Tag Archives: army

Military Ball Grog

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 20
Occupation: Army Ranger
Residence: Classified
Date of Performance/Collection: April 14, 2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Main Piece:

Here is a transcription of my (CB) interview with my informant (GK).

GK: “I’m a member of the US Army. And we have a tradition at our balls, well I’ve never been to our balls because I’m a new member, but I’ve heard about it from my lieutenant. At a lot of the balls, a bunch of people come to these balls, hundreds and hundreds with their significant other, depending on the unit a lot of times they will have like a huge, a cauldron isn’t a good word, but like a barrel, and they’ll fill it with the grog. Depending on the unit they will put a bunch of things in it, usually alcoholic but they put other things in it as well. So like if a unit had certain historic deployments, like say they fought a battle at a certain place in france, then one of the things that they would put in the Grog would be like a wine that was made from that town in France, or Italy, or Germany. But it’s not necessarily a wine it could be a whisky or anything like symbolizing that area and time where that unit fought. Like I think the 101st, the Screaming Eagles who are like a really distinguished unit, I believe they have like some sort of whiskey that was really popular from the era in WWII. And some people just put some really nasty shit in there too, and they used to drink it after like basic training, or other ceremonies. After the hardest part of basic training they used to just drink a really disgusting grog, but they can’t do that anymore, obviously because of people being underage and whatnot. So there’s usually enough for one person to have a shot, like at least a shot per person.”

CB “So what do you think is the point of the grog?”

GK “Um… to get drunk definitely. But it’s a little bit more than that because it’s definitely a big tradition. And usually people will just throw a lot of gross stuff into it for fun, and it’s definitely for fun and a little bit of tradition. Also honoring, like usually they’ll do it with a toast to the president or someone in the unit who did something very distinguished that year, like for example is someone won the medal of honor.”

Background:

My informant just graduated from basic training, and is now at a military base waiting to start further training and specialization. He grew up with an older brother in the army and has learned a lot about army culture from him, and then from his superiors at basic training. However, he has not yet been in the army long enough to participate in a lot of the traditions. Because of this, he is more of a passive bearer with this tradition. The military ball is an annual event for a specific unit. They are commonly hosted right before or after deployment. It can act as a final farewell, or a celebration of their safe return.

Context:

I called my informant to interview him over the phone, and recorded the interview on my laptop. I had often asked him about his experiences since enlisting, and so my questions were fairly normal for him. It was a casual comfortable conversation with the occasional input from his roommate.
Thoughts:
A large part of the goal of a military ball is a celebration of life and accomplishment, as well as a way to offset the horrors of deployment. The grog itself is a way to ensure that the event stays lighthearted and fun. It would be very easy for an event right before or after deployment to turn somber as they think about their uncertain future or remember those they lost. The grog helps unite the attendees in the moment. It also helps overcome the divide between the dates and the unit itself by having everybody engage in the tradition. For my informant, the military ball and all the traditions that go along with it provides him with something to look forward to. When surrounded by so much death and uncertainty, it can be difficult to believe in a future for yourself. However, my informant would joke with his friends, discussing all of the gross things they might put in the grog once they get their chance. This provides a sense of hope for their future.

For another variation of military ball grog, see Rebecca Alwine’s article, “What Really Happens at a Army Ball” on VinePair. https://vinepair.com/articles/army-grog-bowl/

Army Proverb; Play Stupid Games. . .

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 20
Occupation: Army Ranger
Residence: classified
Date of Performance/Collection: April 14, 2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Main Piece:

Here is a transcription of my (CB) interview with my informant (GK).

GK: “A really common saying was ‘Play stupid games and you’ll win stupid prizes’”

CB: “And who would say that to you?”

GK: “the person getting you in trouble [laughs]”

CB: “So, like you’re superior?”

GK: “Yes”

CB: “Okay. And what did it mean to you?”

