January 12, 2004
Well the light at the end of the tunnel is getting bigger, but I've seen that before and it ran me over. It's been raining off and on for three days and the entire camp is now a bog. Some of the tents are falling over because the stakes aren't long enough to hold in the slop with 30 mph winds. So let's talk about something besides crappy living conditions. Let's talk about stupid Army policies. Stupid? In the Army? Well stupid is as stupid does...
Stop Loss is a stupid idea. Sure it’s necessary and vital to the current mission, but it’s no way to maintain the defense of a Nation. In case you’ re not familiar (and I’m sure you are) Stop Loss is the Army policy that prevents soldiers from EST (see Army for leaving FOREVER) out of service and PCS (see Army for Not Coming Back Here, I hope) out of theater. I know what you’re thinking, "don’t you troops sign a legal and binding contract that states the length of your service?” Yep, we sure do (some schmucks do it three times) but I am told that the whole Stop Loss thing is listed in the contract.
No, I never read the WHOLE thing, ok? My first enlistment I was mostly interested in the bonus money and nervous about what I was about to do. My second enlistment I was way too hung-over (didn’t think I’d do it sober, did
you?) and my third time was right after 9/11 so I was way too motivated to care about the details. I guess the Devil really is in the details and Stop Loss is one of his creations. But I digress; I was talking about stupid ideas, not actions.
Making people continue to do a dangerous job when they want to leave is a Stupid idea. It’s bad for morale, it’s bad for the unit and it is bad for the Army. Sure it keeps us running for the time being, but how long are they gonna push this crap? And how do you expect tomorrow's soldiers to enlist when they see that a three-year hitch turns into four years or longer? Morale will suffer as those affected bitch about getting hosed. The unit will suffer because quality of work falls as the troops bitch and the Army is never going to be able to pay people enough to put up with this shit. Can you imagine a kid looking up at his brother, just home from the war saying, “I want to be just like you Johnny,” and Johnny stares down at his brother and says, “No you don’t. You want to be smart and join the Air Force.”
Another Stupid idea is what they’re doing to the NCOES, or Non-Commissioned Officer Education System (see Sergeants School). PLDC (Primary Leadership Development Course) is the first course of the NCOES and the beginning of my problem. It’s not a terribly tough time, more like a weeding out process for those who can’t learn and don’t want to put out real effort.
PLDC used to be the course you had to complete BEFORE you became a Sergeant. The Army changed the system (maybe 5 years ago) so that it was the course you needed (within a year) to KEEP your stripes. But now you must complete PLDC before your NEXT promotion (see Staff Sergeant). The alleged reason behind this move is that our troops deployed can’t rotate back to the NCOES locations to take the course. The part that is chafing my ass is that I had to earn my stripes before I got them, and I feel like the old man on the porch yelling at kids, “Why you young whippersnappers!” Maybe I’m just cranky that I had to do more than the people today. Maybe I’m dumb to think that the Army would promote someone who is unqualified for the job… nope, I KNOW that’s not the case.
But the Stupidest thing that I’ve seen (this week) is what happened today. Today I spoke with a man from the five-sided building in the D.C. area about our mission. The mission, our training, equipment and loads of other Army related stuff. He seemed genuinely concerned, asked pertinent and intelligent questions and took notes too. What’s stupid about that? Well, first off he’s a civilian contractor. Making a six figure salary. He’s a civilian contractor making a six figure salary writing a report about strengths and deficiencies which could (and should) have been passed up the Chain of Command.
The second thing about today’s meeting is who this report goes to. Allow me to tell you what I heard, “… and be sure that this report will be read. It goes directly to The Chairman…”
“Excuse me,” I said, “the chairman of what?”
“The Joint Chiefs of Staff.” And he said it with a straight face so I’m pretty sure he was serious! My brain locked and gears gound to a halt. The Joint Chiefs are the HMFIC’s (Head Mother Fuckers in Charge) of the U.S. Military. I don’t know much about The Chairman except that his name is Meyers, he reports to the President and if I ever have to stand before him I WILL be in a world of shit. But why would he need to send someone down here to get information? A civilian someone at that? Why not a young officer that needs his ticket punched with some deployment time? Why would The Chairman need to send a Spy? Doesn’t he think that he can get a “No-Bullshit” evaluation from his officers on the ground? If not, why not ask a Sergeant, or even a Private without political aims?
