Exercise in Patience

Filed under: — lana @ 4:07 pm

I am starting to wonder if my unit is doing this to me on purpose. Trouble is, I am not sure what “this” is, because it is all-encompassing and thus harder to define.

Let’s see. Just today:

I discovered that my payment for travel from which I returned over two months ago has been sitting at the same office for the past 12 (soon to be 13) days. My Commander called them last week to get them to sign it and move it along, since it needs just their signature and one more to pay me, but apparently he doesn’t hold enough sway. The Sergeant Major is apparently trying now. It is a curious phenomenon, as these people are civilians and can therefore be replaced. I assume it is indicative of how word is spreading to others about this unit, even culling the Europe-dwelling civilian herd to the lame and dull so if we were to fire these (which have their competent days, just not in the past few months) we would struggle to find replacements. I am pretty convinced that my lack of payment has something to do with someone saying “Uh oh” sometime within the past year which now indicates lack of funding. I wonder how they will explain that to the bank, because I don’t want to get involved anymore.

Then I received an email from the head of the health clinic who spoke to the main personnel division for Europe’s medical command. He was asking about my Purple Heart and CAB. He was told “This is Personnel 101.” I still requested that he get it spelled out, because it will be needed. Today he confirmed my worst fears: everything has to go back through my current unit. Again. Let’s see if they can get it right THIS time. Doubtful. I will have the backup packet ready for my next unit. One would think it would be easy. Look at evidence. Determine if evidence supports criteria as defined in published regulations. Evidence does. Sign paper and move it forward. Repeat until a General looks at it. General signs and sends to Human Resources. Human Resources grants badges because oh, right, those particular things are already defined in regulations and you either meet the criteria or you don’t. I happen to, so easy, right? Apparently this has puzzled entities higher paid than I for four years running. And so the games shall continue on Wednesday.

So kick forward to later in the day, because everything in the middle was also mundane to include trying to puzzle through a conversation where someone admitted to having an imaginary pet hermit crab when she was eight. No, really, and when I asked her if she had a real terrarium to hold the pretend hermit crab in she answered that no, that was where her real pet lizard was kept and looked at me as if I were stupid. My brain bled a little in its attempt to escape the pain.

My resident fool, for whom I have had to follow up on his little cardiac problem since he seems to think 39 is ancient and therefore he should be absolved of all decisions regarding his health and well-being and accept “You’re getting older” as an excuse for nearly passing out doing pull-ups, went to the doctor after my repeated pestering (of the doctors and of him). Turns out my pestering of the doctors got a referral into the system for him a week ago but he didn’t know because he didn’t ask, walked into the doctor today and was turned right around with a comment of “Your referral has been in for a week. You could have just called and asked.” The doctor doesn’t like him much, either. The doctor is 79 and has little patience for the under-40 age group trying to say they are too old to run. I like that doctor.

Then, maybe a half an hour before closing time on my warrant’s schedule and the Commander calls to ask if my Soldier has a government travel card because he needed to send her on temporary duty halfway across the country for two weeks starting, oh, let’s just say in the next 18 hours. Time frame nonwithstanding in this unit, even this was a little irritating, but needed to be dealt with because the Commander was just as annoyed. Now, things like government cards are usually standard applications upon inprocessing, but I wasn’t around when she inprocessed and have been finding that a remarkable number of things that should have been done for her were somehow overlooked. The person leading her around during inprocessing, the “Old Man” as it were, emits maybe one nanowatt of brain power per year on average, and that is only if I am really making him try extra hard by asking him simple questions to lead him to a correct answer, so I had my doubts. I called. Nope, she didn’t have one and thought the magical government card fairies would take care of it because she didn’t really bother to mention it either. My fault, I should have asked instead of assuming things would have been done correctly in the first place. I talked to her about using a personal card for meals and getting reimbursed (a pipe dream, but maybe someday…), and she said she had one. I told her the hotel fees would be taken care of and arrangements were already being made through other resources. She agreed and I got a long-winded story I didn’t care to listen to about exactly how much is on her card.

Should have asked more questions, because I foolishly assumed that at least said personal card would be one readily accepted in, say, German dining establishments. She called me later to mention that she has an American Express card. Foolish me. Germans don’t take American Express, along with most of the world. She doesn’t know where another card is, though she thinks she has one in the house somewhere. I stopped her because I didn’t want to have another aneurism today.

