I became a sergeant while serving in Berlin. Now this may not seem like a big deal to a lot of people, but it was a big deal to me. I'd grown up with a particular image of what it means to be a sergeant, most of which was derived from war movies and comic books. And even though I never came close to the image, being able to refer to myself as a sergeant was a source of pride. Shortly after being promoted I was slated to attend a week-long course, NCODP (NCO Development Program) that was held at Andrews Barracks, the living quarters for Field Station Berlin. The course was a nice break from trick work and, in all honesty, it wasn't exactly grueling from a content point of view. The E-7 in charge let us know on the first day of the program that we could be late one day and it wouldn't be counted against us. That was on a Monday. True to form, none of us had been late through Thursday, so that afternoon as we finished up the day there was a bunch of boasting about how we were all going to be late the next day since we weren't going to be penalized for it. Like an idiot, I took everyone at their word. I headed out for a night on the town.
I'm not sure how I got there, but I do remember closing out The Home Bar at about 3 a.m. the next morning. The owners (operators?) of the bar had gone off to bed and told the few of us still in the bar to help ourselves and to be sure to turn out the lights when we left. My beverage of choice was Amaretto, and as invited, I helped myself.
I managed to stagger the few hundred yards from The Home Bar to the mod. I didn't set my alarm, confident that I could be late for the last day of NCODP without incurring any penalty (see above). I woke up sometime after 8 a.m., already more than half an hour late and the night's cobwebs still sticking to my brain. I hustled to get ready - no sense overdoing it - but I was not all that concerned. Given the previous day's boasting, I wondered if I might actually be the first one to show up that morning. WRONG! When I finally got to class, there was a new E-7 in charge. What the hell? She chewed me out for being late. Naturally, when she paused, I asked her if the guy who'd been running the deal just the day before had informed her about the "one day late on me" rule. Sadly, he had not. And to top it off, all the other big shots who bragged about sleeping in and showing up whenever they damn well pleased were on time, sitting in their seats, and looking at me like I was some sort of convict when I walked in late. It may go without saying that I did not form any lasting relationships with my fellow classmates. I think they ultimately viewed me as a dangerous nonconformist. Actually, my behavior in my view conformed to the highest traditions of those lucky enough to have been stationed in Berlin during the Cold War.