Sergeant Smith and the Cigarette Roll

Sergeant Smith and the Cigarette Roll

My first assignment after getting my appointment to Warrant Officer was to an a/c maintenance company in the 101st Abn at Ft. Campbell, KY.  My first job was as PBO, (property book officer) which made me the supply officer of the company.  My supply sergeant was an alcoholic.  I was told this, as soon as I took over the property book.

“We’re cutting Sergeant Smith (not his real name) as much slack as we can,” my C.O. told me.  “He made two combat jumps during WWII, including jumping into France on D. Day.”

I had a lot of respect for Sgt. Smith’s history…but it did prove to be somewhat difficult to work with a person who never had a sober day.  Here are two incidents that will illustrate what I mean.

We received a new generator, and I asked Sergeant Smith to get it posted, and assigned.  One week later the generator still sat in the middle of the supply room floor, so I had a couple of clerks pick it up and put it on Sgt. Smith’s desk.  Sgt. Smith had only a small sliver of desk left.  I watched him to see how he would react.  He looked up at it, and reached out to touch it.  He got a confused look on his face.

“Generator,” he mumbled.

“Yes, sergeant, generator.”

“On my desk.”

“Yes, on your desk.”

With a nod of acceptance, he continued to work, using that small sliver on his desk.

After a week, I posted the generator myself, and had my clerks take it to its proper location.

Two days later I was watching Sgt. Smith, who had continued to work on the small sliver of his desk.  Then, he looked up, made a tentative pass with his hand, and looked over at me.  “Generator.”

“What about the generator?” I asked him.

“Gone,” he said,.

“Yes, Sergeant, the generator is gone.”

He nodded, but made no further mention.

The second incident is even more amazing.  We had what were called “pay jumps.”  Once every three months, those who were airborne qualified had to make a parachute jump in order to draw jump pay.  (I hasten to add here, that though I was in an airborne unit, I was a “leg” meaning I was not jump qualified.) Jumping from the aircraft paratroopers.

The next day after the jump, several of the men were in the supply room, talking about the jump the day before.

“A cigarette roll!” One of them said.  “I’ve never seen a tighter roll, and he had only 1200 feet to react!”

“Yeah,” another said.  “If I ever have a malfunction, I hope I can do it as well as he did.”

“He got his reserve out just like you’re supposed to.  Man, it was perfect.”

‘Yeah, well, who has more jumps than he does?”

During the discussion, Sgt. Smith had been busy with the supply records that occupied his day.  “Did we have a jump, yesterday?” he asked.

“Yes, Sergeant Smith, we had a jump yesterday.”

“I need a pay jump,” Sgt. Smith said.

By now, everyone was looking at him.

“Are you kidding?” one of them asked.  “You jumped yesterday.”

“I did?”

“Yes, Sergeant, you did.”


“You don’t remember jumping?”

“Yeah, I remember now.  You say  someone got a cigarette roll on the jump?”


“He wasn’t hurt?”


“Who got the cigarette roll?”

“You, Sergeant Smith.  You got the cigarette roll.”


Sergeant Smith went back to his supply forms without another word.  The other jumpers just shook their head.

When I left the company a year later, headed for Germany, he was still there.  One of my FB friends, Jesse Shannon, was also a Warrant Officer in that same company, and he was still there after I left.  He may know whether or not Sgt “Smith” made it to retirement.  I hope he did.

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