Playing in the Yard

Filed under: — lana @ 3:57 pm

Sometimes, when a parent is getting annoyed that their children are pestering them for something to do or a little bit of attention, they give vague instructions. Usually, in decent weather and reasonable neighborhoods, those instructions are something along the lines of, “Go play in the yard.”

Mother Army is no exception to this. For roughly my first two years at my current unit I spent an inordinate amount of time pestering people in order to find something to do with myself. I usually asked questions that annoyed Mother Army, such as, “Um… so if you want me to do this, doesn’t that impact our supposed mission negatively?” and occasionally, “So you still want me to do it… which implies the question of what is our mission again?” or perhaps, “Isn’t this a little out of our scope and covered already by someone else?” along with frequent mutterings of, “This makes no sense at all, but okay…”

Last winter, Mother got annoyed and sent us out to play with vague instructions of where to go. We found some toys and offered to share and wandered out to do whatever it is we could do with such vague instructions. I questioned the logic (or apparent lack thereof) but was told to go anyway, so go I did.

Trouble is, it was not our yard. It was a neighbor’s, because we were not allowed to play in our own on account of another neighborhood kid already playing in our yard with no good reason for it. When this was pointed out, I was told to carry on and just work around it. I worked around it until it could not be worked around anymore, and then tried to mention it and was dutifully ignored. The trouble with the Army is that when someone tells you to get on a plane (or in a car) and go, you go. I went, and apparently was skipping rope on the neighbor’s sidewalk. I explained to them that Mother Army had sent me out to play and that no, I had no real reason for being there other than that, so would they mind if I stayed for a little bit until Mom would let me back in?

I ended up developing a pretty reasonable mutual respect with them in a short amount of time through sharing of toys and swapping of stories, and in the meantime knocked loudly on Mother Army’s door and mentioned that there was a slight problem outside because I am on someone else’s yard but it seems I couldn’t play in mine for some illogical reason that was not explained in adequate detail during the past nine months of me asking.

I knocked pretty loudly a few weeks back, ruffling some feathers in the meantime as I am wont to do when I get restless and things in the Army get more illogical than usual, and then this evening the door to my house reluctantly cracked open out of necessity to at least let me inside, if not let me play in my own yard. The reason I got back inside: I was told to pack up my toys and go by the neighbor, who finally kicked me off of their lawn. No real trouble on my part, since I had told the neighbor that I was only there because I was told to be and would leave just as soon as I could anyway if we could just convince someone to let me play in my own yard. The annoyance is that they kicked me out before we had worked out some of the logical steps within my own unit that would allow us to function as we should have been functioning for the past three and a half years. The same steps I have been asking about taking for the past three years. The same complaints I have had for nine months when I was kicked into the neighbor’s yard. The questions being asked now are only new to the people who had told me to be quiet before; I have been keeping a running list in my drawer, along with some of the solutions that no one has been interested in until this week. I just have to word those solutions now, no doubt, into a way that they can turn it into a nice evaluation report bullet for the highest ranking in the bunch. Chivalry is in fact dead, folks: it was murdered and taken over by politics long ago.

Nevertheless, until things get sorted it appears to be a rainy day as we are now not allowed in our own yard nor the neighbor’s. Good thing my warrant keeps a stock of toys up in the office or it could be a very dull month or so. Game of Scrabble, anyone?



Filed under: — lana @ 2:46 pm

The cat should have been my first clue.

I wake up in the morning and notice it is a little cooler than usual in the apartment, but think nothing of it because it is Germany in October and therefore already colder than normal humans should have to tolerate this time of year. It is also a little before 0400 and I have to leave to go to the range in half an hour, so I hop in the shower. Upon getting out of the shower, I notice that when I crack the door the cat does not try to bustle in and roll around on the bath rug, which is odd.

Just to clarify, the odd part is not the rolling around on the bath rug, because she does that every day. Well, it might be odd, but so is the cat. It was simply odd that she was not there.

