It is a crucial duty all soldiers should be subjected to
On this Memorial Day 2011, we honor and thank all those who have served and died in the US Armed Forces. We thought it humbling enough that others willingly surrender their lives for the freedom we enjoy, but when you read about how KP duty further humbles our soldiers, you’ll think differently about the chore of cooking and cleaning up your own every night.
By V. Fonseca, eHow Contributor
KP duty is not one any grunt looks forward to. It is a tiresome, labor-intensive detail that requires slinging hash and scrubbing pots. KP duty is an acronym for “kitchen patrol” or “kitchen policing.” It is far from glorious and is deemed to be rather demeaning. No one wants to be the one serving, but in the grand scheme of military service, it is a crucial duty all soldiers should be subjected to. Indeed, the duty of every soldier is to serve, whether that means with a rifle in hand or a potato peeler. The bottom line is service.
The significance of KP duty is its designation as an undesirable duty. No one looks forward to KP duty; enlisted men can be assigned KP duty as a form of punishment. Army KP holds as undesirable a place in the military mindset as latrine duty (which is the cleaning and maintaining of the communal toilets and showers). It is a significant duty, however, as it helps humble soldiers, driving home the fact that there are no privileged members of a squad or platoon.
There two types of KP duty. The first, and most common, entails cleaning. Everything that can be cleaned in the kitchen and mess hall are fair game. Tables, utensils, the floors—everything must be cleaned. The second, and less common type of KP duty entails food preparation. Soldiers on KP food duty must clean, peel and, at times, cut various vegetables and foodstuffs. Peeling potatoes is a classic and clichéd example of KP food duty.
KP duty requires enlisted men to become familiar with cleaning instruments and agents. Armed with a mop and bucket, soldiers on KP duty become adept at cleaning thoroughly and quickly. KP duty must fall within normal time frames, meaning that a soldier on KP duty has the same amount of time to complete his duties as other soldiers have to finish eating. To that end, a soldier on KP duty must work quickly to finish her tasks and then eat.
The misconception is that KP duty is nothing but a punishment. To be sure, it is by no means a popular or sought-after duty. Nonetheless, KP duty does develop a set of skills and a mindset that does not typically get addressed in the course of basic training. These skills and mindset all revolve around the idea of humble service. Indeed, insubordinate grunts are assigned KP duty to teach them a lesson in humility. Serving the food, cleaning the tables, and washing the dishes are remarkable tools to tame any willful or inordinately proud service man.
The benefits KP duty imparts are hinged upon the idea of service. Service is essential. Service to those men in whose hands your life may depend is a tremendous bonding tool. Serving their food and cleaning their dishes impart a kind of caretaking that nurtures a greater sense of community and brotherhood. Though it is an undesirable duty, it is one that can truly bring a unit together. Knowing your fellow soldiers is cleaning up after them.