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Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Oblivion

 

"To add value to others, one must first value others."
--John Maxwell


What can we do to improve morale? 

That was the question a senior officer once asked me.  

What can we do? 

To improve morale. 

He really should have known better than to ask someone like me

But they never do. 

I was assigned to a ship homeported out of a major naval station. It doesn't really matter which one, they're all pretty much the same.

This was a year or so into the war. Which one? Doesn't really matter, they're all pretty much the same. As such, it was still popular for elected officials to be seen making the rounds, shaking hands, talking to the troops. Oorah! And so on and so forth. 

The usual patriotic bullshit for the voters back in the flyover states. 

Some Senator or Secretary or some such animal (they're all pretty much the same) had rolled through base a few weeks before and made the mistake of asking how things were going.

Enlisted Sailors and Marines aren't exactly shy and they generally know an opportunity when they see one.

So they told him. 

They told him exactly how things were going a year into an ill-conceived war started on a lie. 

Oh boy, did they tell him. 

He was shocked. But, then they always are. They're always surprised when the guys they send to catch the bullets aren't all that enthusiastic about the project. That's always a surprise, given how popular war always is back in Washington and all. But, if you don't want to know, you shouldn't have asked. Should have just got your wartime reelection picture with the troops and headed back to the cornfields of Iowa or wherever it is these assholes come from. 

But, no, you had to ask. 

Disillusioned, the Senator met with the base Commanding Officer and told him there was a morale problem.

Now, I'm sure the CO demonstrated suitable surprise. What? No way! Why, I'll have to look into that, Senator! We'll certainly get to the bottom of it and have these troops singing God Bless America in no time! Thank you for bringing it to my attention!

Right.

Problem is, Senators tend to have staff, and staff tends to follow up on things like military morale issues because pretending to give a shit is a really easy way to get some votes from military parents in Corn Country. 

So, the Captain had to look like he was actually doing something. 

And thus, a few weeks later a bunch of officers who had far, far better things to do (like, you know prepare our respective units for another wartime deployment), ended up in the base auditorium for Commanding Officers Call. 

What can we do to improve morale?

Stop wasting my time with these idiotic Commanding Officer's Calls, for starters. 

But, naturally you can't say that out loud.

So I did what I usually did in such situations: Sat up straight and fired up my official government issue Palm Pilot (this was before smartphones) and proceeded to see how many rounds of Solitaire I could beat before the senior officers solved the morale problem and we could get back to the business of war. 

And then, they made a mistake. 

They asked me. 

Some smarmy looking ring knocker scanning the audience spotted me seemingly not paying attention and thought he'd score some points with the Captain. Chief Warrant Officer! Do you have any suggestions? 

Me?

Do I have any suggestions? 

Now, if you don't understand the difference between regular Navy officers and Chief Warrant Officers, well, the easiest way to explain it is that when they say "an Officer and a Gentleman" they're talking about the first kind. 

No one -- no one -- would confuse a Chief Warrant Officer with a gentleman. Even in bad light. 

Warrant Officers are former enlisted Chief Petty Officers, as a group they have a reputation for being supremely competent under any circumstance and supremely unpleasant in all of them. 

We're the people you call when it's all gone to hell and a gentleman would have to get his hands dirty. 

Sure, I have some suggestions, I answered. First of all, in 20 years of service, I have never once heard a enlisted Sailor or Marine or Soldier or Airman say they were getting out because they didn't get enough money for college -- or whatever idiotic suggestion it was just floated by the Lieutenant over there.

Troops always say the same thing: I'm getting out because I'm sick and tired of all the bullshit

Bullshit? But what do you mean, bullshit? 

Well, said I, lemme give you an example. 

These people, they swore to give their lives for this country. And they will. They'll deploy for a year into the warzone, over and over, leaving their families behind, risking their lives every damned day in a war that nobody even knows what the fuck we're fighting for. 

They'll do that without complaint (mostly). 

But then they come home. 

They come back here, to this base. 

And you know what? 

They have to sit for two hours every single morning, in a line of cars outside the main gate, waiting to get on base. They have give up an hour of precious sleep, because there are only two gates open. And only two lanes per gate. There are a dozen other gates that could be used, but they're not open. Then when they get on base, they have to spend 30 minutes trying to find a parking spot. Why? Because everything on this base is more important than they are. Everything

See, I counted. 

That's right, I drove around the base and I counted the number of parking spots down by the waterfront that are taken up with ... potted plants. 

Yes, you heard me correctly. Potted plants. 

Big stone containers with palm trees or flowers. Base beautification. The result of a visit by some other Senator or some such do-gooder. 

