TO LIEUTENANT                                               



I just wanted to enjoy a steak;
I got more than I bargained for!

It was Summer, 1967.  I joined "A" Battery not too long after completing BCT at Fort Jackson, NC.  We were operating in the Central Highlands at the time.  Along comes a new Lieutenant joining the Battery...Lt Bob Patalano.  After chatting a bit, I learn he is from my hometown of Providence, RI.  I also learn that he is a big fan of Italian food of all types.  Well, as the movie version goes, this will be "the beginning of a beautiful friendship".  He was about as sick as I was of eating "C" rations for every meal.  Well, my father-in-law back home would send me "goodie packages" with all kinds of sauces, spices and pasta.  It didn't take long before we huddled and made Italian dishes...a far cry from "C" rations...using our helmets as cooking pots.  We were "paisanos".

One day Bob and I left the battery area to go to Pleiku.  As we get into town, Bob steers me to the Officers Club and says, "Let's go in and get ourselves a steak".  Now, Bob knows that I am a Specialist 4th Class ("Speedy Four") and have no business going into the Officers Club.  However, Bob came prepared.  He ripped off my Sp4 sleeve insignia, reached in his pocket and pulled out a spare pair of gold bars.   He said, "I'm going to make you a Lieutenant".  I wasn't so sure about this!  I could wind up in jail! Guess Bob was counting on no one in the whole world knowing I wasn't a Lieutenant, and if there was, they surely wouldn't be in Pleiku on this day and at this time.


As we were approaching a table, a Lieutenant (a real one) sees me, sees my name tag and calls, "Smurra!"  (Oh, no! Oh, my god!  This Lieutenant was one of those "hard core" type soldiers who ran around all day with his yellow Ranger scarf!) He says to me, "I didn't know you made Lieutenant!" (Of course not; we had just been at Ft Jackson just a few months before). I quickly responded, "I got a field promotion".

Somehow, some way, I got away with it!  We had our meal, but I was nervous the entire time.  I didn't want any part of pulling this stunt ever again!

Submitted by
Sp4 Ambrose Smurra

{Webmaster Note: To this day, Ambrose still worries about impersonating an Officer!

Bob Patalano & Ambrose Smurra