I mentioned that at least today was payday, so can she figure out how to get enough money to sustain for a bit and then we can advance pay her in the system to cover the rest? Well, she could, but oh wait the money goes to an account her husband can access and not her. She has to wait for him (and he is currently deployed) to put money in her account. She has little liquid assets until he can get to it. They haven’t gotten around to fixing that stuff yet.

Great. So I would have to talk to someone about rushing her advance payments, then. Okay. I then mentioned that we have to make sure her accounts are all correct in the pay system and we would talk to the movement people in the morning. I then double-checked, starting to learn my lesson now, that she even registered in the pay system.

Of course not. And of course she never thought it important enough to talk to me about, only her husband who is in a completely different Major Command. Her (giggly, because she seems to find it immensely funny when she screws up) response was “Well, he looked to see if he could sign me up,” here I pause, because you sign in yourself because it is unit-driven payments, “and he couldn’t because he’s not actually responsible for me! Teeheheehehehehehehe!” I responded, in the most patient tone possible, that perhaps then she might have thought to bring it up to the people who ARE responsible for her? As in, perhaps, me? “Oh. Well, I didn’t really think of it. I just thought something was screwed up and it would fix itself eventually! Guess I could have asked… Oops! Teeheehee!”

Instead of seeing if I could reach my hand through the phone to choke her, I reminded her that her husband has no bearing on her success in the Army and that there are also no magical finance or any other fairies in the Army to fix her issues. She giggled again, so I calmed myself by pretending to have a pet hermit crab and imagining how happy it is at having found a new home in her vacant skull. It’s very theraputic.

So tomorrow, I, having too much real work to do in order to do this myself, have to trust fool number one to take fool number two back out to the company where fool number two can fill out the paperwork and get herself into the pay system and apply for a government card, and then be whisked away from me for a glorious two weeks. Meanwhile, fool number one has to pick up some equipment, load it into the government car, take the car to another post, switch it out for a new car, remember to move the equipment and anything else we own to the new car, get all the proper paperwork, and then drive back to us without getting horribly lost even with a navigation system. Last time, he ended up an hour north of us and I had to guide him back because he had the Soldier I liked in the car with him. This time he might not be so lucky, since my warrant is signing for all of the equipment anyway and I am not so sure I want any of these people back, so I don’t really have any alliegance to seeing any of it again.

My patience wears thin. I have little hope of seeing my awards before the turn of the next century, so instead I called my Branch Manager to again plead with him to send me to a course to which I should have already attended, what with promotion boards coming up and all. His mailbox, just like last week, is full.

Xenu might want to get out of my head while he can; my frontal lobe is stockpiling explosives, trying to make good once and for all my brain’s escape in a last ditch effort to save itself. I might just let it go this time in the heroic move that should it be able to get free at least one of us can survive to warn others.


New Job

Filed under: — lana @ 1:49 pm

It came to my attention today that I could quite easily do the job of several others with little to no training.

It did not, as it turns out, come as much of a surprise.

Today I decided to follow through on some advice from a few medical officers and actually put together the paperwork for my Purple Heart and for my elusive Combat Action Badge. The latter has been something of a thorn in the side of those above me for quite some time now, possibly because it seems like a lot of work to, I don’t know, read the regulations for a retroactive submission. This is, however, the first time I have tried to submit for the former, so I figured it could make for an entertaining use of my morning.

I started out by doing something that it appears few people in several of my units have thought to do: I read the regulations and messages governing the submissions. Cue: gasp of shock and awe!

Indeed, folks, it does appear that just like everything else in the Army there is in fact a way to do these things. They are governed by several regulations, several military personnel messages, and even a few headquarters letters. The Internet, as it were, held the answers. In roughly five minutes I had more information than I have been able to procure from several at higher headquarters, and within ten minutes figured out that roughly half of what I had been told regarding the Combat Action Badge was incorrect.

Now, I am sure it is not the fault of those in, say, my personnel shop. Who asked them to read a regulation when it is their only duty to have things sit around for five weeks before passing them on for a signature from someone of whom they are quite possibly terrified? My Sergeant Major usually seems like a pretty nice guy to me, but I am sure he scares the person who has been sitting on one of my requests for the past two months. He must, right? Otherwise, why wouldn’t they process it… right?

I am misleading myself. It makes me feel better.

