Thursday, June 30, 2011

Every Unit Has One

So no kidding.  There I was:

Ring Ring

I picked up the phone and intoned the litany of a proper military phone answer:

"3rd Squad, 3rd Platoon, Alpha Company, th MI Battalion, SGT DaddyBear speaking.  This line is not secure and this conversation is being recorded.  How may I help you?"

"Sergeant DaddyBear?  This is Sergeant First Class Rawhide.  Is there anyone else in the office?"
"No Sergeant, I released the rest of the squad after Retreat.  What's up?"
"Are you in a decent uniform, or have you been crawling under your track all day?"
"I'm OK, Sergeant.  We were doing first aid training today in the office."
"Good.  Make sure you look good and get down to the CO's office ASAP."
"On my way, Sergeant."

"What's going on now?", I thought as I put down the receiver.  I'd been in SFC Rawhide's platoon for a few months after coming back from Germany, and I'd never heard his voice so stern.  I'd taken over as a team leader and assistant squad leader just that week when the last guy had been promoted to Staff Sergeant and rotated out to one of the instruction battalions on our little training post.  Basically, as team leader I made sure five other soldiers, four male and one female, showed up for work, got their jobs done, and got what they needed.  I was beginning to realize that being assistant anything means you do the parts of the job the boss doesn't like to do.  Staff Sergeant Schwanz, the squad leader, didn't like paperwork or the personnel side of his job, so I had spent a lot of time that week doing counseling sessions, signing maintenance reports on our armored vehicles and equipment, and filling out duty schedules for the next month or so. 

That morning, instead of conducting the first aid training himself, the SSG Schwanz had grabbed a couple of guys who he was cozy with and disappeared for the day.  I assumed he'd gone down to the motor pool, signed out one of our trucks, and spent the day driving around up in the mountains.  He'd made a habit of that since coming to the squad about a month after me.  Rank hath its privilege with him.

I wiped a cloth across my boots, checked my uniform in the mirror on the Lieutenant's office door, and headed down the hall to company headquarters.

As I got to the commander's office, I noticed a line of people waiting for me.  Lieutenant Schatzie, my platoon leader, was talking to SFC Rawhide.  SSG Schwanz was standing next to one of my guys that he'd taken off with, Specialist Bulldog.  As I came down the corridor, 2LT Schatzie poked her head in Captain Goodman's door.

"SGT DaddyBear is here, sir."

CPT Goodman and First Sergeant Maruchan came out of the office at the same time as I reached it. 

"SGT DaddyBear, line up with the rest of the chain of command."

"Yes, sir.  May I ask what is going on, sir?"

"You mean you don't know?"

"No, sir."

"You'll figure it out as we get through this.  Just keep your mouth shut unless directly spoken to, OK?"

"Gotcha, sir."

I went to the back of our little line and the Captain started off, followed by 1SG Maruchan, 1LT Schatzie, SFC Rawhide, SSG Schwanz, SPC Bulldog, and then me.  We didn't quite march, but it was definitely a coordinated rank that wound its way to the Battalion Commander's area in the other wing of our building.

When we got there, the Captain knocked on the BC's door, then he and the Lieutenant went inside.  As we waited for them to come out, the Battalion Command Sergeant Major, CSM Motorpool came out of his office.  He glared his way down our rank, but he spent most of his energy trying to burn a hole through SPC Bulldog's forehead with his gaze. 

"What in hell is going on?" I thought.  An after-hours meeting with your entire chain of command and one of your soldiers means only one thing:  Bulldog was in big trouble.  I'd known him since I'd come to the unit and he'd been my neighbor in the barracks.  He had a reputation as a hard drinker and a partier, but I'd never seen him do anything wrong while on duty.  He didn't have a car, so a DUI was unlikely.  I looked at Bulldog, but he was glaring back at the CSM as intently as the CSM was glaring at him. 

After a few minutes of watching a very junior soldier and a very senior soldier try to kill each other with their minds, the Captain came out and ordered us into the BC's office.  CSM Motorpool followed me in.  We all squeezed into the periphery of the room, with the CSM taking a position behind Lieutenant-Colonel Wing's desk and Bulldog standing at attention directly in front of his desk. 

