Pronounced REMF. This is an acronym for “Rear Echelon Mother F’er.” This is a general term for all pernicious, un-grunt forms of life in the Army.
REMF is not an assignment, branch of service or MOS. It’s a state of mind. On the civilian-side, terms like “empty suit” or “sociopath” might be used.
Indications of REMF-ism included the idea that one was actually entitled to eat three hots a day, sleeping on a bunk out of the rain, sleeping entire nights without having to pull guard, having a club to drink cold beer and other forms of chilled alcohol, having access to hot showers, sleeping without boots, wearing clean, pressed uniforms with patches and insignia of rank properly attached.
But, someone could have all this and not necessarily be a REMF. Once someone began siphoning off needed supplies before they could get to the field… extra field jackets, batteries, flashlights, etc… only letting C-rats and Ammo get through, cutting orders to promote oneself to sergeant and to award oneself a CIB, believing the need of the logistics system for neat and complete paperwork prevailed over the need of the field for mission critical supplies, then, one was entering the magic realm of REMF-dom.
Let me tell you a story I’ve entitled, “The Clean Lieutenant Goes on a Visit.”
We were on a firebase near Ban Me Thout during the rainy season, summer of 1968. We were wet, cold and grumpy as one is likely to become when living underwater without gills and webbed feet.
One day, a slick landed at the firebase and out jumped an amazing sight—a seemingly, newly-minted, clean 1st Lieutenant—wearing spotless, tailored and smartly pressed fatigues, a regulation baseball cap with a Silver Bar on its head, highly polished boots on its feet, a shiny, black attaché case in its hand, and Finance Corps insignia on its collar. This apparition skipped and dodged across the landing pad, avoiding all the puddles and mud, and walked over to the company TOC.
A few minutes later, our platoon sergeant collected us up for a “meeting.” Again, an amazing occurrence: two wonders in one day… a clean lieutenant and a “meeting.”
We were a little nervous and fidgety sitting around grouped in the open, so the clean lieutenant got right to the point. He had our lieutenant, who was not nearly as clean, pass out some IBM cards and some stubby No. 2 pencils while the clean lieutenant spoke.
“Good morning, men! I’m Lieutenant Fuzz (an alias) of the Finance Corps and I need to take just a few minutes of your time to get some paper work straightened out for you. Your platoon leader is giving each of you a copy of an IRS form which we need in order to process your pay properly. When you get the form, I’d like you to… Yes, Soldier! You have a question?”
“Yes, sir! I thought we didn’t pay federal tax in Nam.”
“That’s correct, soldier. But, you have to fill out this form so that the IRS knows where you are. Now once you get the form… another question?
“Yes, sir! Are you saying that one part of the government doesn’t know where another part of the government stuck us?”
“It’s not quite that simple…”
“I don’t see the point of this, sir, why doesn’t somebody from the Army just walk over…”
“Men! Under Federal Law, filling out this form is mandatory! Failure to do so within thirty days of arriving at your duty station could result in a fine of $10,000 and up to ninety days in jail.”
“Sir! Would that be a jail in Nam or in the States?”
“Soldier! I don’t see…”
“Sir! Would the ninety days come off our tour?”
“That has nothing…”
“You get three hots a day in jail, don’t you, sir? I mean, that’s a law, isn’t it?”
“People! Let’s get back to…”
“We give ourselves up, Sir! Arrest us!”
“Sir! We’re not filling out this stupid IRS form! We’re cheating on our taxes! We’re criminals! Take us to jail!”
“I can’t… Lieutenant! Can you get your people under control here!
Our lieutenant was laughing so hard, he almost wet his trou. Meanwhile, we rushed the clean lieutenant in an effort to surrender ourselves to him en masse.
“Take me! Please, sir! I’m a criminal! I’ve got to pay for my crimes against the IRS. Take me to jail!”
The clean lieutenant and his IRS forms were gone on the next bird out.
Any REMF certainly ranked in a grunt’s esteem above a civilian by his willingness to serve, but at times one step below civilian by his efforts to make an impossibly horrible situation just that much worse.
I was sorely tempted to remove this entry or tone it down a bit because I am loath to insult anyone who served in Nam and did his (or her) duty while putting his (or her) life on the line. In a sense, as long as the bad guys were tossing 122mm rockets around and sneaking into base camps with satchel charges, even REMF-dom wasn’t safe.
But, then I remembered the perverse human condition known as “denial.” No one reading this would ever acknowledge that it describes them. For them, the REMF will remain a mythical creature created by the minds of paranoid and malcontented grunts. And I’m okay with that. Hell! I’ve even forgiven Jane Fonda!