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.