I wander out of the bathroom to don my uniform and, upon turning on the main light, notice that the main door to the apartment is cracked to the width of one smallish cat-sized object. The downstairs door, leading outside, hasn’t properly closed in weeks and I can’t remember enough German whenever I see my landlord to get it fixed.

The cat had chosen today, the day I had to meet my Soldiers bright and early for a long day at the range an hour and a half away, to finally figure out the right way to jump up and open the door. She has been working on this awhile. Today, she finally won. This should have been my cue to just go back to bed.

I find the cat a bit later, her having returned of her own accord while I was out by the street looking for her. She undoubtedly didn’t get far anyway, being smart enough to realize that living things can’t survive long in this environment. I was wearing five layers by then. She had some fur. She was displeased, and appeared to blame it all on me. I opted to go to the range instead of appeasing her. I picked up my Soldiers and we headed out, possibly while she emplaced her hex upon my day.

At first, all went well. My Warrant was late, as usual, but we still made it out to the arms room on time to get our weapons. I usually tell everyone a half an hour early to allocate for the fact that he will be between 10 and 20 minutes late for most events, particularly since he maintains that he only gets up before 0600 once a quarter, and that he fulfilled his quota already for this quarter. I think he is right; I dragged him out for some other random tasking earlier in the month. Regardless, we get to the arms room, draw our weapons, and I find our acting first sergeant.

The warnings started right back in. One of the Soldiers on the ammunition detail, who had to pick up ammunition an hour and a half away in another direction and then return with it, had hit some traffic on her way. But she made it there, so we headed out to the range. By then it had warmed up to a balmy 28 degrees or so, which was nice. We set up the range and waited to hear about the ammunition.

And we heard about the ammunition. That, in fact, became the morning saga. As the Soldiers waited around with no heated areas to speak of and we pretty much did the same only where the Soldiers couldn’t hear us making fun of them, we all watched the ammo drama unfold before our eyes. First, the Soldiers drawing the ammo were asked a question about their date to leave Germany. One, who is supposed to leave soon, did not know how to respond and so did not respond until she called her sergeant. Her sergeant told her what any self-respecting non-commissioned officer would do when he needed that Soldier to draw ammunition three weeks before her departure date: he told her to tell them her date was in 2010. Obvious to us, but not so to them, so by the time they passed along the information at the ammunition supply point several other vehicles had gotten in front of them. So the wait began.

0800 passed. No phone call. 0900 passed, which was the time we were supposed to start firing. No phone call. At 1000 or so the phone call came in that they had actually just gotten in and the supply point seemed to be running slow and strangely. Then, at 1115 or so, they called again. They had gotten the ammunition in the form of two measly crates. They had loaded it and gone to inspection to leave the supply point and start the hour and a half drive back. They get to inspection and inspection tells them that there are 28 extra rounds in one of the crates, so they cannot go through and have to be turned around to sort it out.

28 extra rounds, nearly 5 hours after they were supposed to draw ammunition, so turn around. Short answer? No. We instructed them to just sign for the rounds and come back. Oh no, said the supply point managers, that is not possible. Those 28 rounds come from a different lot number, and lot numbers cannot be mixed. They must go and turn in the rounds. Okay, says the sergeant who was up drawing the ammunition, just take these extra rounds back then so we can go. Oh no, said the supply point managers, that is not possible. We are going to lunch. Try again at 1300.

Really. Of all of the inefficient things I have seen German civilians on military bases do, this might actually rank up in the top five. Dare I say, top three! But such was the case. Instead, we used that lunch time to find a way to store the ammunition down at our location, told the Soldiers at the supply point to just get the ammunition somehow and bring it back, and we would just try again tomorrow to actually fire any rounds.

I assigned myself the task of telling the medics who were there to fire with us. I head to the vehicle where they are sitting. I open the door and tell them that because of the late hour, we are going to delay the range or possibly call it off completely. One of the Soldiers, an E4 I believe, thought to ask the question why we were drawing ammunition from an hour and a half away when there is an ammunition supply point on the base where I currently stood talking to a car full of medics. I explained that the supply point at this base only supplies blank ammunition and no live ammunition.