Civilian companies bring in contractors to help out, but from my experience they’re called Hatchet Men, and clear out the dead weight. What the hell is going on here?
I love you all,
You can bet that man is getting paid about $350 an hour for his time, too. He could have saved himself a trip and just read your blog. What is the matter with these people?
Hang in there SGT, if for no other reason than to save your soldiers and the rest of us from those in the five-sided building.
We appreciate you. Keep your feet dry.
A soldier's mom...
Let's just hope that this contractor's comments DO got straight to the top! Let's put it this way, if he tells the truth he isn't in the same boat as a young officer who might portray the facts to be what his superiors WANT them to be (see Brown Nosing). Another thing about when a lower ranked officer writes a report - it gets reviewed (see Changed) by every superior up the line until the document is no longer recognizable.
I agree it may be a waste of good money but perhaps it will actually work (see LONG SHOT).
You're a good man and great leader Will - not much longer to put up with all this BS.
A Soldier's Woman - IRA
As always, I have enjoyed your rants!!! They never cease to make me smile and to remind me that if not for you and those like you, life here would be much worse for all.
Keep your head up, your feet dry and pray that light keeps getting brighter (without running you over).
Also, once back home, please don't stop writing. Keep us informed, at least for a while, on your adventures. For some of us, you have become like a family member that we await news from anxiously.
Stay safe and God bless!!
I stumbled upon your site through some of the others I look at for my job. I am one of those people that you all come to see when you leave the military broken, hurt, lost, or unemployed. From what you say the Army hasn't changed much from when I was in 10 years ago. I work for a state that is as frustrating as the military is for you. You question why decsions that are made that make it harder for you to do your job, you do your job without the support and the materials you need because it is important, you take care of your men because they deserve better, even at a cost to you. That is a leader. Leaders don't come in starched uniforms with shiney medals. The ability to lead does not come with a title like Captain or Director or CEO. Leaders are people who care and who do because they can and they feel they should. We will never please everyone, we will never have all the support we need to do our jobs the way we know we should, but we will DO because we can when others can't. You are not there to free Iraqis, you are not there to gain land or oil, you are not there to follow through on Bush's plans. YOU are there because there are pople there (your men, your comrades, your coworkers, whatever you call them) that need you. I make enemies everyday asking for what is right or for things to be done right for those who have done what their government has asked them to do. I step on toes, I dig myself deeper into holes, but I still yell and I still fight for them because I can and because they need that.
You may not be a general, you may not be chief, you may not make the decisions, but you lead because you have a voice. Your writing helps you to deal, it gives you and outlet, but it also provides as voice for those who do't or can't spek for themselves. I commend you for your honesty and your integrity. What you say may not be popular with the higher ups, but it is the truth and it needs to be said. If noone remembers you, maybe they will remember your words and find their own voice.
LEAD FROM WHERE YOU STAND.
And just when you think things can't possibly get any "stupider".... Stop Loss....(sigh) not a happy thought for anyone. Hang in! We're all sympathyzing with your plight of the bog and idiot contractors and hodgiis and .... do I need to continue? There is just so much!
Take care of yourself and your men. We all want you to make it back without any more problems.
Yeah I can say that, nearer to 50 than 40 and thirty years service in this year. RIFTED twice and still a major.
Just when you think you've got it sorted, those clever REMFs move all the goal posts.
Sitting today (well evening) a couple hundred clicks south of your AO, same same mud and wind. Difference being I'm very short.
I've been blogging a bit from here in the deep south, keep it going, tell it like it is, the good times and the bad. Enjoy every day a la FMJ. It is the worst of times..it is also the best of times. Salaam.
Hey Will....as always, I love to read your posts and thank you so much for keeping us all so well informed! I know there are a lot of us out here thinking of you daily!
I wonder if this civilian contractor came to see you because someone in that five sided building of OURS has gotten wind of your blog and you've caught their attention! This could mean really good things for you Will, a chance to have your voice heard by someone who can actually make a difference! Of course, in the military, that's not always a good thing if you skip the chain of command in the process, but maybe that's part of the problem.
