What Exactly Would You Say You Do Here?

Filed under: — lana @ 8:03 am

Warrant Officers are something of an anomoly in the Army. They are former Non-Commissioned Officers (except for some pilots, but those are an entirely different breed) who have given up their stripes but are not quite Commissioned Officers. They are the supposed “technical experts,” there to give guidance and support and lead the way but not in a command position or in an NCO position.

They seem to be, in my experience, very good at sneaking off for a nap.

In Iraq, around 1500 was officially designated Warrant Officer Naptime. Rarely could you find several of the warrants that floated around the base at that hour. Most of them realized that without troops to lead or missions to go on with their Soldiers, they really had little else to do but nap around that time until it was required to brief someone about something or another. They are, by and large, extremely good at Power Point presentations.

Around here, it is more “I have to go to the bank” which is right across the street but seems to take an awfully long time to get to, especially because the bank doesn’t serve coffee but he always wanders back in with a cup. And I spent a good two hours today hunting through every piece of paper in my office looking for something I had left out before I departed on my most recent excursion. I found it filed, neatly, on my Warrant Officer’s desk. By filed neatly I mean in a small bin sandwiched between a telephone directory and some obscure-and-unrelated-to-anything paperwork from 2004.

Now don’t get me wrong, he is a good guy. He knows his stuff when it comes to the job and the regulations and how to work the system to get things done. He does all of those things very well, too, and has been a huge asset to have around particularly so I can deal with the piddly things like making sure all of the Soldiers aren’t doing anything overly dumb. I wouldn’t talk poorly about an officer, anyway, since that would carry some rather nasty weight and if I’m going to get medically retired someday I would like to do it at least at my current rank. He is, quite thankfully, not one of those officers that muddles around in NCO business, though will sometimes give his input from his memories of NCO days. And he does, after all, at least keep his cell phone on when “in line at the bank,” and will bring me back a coffee if asked. A good guy, a smart guy, funny, and a friend of mine, just one who grew tired of the nagging feeling of responsibility that comes with being an NCO.

I just get confused sometimes about what exactly I am supposed to do with him, and with the other Warrants I have come across. My First Sergeant today mentioned that he is not responsible for their kind, but at the same time I sometimes feel as though he is like a new puppy and I am supposed to at least make sure he doesn’t stain the carpet. His project when he gets back is to learn the train system, since I asked him why he didn’t take the 40 minute train ride to the airport for leave and the fear was palpable in his voice. I started to give him instructions, then ended up driving him anyway. He’s no fool… that would be yours truely for falling for it. Again.

To tell the truth, I don’t really care what he does, since it’s been a mystery for years and will probably always remain so as long as their ranks are in the Army. So long as he at least stays away from filing anything else for me, we can live in peace. I may even take him to the airport again, but only if he buys me a cappuccino.


Catching Up to the Beginning of the Circle

Filed under: — lana @ 10:25 am

It isn’t really laziness that kept me from completing an entry. That, in fact, was only part of the problem. Perhaps some of the problem. Okay, probably most of the problem. But really, things have been hopping in these here parts. Wherever I am, it seems things tend to happen.

First, I graduated my course. Not much interesting happened before then, so I can begin there. The lone Army graduate in a sea of Navy and civilians, I had to patiently excuse some of the more interesting tidbits to my classmates as I fielded questions such as “Why are there 100 bugle calls around here?” and “Why do you wear French hats?” and “Can you people please talk in a complete sentence without one acronym?”

Most of my answers were probably a little smart-alecky for them. There were a few SEALS in the course, however, to make life interesting. The filter on my mouth, while having a few holes and in need of replacement, is in mint condition compared to them. They haven’t a filter at all, I believe. Someone must remove it surgically in their training.

Off-color and radically impolite conversations nonwithstanding, we had a lovely time and I even got to see my husband for graduation. He flew out to be cranky in person, which was a treat from him just being cranky over the phone. Being out of the Army appears to be only somewhat agreeing with him. He’s in that transition period now, so I liken his mood to that time right after you eat too much Mexican food… it seemed like a good idea at the time, but now you are figuring out if it is too late to purge. Anyway, with that colorful thought, this should add a little flavor to life.

Speaking of flavor, I have that taste in the back of my throat again that says I might be getting hosed around a little again. Upon my return, I wandered back to the Company where I was told that if I was possibly getting medically booted, no more classes. Problem is, no one, particularly not someone qualified such as a doctor, has any idea yet what to do with me. They want to do radiation. But probably not until sometime next year. They want me to not deploy, but they can’t do the process for that (or to kick me out) until everyone has finished treating whatever malady they found this week.

Speaking of which, for a brief interjection, today I went to the doctor to quell the incessant nagging of my husband that the cracking sounds in one shoulder and the apparent dislocation of the other shoulder is not natural, and after three years I should probably give them another look. Physical therapy, which I completed about a year ago for the left one, didn’t help at all, but he insisted so I went.

The left shoulder is a suspected rotator cuff injury. No telling when, why, or how, only that they were fine before I started wearing body armor and cruising around in tin boxes waiting for ordinance teams to blow up dead animals on the side of the road before the dead animals blew up first. The MRI is pending. The right shoulder? Diagnosed as officially “Disgusting,” though that didn’t sound very clinical to me. But I know it is accurate because I almost made my Soldier vomit during physical training this week by showing him why I was having them to dead-lift push-ups while I just did regular push-ups. The doctor has no idea what I’ve done to myself (this time), so good thing I have some trips to Landstuhl already planned out next month. Hate to drive three to four hours just for one appointment at a time, after all.