She asked me, completely straight-faced, why we didn’t just go ahead and qualify with blanks then.

I had no idea how to respond to such a question. I did my best, her not being one of my Soldiers to allow me to fully explain to her just how moronic that statement was coming from anyone who has ever even thought about holding a weapon, much less a Soldier. I pointed out that I supposed we could qualify with blanks, as long as I had ample time to walk up to the targets and jab my pen into the targets in the spots where it looked like something would have hit had the rounds not been blanks. She still looked confused, so I pointed out that live rounds have an actual projectile in them and blanks do not. She still looked confused. I walked away. Imebciles: One. Me: Zero.

We ended up leaving approximately an hour later, giving up. We finally get back to the office and attempt to get a few things done just so we can waste the entire following day with confidence as well. We attempt to get some inventory done for the Commander and to get an upcoming exercise to support the post worked out.

The computer systems went down. My warrant proceeds to call the help desk and nearly flip out when the help desk explains that everyone who could actually help had already left for the day, and this help desk guy was just there to answer the phones and put in the help desk request tickets. I thought it was funny, my day having been what it was. My warrant, grumpy from the early wake-up, was not as amused. We finally give up, debate a few things about some office matters, realize there is nothing we can do anyway because the systems are down, and decide to go home. We head out to the parking lot.

The icing on the cake! My car is dead. We attempt to do a rolling start, which was only fun because my warrant officer, who rarely does any type of exercise, tried to push my rather heavy, steel vehicle across the parking lot so we could try and build up speed (on flat ground, which was even better) to pop the clutch. Needless to say, it did not work and instead we pushed it into a parking spot and gave up for the evening, working out my transportation plans instead until I could get a new battery.

I finally get home in time to realize that in approximately eight hours I have to be back over to pick up my Soldiers to start all over again.

I should have listened to the cat. She was only trying to warn me…



Filed under: — lana @ 11:29 am

The military is full of options. No matter what, you can always make some sort of choice with your life. Just take me for example. I finally got in touch with my branch manager and started asking him what the options were for someone of my rank and capabilities. I mentioned that I am considering a reenlistment because of the probability that I will be on the list for senior enlisted this winter, but want to check options before my retention representative’s head explodes with my random requests. So many places to choose from! So many different tasks and different things to try and different people to make angry. So he booted up his system and pulled up all of my fine and fantastic choices to further my military dreams.

I can reenlist for either South Korea or Georgia.

I mean, at least my branch manager could happily narrow down the long list of every military outpost in the world so I didn’t feel overwhelmed. I thanked him profusely for this favor. Then I asked him what else he had. Turns out that answer was simple, too!


Well, that isn’t really true. He has more options, so long as I am willing to request them by name and he can call the major command and see if he can squeeze me in. I am having him do that now, as a matter of fact, because the calls of Ktulu - I mean, the calls of the medboard office - grow louder in my ear as I contemplate spending a year of my life somewhere near the demilitarized zone on the border of North and South Korea or at the unit I will continue to avoid like the plague for the duration of my military career: a combination of my current unit and my Fort Bragg unit mashed into one enormous conglomoration of pain and stupidity. They forget that word gets out about places like this unit, and about places like just about all Korean assignments. They also apparently forget that I am not stupid.

At least he gave me a choice between two of the locations to which I would never agree to go, much less reenlist for. Also on that list of automatic “no thank yous” is Fort Bragg (been there, and I am happy to live my life without ever returning to Fayetteville again), Fort Hood (Fort Bragg on steroids), Fort Wainright (middle of nowhere Alaska), my current assignment (please, someone save me), Fort Huachuca (where I involuntarily spend a lot of time anyway, to include an impending six week course I have no desire to attend), Fort Polk (the mosquitos are bigger than me), and anywhere in Kansas (just because). Coincidentally, when I mentioned this list to him, he found it most amusing because all of those were on his list of places he could probably get for me with minimal hassle. I even asked him about one of those one-year tours to Afghanistan with a follow-on to station of choice. He said those had all been scooped up as well.