Keep focused on the light Will and know that you will be home with your family soon. By the way, how is your nephew doing? Big, strong and beautiful, I'd imagine by now!
Take care and know that you are loved out here!!
Hang in there Will! I am sorry you are so frustrated! Just know that you are thought of and we all pray for you often my friend! (we also pray for a boil on the butt of the joint chiefs of staff!)
You mentioned having someone from that five-sided building sending an officer to talk to y'all who has no political ambition. Is there such an officer? Not that I've ever seen, and I'm a military brat (and now wife). And do you really think that anyone is going to listen to/ report back what an NCO, not to mention an enlisted person says? I think not. We all know that if you didn't go to Westpoint, your opinion doesn't matter to any of the Westpointers in charge. So my personal opinion is that the civilian contractor is the best option. The fact that they even sent someone makes it clear that this is not my grandfather's, or even father's Army.
And thank you for the rants- it definitely puts things back here in perspective.
Take care, and God Speed.
About time someone whom tells it like it is can speak out on the B ________that goes on. Hope you gave him an ear full. Reading you e-mails I think that is excatly what you done.
I am proud of you for doing that. You know if those HMFiC's had sense they would have figured out to make those tents stakes better so you wouldn't have to stay in the rain & mud, like it is now.
Guess my grandson is like you, he has earned his stripes over there, now they are having him take the PLDC course to maintain what he has.
Well Will I wish you & all your men the very best. I pray for you every nite.
I remaim Grandma Alice of a soldier.
I have enjoyed your commentary for several months. My father pulled two combat tours in Viet- Nam. When I read your brilliant pieces I can't help but think what a morale booster it would have been for a nine year old boy to have been able to get a peek, such as the one you provide, at what his father was doing so far away. Thank you.
Will, I have no idea if you have seen the movie "Finding Nemo"...most likely not, being 'there' for some time (sorry not trying to rub it in) but in it is a blue tang fish named Dory, voiced by Ellen Degeneres. She is a bit absent-minded, and when scared, worried, or confused, she sings this little ditty ..."just keep swimming, swimming, swimming, swimming...just keep swimming....". Through the movie the words and tune run through your mind and that is what I'm offering to you tonight: "Just keep 'swimming...."
Wish I could do more to improve morale there. *sighs*
Judi - thanks for the laugh. Will - you are going to love Finding Nemo.
God help the civilian that they sent over there if you were chawing his ear! But tell it to him straight, if he doesn't report it, well then just add that to the list of stupid things - Damn the Man!! I applaud you for speaking your mind but wouldn't expect anything less.
Weather good here, mild winter so far. Lots going on so will catch you up some other time.
Looking forward to that "light" cuz I am getting bored here without you.
I am an Infantry Bradley Fighting Vehicle Master Gunner serving as a Section Leader. I am responsible for 2 Bradleys and seven crew members on them. There are 14 dismounted Infantrymen who ride in the back. These men are like my brothers. We are going to replace 4th Infantry Division in Tikrit very soon and deploy to Iraq for one year.
Stop Loss is absolutely necessary. It stablizes a unit in order to provide the ability to employ a cohesive force effectively. It would increase risk on a level incomprehensible to a civilian to do implace reassignments of soldiers during deployment. Stop Loss is explained in the contract of every soldier before they sign.
Promotions are based on the past performance and potential for excellence. Every Sergeant in the Army is responsible for developing soldiers and leaders. PLDC is an NCOES school that is merely 30 days of classroom instruction on leadership. But application of leadership, the real challenge, can only be learrned by practical application, through trial and error. Good leaders give after action reviews and draw feedback from thier subordinates in order to develop good leadership characteristics.
I know that several soldiers of mine are going to be recommended for promotion to Sergeant next month. There is a waiting list to attend PLDC in Grafenwohr. We are going to Iraq for a year. They will be serving in Sergeant positions, and deserve the pay, as well as the respect. It would be a travesty not to promoted them.
I read your bio. So you are a Nuclear, Biological, Chemical Specialist. That makes you an NBC guru. Wow. Keep your head up, your going home soon.
SSG Philip Jarvis
The views I wrote should reflect those of good leaders, but not necessarily do. Take it with a grain of sand.
