Filed under: — lana @ 4:54 pm

This is a public service announcement:

If you have a problem with this site, or with anything my cynical and admittedly arrogant self has posted, you might want to go ahead and let me know.

Because my warrant, my former first sergeant, and several people in my battalion are all regular or semi-regular readers. They all know me personally, and they get to put up with me daily as it is. Yet funny thing is, they find it funny (and usually can identify the element of truth as well as the caricature). Much of the things on this gripe list I call my running rant are also running jokes and running commentary among all of us, and what I say on here I have frequently said to the people involved, or at least passed the nasty-gram higher to get told I might want to rephrase.

But if you have an issue, take it up with me. Don’t come up with some creepy fake address and have grammatical errors in an email sent to my warrant officer, because he just has the immediate reaction of calling me to giggle about it. Though thank you, because he did just have some minor surgery for which I have made fun of him for two straight days, so he probably appreciated the laugh.

If you think that because the idiocy of certain aspects of the Army amuses me that I am therefore a poor example of the NCO corps, ask one of my Soldiers what my safety brief is. No, actually, I’ll just tell you, so you don’t go and randomly contact other people. It’s a simple brief:

Don’t do dumb.

Do dumb things, you’ll pay the price. Don’t do dumb, you can go about your business. I check my dumb against people I trust, to include my warrant (when he isn’t out getting coffee or smoking) or my first sergeant (when we have one). I still do dumb every day, but I have learned since being a wee little specialist what is exceptionally dumb and what is just minor dumb, and try to stick with the latter (and really, I still don’t understand why if I am cold and my computer is warm that it is so entertaining to my warrant that I rest my head against the keyboard when it gets cold. I remind him that for me to close the window, I would have to get colder because I would get closer to the window, but he just asks me if I have taken my medication and wanders off to make a new cup of coffee anyway. He never listens to my logic).

So, dear readers, if you like what you see, go ahead and read through and learn to laugh at yourselves. And if you don’t, please feel free to call me an arrogant, cynical, snot-nosed, holier-than-thou NCO, though the recent psych test left it in the realm of “Excessively Assertive” which simplifies the whole thing. Just do me a favor and contact me instead of my warrant or others, particularly since in this instance you are clearly in the military and therefore supposed to be a brave Soldier. Afraid I might poke a little fun? You haven’t met my warrant…

This ends the public service announcement. You may now return to your regularly scheduled program.



Filed under: — lana @ 9:15 am

Some people are slow learners. I am starting to think that might be okay, so long as at some point they do learn.

I had a moment of success the other day. I am in charge of, on a good day, at least one complete waste of oxygen. It seems that the moment one improves, another one becomes more vapid in order to make up for the fact that there might be a few extra synapses firing elsewhere in the room. I prefer days that are balanced, when everyone has their share of idiot ideas, because if we all share the load it can be managed. Yes, I am included in this, particularly if I lose my temper or if I took my red pills. My stupidity just seems to be in the form of doing things like realizing that my computer is warm and using it as a headwarmer when everyone else gives me a headache. I think it’s therapeutic; my warrant says I should just get a hat.

At the same time, even though I know everyone else will contribute idiocy to make up for it, I still like breakthroughs of intelligence once in awhile. I think they give me hope that perhaps all is not lost with some of the people put in my charge. They are slow learners, but I think two and a half years later one of them might finally be getting it.

This one has, since being medicated to quell some of his more peculiar tendencies, taken to calling me “Boss” (which was stopped… fast) and sometimes calls his male Soldiers “Bud” (which I let go a few times only because it creeped out the Soldiers, which was most amusing to watch). He thinks it makes him more friendly and approachable. Really, it makes him creepy and unprofessional. His major issue is he doesn’t like making people upset, because he wants desperately to be liked. The desperation is sad, and the fact that he rarely will reprimand his Soldiers is just plain annoying. I think one of his Soldiers might like him, but only because he is nice and she doesn’t strike me as terribly bright. She might improve one day, but I am not expecting to see it in my lifetime. But most of the time he just lets things slide and tries to make up for their deficiencies in order to keep me appeased. He doesn’t want me angry, but he also doesn’t want to make his Soldiers upset. A conundrum when there is work to do.

