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…