good scratch or dent and a four can kind of look like a seven," Johnson said, “Although we need to keep an eye out when Alpha Company starts checking their stuff out.”
Johnson was left with only one item which he could not write off as a loss or account for – an obscure piece of communications equipment that was given to the unit sometime after World War I.
“I don’t even know what this thing is; no one does," reports Staff Sgt. Rob Ryan, while sipping on a cup of coffee in the air-conditioned company ops, “But it’s not like I can tell that to the soldiers. Just kinda playing this by ear. I mean, I’m not accountable for that shit.”
Johnson’s last ditch effort was to order soldiers to download a conex which had been searched on five separate occasions in the previous week. This search began earlier today and thirty minutes before close of business formation.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do if we don’t find it in there. I might just wrap some wire around a broom handle and put a plastic cup on top. I could write the serial number on the handle with a sharpie or something.”