A hundred parking spots, taken up by plants.

Plants are more important than the men and woman who crew the ships. Plants get better parking. 

Another couple of dozen parking spots are taken up by dumpsters. That's right, trash dumpsters. 

Dumpsters are more important than Sailors.

Another hundred, or more, spots are reserved for contractors. 

Contractors are more important than Sailors. 

There are entire parking lots reserved for equipment. Can't park there, because tanks and APCs and trucks are more important than Marines. 

You know where enlisted people park? A mile away, on the other side of the fucking highway, and then they have to hike all the way across the base to get to their ships. 

Every day. 

They lose two hours of sleep, of time with their families, just to get on base and find a goddamn parking spot. 

So, said the Captain, puzzled, it's the parking? 

No, it's not goddamned parking. You wanted an example, I gave you one. It's not just the parking, it's everything

Everything else is more important than the men and women who are willing to give up their own lives for this country. And everything on this base, every minute of every day, demonstrates that. 

You might not see it, but they sure as shit do. 

When they say they're tired of all the bullshit, that's the kind of bullshit they're talking about. 

Fix that

And it's an easy fix. It won't cost you a penny. All you have to do, is show people some respect. That's it. Get rid of the goddamn planters. Make the goddamn contractors park on the other side of the highway, they can afford to run a shuttle bus. Or walk, God knows they're getting paid enough. Park the goddamn equipment over there too. When you're ready to load it on the ships, you can drive it over.

Show these people that they matter more than plants, more than contractors, more than dumpsters, more than tanks. That's just one example, there are hundreds more and you'll have no problem finding ways to show your people you care about them if you go looking for the opportunity. 

It's not about parking, it's about people.

You know what the Captain said? 

Do you? I'll bet the veterans can guess. 

He said, "I don't understand. I don't have any trouble getting on base."

I don't have any trouble getting on base. 

I thought he was joking. 

I really did. 

But he wasn't. He wasn't capable of understanding. He heard "parking" and that's as far as his brain would go. He could not, or would not, see the bigger picture. See the people

I couldn't believe he could be that dense or that privileged. 

But he was. 

I don't have any trouble getting on base, he said. I don't have any trouble finding a parking spot. 

No shit? 

You don't have any trouble? 

See, there was a special gate just for senior officers. A special lane, just for them. And a reserved parking spot right in front of their office. This guy showed up every morning, drove past 20,000 enlisted Sailors and Marines in line to get on base, and was waved through the gate without slowing down. 

He didn't have any trouble and he couldn't see what the problem was. 

Note: Not all commanding officers are this dense. Maybe not even a majority. This guy was a special case. 

He waved his hand for me to sit down and they moved on to somebody else. I went back to Solitaire. There wasn't much point in paying any further attention. Eventually they decided the morale problem was solved because Sailors and Marines always bitch and so there really wasn't any problem after all.  

And then we all got back to work, with two hours stolen out of a day that already didn't have enough time in it.  

And they probably bought some more potted plants too. 


I think about that moment every once in a while. Often lately. 


Ask any senior military leader what their most valuable asset is and they'll say people

It's the people. That's what's important. 

Maybe they even think they really mean it. Some of them anyway. 

But it's not. 

It's not.

Everything is more important than people. The mission. The equipment. The money. The war. The potted plants. The contractors. The dumpsters. The Senators. That's what matters. 

You can always get more people -- until you can't.

The Command is a reflection of the Commander.

As is the morale of the troops.


Out here in the civilian world, it's the president's job to care about the people. 


It's his job to agonize over the lives lost. 

The president isn't a military general for a damned good reason. 

He's a civilian, because it's his job to actually put people first. 

It's one thing when when it's low morale on a military base because the CO is a self-centered tool. 

It's another thing entirely when it's the guy in charge of the country. 

Trump ignored the pandemic, back when we might have stopped it. 

He called it a hoax, the flu, a plot by his political enemies to make him look bad. 

Everything else was more important than people. Everything. The stock market, profit, business, the job numbers, his popularity, his reelection. Golf. And probably potted plants too, for all I know. 

The Senators asking questions? The Congress People demanding a plan? Trump saw that as an irritation. Just people in way of the mission -- which in Trump's case is profit

He repeatedly ignored the advice of experts, deferring again and again to the toadies and sycophants and those who told him what he wanted to hear. He listened to the advice of fringe conspiracy theorists over that of the nation's best scientists. He's still doing it. 

He attacked and mocked the experts, the warnings, the simple basic proven actions we all could have taken to make things better if only we had a real leader who actually cared about people

And he refused, utterly refused, to see what was happening right in front of his face.

Because everything -- everything -- is more important to Donald Trump than people.  