Bulldog raised his hand in salute and barked "Sir!  Specialist Bulldog reporting to the battalion commander as ordered!".

The BC returned the salute, but didn't tell Bulldog or the rest of us to stand at ease.  One more bad sign.  LTC Wing was the most casual senior officer I'd ever met, to the point that he'd offered me a cold Coke during my introductory meeting with him in May.

"SPC Bulldog, you are here because you are accused of violating several articles of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, specifically Articles 92 and 134."

Article 134?  Article 92 was the one that dealt with disobeying an order, but what in hades was Article 134?

The BC read Bulldog his rights under Article 32, which is basically the Miranda warning you hear on TV, right to remain silent, right to counsel, etc. He signed the form he'd read from and then told Bulldog to sign it signifying that he understood his rights.

Then he got to the meat of it:

In March of that year, one of the sergeants in Bulldog's old platoon had thrown a bash.  Apparently it was quite a blow-out, because I'd heard about it when I got to the unit the following month.  He was going away for a deployment to Kuwait and decided to clean out the liquor cabinet before winging his way to the land of no alcohol.  I'd known Sergeant Clueless and his wife when both of them been one class ahead of me in language school.  He'd been, well, clueless, but had been a good sort and graduated by the skin of his teeth.  His then girlfriend was the opposite.  She was brilliant in school, and had a lot of time to enjoy herself while the rest of us pulled our hair out. She became one of the principal party girls in our company.  If someone got in trouble because of sex or alcohol, she was either the cause of it or was in the vicinity. 

Apparently, once her husband and most everyone else was passed out after the party, she'd grabbed Bulldog and headed upstairs for a quick bit of horizontal mambo.  Why she didn't grab her husband instead of one of his soldiers is still a mystery to me.  Clueless worshipped the ground his wife, now a stay at home mom, walked on, and would have gladly woken up from a drunken stupor to attend to her.

The next morning, Clueless flew off to the desert, his wife cleaned up from the party, and Bulldog went back to the barracks.  While the night before might have been a very bad idea, if they had kept their mouths shut, it would have been a secret kept better than anything our little MI unit dealt with.  But of course, someone talked, and that someone was Bulldog.  Like I said, he was a drinker, and he'd bragged to another troop about his escapades during a weekend of partying.  After this troop sobered up, he wrote a letter to Sergeant Clueless in Kuwait, detailing what had happened.

Needless to say, Clueless was snorting and pawing at the dirt when he came home in July.  He confronted his wife with the story right there at the airport, and she apparently was not only gleeful in admitting that she'd done it, but went into detail into what had happened.  She handed him divorce papers, turned on her heel, and walked out of the airport.

Luckily for both Clueless and Bulldog, the battalion's driver that night was a big guy who had served with Clueless in Desert Storm, so after picking Clueless up, he was able to keep him from going up to the barracks and killing Bulldog with his bare hands that night.  He probably did one of the smartest things he'd ever done by putting Clueless into one of the transient rooms at the staff duty officer's desk and calling the chain of command. 

Clueless and Bulldog's platoon sergeant came in, had a long conversation with Clueless, and spent the rest of the night finding a new place for Bulldog in SFC Rawhide's platoon.  He also brought 1SG Maruchan up to speed, who reported the situation to CPT Goodman.  At that point, a personal matter that probably should have been taken care of with a fist fight exploded into a shitstorm of epic proportions.

CPT Goodman was one of the most religious men I'd ever met.  He took his faith as seriously as he did his duty, but didn't push others to follow him in it.  He led by example, and by that example he hoped others would find their own faith.  Unfortunately for Bulldog, he was also as straight as a laser when it came to morals and regulations.  Breaking one of the Ten Commandments and a regulation with the wife of a fellow soldier was a ticket straight to his office and his ire.

