A new type of war
“So THIS is where all the good furniture went,” said our battalion commander, popping his head into the brigade admin office on his way to a meeting.
“Wow, nice office,” say several people a day. “A lot of room.”
The comment is made in disdain because most sections are crammed two or three to a desk, while the admin office is spread out over two rooms.
Hey, I’m not admin, I was just told to work out of their office. There is a lot of room in the new office, that’s for damn sure. The brigade admin officer, or, as the Army calls him, the S1, apparently worked some political gerrymandering during the time everybody was on leave, snatching up the best stuff.
That’s typical of him and typical of attitudes in the Army these days. We’re practitioners of Machiavelli’s Un-Golden Rule: Do unto others before they do unto you. We came, saw the stuff, and took it from them before they took it from us.
Well, not “we” per se, and not “them.” We’re “Army Strong” after all (our new Army motto), you know, “one team one fight” and all that crap. Yeah.
Be all that as it may, we’re locked in to a new struggle now that we’re back from war: a war of make believe. We don’t have enemies to kill or bombs to dodge, but we can show everyone how hardcore we are by the svelteness of our PowerPoints, among other things.
“I want you all to start calling ‘at ease’ whenever any sergeants major or lieutenant colonels come in,” our major said. “We’ll show them how disciplined we are.”
Calling the room to “at ease” (that is, standing up, placing your feet a shoulder’s width apart and clasping your hands behind your back to wait for instructions from the entering person) is courtesy, but usually very impractical in a brigade setting, where we have a dozen sergeants major and light colonels stepping in and out every few minutes.
Still, we have to show “them” how disciplined “we” are.
“Don’t get attached to your chairs or desk, the CIC (command information center) is getting priority on all furniture,” the major said today. In Iraq, the CIC is the heart of the goings on of the unit. Typically they get all the nice stuff since the higher-ups spend all of their “back when I was fighting the war” time there. You have to make it as cutting-edge and plush as possible.
But when there are no radios to monitor or convoys to track, why are we setting up a CIC in the states?
Apparently that’s just the beginning, they’ve ordered all manner of projectors and screens to emulate the setup we had in Iraq with telemetry and data streams filling the CIC sky like the starry heavens.
“They really need to let it go,” said a former drill sergeant colleague of mine. Agreed.
“Salmons, we need your help,” came a call in mid-morning–the third such call in the prior two days. While at first I thought it might include a dangling participle or misplaced modifier, actually it was just to help move a desk into the office.
“We’re getting a civilian safety guy in here and he needs a desk,” said one of the admin staff sergeants…one of nine soldiers who now made up the section, now that all the formerly-pregnant and broken soldiers have rejoined the family.
“What happened to all the desks that the major said we didn’t need and had us take out?” I asked, rhetorically.
“Well we need another one.”
We moved three desks in and back out over the course of those two days. None were ever good enough, as per the major. One didn’t match; one “was a table, not a desk” as it didn’t have built-in drawers; and the third was something else that I wasn’t privy to. I just remember lifting heavy particle board to and from the various parking lots and buildings of our unit footprint.
The safety guy came through today. “Don’t you guys have a cubicle I could use?” he asked the admin master sergeant. “No sir, it’s just an open room for all of us.”
“I’d actually like THAT area,” he said, motioning to me at my desk. Guess I’m on the chopping block.
But I’m confused. The command should really put out a rules of engagement for this new type of fight. Is this civilian guy “them”? He’s working with “us” which would make me think he’s part of the team, but he’s acting aggressively toward “us,” right? And he gets to wear blue jeans every day. And all he does is tell people to wear their seat belts and read driving fatality statistics from the Department of Transportation. And he’s a G12!
I’m making the call, he’s one of “them.”
I’ll list it in the PowerPoint we have to start presenting to the command in the new meetings that they’re scheduling. Command and Staffs, Morning Stand-Ups…they’re all going to start up again. Hours of my life sacrificed on the alter of freedom. Hours of my life I can’t spend with my future grandchildren. “Sorry little Johnny, Grandpa has to go hang with Jesus, if only I had those few days of my life back, I’d be able to tell you how much I lo–…”
All there is to talk about at the meetings is how we don’t have any soldiers to command, any dining facilities to run, or any motor pools to manage. Heck, I get five or six people a day stopping by my desk saying how they’re bored out of their minds with no job to do.
I’ve entered a new chapter. It’s Office Space meets the DMV, and I am one day closer to death.