GK: “What does it mean to me? It means someone else fucked up and I’m getting punished for it [laughs]. No but, like thats actually what it means to me, but I guess you could say that it means that people try to act stupid all the time. They’ll be like ‘oh I didn’t know I had to do this’ or ‘you didn’t say I had to do that so I just blah blah blah blah’ when really common sense dictates, like in the real world you might be able to get away with that stuff because it wasn’t explicitly stated, but in the army they don’t care about that shit, you’re gonna get fucked up” 

CB: “Why do you think they say it?”

GK: “Its definetly like an esay way to remind people whenever they’re thinking of doing something dumb. Like ‘play stupid games I’m gonna win stupid prizes’ like you know, so you have to weigh the decision the next time you think about doing something stupid”

Background:

My informant just graduated from basic training, and is now at a military base waiting to start further training and specialization. He grew up with an older brother in the army and has learned a lot about army culture from him, and then from his superiors at basic training. As a newer member of the military, he has no rank and is often scolded and bossed around by all of those around him.

Context:

I called my informant to interview him over the phone, and recorded the interview on my laptop. I had often asked him about his experiences since enlisting, and so my questions were fairly normal for him. It was a casual comfortable conversation with the occasional input from his roommate.

Thoughts:

Once deployed, a mistake by a soldier can be fatal for himself or others. The military places a huge emphasis on the importance of following orders and trusting your superiors. This proverb serves as a warning against questioning or disobeying those orders. By using it when someone has made a mistake, it forces the listeners to associate that phrase with the punishment. When repeated, the proverb then acts as a perfect reminder of the punishment they might get should they make a mistake.

Army Movie Star Game

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 20
Occupation: Army Ranger
Residence: classified
Date of Performance/Collection: April 14, 2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Main Piece:

Here is a transcription of my (CB) interview with my informant (GK).

CB: “Okay so, do you play any games”

GK: “There are a lot of different games that people in the armed services play to keep themselves entertained during long extended hours of boredom. So one is like you name a movie star, and then you would go back and forth naming someone they were in a movie with. So like if I said Angelina Joli, you could say Brad Pitt, and I would have to say Angelina Joli and someone else. And you just go back and forth until someone loses the game, for hours.”

CB: “Where did you hear about this game?”

GK: “We played it at basic.”

CB: “What do you think is the point of this game?”

GK: “To stay awake”

CB: “What does the game mean to you?”

GK: “That life can be very dull and that you should never take for granted the entertainments provided to you by modern technology.” 

Background:

My informant just graduated from basic training, and is now at a military base waiting to start further training and specialization. He grew up with an older brother in the army and has learned a lot about army culture from him, and then from his superiors at basic training. A lot of basic training is about preparing the soldiers for any possible situation. This calls for staying awake for hours on end while engaging in mind-numbing tasks. It was in these situations that games such as the one described would be played.

Context:

I called my informant to interview him over the phone, and recorded the interview on my laptop. I had often asked him about his experiences since enlisting, and so my questions were fairly normal for him. It was a casual comfortable conversation with the occasional input from his roommate.

Thoughts:

My first thought when I heard this game was that it sounded incredibly boring. But I guess that is also a part of the appeal. The game is meant to be just enough to keep the players awake and engaged, without being mentally or physically tiring. In the military, your fellow soldiers can come from all over the country with different life experiences and cultures. The game provides a way for the players to engage with one another without calling for too specific of cultural knowledge. Celebrities and pop culture is accepted to be known by nearly everyone, and so it acts as a way to bridge the cultural gaps between two people.

Zzam-Tiger

--Informant Info--
Nationality: korean
Age: 24
Occupation: Barista
Residence: Seoul, Korea
Date of Performance/Collection: 14 April 2020
Primary Language: Korean
Other Language(s): English

Original Script: 짬타이거

Phonetic (Roman) Script: Zzam tiger

Transliteration: Leftover tiger

Translation: Leftover cat

Main Piece:

The following conversation was translated from its original language Korean.

