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…