Monday, January 17, 2011

Learn the Ropes by Tying a Noose

"Here take this" James said as he threw me some sort of list.
I read it over. It was the names of twenty guys who I was now in charge of. "Ummm thanks. What do I do with this?" I asked sarcastically.
"What do you think? Eat it? It's the names for the role-call you'll do every morning. Take attendance and report if anyone is missing. If people gotta go somewhere, mark it down and tell the Warrant so he knows."
"So basically I'm head babysitter?"
"Pretty much" he replied. "Don't over think it. Just keep track of things, make sure no one fucks off, and pick out people for taskings."
"I guess that's simple enough" I said.
"Duh. Plus the best part is, you get to stay here and run things while everyone else goes and does the shitty jobs. Cool huh?"
"Well I suppose that's an advantage." I didn't know what to say. It was great to get recognized but sometimes being the one responsible has a way of biting you in the ass. Especially when you're in charge of teenagers with too much time on their hands.

That afternoon went by pretty quick.While everyone else was watching movies, I was lost in my day dream land. I told my roommate Matt about it and he congratulated me for it. But when I did, some people must of heard because the rest of the afternoon was peaked with whispers about my new job. I didn't know what to think. And after our PT break I went back to my room and just thought about it and what I was going to do. But everything in the military is platonic when it comes down to it. I can't really say I had a positive outlook.

In the military like most jobs people get right out of high school or whatever stage in their life they bring along a little bit of their old mindset and depending on their make up it takes a while to bash out previously held beliefs. So what I was faced with was a bunch of immature kids whose only form of discipline they previously got in Basic was quickly fading. Now I'm not naive enough to think little ole' me is going to burst in and start yelling, but I had to set the pace a bit.

The next day I went in with my little list. I went through it while James read off his. And things went quite well, everyone showed up in various conditions smelling of various vices. Later on I went to the office and met some of the junior officers who were stationed there for a quick stay until their own course. I found out after talking to them that everyone was just as long as I was and to just follow direction until I picked it up. I only realize years later that this is how the entire workforce operates and that most people have no real cool starting off what to do, no matter what the specialty. What decides who does a good job generally boils down to who can fake it the best.

Friday, January 14, 2011

It's Coming It's Coming

Been kinda slacking on the blog lately as I've geared my efforts towards my other one. But I'm writing a new article just after I post this. It does take time though as I don't blog about simple pre-made pictures or easily found links. So stay tuned.
Edit: Posting tommorow

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Promotion of Sorts

So after our Christmas leave we all got back to the base fully recharged and ready to go back to the daily grind. The prospect of going on course within a month was very motivating to say the least after slagging it out for the last four months (minus some leave) on PAT platoon doing the odd jobs around the base. By this time I had a core group of friends and a good grasp on the daily routine around the PAT. I'd shown that I wasn't an idiot so whenever the really bad jobs came up I got looked over for the guys who were to be punished for showing up late or reeking of booze.

I also had my new car which made things a blast in the winter where I'd be able to drive to the mess and eat instead of hoofing it across spans of snowy flatland like a prime target for some NCO with a chip on his shoulder. I could even turn a couple bucks here-and-there driving guys to the liquor store or local PX (CANEX is Canada) which is basically the base corner store that sold pretty much everything (furniture, TVs, clothing, etc.). Now it might seem bad that I made money doing this but the money was usually from guys I didn't like too much cause I did it for my friends for free. Also, if guys wanted to go downtown it was a one hour drive round trip so it did take a hit on my gas gauge. Plus everyone had an expendable income cause there wasn't much to do other than drink, fight, or try to pickup local girls. The mature guys with their head on straight already lived in the military condos away from us young guys. So our barracks was pretty much a frat house only cleaner.

Anyways, we show up for our first day and it's business as usual with role call over and the great debate of what movie we were going to watch until lunch. Ha ha, it's funny how this was the highlight of the workday back then.  So we finally decide on something we probably seen before but it kept us quiet. Soon enough I get whispered that I'm wanted in the office. Sure enough the alarm bells start going off on what I might have done or have yet to get caught for (sex with some chick in the shacks, drinking in the shacks, or just being messy). But none of those had happened recently so I was kind of at a loss for what the reason was. I justified that my name probably got picked to go on some tasking to move office furniture or other work.