Does that strike anyone as odd? Temporary assignments to Afghanistan are full, but Korea and Fort Gordon are wide open. That should say something to someone, somewhere…

But hey, at least I have choices, right? No one ever said you have to like any of the options…


Flu Season

Filed under: — lana @ 6:42 pm

Every year all of us military folks, regardless of branch of service or rank, all hear the same thing:

Go get your flu shot.

The flu shot is free for us military folks, and everyone has to get it in order to prevent the spread of nasty disease. We already have to quell stupidity on a fairly regular basis, so the last thing we all need is additional swelling of the brain because someone caught the flu. Not that it actually stops anyone from getting sick and passing it around anyway, given our love for standing in the snow for long periods of time like I am about to do at the firing ranges next week, but it’s the thought that counts.

So I got the annual phone call early in the week and explained that I would get the Soldiers there, but that an entire Brigade was busy competing for the clinic’s attention due to impending rotations towards and away from all places that contain an awful lot of beach for no water. I was told to get it done or face getting jabbed with the flu mist up the nose during the range. I went to the clinic to see what I could do.

I ended up grabbing my Soldiers right after physical training on Thursday morning and handing them to a friend of mine who specializes in jamming flu mist up peoples’ noses. He crammed the little tube up their noses and a needle into my arm (Xenu doesn’t react well to the mist), collected our little papers saying that we had been de-bugged for the year, and sent us on our way. My Soldiers, aside from frowns and sighs, did not complain and succumbed to my glares and instructions. Fear can be a useful tool.

But my challenge was my warrant officer. He is usually lumped into the “Challenge” category, so this was no real surprise. When he showed up for work, I handed him his form to fill out and instructed him that he was to go down to the clinic that afternoon and get his flu shot.

Let the whining commence.

Warrant officers must get a class in dodging obligations. I used to notice a strong tendency towards mid-day napping when in Iraq, but this one is more discreet. He can find any way to get out of anything, usually involving a trip to the bank or some other non-work related commitment he forgot to mention any time other than when he needed to do something actually pertaining to his job or the Army. He is increasingly annoyed that I have long since caught on and have my ways around letting him dodge things that I know will eventually come back to annoy me, such as repeat calls from the command about why my warrant officer is the only one in the company showing up as not having received a flu shot this year.

He asked me who would know if he got it or didn’t get it. I told him the shot now goes into the main system and will come up as not having received it to both the clinic and to the company. He told me he would just fill out the paper and turn it in without getting the shot. I pointed to the little “lot number” section on the paper that the medic fills out. He told me he would tell them he lived in a bubble and couldn’t get the shot. I asked him if he would please go ahead and do that then so I didn’t have to listen to his whining any longer, or at least it would be muffled by the bubble. He called me a nasty name. I agreed with him and told him to get his shot and stop complaining.

Finally he agreed to go. I left to take my Soldiers to practice firing, since neither one could qualify at the last range, and reminded him to get his shot. I came back several hours later. His paper was still blank on his desk and he had several not-very-good excuses as to why he had not gotten his shot.

Technically, he outranks me. He even has more years in service than I do, as well as a larger paycheck and that “Officer” title. He also writes my annual evaluations, or at least edits the ones I write for myself before submitting them.

That did not prevent me from ambushing him when he came into work on Friday morning, escorting him over to the clinic, walking him to my friends at the Soldier Readiness area, and watching them administer flu mist straight up his nose. We stopped at the Commissary on the way back so he could buy a croissant to shove into his mouth, thereby at least momentarily pausing his tirade of how much he hates me.

Soon enough I got him distracted by discussing the difference between how a bat hears versus how a dolphin hears, and later explaining the concept of black holes as they pertain to theories of relativity after he sneezed and blamed me for everything that was wrong in his life. I find that he is similar to a child whining about bath time, who forgets all about it when you read them a story before bed.