Anyway, so I pulled out the regulations and the messages and printed off the relevant passages. I was careful to underline or otherwise note the important sections, just as I did within my medical records in case they didn’t feel like reading the whole, long paragraph to get to the important bit where it says that things that went boom in 2005 made me screwy.

Then came the problem of the actual paperwork for other people to sign. Not wanting to make them look like the escapees from the zoo chimp house, despite my suspicions, I decided to ask for a template for the Purple Heart. I already have four templates for the Combat Action Badge, one for each time it was previously submitted (one, it seems, is still missing, since it was submitted five times in total, each time turned around for some oddity or missing piece of paperwork or, my favorite, because no one read the regulation to figure out how to process it the fifth time so they assumed they couldn’t and turned it around instead). While waiting for my personnel shop to get back with my training room and provide a template, I figured I had time to go ahead and figure it out on my own. This was confirmed when my training room contacted me to let me know that the personnel shop had no idea but were going to look into it. I have heard that before. I had several hours at least.

I generated a form that looked reasonable within ten minutes. I found the correct addressee for the decision-maker right in the award regulation. I used a similar request as a template and generated one for a Purple Heart, adding in the documentation requested in the regulation.

Basically, I made it all up using the limited resources of the Army regulations that sort of govern this whole process.

I submitted it to my training room and asked her to have the personnel shop look it over and let me know what needed to change. She emailed me back and asked me to submit the supporting documentation, because apparently it was good enough for government work and they were going to at least figure out if it was correct. They had no template; they were going to use mine instead. They went to school for this, you know.

I then did the same thing with a Combat Action Badge request, which is going to be processed through the medical system since my unit freaks out every time they look at the thing. Then I generated a new copy of a medical document that my doctor wanted to sign but didn’t have time to generate. I asked my warrant officer if there was anything he needed, because I was clearly on a roll.

Tomorrow is signature day when I go to the clinic and run everything by them and get their signatures on their required paperwork for all of these documents I generated, so only time will tell. According to regulation, everything I did is correct, though a few addresses or wording might be a touch off. I have full faith that the form submitted to my unit will take at least four months to go anywhere, since it takes roughly a month to clear Battalion and then at least another month to clear Brigade, and no one is even sure where anything goes after that anyway much less how long it might sit wherever that is, so I am confident that having the medical team look over and sign a few documents won’t really hurt anyone or anything.

I do, however, feel very proud that I had the mental and physical fortitude to find the regulations, read them, and generate the necessary documents. Clearly, as evidenced by the length of time it takes some people to do the same at higher echelons, this is a task not to be undertaken by the faint of heart. What seemed quite simple to me is obviously much more challenging at a higher level and with more training, so I should not get cocky lest someone decide to bump me from my current position and move me over to admin. I have already had brain surgery once; a full lobotomy is not something I desire.

In the meantime, however, I shall practice and perfect my new craft of reading Army regulations and applying them practically to situations, plying this craft as necessary when others do not feel like doing their jobs. I anticipate using it a lot in the coming months… a shame it took me this long to figure out.


All My Fault

Filed under: — lana @ 6:56 pm

I’m so sorry, Mother Army. I apologize for not having been more watchful over things that should be happening automatically at echelons above me.

Oh wait. No, I am not, though apparently I should be.

On Friday I happened to call up to my orderly room. There is a charming Specialist who sits in there and allows the rest of us to make her life miserable with our demands, which she then forwards up to higher elements, who yell at her in return. Hey, it’s a living, I suppose. I enjoy talking to her because she is usually one of the few people justifiably more miserable than most of us on a daily basis. So I called her to ask her if she happened to know why my pay documents have been sitting on the same desk for a week, and if she had any word on whether or not I would be attending a required school anytime in the near future, since it was needed for promotion and I have been on the list over two years now.

To the first, she responded that she asked about that payment and had been told to “expect it would sit there awhile.” Funny thing is, my government card is suspended now, which has recently made the same elements that told her to tell me to wait on payment very angry. Makes one wonder what it takes to spurn them to action, since clearly freezing the card wasn’t enough. My Commander informed me that I should just make minimum payments and worry about getting paid back later. I don’t think he realizes that on a government card that regularly bills you when you are not in the country to receive the bill, you cannot carry a balance. So unless I pay somewhere around 3,000 good, American dollars for the next two months to clear past due and currently due debts on my previously authorized travel, my card remains frozen. I am also well aware that getting paid back would be something of a pipe dream, given how long it takes them to figure out why it is so dark with their head shoved in such uncomfortable locations. But I am not allowed to call the people who sit at the desk where my paperwork lays, because that would be jumping the proper channels. So every time I ask, I am told to wait. Then every time I see my Commander, he asks why I haven’t been paid. It is a tragic circle of life around here, one for which I have little hope of escaping before my credit rating goes belly-up.

