The Sheep Swatters by John L. Neel

When I was first posted to the British Parachute Regiment, I was assigned to 538 Platoon, The Depot, while I awaited the arrival of 1 Para from Northern Ireland.  The Depot is like American Basic Training.  There I met "my Corporals," Pitcher, Fuller, and Edwards.  Like their American drill sergeant counterparts, it is said that you never forget your Corporals.  I know I will never forget mine.

I chose to use this time in the Depot to learn as much as I could about British Soldiering before joining 1 Para.  My Corporals also took it on themselves to make sure I was straight, treating me, sometimes as their friend, their sergeant, a visiting dignitary, or as a private.  I was taught British tactics, weapons, fitness, language, drinking, and that particularly nebulous subject... British Humor.

Once, while 538 Platoon was in Sennybridge Wales, training, "my Corporals" "asked" me to take a detail of Toms, downrange, to shoo the ever-present sheep, while they concerned themselves with the more important job of getting a brew (Tea) on.  For this highly important job, they supplied me with a number of the Toms (trainees), and some "sheep swatters."

Now, maybe you have never seen sheep swatters, I never had, so I should describe them for you.  I was given these long poles, to which was attached a large square of rubber on one end.  Looking very much like a gigantic fly swatter, they were conveniently located at the Range Shed for our use.

Taking the mission in hand, I took my detail of lads down-range and began swatting sheep with gusto, until I caught sight of "my Corporals", SGT Bunkle, and LT Boyns rolling around on the ground having a great good laugh at my goofy Yank ass.

Upon my return from downrange, they all, of course, had to tell me how silly I looked using that fine piece of British ingenuity the "Fire Swatter" to chase the sheep away.  Though the brunt of the joke, my pride and self-confidence shattered, I had to laugh along with them.

To this day, Alan Pitcher reminds me of this proud moment in my life.

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