With all due respect, sir---
Maybe so, but wait til you get over there and ask your men how THEY feel. That is of coure if they feel comfortable enough to tell you.
My son is there, and there is a big difference between what the brass thinks and what the men that are in the slop actual experience.
Let us know when you've suffered through months of 150 degree heat and then 8 inches of mud and rain how cohesive your units are feeling.
A soldier's mother...
It's been a long time since I've left a comment but I wanted you to know I still read from time to time. I love what you have to say and believe the light at the end of the tunnel will draw quickly near for you. If you don't continue writing after this disfunctional portion of your life, I wanted to wish you well and tell you that you will be missed.
If you ever read the comments, check Blackfive's blog for the 15th. If the rumors are even remotetly possible, be sure you know where your Chem suit is. Hope this is all just drama.
sorry to hear about the stoploss shit... almost makes you feel drafted don't it?..
hey cheer up... it'll all be over soon.
meantime get yourself and your troopers some journals/diaries to put down their thoughts...
Sorry for the slow response. I'm studying for my Navy Reserve YNC exam. Holy shit! Don't even get me started about Stop Loss. The Navy's doing it too. I totally agree with you that it's not doing anyone any favors. It will impact morale in a negative way, and that will hurt retention, big time.
What the Army calls PLDC, the Navy has an equivalent program for. It seems that every 6 months they change it. I can relate to your feelings on this whole thing. Again, don't get me started. I could write a book.
That whole thing you described with the civilian dude sounds nuts. For what they're paying this guy, they could talk to oodles of non-coms, etc and get more bang for their buck. I could never understand the military's penchant to spend excessive amounts of money on things like this, and then to add insult to injury, get civilian contracted people! Totally nuts. This is what happens when I'm posting a comment plowed on wine ;)
Anyway, like always, you're in my prayers, and many other peoples prayers. I hope with all my heart that the light you see at the end of the tunnel is not a freakin' train. Hang in there, and stay safe.
for us all this is new because we don't have a familiar or a friend in the army,but seems that in America this is normal.We ask ourselves why do you are so many boys and girls that enlist so young?
We wanted stun you with specials effects.....instead.....smile it is a joke:
Two men lost in desert,(Will and..... ahahahahah) one tells to the other:-I must give you two news, a beautiful and the other ugly!The ugly is that also day we eat sand!-The other discouraged asks:-And do that beautiful?-Look how there is it!!!ahahahahahah :-).
7th lesson:What time is it?Che ore sono?-It is 5 o'clock,sono le ore 5-When do we meet you?Quando ci incontriamo?
Happy to know the light that bring you to home is near.
Adriana and Milena
I've been reading your blog on and off since Captain Rooba put it up. :) If I can remember correctly, it's his sister who told me about it.
Anyhoo.....rant away all you wish! You've got a great sense of humor and a great way of telling a story...for a few minutes I can imagine what you're going through because of the power of your words.
I pray that you get to come home soon. Do give Wisconsin a second chance, though! If you were mid-state I can see where you're coming from, but Milwaukee's great. Come home by Summerfest and I'll buy you a beer. :) Or a dozen. ;)
Take care, stay dry and Godspeed.
We had a civvie at KNB who belonged to the "Center for Naval Analysis". He's an ex-USMC LtCol and while somewhat of a pompous ass until you got to know him, actually wrote excellent reports about how to improve things.
As a former KNB'er, I loved the no-salute policy. I had to go to Doha once, and had to salute more that day than I did in 6 mos at KNB. It was a rude awakening.
Finally, I have a spare KNB/Camp P coin. When you get back, let me know where to send it.
I am a Bradley Platoon Sergeant in the 1st Armored Division. We have been sweating it out over here in the big sandbox for quite awhile. 150 degree heat, people shooting at you, or trying to blow you up but you know what? We are all still motivated because we remember why we are here and are all darn proud to be allowed the privelige of serving our great nation in time of need. Sure stop loss sucks but guess what? No one forced you to join the Army. You signed up to do a job, and if necessary, pay the ultimate sacrifice for your country and freedom. Whiners like you make all of us look bad so quit complaining, do your job, and suck it up. Remember,
"Our Country, not ourselves"