The circle was made more tragic by her response to my other question. You see, there are certain schools that everyone is required to attend. Some of them, to include the one I currently need, happen in two parts and you are put on the list sometime around when you are promoted to the appropriate rank. I was promoted in 2007. Presumably, that means Big Army put me on some list. Now, there are apparently conflicting theories as to how exactly one gets scheduled for the class, as in getting one put at the top of the list. Up until last week, everyone in my command was telling me that it was a Big Army job and all of my complaining about not having attended wouldn’t do me any good because it wasn’t anyone’s fault or anyone’s job to schedule me. Recently, I spoke to someone in Big Army who said it was the unit that is supposed to call and move you up to schedule you for the class. Somehow, I believe Mother Army, given my unit’s track record for failing to tell the truth when it involves anything that looks or sounds even remotely like “work.”

Now I graduated from the first part of the course in April, thanks to Big Army wanting participants for a trial program for the new course and randomly selecting me. Had that waited for my unit, I would undoubtedly have nothing at this point, because remember: It’s Not Their Job. One would have assumed that, should Big Army be the one to schedule me for the next bit, they would have done so immediately. That wasn’t the case, so I started asking. I was told to wait. I asked if I could go before my class in August began, since the two lined up almost perfectly. I was told to wait. I came back from the class and pointed out that I am up for promotion in the spring, so perhaps I should get scheduled for the class as soon as possible. I was told to shut up and let Big Army do their job and it was not the training shop’s fault. I brought it up again to my command about a week ago after my Branch Manager at Big Army informed me that my unit was screwing my career by not scheduling me. I was told that it was not the unit’s fault.

Then, apparently at last week’s Battalion training meeting, I finally turned up on the training room’s slide as needing the course. Good job, folks! I only needed it for over two years now, so great that we finally got around to updating the PowerPoint. Baby steps… Too much too soon and we might overwhelm them with expectations of the potential for efficiency.

But then word on the street is the Sergeant Major piped up and said I was too close to leaving the unit, within six months (um… actually I have seven or eight, depending on who you ask, but no one asked me to do the math for them), and therefore couldn’t go because it was a waste of money. Furthermore, I should have requested the class before now, so it was clear I only wanted to go for promotion reasons.

Well first of all, no one wants to go to this class except for promotion reasons. It is boring, worthless, and a waste of six weeks of my life. But we go because without it, no promotion, so he is correct in that sense. CSM: 1, Me: 0. However, the tally begins to change when they become aware that I have now been eligible for the course for two years, or at least since April when Big Army squeezed me into a pilot program of the first part of the course, and they were supposed to be tracking me since 2007 for the course in order to emphasize career progression. Tie score. Furthermore, I did ask for the class. Repeatedly. Now I am winning. Also, they don’t even pay for the course, as I am told that Big Army does, so that would be another point to extend my lead. Moreover, they are the very ones that told me to shut up because Big Army scheduled the class, now they are saying that I should have complained so they could pay attention more and get me in. That type of waffling gets me game point, particularly since it then becomes muddled as to whether or not I am supposed to baby-sit their training room. Apparently so, as well as every step between myself on the low end of the totem pole and their end who knows how high. And yet, I am not even allowed to call above my company level, so how exactly am I supposed to find out if my complaints or requests traveled any higher? Oh, they didn’t? Fancy that… All I know here is that I win, but there is little I can do about it without seriously making the Sergeant Major very angry. How little he knows me if he thinks I won’t do such a thing, particularly since he is now significantly hindering a promotion opportunity in “The Year of the NCO.” Maybe he missed that briefing.

Friday was the closest I have come yet to calling the doctors to accept their repeated offers of transfering me far, far away from this unit and then getting me out of the Army with a nice paycheck to go along with it. It has come to my attention that I have long since stopped working for the good of anyone but those above me, and they are distracted by anything sparkly that catches their attention anyway so no matter what I do that is right it won’t hold their attention long enough for them to actually do anything about it, and they can also happily ignore anything that goes wrong around them so long as it doesn’t affect them or anyone in their immediate vicinity who might pester them. They are free to let their minds wander as they bask in the glory of being middle management.