Another day at the day care I call the United States Army. These big kids are really starting to try on my nerves.


Let the Games Begin

Filed under: — lana @ 11:58 am

Soon enough, my life in Germanistan will come to an end. This is inevitable, since I have neither the rank nor the desire to stay here forever, wallowing in the oddities that come out of combining German law with a Status of Forces Agreement that really should be updated more often. The end of such an existence means transferring to at least one more duty station in this Green World, and in order to avoid what I consider the inevitable horrid assignments such as Fort Bragg or Fort Gordon, I must once again posture before the Great Branch Managers and try to get something good, such as Fort Sam Houson, or at least something reasonable, such as Fort Lewis. Really, anywhere except the southeast. Nothing against the southeast, but… no, actually, I have a lot against at least every base in that region, so go ahead and take it personally, southeast. I don’t mind. But finding the branch manager is something of a challenge in the Army, probably because they know just how much no one wants to go certain places so by staying elusive they figure they can still staff them however they please. But I, for one, am going to fight that every step of the way, no matter who gets hurt.

That one getting hurt, given my stellar track record, will probably be me.

It brings to mind one day a few months ago, while stretching out for another fine and wonderful physical fitness session at our hangar-converted-to-gym, I happened to look in on the raquetball court. There I witnessed my life for the past six and a half years: analysts playing racquetball.

A few of the people I deal with around here are analysts by name, if not by trade. They are tragically ripped from their job and put in large security shops where they wallow in despair and check on the progress of someone’s security clearance for roughly nine hours a day. They then, as a general rule, go home and play computer games and drink soda while complaining online to analysts around the world about how their life has taken such a tragic turn and if they could only get themselves out to a large analytical element somewhere so they could really do their job.

To them I say, “Welcome to the Army. It should not have taken you this long to figure this whole thing out. I will be your glorified babysitter of the day. If you will just follow me to this dank,windowless room with nothing but a cot and a computer screen, I can show you your living quarters for the remainder of your contract.”

But I have sympathy for these poor, bespectacled friends of mine, so when we pass in the gym or out around the base we stop and converse. But needless to say, these folks are usually not what you would call the “sporty” type.

They did, during the course of this, allow my Soldier and I to come up with a new saying to replace the somewhat crude expression “Like watching monkeys doing inexplicable things to a football,” with the “inexplicable things” replaced with standard Army profanity (as per regulation, I think).

It is now “Like watching analysts play racquetball.”

One hits the ball. The ball hits the wall and shoots back and hits him in the face. The other one swings and misses on his serve. When he finally connects, it goes straight down, smashes off the floor, hits the ceiling, and catches him on the top of his head. The first one tries again and hits the side wall to have it somehow come back and catch him in the spine.

We could only watch for so long, having to get a workout in before my First Sergeant used his seventh sense to realize one of his Soldiers two hundred kilometers away was not getting proper cardiovascular instruction, but it was long enough: The saying was born.

The saying also serves to demonstrate my tenure in the Army. As mentioned, I am currently trying to get in touch with my branch manager, who is actually not my branch manager but a surprise temporary replacement since my actual branch manager seems to have disappeared within the six weeks I was galavanting between school and the field. She is obviously smarter than the rest of us, who have been trying to disappear now for years.

So I find this replacement’s number and give a call, allowing for the time change. Not only does he not pick up, but his voicemail is full. I don’t know how many calls it takes to fill up a government voice mailbox, but he reached the limit. So I sent him an email. No response. A week later try again, this time with a read receipt attached. No response. I contact someone who says he knows the guy. He says he thinks the guy is at some conference and good luck either way. Great. Somehow, I feel like I just got beaned in the spine by a rubber, spherical object.

But I have yet to give up. I have recruited others to my case, all of whom are now encountering the same difficulties. My warrant officer, who does very little after 1600 anyway, calls for me on the off-chance that his mystical warrant powers will actually come in handy (since the rest of us are still trying to figure out what exactly those powers are good for anyway). I call, my friend calls, another person interested in our job field is sending him emails… the effort is there.