And then he got it. 

No. Heh heh. Not a clue. He didn't get a clue. 

The plague. He got that. 

He got it because his own shitty irresponsible behavior made it inevitable that he would. 

He not only got it because his own behavior put him at risk, he quite literally infected dozens of others. Hundreds. Maybe thousands, if you include his rallies and meetings where he repeatedly encouraged the very behavior that led directly to his own infection. 

The numbers are climbing again. The infection rates are going up. 220,000 dead now and more deaths coming. 

The nation and its attitude towards this disease is a reflection of its leaders. Of Trump. 

As is its disorganized, ineffective, fatal response. 

Because underneath it all, Trump just can't see it. Won't see it. Isn't capable of seeing it.

When Trump got it, he was attended by a personal doctor at taxpayer expense. Literally Trump is that doctor's only patient. 

He was flown in a taxpayer funded government helicopter to the best hospital in the country. A government hospital, staffed by government doctors and government scientists and government nurses and government technicians and government staff. Something Trump says is bad, it's socialism if you get it. But, for him, well, it's his right because he deserves it. 

He was installed in a private luxury suite reserved just for him at taxpayer expense and a team of 20 doctors was assigned to his case. That was their only job. Trump was their only patient. Their entire attention was on him. He was given the very best care possible and treated with advanced experimental medications that cost more than a million dollars per dose and are not available to anyone else. Just him. And we paid for it all. 

Not a single penny of Trump's treatment came from his own pocket.

Just like income taxes: You do all the paying, he gets all the reward. 

And then, instead of listening to the experts, he went for a joyride solely in order to stroke his own ego. Putting a dozen more people at risk for no reason whatsoever. People, who if infected by Trump, would not have gotten the same care he got -- indeed Trump and Republicans tell you that you don't deserve the same treatment because it'll cut into profits. 

After which, Trump flew back to the White House while still infectious and went right back to acting like an irresponsible jackass, literally ripping off his mask on the White House steps. 

And now, here he is. 

It's not so bad, he says. 

The flu is worse. This pandemic is a plot to make me look bad. I don't understand what you're talking about. I don't understand why people are worried. Look at me, I beat it all by myself. Heck, everybody should get it. Herd immunity!

He is utterly oblivious. 

He's that captain, driving past 20,000 Sailors trying to get on base and he sees nothing, never looks up, the guards wave him through without stopping and he rolls into his reserved parking spot precisely on time and he just can't understand why anyone else has a problem. 

And now what is he talking about? Profit. The stock market. Reelection. Blaming others. Attacking his political opponents for his own failures. Everything is more important to Donald Trump than people who might be infected because of his failed leadership. 

Everything is more important than the actual citizens who he swore to protect. 


Of course, the analogy isn't a perfect one.


Military Officers are often single minded for a reason. 

They have to put the mission before the people. 

That's what being an officer is

In the end, that's the job. As an officer, one day you might have to order your people to give up their lives. You might have to order them forward into fire, knowing they likely won't survive. Even on a good day, you have to order tired people to give more than they want -- or they thought they could.

You can't do that, if people really come first. 

For us, it's duty. Duty comes first. Responsibility comes first. War comes first. Because that's the job. It won't win you any points with the voters back in Iowa, probably why General and Admiral aren't elected positions, but that's the job. And sometimes when you go from doing that to commanding a base back home, you forget to switch gears -- or you can't. And then, sometimes even when you can put people first, you don't. You put the potted plants first, or the contractors, or the dumpsters, or the equipment. 

And that's a failing on your part. 

But the fallout of that failing is limited by design. 

And there are very real consequences for officers who can't balance the requirements of duty against the needs of their people. 

Just as there should be limits on presidential power and consequences for failure. 

Should be. 

That's what our founders intended, that there should be immediate and dire consequences for any president, any elected leader, who fails to put people first. 

As Trump has repeatedly failed to do. 

That is the entire point of the Constitution. 

The Constitution doesn't protect profit, or business, or the stockholder, or even government. It was designed to put the citizen first. People first. We require our elected leaders -- and our military -- to swear allegiance to the Constitution for that very reason. 

When profit and power mean more than people, when political ideology comes first before loyalty to the nation or even to the idea of civilization itself, there can be no liberty, no justice, no freedom.

In the civilian world, people must come first and there must be immediate and dire consequences for those leaders who disregard their duty to the people. 

Or what then is the point of civilization?

If you want a better nation, be a better citizen. 

"You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand." 
--Woodrow Wilson

84 comments:

  1. Once again, I am impressed by your ability to get your point across in a clear, relatable manner. And of course, you're right. Again.