So I presented myself at the doorway which is custom in the military and pronounced my presence with my rank, last name, and serial number. It's more of a tradition than practical as he was the one who called me there. But I was ushered in by the clerk to the Warrants desk. The first thing I noticed was all the papers and calendars and printed emails on his desk. This place was actually pretty busy when you get past the room full of teens watching movies. The Warrant Officer looked up at me and we had a conversation somewhat like this (I forget the actual one cause it happened so long ago):

"Private Tango" He said.
"Yes Warrant" I replied.
"You seem to have gotten used to things around here and don't fuck up too much."
"Yes Warrant I try" Is all I could manage to say.
"Good. And from your file I can see you're pretty smart. That's why I'm making you a section commander here in the platoon." Now I was hit with a couple verbal debates. One I couldn't admit I'm smart because any sign of ego in the military is seen as a number one target to any authority who like their subordinates just as that. Subordinate. So I asked another question burning in the back of my mind.
"I'd be glad to Warrant. But doesn't my course start in a month? I doubt I'd be much help only having a month." Yes, I tried to snake my way out of it. Because controlling these retards is the equivalent of trying to herd cats.
"Nope. The course has been pushed back till April. So you'll have plenty of time" He said Bluntly.
"Umm, ok then. I guess I can then." What was I to do, his mind was set. And arguing that you're too lazy to do it was an invitation for the worst jobs and taskings for the rest of my stint. Might as well go along.
"Good. James will show you what to do." He finished there and went back to his work.

I kinda wondered out of the office in a daze for a bit. I'd meet with James after lunch, right now I had to digest what had just happened.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Experiences May Vary

So True, part of the reason I got out of the Combat Arms. Where your job involves going out on the battlefield doing pretty much what relates to 'Looking for Trouble'. All the while base WOGS are back 'behind the wire' drinking Tim Hortons and checking their Facebook. Oh yeah, on top of that they make more money than you because they are considered 'Specialists'. So we risk our lives for less money and more danger. Great Deal. Updates coming soon.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

After a Hiatus

Excuse my absence all, a lovely combination of holiday excursions, depression episodes, and general laziness. However, now I'm back and on with the blog, or story, or whatever it is this thing is turning out to be.

So winter came to Gagetown and I spent a lot of early mornings shoveling snow with my other recruits. Although it wasn't everyday I actually was given the discretion on when we worked. However to some that may seem like a license to slack, but in the military it meant that as soon as someone complained or an officer asked some stupid off-hand question to the Sergeant Major (i.e. "RSM doesn't someone look after the walkways in the winter?") it was my ass who would be in shit. So I kept the place pretty free of snow and ice for a couple months. Eventually though our winter-leave came which was about 3.5 weeks off with pay. Pretty good deal since we weren't actually "essential personnel" in the military school.

So I got to go back home and visit with family. So of course the usual questions started of how hard were my courses, who was my boss, how was it going, did I like the base, etc. Of course you build up a repertoire of canned answers to these types of things. It happened when I went to University where my standard answer was "They make us read a lot." My old man used to be in so he chuckled at some stories and just nodded at others grumbling "Yup they'll do that" or "Ha ha, I remember when I blah blah blah...". I grew up in the military family so there was nothing too surprising for them, it was mostly friends and extended family who wanted the full details.

But honestly, it's one of those experiences that can't be summed up in a quick answer because half of Army life is just living in the environment. Especially one with as many dudes as the base I was on. I always referenced it to this analogy when describing it to my civi friends:

"Wanna know what it's like in the combat arms?"
"Sure"
"Ok. Remember how we always laughed at those dumb meat head guys in high school?"
"Ha Ha, yeah."
"Yeah funny right. Except the majority of them went to the Army....and now they're my boss. And they haven't really changed, except someone told them they were important."

A blanket statement I know. But the majority of guys giving out the unnecessary shit in the military are those same douche bags and because of that you tend to remember them better. Even now my best friends are military guys or ex-military guys. Why? Because they understand what I went through and I understand what they went through. Plus there is a standard you know they achieved. When a guy talks shit on the street their is a good chance he can't back it up, but with a military guy (especially the Army) you know he can or at least fail trying his damnedest.

