Dirty Bird- Military slang for one who does not possess an adequate standard of sanitation and/or grooming.
A soldier that does not shower or shave his face, wash his laundry or polish his boots might be labeled a 'Dirty Bird' by his superiors and fellow soldiers.
November 18, 1999
Infantry Training Battalion 2/54
Ft. Benning, GA
His name was Albert Dingus, but that wasn't his fault.
Senior Drill Sergeant Jackson stood at the door of his office with his arms folded over his chest, watching the Basic Trainees with his permanent scowl and cocked eyebrow. The young soldiers avoided his gaze whenever possible and kept their eyes on what they were doing, which was reading the mail they had just received. Those that hadn't gotten anything were reading their buddy's letters over their shoulders.
It was a hot afternoon and they had been allowed to open the tiny windows between each wall-locker to let in a breeze, in case one happened to come by. One hadn't come by yet and dressed in their BDU's with sleeves rolled down, the trainees were panting and wiping sweat from their foreheads. As uncomfortable as they were, reading new mail from home seem to make the training, the Army, and Georgia melt away for a few precious minutes. In that short space of time, they were home, with wives or girlfriends, content and blissful.
"What the fuck?" Just a murmur that nobody seemed to hear, and if they did they pretended they didn't.
Albert Dingus was kneeling on Joseph Cranford's bunk, looking at a picture of Cranford's sister and reading the letter that it had come with. He was grinning and telling Cranford that he would have to introduce them at the graduation ceremony and that he would give him six dollars if he could borrow the photo for a few minutes in the latrine.
"WHAT THE FUCK?" This time it wasn't a whisper, it was the voice of Lord God Almighty, and every head in the bay turned to look at the Drill Sergeant who was now storming down the aisle of metal-framed beds toward Cranford and Dingus. He stopped half way between the office and the two privates, fuming, teeth clenched, eyes ablaze with fury.
"Toe the line!" he shouted, turning back around and walking to the little desk that served as the Fire Guard duty station after lights out. The trainees dropped their correspondence and jumped to their feet to rush to the foot of their bunks and stand at the position of attention. Tension, as thick and unpleasant as the stench of rotting meat gripped the throats of the trainees and twisted their guts like cholera. The cool, comforting fantasy worlds of a few moments before were torn to shreds as they were slapped back into reality.
"Private Dingus, stand fast, everybody else..." Drill Sergeant Jackson turned to face the company with a cursory index finger pointed at the floor, "do fuckin' push-ups!"
A community sigh of relief could be heard as the soldiers dropped to the front lean and rest and started pounding out push-ups in cadence while Dingus stood, shaking, knowing full well that the Wrath of Hell had just been invoked and he was its primary target. He stared straight ahead and wished beyond wishing that he could disappear, that he had never joined the army, that he was never even born.
"Private Dingus," Jackson growled as he walked back towards the center of the rectangular bay, an orange and white disposable razor in his hand. "Come over here, Dingus," the first syllable of the name spat out with a comedic twang.
Dingus sprinted over to the Sergeant and stood at parade rest with his feet shoulder width apart and hands behind his back. He kept his eyes blank, leveled off at the Drill Sergeant's chin, looking at nothing, hoping only that he would die quickly and painlessly.
"Did you shave this morning after PT, Private Dingus?" Jackson asked, the contempt in his voice enough to rattle teeth loose and send epilepdics into seizures.
He knew that any answer that slipped from his lips was going to mean an eternity of pain and suffering, he bit the tip of his tongue in an attempt to prolong his life a few extra seconds. The soldiers doing push-ups were straining their necks to see what was happening, each of them hoping to witness the execution of Private Dingus first hand, but feeling sorry for the poor bastard in spite of their curiosity.
His bladder felt as though it were full of molten lead, heavy and painful, he was terribly afraid he was going to piss himself infront of everyone. His heartbeat thundered in his ears on the verge of tachacardia and Dingus swallowed hard as his mind raced to capture the words that would form his answer and condemn his soul.
"No, Drill Sergeant."
The words barely a wisp of air over vocal cords that were frozen in terror and threatened to shatter from the vibration of his shaking knees.
As the other soldiers continued to push until their biceps turned to jelly and pools of sweat formed on the beige tiles under them, Private Albert Dingus was ordered to execute Iron Mikes (deep knee lunges) across the bay, up a flight of stairs, through the bay of another platoon, across a breezeway, through the bay of another platoon, down a flight of stairs, through the bay of yet another platoon, and then stand on a chair that the Drill Sergeant had pulled out of his office, and swipe the razor over his stubbled cheek, once, without benefit of shaving cream or water. Dingus repeated this painful process, quadriceps quivering and burning with the fires of hell, until he was clean shaven.
After that day, Dingus was the first person to shave, sometimes waking up an hour early to get to the latrine before everyone else.
As a sidenote, the punishment that was administered to Private Albert Dingus may seem brutal, cruel and unusual, but the lesson that he, and everyone else in his platoon learned was vital to military and also everyday civilian life:
Not paying attention to little things will get you fucked up, and being lazy will inevitably hurt you in the end.