Military operations in the arctic present their own unique challenges. Maintaining hydration
is one of them. This is indeed an Army buddy from back in the day but is neither SSG Munoz
or SPC Smith. I doubt they want their faces associated with this tale.


It is frequently easier to get dehydrated in the arctic than it is in the desert. I’ve spent a lot of time in both, and each has its own unique miseries. Drinking water is invariably cold in the frozen wastes. It takes a bit of personal discipline to force yourself to drink ice water when it is forty below zero out.

In this case our NBC (Nuclear Biological and Chemical) team had used the Humvee assigned to my ops section to do their NBC survey of our proposed area of operations in Alaska. They had been in the vehicle several hours during the convoy to the field site. These four swine deployed in our truck, did their mission and then headed off to wreak mayhem elsewhere, dropping off the vehicle as they departed. In the process they failed to clean their dunnage out of our Humvee. That meant several paper sacks filled with empty candy wrappers, discarded Gatorade bottles, MRE scraps and the like. As I said, swine.

My Ops NCO, SSG Munoz, was now using this same truck to lay commo wire along with his assistant, SPC Smith. This thankless backbreaking toil can frequently take hours dependent upon the distance to higher headquarters and intervening inhospitable terrain. These two guys had been out working long enough to drink up all of their water. They were thirsty.

Munoz called a brief halt so they could catch their breath. Desperate for something to drink, SPC Smith began poking around the detritus left over from the NBC team. Amidst the discarded packaging and empty bottles he found one that had apparently gone overlooked.

This bottle of Snapple was indeed fresh and unopened. Amidst the arid snowscape this was ambrosia, a gift from the gods. As SPC Smith gleefully announced his find, SSG Munoz snatched it out of his hand with a terse, “Rank has its privileges. Gimme that.”

SSG Munoz’ assistant was disappointed, but the guy had a point. It was his call to make.

Munoz opened the lid and it gave a satisfying “pop” as the seal was broken. Without hesitation he upended the bottle and took a long deep draught. According to the story as related to me by SPC Smith later that evening, SSG Munoz then got an odd look on his face. He handed the bottle back to his buddy with a curious, “What do you think of this?”

Smith studied the bottle intently for a moment. The liquid was indeed golden like Snapple, but it had an odd aroma. The surface of the elixir also sported a little characteristic foam. That’s when the light came on.

“That’s not Snapple!” he exclaimed. “That’s pee!”



It seems the NBC team, cooped up as they were in the back of the cold truck for the long deployment, had actually recycled the Snapple bottle. After they drank everything up they had used this receptacle as an ad hoc urinal. As the warm liquid cooled it had resealed the container. SSG Munoz had just taken a mighty gulp of chilled NBC guy urine.

SSG Munoz was, to say the least, unsettled by this revelation. Smith related later that Munoz shoved a finger down his throat and retched mightily. Desperate for something with which to cleanse his palate, you recall a lack of drinking water is what got them into this predicament in the first place, he broke open an MRE and started chewing dry cocoa beverage powder. This desiccated stuff indeed took the edge off, but it didn’t do much to slake the poor guy’s underlying thirst.

Dazed by the whole sordid ordeal, SSG Munoz ultimately pulled himself together and, with Smith giggling in the background, eventually successfully completed the mission. They made their way back to the company area and Munoz got some proper hydration. On the way back, SSG Munoz swore Smith to secrecy over the episode on pain of death. Smith kept Munoz’ secret right up until they got to the company TOC (Tactical Operations Center). Then he told anybody who would listen.

There are several lessons to be learned here. A good leader gives his guys the first fruits of everything. A proper commander is last in line to the chow hall and first to do the hard things. Everything good is because of your guys. Everything bad is because of you. Apply those sacred dicta religiously and you’ll likely never inadvertently drink NBC guy pee.

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