All Korean men have to serve in the military, so there’s a lot of military specific stuff and language that most men know. One thing that I remember is the zzam-tiger. “Zzam” is a shortened word for “zzanban” which means leftover food. Zzam tigers are cats that roam around army bases and eat leftover food. They are called tigers because I think it’s a cuter nickname, and Koreans just love anything that have to do with tigers. Most zzam-tigers are stray cats, but quite often there are upper ranking officers who bring their own pet cats to their bases, so it’s a mixed bag. But either way, no soldier is supposed to harm or even remotely be rude to the cat. Besides risking insulting your officer’s pet, why would you just be a dick to a cat? That’s mean. Most soldiers are really nice to these cats, because they’re cute. Most zzam-tigers are treated as mascots of those bases, and all bases have at least one zzam-tiger. It’s like having a communal pet. And it’s really therapeutic to have a cat around, because these cats are really friendly. They can also get rid of rats, if your base has any. Similarly, if your base has a dog, they are called zzam-wolf, and seagulls near navy ships are called zzam-phoenix. The part of the joke is to call them stronger than they really are. It’s part of the fun.

Background:

My informant is a Korean man in his mid 20s, who had just been discharged from his mandatory service about a year ago. His base also had a stray cat that was beloved by him and his fellow soldiers. Military jargon and tales are very a large part of Korean culture, especially for Korean men, as mandatory military service is an almost-universal experience for them. It is a unifying thing that most Korean men share, and a frequent conversation starter.

Context:

The conversation took place over the phone. My informant was at his house in Seoul, Korea, and he was alone in a comfortable setting.

My thoughts:

It is common to find stories of animals living amongst soldiers all around the world. Most U.S. bases in foreign countries allow soldiers to have pets, and historically most navy ships and submarines had cats on board to get rid of rats. Animals are known for providing therapeutic presence, and for soldiers who have high stress occupations, having these animals around seem like an effective way to help them.

ANZAC Day

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Australian
Age: 25
Occupation:
Residence: Wollongong, Australia
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/12/16
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

“ANZAC Day is our Australian day where we acknowledge, um, the sacrifice, I guess, of the Australian soldiers in both World War I and World War II. Um, it takes place on the 25th of April every year. Um… It kind of, it came from- Well, ANZAC stands for the Australia and New Zealand Army Corp. And so ANZAC was like the nickname given to like the soldiers who went over to fight in both world wars, but in the first world war, it’s like this really long story about how, um, the Australians got kind of called in to kind of, um, take the heat off another country, I think it was Britain or something. Um, got called in to like take the heat off them and distract the enemy for a bit, but they ended up walking into basically a slaughter. They kind of just off-loaded the boats, they landed, and they all got killed. Like, we learned about this in, like, primary school and high school but like, it’s that kind of thing where like, you learn about it so much that you kind of just tune it out. I’ve never learned the specifics, but like, thousands died, and like… It’s remembered in, like, Australian culture because it was like the first time. It was in the first world war. It was the first time that Australia kind of like proved itself I guess, in a way? Australian soldiers went over there and they kind of um… We were a newly formed nation at the time, so we’d only been on our own, like, independent for about 18 years at that point, and like, we hadn’t really proved ourselves. So we went over there and even though, like, hundreds of men got slaughtered, it’s kind of remembered as a sign of like Australia kind of asserting itself as a strong nation. So like as people who will, um, kind of tough it out, I guess, and that’s kind of what ANZAC Day has come to mean for Australians every year. So the tradition is that on the 25th of April every year, um, not every Australian does it, but like, it’s kind of, um, a lot of Australians do, so I would say like 50% would observe the day, but like everybody acknowledges it, everybody knows what the 25th of April is, but I would say around 50%, 60% get actively involved in the day. I personally do. My family, not all my family does, but me and my mum do. We get up really early, at like 4AM or 5AM and we go to what we call a dawn service, which is where you go to your local suburb, I guess, your city center, your county. So every suburb has kind of like a monument where it has on it inscribed all the names of the men who died during the ways from your suburb. So all the local men who enlisted and died during service are written on the wall, and at the dawn service there’s like, literally thousands of people from your suburb. They gather and usually do an hour-long service where it’s people from like the army, the air force, and the navy, all come to be like representatives of the ANZACS. They also have ex-service men. People, anyone who’s still alive from the first or second world war come as honorary guests. Descendants of the original ANZACS come if they are still alive or still live around here. It’s a nice service. They have speeches and prayers from the different denominations. And they have singing, like some songs usually about God, but just some songs that they usually say were, like, sung on the battlefield. And one of the most important parts of the dawn service for all Australians, and even if you don’t go to the dawn service, you know the sound of, it’s like this horn that they play. It’s a trumpet. It was like the trumpet that they played on the battlefield. It was like the trumpet that roused them to battle and told them it was time to fight. But also it was the horn that they played when the fight was over and basically everyone was dead and they called a retreat, so like, it’s kind of the sound of this horn that signals the start and the end of the dawn service like the one that signaled the end of the fight on the 25th of April, which was when all the men died. It’s usually like a pretty moving service, I guess. A lot of people, like, sing along and join in prayer. Most will also, like, shed a few tears during prayers or speeches because like the sacrifice that the men made on the battlefield made us able to keep Australia as an independent nation, free from enemies invading, I guess.”

