Yeah, it happens…in the woods, no Porta-potty in sight (or in my case long before they even contracted stuff like that), its 0200 and nature calls…and calls loudly…
The ninja shits…..dark, deadly and sneak up on you without you knowing….its happened to everyone that has taken to the field at one time or another and there was no amount of dehydrated pork patties or fruit cocktail that you could eat to stem their tide…they were indeed troubling. Todays deployed troop will have a bevy of restroom facilities available on their designated base or FOB provided due to the generous nature (and even more generous government contracts) of your local KBR crew. Still, off the FOB these issues do arise.
But what to do? In many a war a man has simply let fly in his trousers when natured called and he was in the middle of defending his life against the enemy. No shame there. I know several folks that have jumped out of a perfectly good airplane only to have the jolt of their chute opening turn their pants a more tactical shade of brown…. But this wasn’t war or an training situation where you had to pay attention to stay alive. It was just “the field”…that mundane existence that started one day and ended many similar days later and you really couldn’t remember how many had come between and even if you did it wouldn’t matter. In the field life was different for a grunt. Gone were the luxuries of hot water, TV, soft beds, telephones and dedicated crappers. In its place were poncho liners and ponchos on the hard ground, cold chow, cold PTA washes with a washcloth and canteen cup, entertainment that was derived from your fellow soldiers rather than a Xbox….and no shitters….
Oh the horror….
Savvy troops brought copious amounts of quality toilet paper with them in ziplock bags…better to have and not need then….you get the point. Others relied on the generosity of the Army and the foresight of their supply sergeant to make sure enough super fine sandpaper…aka Army generic toilet paper…or the 3 or 4 tissue like pieces that your MRE provided to do the job (shudder) . Others used leaves and sticks like they were right out of a chapter of the early frontier…you know the Ranger types and such….
But as to the method….
Well, ideally whenever you set into a position for the night or dug a defensive perimeter your command element types would indicate a “pee tree” (for going #1 on) and a slit trench area. The pee tree was simply a tree or bush centrally located that everyone would walk to and pee on…like dogs marking their territory. At night a chem light would generally be hung off it, or more tactically, a hole dug and it dropped in so that you had to be pretty much on top of it to see it. The slit trench was just that…as shallow trench about a entrenching tool blade wide by a etool deep that would be nearby the pee tree that you simply straddled, dropped your pants, sunk your battleship, and then scooped dirt on top of it for courtesy’s sake of the next guy. Ideally you would have some type of para cord or bungie frame around in via trees and such with ponchos to give you some privacy. It would also (hopefully) include a hand washing station which might simply be a 5 gallon can of water and a bar of soap. Nothing fancy but it works.
If you were really lucky and were in a static location they might actually pull out the field toilet, which was a collapsible plywood box with a hole in the top that would be placed over the slit trench…glorious….in the land of the blind the one eye man truly is the king.
In other situations you might have to improvise a bit.
- Generally, the hole squat was the most basic. I could never master the simple concept to dig a hole, drop my BDU’s and squat. A lack of coordination (I didn’t get the nickname “Baby Huey” for nothing) and rightfully founded fear of dropping a load back into my own pants in the dark made this my least favorite option.
- The sump dump…while in a defensive position, commonly called the fox hole, it is standard procedure to dig a hole at the bottom that angles down and away from the personnel called the grenade sump. Its purpose is so that you can kick a grenade into it, hopefully before it explodes, if one happens into your position. Do I need to explain what happens here? OK, you drop a round down it…hopefully on your lst day in the field before you fill it in and not one of your first so you can admire your work, so to speak, for the remainder of your time in the field…..Of course its common knowledge you never go in your OWN foxhole….
- Some people preferred the tree method where you found a sturdy tree, dug a hole at the base and squatted using the tree for support, either hanging off of it with your arms or leaning against it with your back. Functional but left you for the want of a tree when you may or may not have that luxury.
- The “Gallagher”…named after the comedian, this method involves forethought and the use of props. A pair of MRE boxes propped on either side of the hole, a 5 gallon bucket, a folded entrenching tool, the infamous folding chair with a hole cut in the seat or some form of rope seat have all been known to be in my presence in the field. For mech guys and the like that have the ability to carry stuff like that in their vehicle more power to you, but for legs and light guys this approach was usually a logistical nightmare.
- My personal favorite was the modified tree approach. It took a bit more searching than the simple tree but was usually well worth the time if you could afford it. Look for two small saplings growing right next to one another (maybe 6 to 8 feet in length), drop trousers, approach from the rear and simple walk back over them running one tree under each thigh, thusly forming a seat over a pre-dug hole (you need a little engineering foresight to figure the angle of the dangle of the tree in relation to the target area and such before you start).
- The “Bandito”…sneak around until you find some other REMF units fixed position and sneak in and use their facilities…stealing all the available TP that you can on the way out.
- The “Snake Eater/sniper”…only for the most tactically hardcore types….this method is emplyoyed while laying prone and is only for the hardcorest of hardcore. Basically it is rolling to your side, dropping pants and doing your business then rolling back over and laying there next to your product. I have done the #1 version of this drill but never the deuce thankfully.
So for those of you who have never had to step off the beaten path in uniform to take care of the call of nature, there is a run down of some of the more creative ways the modern grunt has learned to take care of their business. Its not pretty, but it is life as I knew it in the Infantry in my day. And some people still wonder why I migrated to the Administrative branch later in my career….