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  2. thank you for your service.
    thank you for all you continue to do.

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  3. AH Jim Wright, when I first discovered Stonekettle Station, I went back and read every single thing you wrote here. I laughed I cried I became a raid fan. Every piece has value, and more often than not,m I thought, this is it, this IS his best. And I may have be correct, but this one, this one beats them all. As the country got crazier, your writing stepped up to deal with that. These last years with Trump as President have challenged all of us and our grasp of reality, somehow you've pointed the way to sanity. This one boils it all down to exactly WHY Trump is so horrific at his job, and if there is the tiniest scrap of justice and brains left in this country, he and his merry band of enablers and greedy sicophants will be going down, hopefully to jail cells across the country. So once again, thank you for your service, and I'm talking about your writing here, you may have learned a lot by being in the Service, but that education gave you the truest sense of reality I have ever read. And as always , I stand in awe. Very well done Chief, and thank you.

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    1. Sarah put her thoughts in clear view and I wholeheartedly agree.

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    2. I still think of "Antipodes" whenever I think of which essay is your most brilliant, but this one, sure as hell, is a very, VERY close second!

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    3. Could not agree more, Sarah. Just when I think something is Jim's best, the next one is even better. I'm a writer, myself, but any modicum of skill I have in my knowledge area absolutely pales compared to this.

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    4. That was the most amazing awesome writing i have read in a while on the Trumpster and the ivory tower military leaders. Trump is a very sad man who is bent on power and money, and of course in love with Donald Trump. He is loathed even by his own family members and grew up with a ruthless, money hungry father who spent more time with business than with Trump and his siblings. He came from a BROKEN household and grew up with bad ethics and greed from his father. He is a FAILED businessman who cant even run a profitable Casino. He has many failed businesses, many lawsuits against him in business, and is a PRETEND Billionaire from the Apprentice show. His books were all written by ghostwriters and he claimed business losses for over 18 years. WOW. That many losses? Must not be a good businessman. He has screwed over workers in pay, and he and his father got into trouble years ago for rent discrimination against minority groups.

      Ever notice when Trump first met Obama as new president that Melania was left behind Trump as he met Obama? Obama and Michelle were side by side. Trump didnt even respect Melania, and they even had trouble holding hands.

      I think Trump is all about money, power and EGO. He is a wannabe Billionaire with $400 million+ in debts. many failed companies. Many bankruptcies. A man who calls the Covid 19 a hoax even though 200,000 have died in usa from an imaginary virus. So sad.

      My dear sir I applaud your bravery to stand up for the enlisted men and women who fight for stupid wars created by greedy politicians for publicity, votes and bragging rights. It is JUST WRONG that people die for senseless wars without purpose. Soldiers are the protectors of FREEDOM and SECURITY in the nation. Not as cannon fodder for greedy selfish politicians who never fought a single battle on the warfront. Such hippocrites! The politicians are about money and power and yet they are gutless cowards who wont dare sit in a battle field with a gun and fight foreign enemies in combat.

      I enjoyed your writing and even laughed when thinking about the potted plants and angry at same time. Yes some top brass live in another world and can't relate to the common soldier as they live in ivory towers while the common troops are in the dirt and the mud.....

      Fine writing sir. Keep up the good work as a loyal soldier of the U S of A

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  4. I served in the National Guard and after six years, I left because of the bullshit. There's a saying in the Army. "There's a right way, a wrong way, and the Army way." I was the kind of NCO who believed there was only a right way and a wrong way. So I got out when my hitch was up.

    Trump believes, "There's a right way, a wrong way, and my way."

    I still believe there's only a right way and a wrong way. I'm going the right way. I want to be a better citizen.

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    1. 45 believes there's a wrong way and his way (you know, stable genius is always right).

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  5. Great read sir. Thanks again for bringing the focus back.

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  6. I believe that if Trump was around when Wilson said what you quoted, he'd have called him a sucker and a loser. (No fan of Wilson myself, but compared to Trump...)

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  7. In lesser hands, this essay might have boiled down to a two word, bumber sticker philosophy slogan and just as easily forgotton. But Jim Wright knows what's king. Context. The ability to make a real connection between concept and experience. What's necessary to impact our busy, distracted minds so we can see, not only what is important, but also why.

    Hope I got that right. I can't self-edit worth a damn.

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  8. My own personal beef...

    I get RHIP. But why is an O-1 entitled to more BAH than an E-6?

    If you're married with a girl & a boy, you need 3 bedrooms. Housing allowance should be based on your family size & make-up, not by rank.