 

This was a very solemn piece to collect. The source spoke about ANZAC Day with a lot of respect. She knew a lot of the history and wanted to pay respect to the people it honors. It’s a great idea, I think, much like our Veteran’s Day. I feel like ANZAC Day is far more personal than Veteran’s Day, though. Americans don’t particularly do anything on Veteran’s Day, where as it seems Australians have organized a lot to do on this day. They must have a different kind of respect for their armed forces. They also have far less people in their country, so that might be why it’s more personal. Whereas for us, we have thousands of veterans. It’s not quite the same. We also sort of treat it as just a day off of work or school rather than a day that’s actually dedicated to a certain group of people.

Fort Monroe – Confederate ghost stories

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Half Filipino-American, half white
Age: 21
Occupation: Graduate student
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: 3/27/2014
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

ITEM:
(1) The informant’s father’s family had just moved into Fort Monroe — her father was visiting from his undergrad (Purdue) and was almost 20 at the time. The night he came home, everyone in the family heard the sound of heavy chains dragging across the floor of the upstairs attic. The next day, her dad and his dad went to investigate. They saw nothing, and it never happened again, but everybody agreed on the sound.

(2) One time, a bunch of the army wives got together and they were talking about their houses. They ended up comparing ghost stories. One of them was saying that she walked into the kitchen with her husband and there was a cat there — they didn’t have a cat. The cat looked at them, and then turned away and walks through a wall. Eventually, the family looked up the plans for the building in the engineer’s office and originally there’d been a door in the space the ghost cat walked through.

BACKGROUND:
The informant’s ethnicity is half-white, half-Filipino American. Her father, who is white, was in the army, and his father flew helicopters in Korea and Vietnam — their family grew up moving from army base to army base.

Fort Monroe, in Hampton, Virginia, was where they kept the really important POWs from the Civil War, like Jefferson Davis. For those POWs, they would build quarters for their wives. It was widely understood that the town ghost was the ghost of a woman whose face sometimes appears in the widow at Mrs. Davis’s old quarters, waiting for her husband to come back.

CONTEXT:
The informant, who is one of my housemates, told me the stories, which originated from her father, in conversation. Her father actually recently visited her (4/30/14), and later corroborated details of her stories with him, the primary source.

ANALYSIS:
Whenever people live in older areas, or areas with a lot of history, it seems much more common to encounter ghost legends, and for people to be more comfortable with the idea of ghosts. This is of course helped along by my informant’s father’s religious upbringing. His family was Catholic — it was totally normal to talk about ghosts, and nobody talked about them as if they’re inherently scary.

Additionally, Fort Monroe is an area so closely tied to the Civil War, the bloodiest and one of the most traumatic events in American history. The distance in time between then and the modern day isn’t as far as people might think, and one way to tie these two eras together is by passing on legends about local history.

For more information about Fort Monroe’s ghost sightings, click here.