CPT Goodman brought Bulldog into his office along with the Lieutenant and tried to talk to him about the situation, but Bulldog pretty much told him that it was none of his business and accused the Captain of singling him out because he was an atheist.  The Captain read Article 134, Adultery, to him, but Bulldog wouldn't relent.  Yes, Virginia, sleeping with a married person that you're not married to is a crime in the military.   My guess is that the Captain was trying to give him a slap on the wrist over it so that Clueless would feel that justice had been meted out, but Bulldog wasn't cooperating.

Bulldog was moved from his platoon to mine, and put in my squad.  A week later, not knowing anything about this (I made it a habit of not listening to the rumor mill in the company.  Duh.), I took over as his team leader.  The NCO I took over for didn't give me much of an in-brief, and didn't mention anything about Bulldog's situation.  I'd planned on having a "Hi, I'm your new boss" session with him that Friday, where I would have probably learned about this drama, but the BC had moved quickly when a very angry Captain Goodman had decided that he could no longer be impartial and had kicked the matter up to the Battalion Commander.

LTC Wing looked up from the paperwork he'd been reading from and centered Bulldog squarely in his gaze.

"SPC Bulldog, do you understand the charges against you, in that you committed adultery and then disobeyed a lawful order?"
"Yes, sir, but if I can explain..."
"SPC Bulldog, have you read the statements that CPT Goodman and SGT Clueless provided?"
"Yes, sir, I have."
"SPC Bulldog, did you have sexual relations with Mrs. Clueless as detailed in the statement from SGT Clueless?", asked the BC.
"Yes, sir, but let me explain..."
"SPC Bulldog, did you, after being ordered by CPT Goodman not to, contact SGT Clueless and his wife?"
"Yes, sir, but if I can just tell you..."
"SPC Bulldog, have you spoken with an attorney about this matter?  If so, do you wish to stop these proceedings while we bring that lawyer here?"
"Yes, sir, SSG Schwanz took me to JAG today.  I don't think it'll be necessary to bring a lawyer in on this."
"SPC Bulldog, do you consent to allow me to decide on your guilt and punishment, or do you wish to have a court martial convened?  I want you to know that if you ask for a court martial, the punishment if you are found guilty is much heavier than what you will receive if I handle it and find you guilty."
"Sir, I don't think that a court martial will be necessary.  I'd like you to handle this."
"Is there anything you want to add that will mitigate your admitted guilt in this matter, SPC Bulldog?"
"Yes sir, there is.  Sir, this is horseshit."
"Aw crap" I thought.
"Excuse me, Specialist?"
"Sir, I admit that I had sex with Mrs. Clueless, but it was consensual, off post, and no-one got hurt.  She was planning on divorcing SGT Clueless anyway.  And I tried to talk to them so that we could find a way to take care of this without someone making a federal case out of it."
"Anything else, Specialist?"
"No, sir."
"All right, then I need nothing more from you.  SPC Bulldog, I find that you are guilty of willfully violating Articles 92 and 134 of the UCMJ.  I sentence you to the harshest punishment I can as a field grade officer.  Your actions have been detrimental to the good order and discipline of my battalion, and your attitude tells me that you have no idea how much I prize good order and discipline."

The BC rose. Everyone in the room stiffened.

"SPC Bulldog, you are reduced in rank two grades to Private, E-2.  You will be docked half a month's pay for two months.  You are restricted to your barracks for 60 days, and will be allowed to leave it only to go to duty, to eat at the chow hall, and to go to the chapel if you choose to do so.  You may make supervised visits to the PX once a week for necessities only.  For the next 45 days, you will do four hours of extra duty after Retreat on each duty day, and will do eight hours of extra duty on each non-duty day.  I am doing this because the violation of trust between you and another soldier was destroyed because of your actions, and my unit was distracted from its mission"

The BC rose from his desk and walked around to Bulldog.  CPT Goodman also came forward, and together they removed the rank pins from Bulldog's collar.  CPT Goodman pulled a set of private's rank out of his pocket, and he and the BC pinned them on now PV2 Bulldog's uniform.  The BC then turned to the CSM.

"Sergeant Major, you will work with these NCO's to work out a duty roster for who will be supervising Private Bulldog's extra duty.  I'd like the officers to stay, but the rest of you are dismissed."

