The Quest for Stripes: The Return
So, all that work toward staff sergeant and nothing to show for it? Bummer.
I talked with my dad, a navy veteran of 28 years, about the situation, and he turned me on to the possibility that I could extend my enlistment to meet the time requirements.
At first I wasn’t quite sure I wanted to do that, as it would extend me right into stop loss for another year in Iraq (Jan. ’08 being my planned date, and March-ish being the time when they would lock people down). However, since a) I was now aiming high for the Air Force and b) they are going to up our deployment schedule anyway, I figured there was nothing to lose in extending and maybe getting that promotion after all.
I walked in to my retention NCO’s office and told him my situation and how I wanted to extend for the two weeks needed to get my stripes for the year. Turns out it wasn’t a big issue. I would just extend my enlistment for one month (smallest amount of time I could extend with…an extra two weeks, no biggie) and my quest for stripes would be complete! Wow, wish someone other than my RETIRED FATHER could have told me about that one.
“Didn’t the personnel service battalion send you a memo saying why you didn’t get your promotion?” the retention NCO asked. He was on loan from another brigade, filling in for our normal guy who had to leave due to a family emergency. This new guy was uncorrupted by our unit’s ways and had an air of logic and forethought about him. I definitely wasn’t used to that.
“A memo? No, I just was told I was f*cked and out of luck,” I replied.
“Wow, sounds like you got screwed.”
“Well, I thought so, but I figured it was just the norm.”
He shook his head (sensing my sarcasm, knowing I probably wasn’t his top candidate for reenlistment) and printed out the one-month extension contract.
“Just get your company commander to sign here…and here, take it down to the personnel service battalion and you’re all set,” he explained.
“Really? Just like that?”
I walked over to the company and waited at the window to see the personnel clerk, who acted as the receptionist of sorts for things needing the commanders attention.
“What’s this for?” she asked.
“I’m extending for a month to get that promotion I missed and need the commander to sign these,” I said.
“Let me see…um, you need a comma after ‘BDE’…her middle initial is E, that needs to go in there…put a ‘th’ after the 4 here, here and here…and put ‘commanding’ after the commander’s name. She’s going to say something and I don’t get beat up for nobody no more. Go correct that.”
So I took my papers back over to the retention NCO’s office in the other building again.
“All set?” he asked.
“No, we have to make some corrections.” I showed him the notes I made in the margins.
“Ummm, okay…” he said, frumping his brow and altering the pages. “It was that big of a deal, huh?”
“Well, you know, one comma today, by week’s end we’ll be communists,” I said, again being a cynical jerk.
A few seconds went by.
“You tell her that my system won’t let me put ‘commanding’ in the commander’s block. Since it’s the commander’s block, we assume that the person is ‘commanding.'” He handed me back the papers and I made my way back to the company area.
“I’m back, here are the changes,” I told the clerk, noting the area that we couldn’t fix.
“I don’t know if she’ll take it. She’ll probably say something,” the clerk replied. I just sort of stood there, implying as strong of an “And?!” that my silence could muster.
“When do you need this,” the clerk offered after a few seconds.
“Soon. I’m supposed to take that to the personnel battalion to get my orders,” I said. You know, for the promotion?
“Okay, come back after lunch sometime.” And with that, she closed the window on me. It was 1108 and I had cut in to their lunch window.
I myself went to get the eats, did some things in the office and returned around 1500-ish, once again to the company area.
“Hi, did the commander sign the forms?” I asked. It was foolish to ask a “yes or no” question to an admin soldier, where “no” means “come back later,” but I wasn’t feeling up for playing the games necessary to finagle and negotiate results.
As soon as she started looking through some scattered stacks of papers on her desk I knew I was in trouble. Since it was supposed to be such a quick fix, I hadn’t returned to the brigade to make copies of the contract (most sections are stingy about letting visitors use their copiers, it’s better to operate from your home turf). A stop off at a few adjoining tables let me know she’d lost my contract.
“I don’t know where it is…” she said. “I don’t want to make you wait while I look for it…”
Translation: It’s lost. Go get another.
Not this time.
“No, that’s okay. I’ll wait,” I said and pushed the issue by continuing to stand in her window. A couple of minutes went by and her soldier returned, who also began to look through random piles of crap.
“What was it again?” she asked.
“An extension contract.” I said, dryly.
A few minutes more passed and they finally came up with it (being a 10′ x 10’ room, I knew the laws of probability would find a hit before the close of business).
“She just needs to sign at the bottom?” the clerk asked. Wow, they hadn’t even taken it to the commander. It had sat there for four hours.
I gave the obligatory “yes” and refrained from making any sort of “read where it says ‘commander’s signature'” sort of comments.
Thirty seconds later, the clerk returned, papers signed. The time was now 1534.
The personnel service battalion closed at 1600. Time was short.
But my day had just begun!
To be continued…