But I point out that the analysts also made a very determined effort to make contact with the ball using anything other than their faces, and most times failed miserably. My theory goes that sooner or later, by chance, they eventually would hit the ball as they were supposed to and some semblance of a game would eventually appear through the chaos. That is therefore my theory here as well, that sooner or later, just by chance, I will catch him when someone he really doesn’t like is in his office so he answers the phone just to have an excuse not to talk to that person. I do that frequently, so I know it is possible. One of these days, my racquet will make contact and I can at least try to prevent myself from getting a crappy assignment. I would rather make contact and have the whole thing still come back and slam me in the ear than to watch my career bounce and roll miserably across the floor towards Fort Bragg because I was too uncoordinated to hit the thing.

But really, this analogy goes further. After all, such has been my life in the Army: wandering about, trying to accomplish great things but continually getting blindsided by whatever happens to be inbound. Usually, those things are just like the racquetballs: they are something I may have set in motion but wasn’t expecting to come back and blast me in the back of my skull a short time later.

Life in the Army is, therefore, really just one big racquetball game… and we are all really just mere analysts trying to make it through an hour-long physical fitness session with as few injuries as possible. By nature, we know that the injuries are coming; analysts are inherently uncoordinated, and we enlisted are inherently suckers when it comes to assignments or extra duties or changing something or just trying to get through a weekend without the Soldiers calling and saying, “Oops…”

So hey, I don’t know about you, but I’m getting a helmet.


Little Help?

Filed under: — lana @ 2:37 pm

The Army, as I have mentioned previously, has streamlined their travel order system. The old way was paper. You got orders from your unit to go somewhere and arrangements were made. You went. You got back from your trip, went to finance, filled out some paperwork, handed in some receipts, and waited awhile, occasionally reminding finance that you were in fact still in the Army and still waiting to be paid. But now it is all on the computer! Efficient! Streamlined! Handy-dandy-wonderful!

By streamlined, as usual, I mean somewhat broken.

It works sometimes. You get told you are going somewhere and are told to log into the system. You work your way through the maze of screens where you need to know exactly what to select to ensure you don’t get hoodwinked (again). You finally digitally sign something. It gets sent to people in some chain of command somewhere (sometimes yours, sometimes not) who may or may not look at it in a timely manner. Everyone on multiple particular (and seemingly arbitraily assigned) levels has to sign in exact order. Then, when everyone has signed, you can print out orders in 8-point font that no one can read and go book your travel arrangements. All the ladies in my travel office now wear glasses. Anyway, you go, you come back, you go back into the system. You find the original orders set, called an authorization, and pull up the voucher that is now magically attached to that authorization. You work through another screen maze and upload receipts and sign the voucher. It goes through another set of signatures, usually getting kicked back several times which can take days if not weeks. When (and if) it ever goes through, you get paid a few days after the final, usually about the sixth, signature.

Sometimes it works.

Many times, it does not.

Aside from the system being down regularly, either not working completely or just degraded (I particularly like the “system performance degraded” one: I like to think someone has properly insulted it and it is eating a pint of ice cream while it’s computer-friends tell it that all will be okay while they secretly think it shouldn’t be eating so much ice cream and it should get back to work already), many things can go wrong while waiting on that many signatures that many times. With the paper system, it just went to finance who said “You had the orders, this is the pot the money was supposed to come from, we know what to do so we just have to lose this a few times and then we will pay you.” Now, everyone and their cousin’s dog has to sign off on everything, and most of these people care even less about me and my credit score than anyone in my finance office.

This time I ran into a new conundrum. Back in August, I had signed orders (in 8-point font), so I got my tickets and skipped town as instructed. I got to Arizona. About two weeks into the course, I get a random system email from the travel system. It said my authorization had been returned. That was odd: they were signed and authorized already. So I open the email and it says that someone whose level had already signed off had returned my request because she wanted to see receipts and I had to resubmit as a voucher.

