This is perhaps one of the best voicemail messages I’ve ever received.

barnes voicemail

(Transcript: “Hey, Fuck you, and fuck your stupid messages … and fuck your Happy Meal!)

Here’s the backstory on this. It’s 2011. I’m a brand new drill sergeant and was assigned to 2nd Battalion 58th Infantry Regiment at Fort Benning, Georgia.

As the newest drill sergeant, I was frequently assigned the most boring and mundane tasks when dealing with the trainees. If they were picking up trash around the battalion area, I was called to supervise. If the trainees were cleaning weapons after a long day at the range, I was your guy. It wasn’t personal … it’s a hierarchy of seniority, and I was on the bottom.

In this particular case, I was supervising about 60 trainees as they conducted training in an Engagement Skills Trainer (EST), which is basically an indoor virtual training range. These indoor ranges are run by civilians from Range Control, and they are in charge. One of their rules is: cell phones must be on silent. Not vibrate, but silent. The trainees don’t have their cell phones during the day, so that rule applied only to me.

When we first arrived at the EST, there were three drill sergeants: the senior drill sergeant (my boss), another drill who had arrived shortly before me, and then me. We arrived at the training site around 6 am, having marched the trainees a mile or so after morning PT and chow. Since the army civilians facilitated the training simulators, the drill sergeants wandered between the different buildings and provided corrective training for those who didn’t pass the virtual exercises.

Around noon, my boss (captured here in vibrant drill sergeant style), tells me that he’s leaving to go get lunch. Since I was new, he says, I was to remain behind and supervise the training. He informed me that he and the other drill sergeant were heading to McDonald’s to get food and politely asked if I wanted anything.

“Sure,” I say. “I’ll have a quarter pounder.”

“You want fries with that?”

“No thanks, Boss. I’m good with just the sandwich.”

“Got it,” he smirks. “So, you want a Happy Meal.”

“Um. No. A quarter pounder.”

“Right. That’s what I said. A Happy Meal.”

“Okay,” I concede, having identified this as an opportunity to mess with the new guy. “A Happy Meal it is.”

The two left on their trek to gather food. I turned and entered the nearest building that housed one of the simulators.

About an hour later, my Boss shows up and heaves a McDonald’s bag in my direction. I muster up some gratitude and offer my thanks as he storms off. The other drill sergeant and I stare at each other for a moment. Confusion must have been painted on my face, so he offers an explanation.

“You should have answered your phone. He tried calling you a while ago.”

“My phone? It’s been on silent all day. What did he need?

“Nothing important,” he admits. “He just wanted to know if you use sauce with your happy meal nuggets.”

“That’s it?” I was more confused than before.

“Well,” my battle buddy pipes up, “he’s more upset at your voicemail greeting than he was at your not answering the phone.”

Boom. Now it made sense.

I had changed my voicemail greeting at drill sergeant school to imitate my answering the phone while being unable to hear the caller. I laughed aloud as I imagined my boss standing in the middle of McDonald’s, yelling into his phone trying to make sure I could hear him.

At the end of my message, I exclaim, “Just kidding!! This is Robert. Leave a message.”

From the moment he realized that the newest drill sergeant had pranked him to the standard beep following a voicemail greeting, nothing but expletives were on his tongue.

Hence, the most glorious voicemail message I’ve ever received.

My fellow drill sergeants and I became very close friends during our time on the trail. We still remain in frequent contact to this day. I played the message for my former boss a few years ago when we visited him and his family. We had a really good laugh and he was shocked that I kept that message for that long. It’s not everyday that you get a hilarious and unscripted response like his, so it is a message I plan to keep.

In fact, I think the phrase, “Fuck your happy meal” should be chiseled onto my tombstone.