Enter his cynical and somewhat disillusioned supervisor: Me. One of his charges, due to time in service, might be eligible for a promotion board appearance soon. This, I would like to mention, is a concept that should everyone lose sleep at night if only so I have someone to talk to from staying awake in my terror. As such, I need to do my most-senior-non-commissioned-officer-in-the-office duties and ensure she recognizes that I have a strong belief in standards being met for promotion, standards she knows but does not meet. She has a lot to improve on that he rarely enforces, but I want this guy to really start being a supervisor, so I asked for his input before her counseling.

I think he was thrilled that he could be mean without actually having to be mean, because I was going to do the actual mean bit for him. I had him put his thoughts regarding this particular Soldier in writing, so I could incorporate them into standards for her to meet. I expected little, and so was actually pleasantly surprised when he delivered some very astute observations. Given the opportunity, he actually showed a glimmer of potential. He noted most of the main problems with her, in short, that she is usually the one taking up the precious oxygen.

This being an important counseling, I told him that he will be present, but I am going to give it. In exchange, he provided the list of things I believe he would like to say to her, but would prefer the Big Bad Me tell her instead since I already have a reputation for letting them know when they are not meeting my standards. He is still not at the level of bravery it takes to actually communicate these things to her in anything other than a fatherly, kind way, which goes right through the space between her ears and doesn’t even pause to check out the scenery in her skull, but he is at least noticing what needs to be noticed at some level even if he does nothing about it. Still annoying, but at least he is observing. A huge sigh of relief can be heard throughout the ranks.

Basically, he is learning. It took him two and a half years, but he can finally identify some of the qualities needed in a good Soldier and recognize when those qualities are lacking. Baby steps, and very slow baby steps, but at least they are steps. I felt at least a tiny bit less nervous of leaving him in charge of a few Soldiers in the spring, which is something. I take my job very seriously, and had major concerns about leaving him as the head babysitter, whether I like the Soldiers I would leave him with or not. I still wouldn’t leave him alone with, say, any of my friends’ children, but we are working on it.

My concern right now is where the brain power he used is going to come from. My warrant already hides under his desk and sulks when the acting first sergeant calls and asks for him to do something, but that is his normal behavior. I have too much to get done in the next few weeks to go stupid on everyone, and I don’t think his Soldiers can take on the responsibility of more stupidity when there is already so much going around. There is the hope that this was a glitch, and all else will remain status quo while he actually learns something, but I have my doubts… particularly with as much paperwork as I have floating around the system at the moment. Physics says that energy is a constant, and I say that so is intelligence within the Army. He gained, so something else must lose… now it is just to determine where.

But where there is hope for him, perhaps there is hope for others. Perhaps this means that people in this machine I love to hate can actually get things together once in awhile, if only for a fleeting moment. Perhaps this could be a breakthrough in the world of Army Physics, and a new and better day is on the horizon.

Oh. Nope. Nevermind. False alarm. Just got the message that I have to resubmit every piece of paper I might have put into the system since September. Glad to see the system is up and running… had me worried for a minute there.


Every Year

Filed under: — lana @ 2:08 pm

Hey, Germany, sorry to let you know so late, but it is winter. It does come around every year, and every year it is cold and there is snow and ice everywhere.

Well… Surprise! It is here. It has been snowing continuously for a week or two now, just like it does all winter long. Every year. Probably for a few millenium or a few million years, depending on who you ask. Point it, it shows up on schedule every year.

But every year, you seem even more perplexed than the cat at the white stuff coming from the sky. She goes and checks it out, puts a paw in, and wisely heads back inside for the rest of the season. You, however, stare at the sky and say, with some amount of amazement, “It is winter!” every day. Sometimes you use it as an explanation when I say it is freezing and I hate it, but most of the time you say it and sound a little perplexed, as though we all lived in Tahiti.

We don’t live in Tahiti, Germans. We live in Germany. January is cold and terrible and filled with snow and car accidents and you pulling me over just to check and make sure I have the correct tires on my car. Right on schedule, we got snow. It will be here until sometime in late March.