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  9. LOL. BTDT. Went to the IG once for my guys. (No women then.)Wrote stuff down. In longhand. Remember longhand? Ha. Anyway. Sack lunches turned up in the middle of the night. Battalion acquisition radar. We had 24/7 operations. The milk was sour. That was it. Considered that a major achievement. I love how you applied your experience to what's going on today. The minute that we're living in is the sum total of our lives. Thanks for all that you do and what you bring to the table.

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  10. your words make me want to literally scream with anger, at the military regarding your example of the ills inherent, and then with rage at the current occupant of the white house. however, i thank him for baring the seedy underbelly of our nation with all its stupidity, ignorance, intolerance, cruelty, misogyny, chauvinism, elitism, greed, and violence. he has brought us to a very low place but if i'm seeking a grain of truth, we already possess all these characteristics as a nation. he's talented at bringing out the worst in people. i truly hope we can fix this.

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  11. If this is what you were writing the other day when you left us with a picture of the beagle, then it was time very well spent. Very well done! (But you know this already, I hope!)

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  12. Replies
    1. yes indeed. I laughed, cried and got mad when reading his words. It needed to be said for people to wake up to the real truth not the fox propaganda machine

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  13. I envision the spittle of rage landing on your keyboard as you typed this and I concur with every word and every droplet.

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  14. GOD DAMN Chief, I have had clueless "officers" running the state IT department, until now.. we seem to have a good one.. but by the time he changes the culture (been kicking around at my gigs for the state for the last 20+ years) I won't be around to see the changes he wants to make.

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  15. Gold,EXCEPT the part about him getting the virus - he didn't. It was all a show, walking on water, rising after 3 days, because he's TRUMP, fall down in awe. And, don't give me that shit about military doctors wouldn't lie! Don't tell me that the staff at Walter Reed would not stand there silent while he did! They are MILITARY! He is the Commander-in-Chief, they know what happens when you disobey an order!

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  16. Thank you for putting into words everything I am feeling about our so-called president. I am praying every day that we are finally at the end of this lunacy. I don't know how much more we can take. Thank you for being here.

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  17. Thank YOU for equating this article with the current situation the men and women of our military find themselves with THAT in the White House. Republican lawmakers have finally proven what I’ve known since 1983 under Reagan. That party is NOT Patriotic, it has always been a slogan to get gullible people to vote for them. Country FIRST! Not for Republicans. I would not have survived under this administration. I don’t tolerate ignorance well.

    Carolyn Byrd
    Chief Master Sergeant (E-9)
    USAF, Retired

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  18. Brilliant...insightful and astute. Common sense and competence seem to becoming less and less common in this world. Your analogy of the clueless commander at your base compared to the current clueless Commander in Chief of our country was spot on. Bravo!

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    1. Right on! The Observer... yes this was excellent analogy

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  19. As a bit of a side comment, thanks for the explanatory bit on Chief Warrant Officers; we don;t have those in USAF but boy do I :get it: now. I'd like to be able to post the link to this one on Trump's FB page so everyone commenting would read it. Of course, I know FB doesn't exactly work that way, and I;d never do it and expose you to the extra hordes of abusers. This is just an expression of another veteran;s wish these people would get a wake up call loud enough to make them see him clearly without being able to look away or self-delude this time.

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  20. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and insight. Thank you saying what needs to be said, even when they can't handle the truth.

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  21. Love, hope you never burn out.

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  22. Of all Woodrow Wilson's quotes, that one must surely be one of his noblest.

    As to the character of our present President, a quote springs to mind from my communications teacher at Phoenix Junior College during the brief and ill-fated attempt to work toward my law degree: "You do not reward those whom you like; you like those whom you reward." That line has stuck with me all these years. To me it is the only thing that explains Trump's supporters and many other phenomena that otherwise make no sense.

    There is so much I'd like to say about your expression of the value of the worker bees, those people who make all things possible, even moreso during this pandemic, but I got lost in the weeds of your commenting instructions and the ensuing comments thereon, and--where was I?

    Reading your essays makes me miss my husband more than ever. He was 6'4", had your sense of humor and that certain aloofness and superiority that made him a good career Tech Sgt., not to mention a booming bass voice. He was like having my own personal bodyguard. Having grown up in choirs like I did, he had a melodious voice and we sang together all the time in the pickup on trips in those early days, because we both knew all the Broadway musicals by heart (I trained for opera on scholarship). I used to tell him I married him for his stories, but the truth is that I fell hard the first time I ever saw him, even though we were both still in our first miserable marriages. But the thing I miss most about him is his indefatigable ingenuity and dogged perseverance. Originally from the mountains of the Cumberland Gap, he taught survival to pilots in the Air Force. They used to joke that he was the only one who came out of the woods who had gained weight at the end of two weeks of living off berries and grubs. After he retired, he raised nine baby cockatiels from hatching to adulthood by hand-feeding, back when it was thought to be impossible, by feeding them every hour on the hour around the clock, in spite of their tiny size and his large hands, and the absolute bone-numbing drudgery. He never had children of his own, but taught and mentored children everywhere he went with generosity and patience, until we moved to a place where there were none. It might have been part of what ended him. He needed to take care of people, and when he could no longer do that, what point could there be in living?