And as for everything that they screw up? Well, it all rolls downhill. That’s right, folks. Apparently, I should have been paying closer attention when I signed my contract: I didn’t realize I would have to baby-sit both my lower AND my higher levels. Must be in the fine print somewhere. My fault…


The People Under the Stairs

Filed under: — lana @ 6:16 pm

Today one of the local deploying units had something of a Veteran’s Day Send-Off for themselves and the post. It was entertaining and well done for a unit activity, with plenty of food, beer, gluwein (warm, spiced wine traditional once it gets cold here… you sometimes start seeing it around August), and a bouncy castle.

I steered my warrant around the bouncy castle. It was not an easy task. Luckily, he was wearing shoes with laces today so I could convince him it was too much effort to take them off just to go in the bouncy castle. I promised him next time and then sincerely hoped I would be gone by the next time.

We made our way to the food, running into some of the unit members who were oddly allowed to have beer but not food, and found seats at the long fest benches. We just so happened to sit across from a rotating arsenal of membership representatives for the local Veterans of Foreign Wars chapter.

I like the VFW. They contribute great things to veterans and their children and to society in general. They are fun to talk to, and when I find I have my membership card on me near a VFW hall the alcohol is cheap. Sometimes conversations can get a little confusing, particularly when they trail off and start another conversation with you about something you all of a sudden realized happened in Saigon but they are talking to you as though you were there with them, or when they follow a train of thought for five minutes before jumping back to finish a sentence from three topics ago, but really that doesn’t bother me having worked with Iraqis, Afghans, and my warrant, all of whom do the same thing.

So we chatted with a few of the gentlemen, most of them Korea or Vietnam veterans, and listened as they pitched lifetime VFW membership and the like. I happen to be planning on getting a lifetime membership sometime after my husband finishes paying for the new windows on the house, so I asked the nice man currently sitting at the table (he replaced the man who had four purple hearts from ‘Nam couldn’t hear so well… or balance so well, but that was probably also because of the four beers he consumed) for a business card. As he pulled out the card, he explained to us that there are meetings locally once a month.

I knew there was a VFW somewhere, because I have seen the members around at some events. I always figured they met off-post or in someone’s home or something. Shows where assuming gets you, as I shall explain:

“So you know the Burger King,” He says to my warrant and I.
“Sure. Only food place on post not run by the Army,” Says I.
“Okay, so you know the dining facility next door, right?” He says.
“Of course,” I says.
“There is a staircase on the side of the dining facility closest to the burger king. It goes down into the basement. Go down there on the first Tuesday of the month and we have our meetings there in the evening after dinner is over,” He says, now leaning in and speaking faster to accentuate the immediately creepy.

My reaction is mostly triggered because I have seen stairs going up in the dining facility, but not stairs going down. Most of the buildings around, with the exception of some of the Brigade and Garrison buildings with offices in the basements, have exceptionally creepy underground storage areas. Furthermore, I have never seen a VFW member on post when it was not an event, but he is telling me that once a month they gather in the basement and do whatever it is they do.

“Wait, what? Stairs? Basement room? Are you saying the VFW ‘Hall’ is a previously unknown room somewhere underneath the dining facility which we should visit after dark sometime?”
“Exactly! Don’t worry. The meetings are usually less than an hour. You’ll be out by 8pm.”

Yeah, if I ever leave at all… I reiterated that I would probably not get my membership until close to my departure, due to the windows escapade going on at my house in the states at the moment. Windows are expensive, after all. At this point, I made reference to the fact that I was from New Jersey, a topic which had previously been mentioned but, in true VFW veteran style, now needed to be revisited in depth. Once New Jersey was exhausted, he and his new friend, a jolly-looking fellow quietly sitting and eating his hot dogs (the chili cook-off hadn’t started yet… I’ll spoil the surprise and mention that we did not end up sticking around for it), asked what my heritage was. He was not satisfied with the “Mixed” response I tend to give, and then told me about a website where you can trace your lineage all the way back a few hundred years. He wrote it on the brown paper lining the table.

