On Dec. 28, 2023, the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division quietly shared a reward poster to its website. An unknown person reportedly stole a M1165A1 Humvee from Fort Liberty’s Mott Lake training area between Nov. 7 and Nov. 8, 2023.
The vehicle, with bumper number 618-26 and windshield decals reading “PFC Arms and LT Dyke,” has not been recovered. Readers with information can collect a $5,000 reward if they provide CID with a tip that leads to the identification, arrest and conviction of anyone involved in the theft.
Belated editor’s note: Reward information is where reality ends and where, in this case, satire begins. What follows is Army Times’ senior reporter Davis Winkie’s fictional recreation of the speech the company first sergeant may have given to soldiers after day three of looking for the vehicle. It’s formatted as a screenplay. To be frank, we can’t really tell you why Davis chose to do that. Whatever. It’s Friday.
This satirical story is shockingly devoid of reality. We do not know the people involved, and we don’t know the circumstances under which any of this occurred. Please do not email us unless it’s to offer Davis a movie deal, and do not hold this against the vehicle’s authorized user, who has probably suffered enough already.
EXT. COF, 618TH ENGINEER SUPPORT COMPANY (AIRBORNE) – 1745 HOURS, FRIDAY NOV. 10
WE OPEN outside the company operations facility, late on Friday afternoon, after three days of searching for the company executive officer’s Humvee, which disappeared without a trace on Tuesday night. The disappearance derailed the company field exercise, and leaders are furious. The shot begins wide, capturing the entire company formation and the building’s facade, before it slowly pushes in closer on the man standing in front of the unit.
As we draw nearer to him, it becomes clear that the FIRST SERGEANT isn’t mad. He’s just (visibly) disappointed. And maybe a little afraid?
Ok, 618th, on the command “fall out,” I want you to form a school circle around me, hooah? It’s been a long week, so let’s make this quick and enjoy the long weekend, hooah?
Scattered “hooahs” emanate from the beleaguered paratroopers.
BEHIND THE FIRST SERGEANT
The soldiers quickly assemble around the FIRST SERGEANT. Noticeably absent is the COMPANY XO.
Listen up, paratroopers. As we all know, someone stole Nasty 5′s Humvee while we were in the field earlier this week. The LT and the CO are currently in the brigade commander’s office.
FACING THE COF, SLIGHTLY ELEVATED TO SEE FIRST SERGEANT OVER THE SEA OF SHOULDERS
It’s been a tough three days. We’ve combed damn near every training area on this post.
If anyone in this company knows anything about where the LT’s Humvee is, please step forward now. Let’s end this here and now. I can offer amnesty — no harm, no foul, no negative consequences.
BEHIND FIRST SERGEANT, LOOKING OUT ON TROOPS
Nobody steps forward. A few junior enlisted soldiers exchange suspicious glances, but it’s not clear whether they plotted the theft or whether this is just how they act all the time. Really could be either.
CLOSE UP OF FIRST SERGEANT’S FACE
The FIRST SERGEANT pauses, grimaces and shakes his head as if he’s choking on the words that come next.
Several seconds of silence follow. The specialists in the back continue exchanging suspicious glances, and now it’s certain that this is just the way they are. Or is it?
FACING THE COF
I’m serious, please return the LT’s truck. If this is a prank, it is no longer funny. Hell, it stopped being funny two days ago. Return it now, and it can be funny again! Please, guys. Please.
The soldiers shift back-and-forth uncomfortably. They sense something bigger might be at play here. The FIRST SERGEANT, visibly nervous, checks his watch — the biggest, chunkiest, most stereotypical rubber impact-resistant watch ever seen on Fort Liberty.
You don’t understand what’s going to happen if we don’t find this Humvee by 1800. Any soldier who is man enough to come forward now and admit stealing it — or to tell us who did it — will receive four-day special pass for next weekend as well.
Nobody moves or speaks up. A DISGRUNTLED SPECIALIST IN THE BACK groans audibly.
We are running out of time to solve this problem ourselves. I cannot save us from anything that happens next — unless one of you comes forward. Please, guys. It’s Friday of a long weekend. Today was supposed to be a DONSA. My wife has called me six times in the last 30 minutes.
The FIRST SERGEANT’s elaborately shock-resistant, waterproof watch beeps.
CLOSE UP OF CHUNKY WATCH
The watch reads 18:00, because of course the FIRST SERGEANT’s watch is set to 24-hour time. A vehicle engine sounds in the background as a lifted pickup truck approaches.
Please! Just give us the LT’s Humvee. If you come forward in the next 30 seconds, you’ll also get out of our next red cycle tasking.
FACING OUT FROM COF, STREET IN BACKGROUND
The doors of the lifted pick-up truck open, and five people get out. It’s not clear how they all fit inside. The BATTALION CSM, two CID AGENTS wearing marked civilian clothes, the COMPANY COMMANDER and the COMPANY XO (who looks like he hasn’t slept since Tuesday) emerge and walk toward the formation.
As the soldiers realize what is happening, they turn around to watch the group approach.
INTERCUT BTWN BATTALION CSM, FIRST SERGEANT, COMPANY COMMANDER and COMPANY XO
First Sergeant, any luck?
The FIRST SERGEANT shakes his head to signal no. The BATTALION CSM appears a little too excited about what’s going to happen next. The COMPANY COMMANDER sports a 1,000-yard stare. The COMPANY XO — wait, is the XO crying?
TRACKING SHOT follows the BATTALION CSM, who is flanked by the CID agents, as they walk to the front of the gaggle formation. (DW note: Not sure if the Imperial March is appropriate for this scene or not, remember to discuss with director.) Camera settles back in FACING THE COF once finished tracking.
How we doing, Nasty Company? You had your chance to do this the easy way. Here’s what is going to happen now.
The BATTALION CSM gestures toward the two CID AGENTS. He pulls out a stack of papers — rights waivers, required for witness and subject interviews. One of the agents appears to mouth the word “sorry” as he stares intently at his feet.
These two gentlemen are going to interview every single soldier in this goddamn company. Yes, you have a right not to speak to them. I don’t care. Every one of you will either sit with them in the COF or sign the sheet saying you refused to speak without a lawyer present. The good news is that Trial Defense Services is able to help those soldiers. The bad news for all of them is that TDS is out of the office until Tuesday, and you are under orders not to leave this company footprint until you and your lawyer complete an interview, hooah.
Absolutely nobody echoes the hooah. The COMPANY COMMANDER slinks into the COF. He probably was going to stay there all weekend sending emails anyways.
But don’t any of you think that doing a one-and-done interview will get you out of this either. Every day this weekend, from 0600 to 1900, the XO will be leading the entire company in a “Hands Across America” police line through the Mott Lake training area — including the water. You will either find this Humvee or drown trying.
QUICK CUT to the COMPANY XO, who is sitting on the ground behind the formation hugging his knees and rocking back and forth, shaking with each successive sob. The crying grows gradually louder even after the camera cuts back to the BATTALION CSM.
OK team, that’s all I have. I’ll be with you this weekend because I don’t like my family anyways. You have 30 minutes for chow; someone bring me a Popeye’s chicken sandwich from the Butner Road shopette. Stay Nasty!
Soldiers scatter and begin calling their families to relay the bad news.
Davis Winkie covers the Army for Military Times. He studied history at Vanderbilt and UNC-Chapel Hill, and served five years in the Army Guard. His investigations earned the Society of Professional Journalists' 2023 Sunshine Award and consecutive Military Reporters and Editors honors, among others. Davis was also a 2022 Livingston Awards finalist.