    Too bad the selfish, rich brat in the White House will never know that joy.

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    1. Thank you for sharing this. You paint a beautiful picture of your late husband.

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  23. Thank you for this, and it reminds me of an incident at my husband's last duty station. The following is true, only the names have been changed to protect the four-stripers.

    My husband, who was an aviation electronics technician Senior Chief with an Enlisted Air Warfare Specialist designation, checked into his last duty station, an unnamed F-14 fighter squadron at an unnamed shore base, to be the maintenance chief for 12 aircraft assigned to the squadron. On about his second day in the squadron, he had an interview with the commending officer, and it went something like this:

    CO: Welcome to VF-??, Senior Chief.

    ATCS: Thank you sir. Looking forward to this.

    CO: Well let me tell you a little about this squadron and the accomplishments we have met. ... and the CO goes into a bragging list of all of the "accomplishments"

    ATCS: That's great, Sir. How many aircraft do we have?

    CO: Twelve is our complement. We have twelve wonderful assets sitting out there on that tarmac, and they've done us well.

    ATCS: And how many personnel are attached to the squadron, Sir?

    CO: We have 232 (made-up number) aboard right now.

    ATCS: Sir, I must say that you have 232 ASSETS in this squadron, and as long as you treat those assets right and make sure they are happy, they in turn will keep those twelve pieces of inanimate iron flying for as long as they can.

    The CO hemmed and hawed and dismissed Hubby from the office. But he had HEARD what Hubby had said, and when CO was relieved and transferred, EVERY MAN IN THE SQUADRON applauded as he was piped over. He turned into a very efficient and admired CO.


    THAT is what needs to happen. The military looks upon the tanks, planes, guns, mortars, jeeps, etc. as assets, and the men and women who use them and take care of them are only the caretakers. If the powers that be start looking upon the men and women of the military as the assets, and as all of the tanks, planes, etc. as hardware to be used by the ASSETS, the entire military system will improve and they won't be having to meet quotas for recruitment---they will be turning recruits away from the offices because they will be overrun with people wanting to learn a job and make a career.

    Hubby retired after 28 years and 20 days on active duty. He didn't want to retire--he was in an up-or-out situation--and he would have gladly gone back if needed and called.

    Thank you for this

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  24. Every. Word. I worked for some real assholes during my Navy career, and my career afterwards. You are correct that, to many of those in charge, people simply don't matter. We can (and should) do better, both as a nation and as individuals.

    Thanks. Working with your fellow CWOs was the best part of my service. BZ.

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  25. Honestly, this is your best. Perfect. This link is getting passed on. We are getting close to the time when we do get DT to kick around. And boy, will I enjoy that!

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  26. Sir, you have NAILED IT, once again. As an Air Force officer I saw a bit less of the bullshit than you, but it was there. Beating your head against a clueless command structure was the number one cause of “morale problems” whether it’s a stateside Headquarters, a fighter base in Korea, or an independent Wing level unit stateside. I was delighted to get passed over for Major the second time, so I could take the money and run (to grad school and second career). The concept of putting your people first and seeing them as your best asset, is far too rare nowadays. Certainly, His Orangeness has absolutely no concept of it.

    Sharing your words as far as I can!

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  27. Very incisive. It ought to be crawled across the sky, like on Star Wars, so nobody can get out of reading it. Audio for the blind.

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    1. AMEN! It would make a great star wars title scroll!

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  28. My husband served during Vietnam. He was in 18 months and 10 days. He said he wouldn't have made the military a career if they'd paid him 40,000 times the $99.00 a month he got, largely for the very reasons stated in your essay. My first husband was a USAF Academy grad. Got out after serving his six years so he could fly for the airlines. But he was the officer and gentleman type and you'd have gotten the same response from him as you did the officer who asked you what the problem was - because he wasn't having a problem, he wouldn't have understood what the problem was. Rank, privilege and all that. His father was a 30-year retired senior master sergeant, so you'd think he would have known better, but he didn't. Both of them are flag waving Trump supporters. Go figure.

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  29. Excellent! My first Stonekettle essay and what a masterpiece!