Tricky part 1: The system will not produce a voucher for submission if the authorization is returned, even if the authorization was previously, well, authorized. She returned the authorization after it was, well, authorized because she wanted the accompanying voucher. Catch-22.

Tricky part 2: She wanted me to submit receipts in order for her to authorize the orders (again) so the receipts could be paid via the now non-existent voucher. I had no receipts yet, because I had yet to finish travel. So she wanted the receipts ahead of time?

The folks in Arizona told me not to worry, that it would all be fixed when I returned. They clearly don’t know my unit well. So I graduated, returned, and headed to the field as instructed. Come to find out that one of the reasons I was pulled back from the field was because I had yet to submit my voucher for Arizona and had shown up on some spreadsheet somewhere because my voucher wasn’t submitted. This being the same voucher I could not actually submit because the authorization was returned because they wanted the receipts along with my voucher in order to authorize the travel which would then generate the voucher I needed to complete in order to clear their spreadsheet.

Or something like that. If I figure it out, I will be sure to let someone know. If someone else figures it out, we could use a little help over here…


Who is Watching Who Here?

Filed under: — lana @ 1:02 pm

My boss is a good guy. He is a warrant officer who reminds me exactly why I should be happy that I never went warrant, even if the Army G-3 had approved my profile waiver.

I actually like working and like being responsible. He, by and large, hates both.

Friday I had to take a physical training test. Because of my broken state, I just have to do a modified version. Since I keep in shape anyway by regularly stretching the rules of my doctors’ orders, this is not a big deal, but according to the Army I can only be tested in one particular fashion: walk 2.5 miles at a reasonably faster pace than one might peruse a shopping center. The pace is actually around a 14-minute mile or so, but I don’t like to shop much so I tend to get it done quickly anyway.

So I asked my warrant officer, who had to give me said test, where he had stashed my personnel file. Him being my supervisor and the one responsible for my ratings each year, he is supposed to maintain the file and update it with things like physical fitness and job performance. The theory goes that this way maybe one day I will not have to write my own annual assessment. Maybe one day…

I asked him where it was, intending to take the scorecard and send it to my company who was flipping out because I had not turned one in sometime between going to Arizona for 5 weeks and then tentatively going to the field for a week or so. I was getting tired of the messages reading, “Soooooo… we know we made you really busy and you aren’t even around right now to read this, but do you mind taking the test and sending us the scorecard sometime like yesterday?” He gave me the test and wrote down the score. I figured he had transferred it to the card in the file. There I go assuming again…

He asked me if he was supposed to have the file. Then he asked if I even had a file. I explained that yes, I did, and I knew that because I had to make one for myself last year when the company wanted to inspect the files. I told him I had given it to him because that was where it belonged so he could update it. He still seemed confused, so I had him search his desk. He eventually found it, I think under some throat lozenges, an empty pack of cigarettes, a few pens that no longer work, and coffee receipts. On the postive side, he did finally throw out most of the trash in the drawer. This allowed me to point out to him that the entire adventure was successful, and he seemed proud. While it might seem trite to mention that he asked for a cookie at that point, it was indeed the case. He is not allowed to keep cookies in his office because he eats them too quickly, so I have to ration them from my desk. He was permitted a cookie for finding the file and cleaning out the drawer. I used the opportunity, after having sent the scorecard, to also inform him about what his schedule looked like for the upcoming week and to inform him things we needed to discuss with counterparts and our higher headquarters elements, then explaining to him why the things were pertinent when I received blank looks.

I like him. He is rather fun and when he gets motivated doesn’t really care who yells at him for making phone calls I would get my life threatened for just eyeing the telephone and thinking of making. He has gotten me out of a few administrative jams and, when reminded and occasionally pestered, argued on the side of good now and then against the various forces of evil lurking within our unit. He has also read more of the boring regulations than I have gotten around to perusing, which makes him handy from time to time when I get a crazy idea that turns out to be just this side of legal.