Maybe between now and then you can figure out how you could have possibly encountered a road salt shortage before the middle of January in a country that always has a cold and slippery winter. Winter is roughly from October until March here. It was actually pretty reasonable in October and November this year, so there is no excuse why my road - well, to be fair, not so much the road but the snow layered on top of the road - is covered with sand instead of something that will make the hill a little easier to navigate. The only excuse you have given me is a road salt shortage. Pardon me? A country on the latitude of Canada cannot properly figure out how much road salt they might need in a given year and do a little planning?

Winter, seeing as how it coincides with the natural rotation of the earth as it swings its way around the sun on a very consistent basis, should not come as a surprise. It is not like it is showing up to a funeral in June with a party hat on wondering where all the chicks are at. It is not hiding behind your couch on your fortieth birthday waiting to pop up and blow an obnoxious noisemaker in your ear. It waits until at least a few of the leaves change color and then hits and sticks around for a few months like your mother-in-law who begs to visit and then constantly complains she would rather be in Florida. If anything, it gives you warning with those sudden absurdly cold days in late August or early September that remind you to buy a better hat this year. It’s actually rather polite that way, except for that whole sticking around well past its welcome thing.

Get it together, Germany. I will not be here next year to see if you made any progress, but I will ask my friends who are stuck through another tortuous season with you. I will give you a hint: start collecting road salt in April this time. Sand on top of snow doth not good traction make. Little tricks of the trade those of us everywhere outside of perhaps Fiji learned ages ago…

Winter is already here, and just to tell you, it will be back next year, too. Don’t say I didn’t warn you…



Filed under: — lana @ 11:38 am

Yesterday was a momentous day in the world of my unit:

They Accomplished Something.

It took awhile, don’t get me wrong, but they did something and they did it on time and we think they might have even done it correctly. The combination of those things is simply a feat, and a day which should be marked and celebrated unit-wide. We celebrated by going home early. Oh, wait, no… that was because of the snow. But it should have been because of them.

Let’s see… the story begins when I was recovering from having my brain vacuumed. I was sitting around somewhere in the States, happily medicated and checking my e-mail. I received a message. The message was that I had been unwittingly scheduled for a course in roughly a month that would require things like physical activity that would make my nose bleed heavily given my current condition. I think my nose stopped bleeding during physical training sometime around six months after the head cleaning, but the doctors were pretty specific about not doing stupid things until a set date in October. This course started before that date.

So I did the thing any good little Soldier would do: I forwarded the email and the message from the doctors to my first sergeant and mentioned someone should probably clear this up. He sent a message back to me agreeing, and a message to the correct person in the company to deal with it so I didn’t end up on the dreaded “No-Show” list.

The No-Show list is rumored to be some vast pit of hellish nightmares that makes people in the ranks of Sergeant Major and above very grumpy, as well as possibly taking you off the list for future schooling. I say rumored, because I saw no evidence of any of this. I did, however, see evidence that I was a no-show. I emailed that to my First Sergeant. He again tried to take care of it. Apparently, it didn’t work. That part is still a mystery, because everyone in my personnel shop and training shop mysteriously has amnesia for that particular time period when questioned about my paperwork. But no matter.

So I cruise about and get into the course, which is a required course for promotion, mind you, a few months later. This time, the course was online, so it was tedious and stupid and long and boring but at least I could complain loudly for three months.

Then I asked about the next part of the course. See, this particular course is in two phases, one which must be completed before the other (unless you are one of my friends who somehow did the second part without the first, thereby meaning he still has yet to complete the course but has so thoroughly confused the system that no one can get him into the first part now… but that’s another story). I completed part one online. Part two, I was told, would be scheduled by the Department of the Army, so I should wait.

And so I waited. I should have realized that any time someone says Mother Army is responsible for something I ought be wary and question fully, but I was naive and listened to my supervisors.

A few months later, I was medically cleared for just about anything, so I started wondering whether the Army had overlooked me for the class because they were waiting on medical. I asked. I was told to wait some more. I mentioned that I needed the course before the promotion board, which was coming up. I was told to wait.

Sometime in the fall, I called my Branch Manager, who was appalled that I had not attended the course and started making attempts to get me in. My unit, now clued in that I was not waiting, immediately started lecturing me about how I should have been asking for, nay, begging for, this course. I mentioned that I was told to wait. I was told I was a fool, and that it was my fault I had not gotten in. I was then, later in the same conversation, once again told that Department of the Army was responsible for scheduling the course. But it was still my fault.

Eventually, I got a course date: start date two months after the promotion board. So I needed a waiver. Again with the lectures about how it was my fault, but I was persistent. I called various elements I probably shouldn’t be calling to find out the waiver process. I wrote memorandums and dug up documents. I sent everything forward to my company, who sent it up to Battalion.

Battalion sent it back. They told my Commander to get me to put the blame on medical instead of on the unit. I did that and resent the memo. Battalion sent it back. They wanted more detail on who actually dropped the ball on getting me into the course. I did that, practically rewriting the first memo, and resent. Battalion sent it back. They didn’t like how it was ordered. I rewrote the whole thing and reminded them that board submissions closed in about three weeks. They finally got the hint and sent me a document to sign that already had the Battalion Commander’s signature. I pointed out that I could not sign it after the Battalion Commander, copied it to a new form, and sent it back to Battalion. They found the Battalion Commander to get him to once again sign the document (I can only imagine the conversation). Finally, they got it to Brigade.

Brigade, at 1900 Germany time on a Friday evening, finally sent the completed waiver request to Human Resources Command. They sent it two weeks prior to the closure of the board. They sent it over a month after we first submitted a memo, and over three months after I first began badgering them that I did not have the course and would need either the course or a waiver to be boarded for promotion.

Whether HRC will grant the waiver remains to be seen, as well as whether I get picked up for promotion even with the waiver. But HRC confirmed receipt of the request, which is a step in the right direction for my unit. Any time they accomplish a task I like to give them some sort of recognition, like a puppy that needs to be housebroken so he gets a treat when he does the right thing. Call me sentimental, but I want to encourage them to do things like, I don’t know, their jobs, every once in awhile.


Polizei Games

Filed under: — lana @ 10:48 am

I think someone put a tracking chip in my brain.

This evening I went to the pub, as I am wont to do, and had a few expensive glasses of water and some snacks with a few friends. Since I am driving and on duty, I had two reasons not to drink.

And so I hopped into my car around quitting time and eased out onto the road.

A block later, the familiar lights of the Polizei were flashing in my rearview mirror. I pulled over, and rummaged around for my documents. As I rolled down the window to the bitter evening, I saw a familiar face: the same Polizei who pulled me over nary a week prior. He looked at me a bit strangely until I pulled out my license and informed him that yes, indeed I was the person he pulled over recently. His partner wandered up and I gave her a friendly wave as she fed me the breathalizer, though this time neither of them were as surprised that I was stone-cold sober and only made me take the test once. In fact, they seemed to find it all moderately amusing, something to which I agreed since I could sit in my car and they were still wandering around in the bitter cold without wearing hats.

No apologies were necessary; after all, I had just left a pub after midnight and slid down the slippery road to get into my car. However, there were about three others, all Germans, leaving around the same time and each one got into a car and drove. I was the only one pulled over.

There is a theory that the Polizei sit in the parking lot near the pub and go Drunk American Hunting. The game is easy: head to the parking lot and park in a spot where one can observe several plate numbers. Call the dispatcher, who is probably just as bored as you, and have them run each plate. Wait for an American plate to turn up. Watch that car until someone gets into it and turns it on. Pull the car over. Rinse and repeat.

It is certainly a good way to make a quota, unless of course you pull over the one sober American getting into their car… twice in roughly a week. It’s like when you play poker and all you get is a pair of twos: you can still bluff your way through to try and make it worth it, but you are probably going to lose in the end.

I don’t know that these two were as amused when I called out “See you next week!” as they spun around to head back to their hiding spot near the pub. I am at least hoping that they made note of my plate number and will stop wasting their time. They have all month to make their quota… but they won’t have any luck if they keep playing the same hand.

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