He explained (needlessly, upon examination of the web address) that it was a particular faith’s website, while methodically tapping the paper, circling the writing abstractly and occasionally making his point with a little dot near the top of the words. His previously quiet friend (who had been turned the other way watching something going on near the front of the hangar) quickly turned and jumped in with “I’m One!” at this point, nearly causing me to fall off the bench from my recoil to evade the hotdog that swung at a prescribed radius in front of him as he spun. He was not the gentleman who could not hear, and was stone cold sober. I braced myself.

Now, before anyone gets all uppity, I tend to love most of those I know of this particular faith. They are either very nice or what we call “Fallen Members” who were raised strict members but decided to break a tiny rule, perhaps eat or drink something wrong, and spiraled downhill back to the rest of us, and they are usually very fun. I have worked with several and find both types to be lovely to work with or hang around with, and have made and remained friends with more than a few because they seem to be everywhere in the Army. I don’t really buy anything they have to say about religion, but I feel that way about pretty much all religions, so no hard feelings, and I like how the nice ones are really just genuinely nice as a general rule. My issue is when people, regardless of faith, get creepy. I had the sense that was about to happen. My warrant officer smelled it as well and started edging to the end of the seat as we sought a potential exit. I love older people until they get crazy. This was heading in the wrong direction for anything less than that, so it was time to duck out. But when…?

We let him tell us how the site worked. We avoided eye contact when they started getting too deep into anything. My warrant then tried to make a comment about the religion. Dangerous move. They both glazed over, talked again about the website and how we should try it and enter our information into it, and asked us again to come on a Tuesday evening to the basement room below the dining facility. They then began to make no further reference to other topics than coming to the meeting, not even attempting to get me to commit to paying membership dues for the VFW. In fact, the very initials of VFW had not been mentioned in quite some time. We found a pause, stood up, promised to get in touch, shook hands, and made for the bouncy castle and behind it, the exit.

In the cool, free air we broke down what we had learned:

1) There is a basement room under the dining facility.
2) It may be a VFW hall.
3) There is no smell of alcohol in the area of which he speaks, so presumably no bar.
4) On certain Tuesday evenings, a small group of old men gather there and discuss things.
5) These men appear normal on the outside and for most conversations.
6) These men can turn on the crazy at the drop of a hat and it is hard, maybe impossible, to switch it back off.

We have thus, with the evidence at hand, decided that there is a secret, possibly religious society plotting nefarious deeds in the basement of our dining facility which may or may not be the VFW, though they all are seemingly members of the real one and using this as a cover. Many of them are over 60 years old and slowing down in the cold, but there has been “sewer reconstruction” lately in that area which we think may actually be part of the underground tunnel network they are working on to keep their arthritis at bay during the winter and to further their eventual goals. Perhaps the basement room is only indoctrination. We don’t know how far this goes…

I’ll still get my membership, but I am not going to a rumored basement room to get it. I’ll do it by mail or wait until I move in spring. I love the VFW, and encourage every combat veteran to support their local chapter and sign up and volunteer and help them out, but I am pretty sure if this supposed underground clubhouse had a bar I would have known about it by now, so just how real are these people? If this room even exists, I ask what’s a VFW with no bar? I think I need to examine the pins on their hats more closely…

This could be big, folks… big…

Of course, it’s all speculation based on a short conversation with some very genuinely nice gentlemen from an organization I love and respect, and both of us have watched a lot of movies involving scary basements and buildings with hidden rooms and tunnels. Way too many, probably. We only know about the stairs right now. How much more we intend to find out regarding the people under those stairs remains to be seen.


Basic Communication

Filed under: — lana @ 2:38 pm

Thursday was yet another day in this humdrum life I call the Army. That is to say, it was full of mishaps and misadventures that usually end up with me being at least an hour away from anywhere practical and moderately annoyed. Most of this, as usual, happens because someone doesn’t feel like listening. Usually, that is because listening might involve work, and there are definitely some work-adverse people in my daily life.

I began my day with the Semi-Tri-Annual Local Area German Random People Somewhat Affiliated to Us Meeting. While that may appear to be a long title, and is indeed one that we made up, it is shorter and more pronouncable than whatever it is actually called. It happens approximately once every year and a half, so that is the best we could come up with. Also, the German who works at my office could not seem to really identify who would be there aside from the one guy who passed us the invitation, so I had to wager a guess. I did not wager much. I asked my warrant to assist, particularly since preparation work needed to be done, and to attend with me. He decided that it would be better if I went alone, leaving him to attend a huge ceremony on our base that would leave him alone for the better part of the day. I chided myself for asking him to actually work and instead concentrated on preparing for the meeting.