One of the thing that unites military members is that they've all been broken at one point. Physically and mentally. No matter how many push ups you can do, someone will make you do them and then ask for more, and then berate you when you can't. This will go on for a while and the deprivation of positive chants, motivational posters, a quite place to masturbate, a bed that isn't surrounded by 3 or guys, a meal not prepared in a mess, or even a cool beer or relaxing smoke to take the edge off will add up real fucking fast. But the real trait of a combat arms soldier is that they'll keep coming back for more. Like in Fight Club when Tyler Durden gets the shit kicked out of him by Lou "Owner of Lou's Bar" and he keeps asking/taunting him for more. Kinda like that. Keep going until all you can do is still make them pissed off.

But going home is always nice, it removes from from the military universe of kinda gets you back to normal. It's nice being in a town where no one knows what unit/school you're from, or that your shaved head means you're a recruit, that being a man in uniform actual holds a little sexual appeal. So it's nice. Not much happened on that leave. A relative died and I went to the funeral, and I bought my first car with a credit line gladly extended when they saw where my checks were coming from. So I recharged for a bit, ate too much "fat pills" (aka cake, chocolate). Then drove myself back to base to start the waiting game all over again. By this time I was supposed to start in one month in February. As always with a military plan, it changed pretty quick when we got on ground.

To cap it all off, here's some benefits of compulsory service in a country. Everyone serves....even.....


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Turning the Screws

In the military we have a different form of punishment than the civilian world. It's not the demonized beating of another soldier while they sleep with bars of soap shoved down a sock (although I know similar accounts that have happened by individuals acting on their own). But unlike most jobs who would just fire you on the spot for screwing up the military takes the approach of rehabilitating punishment. Not the 'Million Little Pieces' type rehab but 'corrective training' as some NCO's term it. Although the majority of this is delivered orally.

Now in the civilian world if you got in trouble at work usually what happens is some person from Human Resources would ask you to their office, go over some long convoluted document, review it with you and have you sign it. Essentially if your action didn't warrant an immediate firing you would be put on probation for a set term and your performance reviewed. The military does have this form of administrative discipline however it is usually a paperwork hassle for most NCOs and honestly most soldiers are just either too young, inexperienced, or immature in their career for such drastic measures. This is where the bulk majority of actions that need remedying fall within. Low level screw-ups that aren't acceptable but at the same time is a waste of time to process (i.e. you were told to make your bed properly and you didn't, or you forgot a piece of non-essential equipment behind during an exercise).

Thus enters what we like to call a "jacking", the process of being "jacked" or "jacked up". The allusion is to that of a broken vehicle that doesn't perform properly and gets taken to the mechanic where it is jacked up on hydraulics, fixed, and sent on its way. Hence when small corrective measures are required in a military training environment the use of jackings are rife.

The most common administration of this is through a verbal beat down of both your ego and your choice in actions that premeditating the initiation of the jacking. For the most part you just take it and 'soldier on' as best you can. Although I've seen a heard both guys and girls breakdown from getting given a jacking. The worst ones in my experience are when they make you actually participate in your own berating. Like answering questions about your own ineptness and shortcomings or your very presence in whatever situation caused the jacking.

In my own experience I never received a jacking that made me cry. However, I have been brought to the brink of them and all my focus was on maintaining my composure. It was because during a routine inspection the Sergeant in charge of me opened my gas mask holder that was supposed to be pristine and a big clump of dried leaves fell out onto our nicely swept, mopped, and waxed floor. That was a bad day. This isn't to say that was my last one. I've already written about my habit of bad showings for uniform inspections and have received a lot more since then. But like a virgin getting their cherry popped it gets easier as time goes on. By the end of my tenure with the military I would brush off the words within 10 minutes of receiving it. Not exactly the effect my superiors wanted but by then I had enough of a rep that any indiscretions were over looked and impromptu jackings were just considered 'maintenace' for regular troops.

It just becomes part of regular military life and you take your beatings. There is no harassment councilor you can complain too (well technically there is, but you'll never be looked at seriously again as a soldier). As time goes on the most severe jacking becomes a funny story in the military and guys can be often heard swapping stories. So to the outsider looking in it seems barbaric but to everyone in 'the game' it's just part of the rules.