Interruption aside, back to the story. So the Army can’t kick me out until all of my maladies are treated. Since I am either a doctor’s dream or a doctor’s nightmare, depending on if he is still looking to get published, that will take awhile. Until then, I appear to be fully within capability of going to classes and generally carrying on as I tend to do. The trouble appears to be in the eventuality. Despite the fact that everyone gets out of the Army someday, there is an air of general wariness around my situation, as though they are expecting to sign me up for a class and then the next day get a phone call from me snickering, calling them suckers, and telling them I’m getting out within the week. Since this is impossible, with the medical process probably not even beginning for another six months to two years (depends on radiation) and the general consideration that anything medical in the Army runs slower than cold molasses uphill, I finally figured out that this eventuality of me getting chaptered is, while eventually likely, far enough in the future that I may even have to reenlist just to have enough time to get kicked out. Every doctor is in agreement that I probably shouldn’t be wandering around in the Army anymore, but they also agree that I need to be treated first for whatever they figure they can try to treat. Out comes the laundry list. I expect to medically retire sometime in the year 2046, though with my disgusting injuries that might be a bit optimistic. Now all I have to do is get the command to understand that really, I have enough medical problems to keep the entire Army fleet of doctors well occupied, so they should have plenty of time to send me to a measly course. Plus, it would get me to stop whining long enough for me to figure out something else I want.

So nothing, really, has changed recently. I am now officially trained in the tactics I was using to get my husband to do my bidding, I have another mystery injury that makes people queasy, and I have a sinking suspicion I’m being had by the Army again for some reason. Same old same old, I suppose. Nothing like the comfort zone of the Army.



Filed under: — lana @ 8:45 pm

Back in my ol’ college days one of my housemates and I occasionally watched various cartoons when we felt like avoiding the tedium of higher learning. I have long since forgotten most of what we watched, but one always stuck with me. It was one of those shorts where it is almost as though it is a commercial but is still part of the cartoon. This one was for something like a cereal or something, but the premise was that there was an “Evil Mathemagician” who was forcing kids to do math homework. Somehow the cereal or the juice box or whatever the false product was made the kids conquer the mathemagician.

That was a long introduction with little real purpose except that I now believe that there may well be an evil mathemagician out there, and he is somehow within my computer travel pay system. And he is absolutely terrible at math.

I have been mentioning for quite some time now to my higher command that my government card claims I owe about 1600 dollars from my adventure over the summer. I waited on payment, having submitted my receipts on time like a good little Soldier. The dates for payment all appeared to be right, so I didn’t think much of it, figuring that there must surely be a purpose to submitting receipts such as someone looking at them and adding them up. Plus the itemized bill, according to the card company, is sent to some office in the bowels of some obscure part of my unit, so someone must be tracking that I have thus far not used government funds to, say, purchase a Rolls Royce. They might have at least noticed the extension on credit that might entail.

And so I waited for payment. And continued to wait. And continued to get bills from the government card. And occasionally asked about the payment. And got another bill or two. Finally, they sent me a payment of 0.00 US dollars and called it a day. I did the math, and zero still did not equal 1600 dollars, so I posed the question. My first sergeant tried to help me. A major who is somehow connected to this computerized mess tried to help me. The computer, however, did not try to help me and in fact today informed me that I owe the government 150 dollars. I humbly submit that -150 is certainly not 1600.

So I did the math myself. Oddly, I found that it was indeed simple addition, a tiny bit of subtraction, and nary a bit of long division. Calculus was not even mentioned, nor linear algebra or differential equations or anything that I would have to dredge up from the annals of my cartoon-plagued engineering memory.

I came up significantly short. I sent my math to my first sergeant. He came up significantly short, compared it to the system entries, and figured out where most of the 1600 dollars went. Unfortunately, neither of us work in a position where we can slap the computer around until it can do the math. All of the humans involved have been most helpful. The evil mathemagician inside the master computer box, however, has not. Apparently, submitting receipts is really just a redundancy in the system, because no one appears to ever get around to looking at them. Come to find out that is actually my job when I submit them, making it all somewhat redundant. Woe be the person who fails to submit, however. That part I have yet to figure out… for another day and time, perhaps.

So we are at a bit of a standstill, since only humans have been able to mathemagicize this and come up with a suitable answer while the computer hums along to its own tune. When I get back to Germany it appears I have to resubmit and start all over again in an attempt to give a machine lessons in basic addition. Hopefully it has electronic fingers to count on, or it could be a long lesson. The errors were largely mine, of course, since I was a fool to not put in precise counts, do the currency conversions and make sure they were properly logged, and so on, but you would think that we built computers for some purpose, so surely they would be able to do something on their own, particularly when I am forced to submit receipts for every dime spent.

I would like to thank the humans involved. Except for myself, since I am the idiot who put my faith in technology. On the plus side, at least I could put some of my math background to use for a bit. That is not, however, a request for them to start throwing calculus into the system just to keep my brain working. Now I know, and knowing is half the battle: computers are only as good as their input, so input about 10 times to make sure it’s right.

You may have achieved small gains in this battle of wills, evil mathemagician, but you shall not prevail. Government backing or not…

Powered by WordPress