At the meeting, I was to present something. I also had to wager a guess at this, since the instructions were not terribly specific. I opted to name some of the threats to U.S. Forces in Germany and what we do to counter those threats. I figured that such a briefing must exist somewhere already in the vast system we call our analytical section.

I figured wrong, forgetting the work-adverse nature of certain elements. They sent me a few items, mostly newspaper articles. I ended up making up the presentation, picking hot topics like “Terrorism,” phrasing them like they were new and exciting, and stressing how the Germans have to do all of the work anyway for any investigation off-post, but we are certainly there for moral support. Go, Team! Oddly, they seemed to react well to the whole thing, with the head of the meeting expounding upon some of the examples I provided. Very heartwarming. My warrant, when he saw me working on the briefing and regularly harassing analysts and everyone else I knew in the country for an official briefing, told me that he must had misunderstood the nature of the meeting and didn’t know it would be so much work for me. He was very proud of me for having done it, however.

Now, I had to leave the Semi-Tri Annual Local Area German Random People Somewhat Affiliated to Us Meeting early on account of the fact that no one could give me a straight answer if there existed an implied task for me to head to the area of the Company headquarters and watch the Sergeant Major of the Army give a speech and try to score myself a coin. A warrant officer told me that it was not required, but I couldn’t shake the guilty feeling. Since at present I was the highest-ranking enlisted person in the Company actually working, I changed into my uniform and headed to the theater.

At the theater I ran into every enlisted person from the tenent infantry unit waiting in the lobby. I promptly walked back out of the theater and went back to the headquarters. Mission failure. I decided to wait around, because my warrant officer had told me in no uncertain terms that a piece of equipment for our computer network would arrive at the Company and I had to pick it up and return. His persistence had even caused me to set up for the local tech guys to come bright and early the next working day for the installation.

And so I sat and waited. And waited. And waited. Luckily, there was a suspicious package scare with some powdery substance occuring back at my home station, so I filled my time writing reports that my warrant had not done because he misunderstood another warrant who told him that it was unnecessary. The other warrant had actually told him that until my warrant had more information it was unnecessary, but that was not how it was heard as that would have meant my warrant would have had to get the information and then actually write it. My warrant called me from the office several times to give me all of the information, but assured me the reports weren’t required. Skeptical, I called the other warrant and discovered the miscommunication. By then, naturally, my warrant had been told to clear out of the office by the emergency personnel and was not about to go to the other locations where they had access to the reporting system two blocks away. But I didn’t really mind, seeing as it filled my time waiting for our communications guys to deliver the equipment. His reaction to my having to write the reports? “Oops. Thought it sounded odd that we wouldn’t report that. Huh. Well, thanks!”

Still I waited. Three hours later, the communications guys finally showed up. I asked them for our equipment. They gave me a blank look instead. Several phone calls later, it turns out that when my warrant had heard “The equipment will be hand-delivered tomorrow because these guys have to go down to your company anyway, so send your NCO to spend her afternoon picking it up,” what our communications shop had actually said was “Your request for that equipment has finally been sent up to Brigade and may take a little while longer yet for approval. Don’t expect it anytime soon, much less tomorrow.”

I tried to grab a computer or something just so I didn’t go back empty-handed, but my commander caught me. The computers, one of which actually belongs to our office to replace my ancient machine, were still not network-ready anyway.

My warrant’s reaction to this one? “Hmm… I must have misunderstood. Oops! So, when you coming back? Yeah, sorry about it being well after the duty day already and all with you still being way near the eastern border, but I’m on my way home for the night. Anything else you need?”

I asked him go fetch me a sandwich to leave on my desk. I figured since my whole day was largely his fault, I may as well get something out of the guy for the day.

Lo and behold, he screwed up my order. Says it was some sort of miscommunication. The sandwich was still good, but I have decided that from now on I am only communicating with him in writing and recommending that others do the same. Simple words, large print, on sticky notes left on his computer screen. I have around six months left here, so I need something to be done right once in awhile before I lose my mind.

I am not, as it turns out, going to ask him to do the supply request for this new method of communication; I do not even want to see what would happen should I ask him to order pads of sticky notes.