We filed out into the hall.  The Sergeant Major opened the door to his office and motioned us all inside, Bulldog included.  Bulldog looked like he'd been kicked in the gut, but he at least had the sense to come to parade rest in front of the Sergeant Major's desk.

"Bulldog, what are you?" asked the Sergeant Major.
"Excuse me, Sergeant Major?"
"What are you Bulldog?  Are you a soldier?"
"Yes, Sergeant Major, I'm a soldier"
"Bulldog, let me tell you something.  After the way you've acted, you are not a soldier.  You are a man in uniform.  You are no better than the Good Humor man.  You might as well just go out and sell ice cream.  If you want to be a soldier again, you've got a lot of work to do."

Bulldog's eyes bugged out.  I think that shot had hit him harder than losing two stripes.

"Who is this person's supervisor?"
"I am, Sergeant Major." I said, knowing that this was going to suck no matter what happened.
"As his first night of extra duty, PV2 Bulldog will police up the battalion area. When he is done with that, he will begin mowing the PT field."
"Yes Sergeant Major.  Sergeant Major, it's going to be dark in a couple of hours."
"You have a flashlight, don't you, Sergeant DaddyBear?  You will light the way for him."
"Yes Sergeant Major"
"I want a duty roster on my desk by lunchtime tomorrow showing how each of you will supervise this person for the next 45 days, including his visits to the chow hall, chapel, and the PX.  If he'd been properly led, this probably wouldn't have happened in the first place, so the four of you will participate in his rehabilitation.  Sergeant DaddyBear, that's also your responsibility."
"Yes Sergeant Major."
"Get to it."

We all left and led Bulldog back to the squad bay.  I made a quick call to my wife to let her know I'd be home around 11, which did a lot for her mood.  I grabbed my flashlight out of the desk, and proceeded to follow Bulldog around while he picked up the trash around the battalion's buildings.  After he'd done that, he scarfed down an MRE SFC Rawhide brought out for him, and got busy mowing the field.  And yes, once it got dark, I walked beside the mower with a flashlight and made sure he didn't push it into a hole.

Over the next six weeks, I took turns with 1SG Maruchan, SFC Rawhide, and SSG Schwanz supervising Bulldog in doing every menial task we could come up with.  He picked up, swept, washed, mopped, buffed, mowed, stripped, waxed, and painted everything we could think of.  One weekend, he swept and mopped the tarmac in the motor pool, and the next weekend, he swept and mopped the bays in the maintenance garage.  Bulldog quickly tried pushing his luck, but nothing keeps an NCO from becoming chummy with someone as having to give up his own off time to make sure they do as they're told.  On multiple occasions, he got told to shut up and think about how expensive a roll in the hay could be.

I learned a few things over that time:

  1. When you lead someone, you're there for them when they do both good and bad
  2. When you screw up, if no-one got hurt and no damage was done, shut up.
  3. When caught, admit fault and take your lumps.  
  4. You can do a lot of thinking while you watch someone wax and buff hangar floors on a Saturday.
If Bulldog had just admitted that he'd done wrong, CPT Goodman would have given him a slap on the wrist and let it go.  By making it personal, he'd forced CPT Goodman to kick the matter up to a level that could only drop the hammer on Bulldog.  And his entire chain of command suffered for his stupidity.

Bulldog apparently didn't take any lessons away from this.  He got one of those stripes back later that year, but lost it again when he was found sleeping on radio watch.  Some people never learn.


Old NFO said...

Yeah, and when you cross a born again or a "devout" 'Christian' officer, there is NO way it's going to end well... BTDT, supervised a few aircraft washes when two of my guys pissed off a Mormon.

DaddyBear said...

All the fool had to do was either keep his mouth shut, or admit fault and take a lower level of punishment. He honestly didn't believe that he'd be prosecuted for adultery, so he pretty much argued with the Captain about his authority to charge him. Never a good idea.

And I imagine that being in charge of aviators made for some interesting command environments when the commander was a teetotaler.

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