But before I go let me tell you that from an instructors point of view the administration of a jacking takes a lot more skill and poise than it looks. So much so that most carry a reputation for how well or to what degree they can administer jackings. A make of a good jacker is being able to calibrate the degree of the the abuse they can administer dependent on the soldier recieving it. I mean the idea is to make you think about how you screwed up. Not make you want to kill yourself. It's all about correcting an action which is the line between rehabilitation and punishment.

It's an art really. Like painting with a brush dipped in tears.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Digging In

Still waiting for course...

It was a cold December morning and the alarm was ringing at about 4:30am and I was fighting the urge servrely not to press the snooze button. I threw off my itchy fire proof blanket from my bed and turned to the side trying not to touch the oh so cold tiled floor. I then went about quietly getting dressed for the morning trying my best not to wake up my roommates. I finally got my winter jacket and winter pants together and stepped out into the barracks hallway.

As I walked down the hall in my boots you could hear the tell tale 'clomp' 'clomp' of an echo in an absolutely desolate place. Everyone was back from the bars and were passed out from booze or exhausted from sweaty stinky barrack room sex. No, this morning was just quiet and I went and disturbed it by knocking quietly on a variety of rooms from a hand written list I was given.

Now 4:30 am is an ungodly time to be waking up. I know, I am by no means a morning person (I write all these articles between 1am - 3am usually) and I'm pretty much a bear in the morning. So coming being the first thing guys see in the morning I'm not too popular. Also, I gotta make sure these guys actually get dressed and are ready to go out with me for our task.

Why? Because some guys try to pull stuff over on you by acting like they don't hear too good, some blame sleepiness and say they were too "Sleep fucked" to remember me telling them to get ready, and some are just lazy and I hope I forget. That's what the list is for. So I don't forget.

You see, by this point I was put in charge of the snow clearing duty for the engineering school. Lucky me. Which means I got to be in charge of 6-8 guys to help shovel out the snow around it. Sounds easy in theory, except it's Canada and our winters aren't pretty. Especially in small town New Brunswick.

So I got this 'team' together and we all march across the gigantic parade square in the middle of the base in knee-high snow. The only other movement we see in the morning is the guys driving the big bulldozers (MSE OPS) and maybe some MPs looking for something to keep themselves busy. But here we were our little team of Engineer-wannabes trudging through the snow.

We get to the school and find our plastic shovels and get to it clearing the entrances. Now its not really much of a story, snow clearing in all. I mean everyone does it in the winter. But if you're like me, you just clear out enough of your driveway to get to your car and back out. I mean you're not running a used car dealership so why fuss about the non-important snow? That's where we differed. We had to clear ALL the snow around the building. 30 foot entrance paths, monuments in front of the school, the CO's parking spot, all the smoke pits, the gigantic entrance path, and any little side paths leading to the road. Not to mention after this was done we had to clear the ice underneath it all if it rained prior to the storm. Then add salt. Also, account for that it's also snowing the entire time so you have to redo some work by the time you finish everything.

So doing all this usually took about 6 hours out in the cold. But on the positive side, I was the boss and I consider myself a very relaxed guy to work for. The guys I worked with (once you got them out of bed) were great and did little complaining. And the odd replacement guy who did complain to the rest of the crew usually got thrown in a snow bank by the rest of us and we threw snow of him. Complaints didn't come up much after that. But the school was warm and open so we could warm up whenever we needed it. Smoke breaks when ever we wanted. And we always arranged a coffee/hot chocolate run each morning cause the work went faster when you were happier.

The bonus of doing this job besides being the boss was that once we finished everything we usually got to go home for the day. Now when I say usually I mean that if we finished too early we would be sent back to the classroom and wait like everyone one else. And while we were immune to doing jobs for the rest of the day, it just made waiting worse being soaked and tired. So it was always an art when I had to report in we were finished. I found the 'sweet spot' to be around 1pm just after lunch when it's officially afternoon and everyone was happy with a full belly of food. The hour for lunch wasn't hard on anyone either. So we got to go home to the barracks and like most people I usually just went to sleep.

Just another day on PAT. And if I didn't go to sleep from partying at night, I went to sleep praying it wouldn't snow.