Filed under: — lana @ 3:58 pm

Sometime this afternoon I received a disconcerting telephone call from my Operations Officer. It went something along the lines of:

Him: So… can you send me a map?
Me: Sure. I got maps. If not, I can make them up and pretend. What maps?
Him: One of your Garrison area of operations, if you have one.
Me: Coincidentally, I have that, having asked our Garrison for one since no one else in the Army seems to know what the areas are. Need your area, too? The guy at my Garrison sent me all of them.
Him: You have that? That would be great. Saves me some time, because I have to draw in all of the boundaries the Garrisons have as well as all of the boundaries our Battalion says we have. Oh, could you send me what you think your boundaries are, too?
Me: Sure.
*pause for effect and confusion caused by flash of logic*
Me: Um… wait… shouldn’t someone have this already? Like, the people that draw the boundaries between our areas? Like, the people at Battalion that tell us where we should be working, since they told us to work there?
Him: You would think so, wouldn’t you… Funny thing about that…

It appears, somewhat not surprisingly, that my Battalion has absolutely no idea what areas we are actually covering, what any office is actually responsible for, nor what logically we should be doing in order to support the unit’s (somewhat theoretical) mission statement of supporting Garrison Commands. This actually makes sense when one comprehends that sometime last year my office was told that we were responsible for a district completely outside of our Garrison boundaries and were, in fact, no longer responsible for our own surrounding community.

However, I do not encourage one to attempt to comprehend such things. We still have to re-explain it to our Operations Officer every now and then, like we did today. He is so cute: he still tries to think that there was a logical decision behind all of it. He has only been at our unit a few months… he still has to accept how some things operate out here.

See, it seems that while I was temporarily on some assignment somewhere last year someone decided to redraw the boundaries. They did so, it now appears, without actually looking at a map, which we pointed out but were dutifully told to shut up and get to work. As a result, today we had to convince people that our physical Garrison is actually located an entire district north from where they apparently thought it was. I ended up having to draw a picture (the original map I sent apparently ended up being too confusing despite the pretty colors and the fact that it came from Europe’s Garrison Headquarters) which my warrant officer turned into a very pretty PowerPoint so our Operations Officer could forward it to our Battalion. I was so proud; I knew he went to warrant school for something…

Now we, as it turns out, have been muttering about these odd boundaries for a long time, as I may have alluded to previously. It turns out that no one was taking us seriously not because they are just used to tuning out muttering, but because they legitimately thought we were located in a completely different place than we actually are. Even our Operations Officer argued with us about the district our Garrison is physically located in, having run on the assumption that to have us in any other district would be the stupidest thing he had ever heard.

Turns out, it was at only the stupidest thing he heard before I also mentioned that his office, two hours away, is actually responsible for the town in which my cat spends her days waiting for me to come home after work. I made the request that he feed the cat whenever he popped by. He was not amused.

So to break it down: an entire battalion and operational section seem to have lost our office. That, and it appears they may have a little trouble with basic map reading since the district lines are quite clear on area maps. Some re-training might be in order. Even my mother, who has a map aversion recalled from car trips long past, can look at a map and tell me that Hawaii is not actually a part of Kansas. She can also tell that Trenton is not in Pennsylvania because the big, fat, New Jersey state line gets in the way when one is crossing through Camden towards Philadelphia. This makes my mother, the same woman who slept resolutely through 10 hours in the car with two screaming children and a husband perpetually singing show tunes just so she could avoid being called upon to communicate directions from our massive and intimidating road atlas, more qualified to determine operational boundaries than the people who are theoretically qualified to periodically take large groups of Soldiers into the woods and demonstrate for them how to find their way back using a stick, a shadow, and a string with some beads on it. That should disturb people. A lot.

There were times when I would find it nice that no one knew where we were: it implied that no one could just pop in for a visit. But it would be nice to have a job for my last few months in this unit, to perhaps get a little bit of support for a mission we know exists but can’t quite get to, and maybe every once in a great while have someone in our own parent unit identify our district correctly on a map at least perhaps three times out of ten so I could be confident that should they find their way out for a visit, I don’t have to worry about them starving on the Autobahn somewhere near the Swiss border because they thought they were somewhere completely different when driving back. Is that really so much to ask?

Nevermind. I should just go ahead and warn the Swiss now and save myself the trouble.

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