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    1. yes my first stonekettle essay too, and it is INDEED a great masterpiece! I laughed, I cried, I got mad, MILITARY troops should not be treated like shit, and tanks are not more important than damn troops. My beef is the BILLIONS the military contractors get making the tanks, the planes, the weapons while the troops get shit. HOW about PROFIT sharing with the troops ?? A crazy and radical idea I know.... imagine if all the troops got a piece of the profit action on MILITARY contracts and defense SPENDING which is in the BILLIONS........

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  30. Right on, sir. I was never in the military but I saw exactly the same situation with management in Northrup Grumman. And the same cluelessness when the problems were presented to them.

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    1. The essay has particular targets, but there's a larger lesson here of institutional behavior in general... the huge gap between the awareness and understanding of the worker bees who get the work done vs. upper management. My retired father-in-law says a big part of his corporate job was protecting the people he was responsible for from the BS coming down from above.

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  31. Thanks Jim for a great read. I certainly learn from your perceptions and sharing a glimpse of your experiences. I really liked the analogy, very perceptive and accurate. Salute

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  32. I feel your lesson. My father served and then worked as a contractor, but he was all about taking care of his people. I learned to weld a good team you must be top-down loyal and I've applied it to what I've done. If you can't take care of your people, you ain't...well, you know.

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    1. Good Job John. Always be loyal to your hard working people. Otherwise it is all for nothing

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  33. Your description of the officers just explained to me why our ships are getting run into so often.
    And too much BS is why I left the Army when I did.

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  34. Outstanding...and the close! "If you want a better nation, be a better citizen" #Boom

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  35. I distinctly remember the red and blue base stickers when I first joined the Navy in 1978, so you could be sure which cars were owned by officers and which by enlisted members. I had one of those red stickers.

    Since you had to salute the car as it passed, that ensured every officer's spouse or children were saluted by every enlisted person walking on base.

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  36. One of your best columns. Excellent. thanks for posting.

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  37. I was a contractor with a national nuclear weapons laboratory which shared a base with the Air Force for over 20 years. All of this essay is completely accurate.

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  38. Thanks Sarah,
    I can’t add anything at all to your comment , was perfect.

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  39. Stonekettle proves again he is legendary

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  40. Over the years since I got out 1963, I have been asked why I didn’t stay in, every time ,it was about the bullshit

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  41. Lieutenant, looking at the balloon-animal dick you just handed him: ...

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  42. well put, as usual.
    unfortunately, that kind of BS is not limited to the military.
    nor is the narcissism of the CO you described.
    no analogy is perfect, but you came up with a good one. (as usual)

    one of the things that CO refused to recognize is that a military unit is a community.
    no matter what size the unit, it is a community.
    and the way human beings have always survived challenging times is on the strength and health of the communities they are a part of.
    from what you describe, he was actively ignoring the health and well being of the communities any mission he was charged with would depend on.

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  43. You have unique way with words. And as always your followers always add reality to those words.

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  44. The best CO I ever had came into the Ship's Office the day after he took command and said: "If I take care of the crew then the crew will take care of the job. Your function is to help me take care of the crew."

    About six months later we had a sailor with a really complex pay problem and it got dumped in my lap. I went to the Disbursing Office and talked to a Chief there. He didn't want to touch it and told me to wait a month to see if the problem fixed itself. As a YN2 I couldn't tell him that was BS but I did tell him I'd be back with my Captain. The Chief smirked and said: "Yeah, right."

    Twenty minutes later I was back at Disbursing sitting at a typewriter (shows how long ago this happened) pumping out forms. The Chief was sitting at another desk pumping out forms. My Captain was standing between us. Disbursing never blew us off again.

    --YNCS(SS), USN (Ret)

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  45. Well, holy cow, Jim. I support you on Patreon, and writing like this is exactly why. I was an airborne linguist in the USAF and left after 4 years because I was disgusted by the "hurry up and wait." They put so much money into training me, but treated me like a child through most of it. So, so very much wasted time, checking boxes, etc. I am proud to have served, but I honestly don't think I could have taken another enlistment worth of that utter bullshit. I wasn't the only one. The experience left such a bad taste in many of our moths that we got out as soon as we could -- despite the prospect of an enormous (and tax-free) re-enlistment bonus, should we have chosen to re-enlist while deployed to Iraq.

    Damn, this is some excellent writing. Thank you.

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  46. Wow, Chief. You've outdone yourself with this one. Couldn't have been better...hit the nail on the head...spot on...etc., etc., etc.

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  47. https://youtu.be/nmGuy0jievs

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  48. Bravo Zulu. Law enforcement is similar to the military in this regard. I often wondered what happened to my friends and co-workers as they promoted up the chain and completely forgot where they came from.

