Colonel Bell's smile faded and he replied politely, “Of course, the Adjutant General has been expecting you.”
With that he had his NCOIC escort me to the 9th Infantry Division's Office of the Adjutant General and my fate was sealed. A short walk took me from the G-1's wabtok to a row of similar structures housing the offices of the Adjutant General.
A wabtok is a tent stretched atop a wooden floor set a couple of feet above the ground. A simple frame covered in screen provides a barrier to insects without impeding the flow of air. A screen door front and rear provide the only means of access, however, it wouldn't take much to burst through the screen in case of an emergency. Standard issue gun-metal grey desks lined both sides of a clear aisle through the center. Other wabtoks, separate ones, served as housing for enlisted men and officers. They served their purpose until the monsoon season began and we discovered that the canvas tents had rotted away in the heat and humidity.
I was introduced in quick succession to the Adjutant General, Lieutenant Colonel Traylor, his deputy, Major Reed, and the Chief Administrative Officer, Major Rome Smyth. Next stop was my first desk: Chief of the Casualty Reporting Branch. With an NCO and six clerks, I was responsible for the administrative processing of battle casualties for the division: Notification of the next of kin and initiating requests for replacements. We also had to prepare letters of condolence that would be sent to the next of kin on behalf of the division commanding general, Major General Julian J. Ewell at that time, the division chaplain, and the casualty's unit commander. Every letter had to be perfect. No erasures were permitted.
My office was next to the Adjutant General's, in the same wabtok. I guess that he liked to keep a close watch on new second lieutenants, especially those who had been trained as infantry officers inasmuch as he had problems with my predecessor.
I spent my first few hours there getting to know my men and their responsibilities and watching the workflow as the first casualty report was telephoned in from the field. It seemed surreal sitting at a desk, just like the one I had left at Social Security, surrounded by clerks, again like Social Security, in the middle of a war zone. I felt completely out of place. The survivor's guilt hadn't set in yet. It was lurking in the future.