Garret Reppenhagen (GR): My sniper leader, Sergeant Richardson, he was a character. You know, he’s got a shaved head, ears sticking out of the side, mustache. Kind of a surly dude too. So I thought it’d be really funny if I dressed up like Sergeant Rich.
And I had to steal his uniform with the rank and nameplate on it. The morning of Halloween, I bic’d my head, I shaved my mustache down to a perfect square. I had bubblegum in my cheek to make it look like I had chew in my mouth at all times.
Thomas Cassidy (TC): (Laughs)
GR: And to get the ears right, I got some toothpicks and I popped those suckers out.
GR: And, uh, I headed to the chow hall for breakfast.
You know, folks kind of see me, they’re chuckling and I dig into my omelet. And the doors of the chow hall slam open, and in walks the sergeant major.
GR: The command sergeant major, he’s the highest ranking dude on our entire base. He’s always kinda pissed, like he’s got this general aura of anger, but he’s not extra angry until he gets about like 5 feet from me.
TC: Oh, and you pulled the okey-doke on him.
GR: I think he was looking for Sergeant Richardson to talk to him about something. And I knew I was dead. And he says, ”Reppenhagen!” I popped up into the position of attention. My chair fell over. And he says, ”What the hell are you doing?” And I say, ”I’m eating breakfast, sergeant major.” He says, ”No, what are you doing with that?” And he’s pointing right at Sergeant Rich’s uniform and name plate. And I say, ”It’s Halloween, sergeant major.”
GR: And he says “Throw your chow way. Go back to your bunk. And you’re not going to leave ‘til I come get you.”
So I haul butt back to my bunk, and I paced. In the United States Army, it is against the law to impersonate a Non-Commissioned Officer.
TC: That’s true. (Laughs)
GR: So I was scared.
Hours later, a slamming fist hits my door. So I swallow hard, I swing open the door, and it is the sergeant major. And he says ”Reppenhagen… that’s the most fine Halloween costume I’ve ever seen in my life.” And he took a couple pictures and walked away.
I think in a lot of ways, we survived that deployment in Iraq by sharing humor with each other. Sergeant Rich never really forgave me, but I hope that he thinks about that and laughs sometimes.
We were doing an awful job in an awful time. And, uh, if I shed any joy to anybody on that base that day, then I think it was all worth it.