Everything’s an emergency

I’m writing a huuuuuge, mammoth article for work. It’s supposed to summarize and capture the innovative way the unit approached “log” (i.e. logistics) while in Iraq.

As a testament to how dull I’ve become, it’s all sort of interesting. I got to learn a little more about all the acronyms I always heard during the hundreds of hours of briefings I had the…um…pleasure to sit through. I had to go out and interview nearly every field-grade officer in the brigade and sift through six and a half hours of interviews to glean the whys and wherefores of our entire year at war.

Never mind that I already wrote several “Year in Review” pieces as we wrapped up our deployment. I guess command didn’t check them out.

No biggie. It has kept me very busy. The Fridays just keep coming as hours pour out of the month like water from a sponge in a vice.

Sponge being me. Vice being the incredible sense of urgency that follows every request by military seniors.

I guess it might be the same everywhere, but those in charge in the military routinely come up with grand ideas that send subordinate commanders screaming to their NCOs to get cracking on projects.

“I need a roster of all E7s without ANCOC by MOS by noon!”

“Email your finance NCO if you have a government travel card immediately!”

“PT test on Monday, you’re on the list!”

“The USR slides are being briefed to the general at 1900, they’re due to me by 1400!”

Each and every one belted out by an officer standing over your desk, driving you in to the same consternated fervor that the major himself was in a tiff over just minutes prior in the colonel’s office.

The quip I have about the whole shebang is so many of these random day-to-days are purely reflexive, fired off with little thought and sometimes no foresight. Not that they’re ill conceived, but they’re completely reactive. There’s a saying that goes “failure to plan on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine;” but that is never actually said. As a lower-enlisted Joe, I’m just supposed to do what I’m told. Remember that my unit’s motto is “Just get it done!” which is what commanders say to subordinates who voice concerns (viewed as excuses) over time issues or having other things to do. Failure to “get it done” is seen as a failure to “manage one’s time well.”

Problems also arise when you belong to a special staff section like Public Affairs. There, every commissioned officer and sergeant major can come to you with requests for projects. We get everything–promotion announcements, requests for promotion photos, story ideas, gripes over why a person isn’t in the newspaper more, requests to put together unit history reports, requests to make PowerPoints for ceremonies or meetings…on and on. All of them interrupting our normal series of tasks given to us by our higher Public Affairs echelons of command, who exist in a whole other world of objectives and priorities.

“PAO! I want a story on Thanksgiving Dinner,” the XO shouts. So we stop our work on posters the command wanted us to make from photos through the year in Iraq. We start planning to interview Soldiers who are going home verses those who are—

“PAO! There’s a WLC graduation at 1400. Go take pictures,” a sergeant major informs us of. So we stop our work on the Thanksgiving story. We get the camera ready, lenses cleaned, batteries charged so that it’s ready for—

“PAO! I sent you an announcement regarding the Change of Command ceremony this morning. Did you design the cover yet? It’s going to the printer today,” an outgoing commander says. So we stop our work on getting ready for the WLC graduation. We open the email and read the requirements for the cover, notice a LOT of concerns over unclear information and readability and start to edit the—

“PAO! The colonel wants you,” says the command group secretary. I stop looking at the cover design, grab my notepad and head in to the big man’s office.

“Sit down Sgt. Salmons,” the colonel says. I do. “How are we on that ‘Year in Iraq’ story?” he asks.

“Good, sir. It’s taking me a little longer than I thought, but—”

“I need you to put that on the back burner. I need you to get on a story about our organizational changes–what we changed, why we changed it. I’m going to just go off and you write it all down and go from there. We’ll start Monday. I need it in two weeks.”

“Sir, I was scheduled to go down the ports next week and do a story on container reception.”

“Who’s bright idea was that?”

“The XO’s.”

“Well, tell him ‘Thanks for the vote.’ Get to work on this.”


Well, today came and went and that meeting was moved from 0900 to 0930, then to 1030, then to Tuesday, and now to Thursday. Two weeks became one. Joy of joys.

And just as the others cycled in giving the requests, they’ll all cycle back, wanting to know why things aren’t done, and then making cute remarks about how PAO doesn’t do any work. Everything is a priority. Everything has to be done right now! And, when I first joined the Army, I took that to heart. I honest-to-God would come in on Saturdays and work late to do everything. I thought it was the right thing to do.

But eventually it wore me out. When everything is so GD important, it all assumes an equal level of urgency. And since a good chunk of the service could give two sh*ts about doing anything beyond the minimum effort required for promotion; there are two choices given to the average soldier when facing the hailstorm of “AAAAAAAGH! Now now now!”: freak out or don’t care.


About salemonz

Born in San Diego, Calif. Raised as a Navy Brat, I jumped ship and crossed over to the Army. Served as an enlisted journalist for a bunch of years, then helped the DoD figure out what the hell to do with social media. After the Army, now I drift down the river of life, trying not to be a jerk.

5 responses to “Everything’s an emergency”

  1. beka says :

    that comment-“failure to plan…”- will forever remind me of Kragel.

  2. salmons says :

    God bless Kragel! I miss that guy.

  3. beka says :

    i know!!! he ws the best teacher there!! ok, so monroe was a close second. i jest…really…

    i vote for don’t care vs. freak out but then again i don’t know how much time you have left.

  4. Momma Finch says :

    Josh –
    I must admit that I haven’t been monitoring your Blog as much recently as I would have liked. Guess since Finch isn’t updating his – I’ve lost track. But this evening I thought I’d check in. Much has happened! I am very familiar with the saying “failure to plan” … it happens in the public sector too. I acutally had an a-hole (CEO) tell me one day that “you don’t get paid to think – just do as your told”! Needless to say I’m not w/that company anymore (after 20 years). I’ve also heard that “failure is not an option”. Sometimes you can get like a deer in the headlights and become incapable of moving forward. Walk away – regroup – and, hopefully let the “higher-ups” decide where the priority is. But, I fear, that may not always work in the military – everyone thinks their project takes priority. But, do you get paid to make those decisions? I know I don’t – so I “pay it forward” as it is. Hang in Buddy.
    Congrats on the promo, too. Finch has told me how enjoyable going before the boards can be! You did good, Kid! Happy New Year – welcome back?

  5. salmons says :

    Thanks Momma! 🙂 God bless you and happy new year to you as well!

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