Sunday, July 31, 2005

Les bons temps ont arrêté le roulement

And today is the last day of my quarterly leave. Mom was taken to the airport. My BDUs are washed and pressed, and my boots are shined. Unfortunately my goatee will be gone in the morning. Mrs. SSG B loves the goatee, and I'm for anything that makes her happy.

I've been snippy all day. Recruiting is like this Sword of Damocles over you every waking hour. You go out to dinner with your family and you're looking at the wait staff thinking "that kid looks like he'd make weight," or "damn, that waitress has a tattoo on her neck." It's all Recruiting all the time. You have to consciously tell yourself to stop trying to find people and enjoy the damned meal.

I spent the four weeks prior to going on leave trying to find someone for this RCM. In those four weeks I'd managed to get a couple of decent names worked out. None enlisted before I went on leave. One admitted to some unpaid traffic fines ($500) which he won't be able to pay off for a couple months (he was hoping that his enlistment bonus would be able to pay them off). One was 10 pounds underweight (6'4, 130#); he's made some progress and might be able to make it by the end of the RCM. Another two were both non-committal, but I think I'll be able to shake one of them out. The problem is I'll be going back into the lion's den with no tickmarks by my name. And that sucks.

Oh well... the good times couldn't keep rolling forever.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Good Time

Just got back from seeing Wedding Crashers w/ Mrs. SSG(P) B and my mom. It was a good time. Vince Vaughn was hilarious in Dodgeball, and I've liked Owen Wilson's laid-back approach since seeing him in Shanghai Noon. Together they make for a good combination. The concept of the movie isn't all that brilliant, but it's well written, well-acted, and (in highest praise) it was 2 hours long, but didn't feel it.

Although, it's pretty awkward to watch a movie with lots of gratuitous boob shots with your mom sitting at your side.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Any wonder I love these guys?

I've been a fan of the Houston Astros since I was 11 and I moved to Houston. Glenn Davis was the first sports player I ever idolized. I even got to meet him one summer at a one-day baseball camp. I was devastated when he was traded to the Orioles.

The Astros recently made their first trip ever to D.C. While there owner Drayton McLane and a couple players, including Craig Biggio, visited recovering troops at Walter Reed. Not only did they visit the troops at the hospital, but they provided tickets to all four games of the series for troops and their families. Including seats in a box provided by Mr. McLane.

H/T Astrosdaily

Never would have imagined it

When I joined the Army Reserve back in 1995 I never imagined I would stay in beyond my initial enlistment. I viewed it as a way to get some money for college. The world was a different place back then. No one at my first unit (working in the S1 of an MI battalion) thought we'd ever be mobilized. We even joked that the local fire department would be mob'd before we would be.

At the time in my unit there was one E5 75B position. And it was filled. And there were 3 75B SPCs waiting to fill that slot if the guy ever transferred orgot promoted. I was one of the three. As I sat there, thinking about whether I wanted to try for a PLDC seat so I might, might, get promoted one day I just couldn't see myself going much further than E4. I figured "What the hell, six years, several grand for college, and a nice line on a resume. I'm happy if I never get beyond Specialist."

Life is funny. I enjoyed college life more than college classes, so I wound up leaving school. I bounced from one loser job to the next. Then one day, as I was loading another gallon of milk into a dairy cooler I realized that the only thing I was good at, which could pay will, which I enjoyed doing, and that I could legally make a living in, was the Army. I didn't want to go regular Army; I liked the Reserve too much. So I put in a packet to go Active Guard and Reserve (AGR). I was selected for the program and sent to New England.

All AGR positions begin at E5, so i was automatically promoted to Sergeant. I thought "Yay! More money." But I noticed something strange was happening. A simple thing like changing what was on my collar led to a huge change in the way Soldiers treated me, reacted to me, and what they expected from me. It wasn't fun at first, I didn't like the responsibility. But then I remember the first S1 NCOIC I worked for. He was a former Drill Instructor who was selected for an AC/RC tour. He was usually the first guy in the office, and one of the last to leave. And he'd never leave unless he was sure that the mission was accomplished. Reports done, Evals ready for signature, and all the other tasks in a 1 shop were ready for the next day. His number one passion was for Soldiers; he would always place them first.

I had never thought much about him until I pinned on those three stripes. Suddenly it clicked for me. This was more than rank. This was more than money. This was about the success of my unit. And the success of my unit was a small, but important cog, in the success of our Army, and by extension, our Nation. At the time I liked the Army; it was a good paycheck and it was a good way to meet women in Southie bars. But I've always loved the USA. History is my favorite subject, and because of that I realize how unique and special the US is in the history of the world. I also know how fragile it's success is, and that fragility is protected, often times with great personal sacrifice, by the men and women of the Armed Forces.

I, as a Sergeant, was important to the Soldiers in my charge. As the PSNCO for my unit I was important to all the Soldiers in the unit. These were my friends, and since I was a couple thousand miles form home, a surrogate family. I couldn't let them down. So I kicked my dedication up a notch and tried to be the best NCO I could. It wasn't easy at first, but I've had some great leaders to aspire to be like, and I'd like to think I've had some success in that regard. When I was promoted to Staff Sergeant a couple years back I was forced to leave the unit Id come to love. But, I left it with a good cadre of fellow Sergeants. