Preventative Care

Filed under: — lana @ 2:10 pm

I inquired today about whether or not I should possibly enroll myself in the Army Substance Abuse Program, which is the Army’s rehabilitative program for Soldiers with an addiction to drugs or alcohol.

I am not currently an alcoholic, in fact rarely drinking, but I am growing concerned that perhaps it might be a good investment in my sanity. I figure that if I enroll in ASAP now, I can head off anything really damaging later. More of a preventative measure to forming a real addiction, perhaps, because quite frankly, I could use a drink.

This morning, right before I was getting ready to head into work, I received a phone call from the NCO whom I have placed in charge of the other kids in an attempt to save me a few headaches.

Wait, stop, first please reference yesterday. Yesterday started my migraine, and has direct impact on today’s lessons.

So he called me today with the fun news that the very same Soldier to whom he gave a counseling last night about driving safety had, in less than 12 hours, hit another vehicle in the parking lot when she stopped to get a coffee for the road on her way to her training exercise. As it turns out, I happen to know the Soldier whose vehicle she hit, and he described it along the lines of she had about 20 feet to back up her little coupe before making contact with his vehicle, but that just wasn’t enough by about a foot. He said the damage was minor, and was most entertained when I informed him that she had just been counseled the evening prior about driving safety.

This particular NCO knowing me, he waited until she was again on her way after filing the reports with the military police before telling me. This is undoubtedly because he knew that if he called me immediately (she, thinking I am the devil in an Army uniform, would never call me directly) I would tell him to hurry up and get ready for a drive, because he was about to meet her on-post and drive her out to her training exercise since the night before I very carefully pointed out to her that driving to a course on her own was not something I needed to let her do, so was trusting her with a responsibility. I informed him upon seeing him that morning that I was displeased he let her go with her car, but he is used to me beind displeased so I don’t think it fazed him much. I am also getting the impression that he didn’t really want to be in a car with her for the two hours out to the exercise, either, and that might have weighed into his decision to just send her off.

So that started my day, though I did find entertainment in calling the exercise to tell them she would be late and listening to the warrant in charge of the exercise rant a little. She likes to do that, so I like to let her. Then I let the acting first sergeant know, who was way more concerned when she thought it was a government vehicle. Once I told her it was the personal vehicle, she just proceeded to laugh about it and remind me that nothing is more fun than having a Soldier give a class on how to not do dumb, so to make sure corrective training is involved somehow that involves such humiliation.

Not an hour after finishing dealing with this debacle did another one hit, this time with the German in my office. When stupidity rains, it pours around here.

He came in to mention he was going to lunch, but I stopped him to ask whether he had contacted another German to plan some joint training I wanted to conduct. He said yes, and gave me the date. Well, I thought he gave me the date, and so did my warrant, who repeated the date along with the question of how the training was supposed to work because the German in our office was supposed to be on leave that day. Our German then responded that it was okay, because the other German with whom I wanted to conduct the training speaks English, so his presence is not necessary. I said the other German’s English is not all that good, but I suppose it would get me by for what I needed to train, which was mostly weapons anyway so it is more pick it up and pull a trigger, then hope for the best.

So this back and forth exchange goes on for a few minutes and I, repeating the date again, state that I do not know if the facility where the training is to be is even free on the day the two Germans decided upon. Between my warrant and I, we must have repeated the date at least five times. I called the facility and asked. No, the date was booked already. I hung up and told the German to recontact the other German and reschedule. He asked me why I asked about that date, because the training was not going to be conducted on that day, it was for another date that I had already given him as a possible date. He had never said that the training was supposed to be on the date for which I had just called to request.

Wait. What? Didn’t we all just have a long conversation about this date? Did someone put something in the promotional gummy bears that my warrant and I regularly reallocate from the phone shop two floors below because they are addictive and delicious that now we are hallucinating and the entire conversation never took place? This not being the first time something similar has happened with this particular German, whom I am convinced each day speaks less and less English, I sent him on his way to lunch and then proceeded to pound my head on the desk and yell about how much I hate him, scaring the Soldiers off to lunch as well.

My warrant, naturally, tortured me with it for the rest of the day. While he was just as pained and perplexed with the entire situation, he found some relief in extending my misery as long as possible, hoping to get me on a screaming rant again about the many reasons I believe in forced sterilization.

My day only marginally improved because my warrant finally bought a game we saw weeks ago at the thrift store but couldn’t figure out how to play until he dug up an obscure, scanned file from the depths of the internet with the rules. A top, some string, and strategically placed small, wooden bowling pins all surrounded by a wooden maze structure is surprisingly theraputic. Unfortunately, it is a little loud, therefore sometimes attracting the attention of the objects of my wrath and therefore depleting all therapy value.

So really, I am still thinking I should swing by ASAP in the morning and see if there is anything I need to do for a preventative class. I have a bad feeling that two more months here might be a little too long.


Board Bored Board

Filed under: — lana @ 3:18 pm

There are a few things for which a garrison Soldier, which we all are out here in this crazy land, should always have prepared:

1) The ability to pass a physical fitness test
2) Basic items needed for short-term field training
3) Their dress uniform

There are more, but these are absolute basics that every Soldier knows. Furthermore, when a Soldier knows that they are being sent to any board, be it a Soldier of the Month Board or a Promotion Board, there are certain implied tasks like, say, study.

The combination of these things did not happen today. Today I had to sit on a Soldier of the Month Board, asking questions of the Soldiers recommended through their leadership in order to determine which of them was the best among the competition.

The trouble was that among the junior enlisted Soldiers, it turned into more of a “Well, that was absolutely terrible, but at least your rank wasn’t taped onto your sleeves, so I guess that means you win.”

That’s right, folks, you heard it here first: the acceptable thing to do when you buy your rank too late for it to be properly sewn onto your uniform is apparently to take some masking tape, stick it to the back of the rank, and slap it onto your dress uniform sleeve. He said he also realized he couldn’t sew, or even attempt to sew, too late to ask a friend for help.

He then proceeded to freeze up and forget the answers to about half the questions he was asked. Mine, apparently, were particularly hard this board, because none of the candidates to include the one NCO could answer some of them. I thought they were easy ones, too, and some were straight from my previous boards, but I guess things like “What is the Army’s birthday?” can be a little much to ask. The NCO was closest on that one, at least.

So then, after him, came my Soldier. She had pinned on some things last minute after a great deal of whining about how no one told her six months ago when she arrived to the unit that she might need to fix her uniform to represent an active duty unit instead of a guard unit, but the two other NCOs I had also brought with me fixed her to at least something reasonable while Specialist (Taped) What’s-His-Name confessed to me that he couldn’t take a deep breath and relax because his pants were so tight it was hard to breathe. So at least her uniform was only slightly messed up, with pants too long and one or two ribbons askew.

But it was her demeanor that got me. First, she seemed bored. This coming from a Soldier who regularly informed anyone who would listen that she has been a Specialist for-EVER and therefore really really really really super really wants to go to the Promotion Board. By her seeming bored, I mean she slumped down in her seat, letting her hands fall between her legs and her head cock to the side, and answered every question (of the roughly 40 percent that she knew, anyway) quietly and with absolutely no enthusiasm. She tried to get smiley and cute with the first NCO on the board, another Staff Sergeant who might just be as mean as my reputation proclaims me to be, but as he got annoyed and asked things she didn’t know she was dejected upon realizing that I was next in the firing order to take shots at her. I gave her two easy ones, then apparently perplexed her with questions that were straight from the book about military justice and what the new Army uniform will be called The posters are hanging up all over every Military Clothing and Sales shop in the country, but then again I don’t know for certain that she ever once attempted to head over there herself to buy what she needed for her uniform, so she probably never saw it. I simply got to hear the grumbling later about how that question wasn’t in the study guide book. Silly me for thinking that a general question about the uniform new Soldiers already get in Basic Training might be something anyone who wants to be a leader should know, even if it isn’t in a book of the usual questions.

So the day dragged on like that, though I did get to velcro NCO rank onto one of my Soldiers again today and sit through some training that reminded me that the Battalion only has a loose idea of it’s own schedule for the next two months despite harping on me to have things set in stone at least six weeks prior to any training I want to conduct. We finally got back around 1900, and I was pre-informed that the Soldier who had, by default on account of her rank being sewn versus taped, won the board was very upset with me that I was making her stick around because she needed to be read a counseling or two.

The first counseling was because she was about to be in her primary zone for recommendation to a Promotion Board, so I wanted her to be aware of what I expected of her in order for me to answer “Yes” when the Commander calls to ask whether I think he should recommend her for a board in a given month. Right now, the answer is somewhere below “No” but above “Over my dead body,” but that is only because I know that sooner or later someone is going to accidentally pin rank on her and I still have a few things left to do before I keel over. So it was really just a list of things that she needed to make sure she either kept doing or, more likely, needed to start doing in order for her supervisors to gain some confidence in her to make her an NCO.

But why do it at 1900? Because she was scheduled to leave for temporary duty the following morning and I wanted to ensure that she knew what was expected of her before she left. I thought it was reasonable, and it fit in nicely with the reminder that she is now active duty, so she goes home when the work is done and not before, so sometimes that means staying late.

She was also counseled because the NCO responsible for her decided at the last minute to inform me that she asked, nay, TOLD him that she was going to drive her personal vehicle to the training, since we could not let her drive a government car out there with a turn-in for vehicles anticipated in the next few weeks. This late notification was despite me telling her weeks ago, upon notice that she would be attending the training, that she would have no vehicle out there because we could not spare a government vehicle without knowing when the turn-in might be. I have no problem with her taking her personal vehicle, though a little more notice might have meant we could give her the requisite counseling of “this is your own expense and your own responsibility” a little bit earlier and therefore cut down on the whining I had to hear about how late I was keeping them at work. Instead, I had to write it while the other NCO gave her the first counseling, and then he gave her the second one. Mostly about safety and winter driving and how everything was at her own risk and expense, but she better be smart about it.

As I watched him give her the counselings, I noticed something particularly disturbing: she still looked bored. At least it wasn’t just the board, the important step in figuring out if she is ready for promotions, that bored this girl. It appeared to be any time anyone opened their mouth that she would get slack-jawed and slump forward, clearly tuning out whatever was said so she could hear the wind whistling through her head.

I have a bad feeling about all of this. One concern is that someone might trip and fall on the promotion recommendations while I am still in this unit, therefore requiring me to feign support for her to lead others. The other bad feeling is not that she might fail to successfully get to this training exercise in the winter in a little American coupe that is not designed for German weather, but it is more that she might successfully return to me again. I have offered to trade her for various objects, but no takers as of yet. Her counseling packet grows thick, but she is so bored I don’t think she even cares to notice.



Filed under: — lana @ 1:40 pm

When people ask why I think I am surrounded by idiots, I usually have a tale to tell.

Yesterday was Monday. This was not a surprise. Everyone knew it was Monday, to include the Soldiers. That meant that, just like in most units that follow Big Army rules, it was time for the weekly vehicle preventative maintenance checks. This is commonly referred to as Motor Pool Monday, and I think it is the flow of the words that makes every unit I have ever known to recognize Monday as the day to check the vehicles and do other random tasks like count holes in the camo netting and repeatedly set up and take down G.P. Mediums (rather large tent structures) in the middle of a parking lot for no apparent reason. Go ahead: ask around to any other Army buddies you might have what a Monday in the Army means. I’ll wait… You back? G.P. Mediums, right? It’s always G.P. Mediums. Not really sure why that is… I just know that every commander seems to only be able to inventory them if they are set up in the middle of a large parking lot, all in a row, and that this act is performed repeatedly, somewhere in the Army (usually multiple somewheres in the Army), on any given Monday.

Anyway, so last week during these checks I very pointedly reminded the Soldier I placed in charge of our vehicles to play particular attention and ensure I am aware of any deficiencies. This is standard, but sometimes they need a little refresher on the obvious. By sometimes, I mean all the time. So the Soldier returns with the report that the wiper fluid was low in both vehicles. We, for some reason only known to the Status of Forces Agreement gods, are not allowed to add fluid to our own vehicles and one of them needed the brakes checked anyway, so that car was sent off to be repaired. We picked it up on Friday, so by Monday morning we once again had two vehicles and I could send them off to check them again. By the way, the wiper fluid is notoriously shifty in these vehicles, but can be checked via a tube which I showed them before. When the tube looks like it is low, it means the tank is getting low. The Soldiers know this, because they reference the tube periodically whenever they mention the wiper fluid. There are also indicator lights, but I have a rule that to the person responsible for maintenance, any random lights on in a car should never be a surprise, because they should know what to look for, having been shown during every previous Monday since time began, or at least since their time in this unit, which to me feels like since time began anyway.

Now that we are all caught up with the back story, fast forward to yesterday. The checks done, The Kids return and report that the vehicles look good. I instruct them to take the vehicle that was not repaired last week up to get repaired. They take the keys and leave.

Time Passes.

They return. They dropped off both sets of keys on my desk, which meant both cars returned with them. This is when the conversation got out of control.

Me: Wait… could they not take the vehicle?
Them: No, it’s not due for its routine maintenance yet!
Me: Did they add wiper fluid?
Them: No! Remember? I told you that had to be done at the dealership for some reason.
Me: But you were going to drop it off for that reason, right, so they could add fluid, since you said last week it was low via the tube you checked?
Them: Oooooooh. I forgot about the wiper fluid!
Me: You just told me about it last week… and would have just checked the fluids this morning. How could you have forgotten? Did the wiper fluid magically multiply so now it is not low?
Them: Maybe it isn’t low. I don’t know. It’s hard to tell.
Me: But last week you told me it was low.
Them: Well, see, you can’t really SEE it.
Me: Go look again. If you can’t tell, check the manual. If it’s in German, bring the manual up here and the Internet will do marvelous things for you.

They disappear. I sit and wait, because I know that the manual will tell them about the tube and then they will recall previous lessons. They return a few minutes later, very proud.

Them: You can’t check it really easily! The tank is near the bottom of the block so you can’t really see it!
Me: And this helps me… how?
Them: The manual says it’s a matter of preference how much wiper fluid to have.
Me: I prefer to have wiper fluid. Do we have any?
Them: There’s no light.
Me: What?
Them: There’s no light saying it is low. You said before that on the other car a light comes on. There’s no light. We aren’t sure if there is a light on the newer car, though. I wonder if there is…
Me (interrupting the contemplation of the magical light I regretted ever mentioning): Sweet holy hell. What does the manual say?
Them: Matter of preference. We pushed the button and it works, though, so we have fluid!

Long pause as I hang my head and contemplate bearing the bitter cold and blowing snow for the momentary victory of chucking at least one of them out the window.

Them: So we should take the vehicle back up there, Sergeant?
Me: No. Just go away. Go away and leave me alone. I have a headache.

I had no G.P. Mediums, though that did not stop me from calling around and seeing if the local units had any to spare. All I wanted was for them to take care of a mundane task like maintaining two vehicles without giving me a headache… and now instead I have to maintain my composure.

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