But really, who is watching whom here? He gets the pay for his rank, as well as a title for the job I do for him, and shows up a few hours here and there to try and convince me to give him back his foam-dart firing gun. I am not so foolish as to give him back the darts as well, so he must have caught wise and wandered out on one of his many daily excursions to buy a replacement pack for the darts.

14-year olds take note: enjoy the perks of regular babysitting while you have it. Once you get older, it’s apparently just part of the job without the 10 dollar-an-hour pay or the cold pizza in the fridge. While you don’t have to change diapers (often… I let his wife figure out what to do with him when he drinks too much on social outings), you so have to clean up spilled coffee and let him go home to change his shirt and then cover for him when he is late after he picks up his cat from the vet and gets cat puke on himself an hour before a meeting with high-ranking people.

I figure after this job, I will still have no idea what a supervisor actually does, but I will be certainly qualified to operate a daycare center.



Filed under: — lana @ 12:53 pm

I am becoming an expert at expecting the unexpected. Where most people would think something so illogical it surely would be impossible, I have instead come to anticipate such things.

I hurried out to the field long before the crack of dawn on Tuesday. I hurried because the person whose spot I was filling had departed the night before to tidy up all of the things he needed to do before departing for a course he had just been told he would indeed attend. The officer who was supposed to be running things had to attend a video conference regarding, naturally, the field exercise she was supposed to be running instead of attending the video conference. When I asked why no one had at least used the video conferencing center I believe is still located just five minutes away from the exercise instead of the one an hour and a half away, all I received were dirty looks. Presumably one should not ask such things.

So I made it out there, read the one-page note left for me which told me to remind the field attendees not to sleep with each other in the general vicinity (outside of that vicinity, it can be assumed, is therefore fine), to talk to another unit about bathroom cleaning, and an apology for what he had left for me to work with.

The entire day he was calling asking questions about how to get himself out to the course because he couldn’t find the people who needed to sign his orders.

The next day, the day he was supposed to fly, he called in the late evening to ask if the commander had called to tell me to go home. I said no, and in fact had already put in the travel order, so not to worry about it because I had finally figured out what it was I was supposed to do for the next two weeks.

The following day, the first day of his course which he clearly was not at, he called again to ask again if the commander had called, because he had just been yelled at for not being in the field. For the past 48 hours he had received repeated assurances that his paperwork would work out and he would still be flying to Arizona at any moment, but this time there was no apology, just a lecture on how he was supposed to be in the field because he was in fact not in Arizona. The commander had still not called us, the ones in the field who would be affected by another swap.

Twenty minutes later, the commander called.

The officer got a talking to for not having switched us back earlier, which was entertaining because the entire time the other non-commissioned officer had been told he could still make it to Arizona so be ready to get on a plane. Also entertaining because at no time did anyone mention to the officer or to me about the fact that we were obviously in the wrong for my presence in the field, which is where I had last been instructed to be. I, of course, was to return to home station the moment everything finally fell into place with me being in the field.

I shrugged and, after waiting for the other non-commissioned officer to show back up and angrily take over whatever I had accomplished in 48 hours or so, packed up my field stuff to return. We then all went and got chinese for dinner and bemoaned the length of time remaining in the unit, exchanged the hotel key confusing the Germans who had witnessed the reverse exchange roughly three nights prior, and off I went to the amusement of the contractors who had never seen such oddities. Clearly they have never worked directly for our unit. We, on the other hand, just went about this as though it was business as usual, because that is exactly the description of such activities for us.

I have not been so foolish as to unpack, of course. Such pre-emptive action would only result in a phone call asking me why I am not back in the field, or perhaps at some range somewhere. I schedule out as far as one day and still say “tentative.” I did, however, reclaim my cat, but am leaving the carrier out just in case.

Predictably unpredictable. Seven months, seven days until I can at least move to another unit in this Grand Ol’ Army. And counting…

Powered by WordPress