FORT STEWART, Ga. — Just three weeks after recovering from severe paper cuts, Pfc. Andrew Varneke has been admitted to Winn Army Hospital to treat multiple burns suffered while gathering exhaust samples.
Pfc. Varneke joined the Army in early 2020 and has fallen victim to multiple pranks from other junior enlisted soldiers. "I don't know why they think it's so funny, but they just keep telling me to go do things that end up in me hurting myself somehow." said Varneke. "My hands are really starting to take a beating.”
“First it was because of all the grid squares I was trying to cut out from the map I found, because I couldn't find them anywhere I was told to look," he said. "Then everyone made fun of me when I went to sick call, and my first day back to work, they told me to go to the weather tower and find ‘Major Storm,’ which didn't end well, either." said Varneke.
Soldiers often will tell new soldiers to go find random items—such as blinker fluid for HMMWVs, chem light batteries, grid squares and exhaust samples from the trucks—that aren't real as a form of entertainment. Most soldiers are quickly made the center of the joke as they fail in their attempts, but Varneke has successfully injured himself mentally and physically on every attempt.
"It's pretty hilarious when you get a new kid like Varneke in," said Staff Sgt. Alex Marrero. "I mean, we're all pretty stupid when we first join the military, but this kid, he's a special kind of stupid."
The most recent injury to Varneke came while attempting to hold a plastic bag around the tailpipe of a HMMWV to gather a 'good exhaust sample' for the mechanics to test. Varneke was so determined to gather a good sample, that he didn't let go after the exhaust got hot, which eventually caused the plastic to melt, binding his hands to the exhaust. Fort Stewart EMS told authorities that this was the first time they've responded to something like this.
"What an idiot, why wouldn't he just let go? Or even better, ask someone higher ranking if it's a joke or not?" said Tommy Hutton, paramedic. "God forbid, someone tell this kid to go hold up a target at the range, cause this bozo would probably do it."
"I'm just ready to get back to work and be done with these pranks," Varneke said. "Because I'm sure this is it, they definitely won't mess with me anymore, right?" said Varneke.
Leaders of the 385th military police battalion aren't happy about the multiple events resulting in hospitalization.
"It's all fun and games ’til I have to fill out another commander's critical incident report for the brigade commander to tell him my soldiers are really fucking stupid," said Command Sgt. Maj. Greg Helderkin. "Sure I used to do this kind of dumb stuff as a soldier, but no one got hurt, and I never had to do paperwork for the results."