    I spent an uncomfortable period of time (4 years) acting in capacity as a first line supervisor. During that time, I had a "meeting" with the Lt. He wanted to know what my plan was for "motivating" a co-worker (keep in mind, I had NOT promoted, but was filling an "open" spot in the schedule.) I asked what he meant; the guy he was talking about was rock solid, there every day, took calls without complaining, wrote decent reports and would always do whatever you asked him to. This Lt. said "Motivate him to get more involved; become an instructor, or apply for detectives. He needs to move forward." This guy was happy doing what he did, and did a good job. Wasn't enough, apparently. I told the Lt. that I saw no need for that; the guy met the criteria for an "exceeds expectations" evaluation rating every time.

    I recall reading about the "adminsphere", the rarefied air that the administration breaths. Is there an "officersphere" as well?

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  49. Yeah, Jim, you can be as circumspect as you want but I know you're talking about NOB Norfolk.

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  50. Brilliant. My father served in the Army as a helicopter pilot. At some point the pilots with him were promoted just because the General didn't want to be flown by warrant officers but his group were the best. So they were promoted to Lt. Then Vietnam and if they went to Vietnam they would be promoted to Captains. One went back a second time and made Major. Anyway, my dad said if you wanted to stay alive, stick with the Sergeants. I also appreciated your insight into what is necessary to be an officer and how the good ones are able to switch out of war mode in the down times.

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  51. The B.S. was the exact reason why my husband and I both chose to ETS after 14 and 10 years of service, respectively. I liked your analogy, and agree with your conclusion. Thanks for your service, Chief. Thanks for speaking out. Both take courage.

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  52. Very well put.

    Reminds me of men who can't believe women experience aggressive, unfair, sexist treatment because they've never seen it or experienced it themselves - "He's always been such a stand up guy any time I've seen him".

    Or people not able to see beyond their privilege to accept that racism exists and has the massive impact on everyone's lives that it does - "I've never had a problem getting a mortgage, job, apartment, or been afraid when I get pulled over, or seen a cop, I've never been stopped when I wasn't doing anything wrong..."

    Thank you for writing and sharing this.

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  53. Every time I read one of Jim's essays, I am impressed.
    This time, Chief, you have surpassed yourself.

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  54. Impressive. Thoughtful. Sobering. Amen

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  55. I haven't been following you for very long, but every time I see something of yours I am greatly impressed. Thanks.

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  56. I have had the good fortune of working 33 years for a company that puts the people first. Not perfectly, not every time, but managers who do it well get promoted. And the company is damn profitable, too. Sadly, too many companies that their front line people as a cost to be minimised. Then they wonder why their "young people today" don't give a damn.

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  57. Excellent has always. I really liked the first part of your essay. Why? Well I was an Armed Forces Brat, (Emphasis on the Brat!), and I spent much of my childhood living on bases of the Canadian Armed Forces, and bluntly I got to hear an great deal about Military Bullshit and oblivious Officers. The result was that I decided the Military was not for me. I thought that Military BS was not something I could tolerate.

    I remember when my parents tried to get me into some Cadet program that involved Officer type training. I had to be interviewed by some Officers. One question they asked was if I was ordered to wash a floor would I do it. I said yes. Then I was asked what would I do if the Officer who ordered me to wash the floor deliberately walked over the clean floor with muddy boots. I told them I would dump my bucket of soapy water over him. Of course I was not accepted into the program. And I obviously wasn't cut out for the Military.

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  58. >>there must be immediate and dire consequences for those leaders who disregard their duty to the people<<

    Alas, if inevitably there were immediate and dire consequences, we would not have the "leaders" we have today. I fear for our nation.

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  59. Hi Jim I’m contacting you because somehow I’ve been totally blocked from your Facebook pages and I honestly think it was a technical glitch or error - I am an avid reader of your posts but can’t recall ever commenting, much less anything that could be construed as trolling. Would you please check and see if you’ve mistakenly blocked me? I really miss seeing your content in my feed. My name (Facebook profile name also) is Karla Mae Bosse, I’m an unrepentant liberal from Massachusetts. If I did post something that offended you, I would appreciate you letting me know what it was and I offer my apology in advance. (Obviously this comment is for you and not meant to be published on this blog entry. Thanks!)

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Comments on this blog are moderated. Each will be reviewed before being allowed to post. This may take a while. I don't allow personal attacks, trolling, or obnoxious stupidity. If you post anonymously and hide behind an IP blocker, I'm a lot more likely to consider you a troll. Be sure to read the commenting rules before you start typing. Really.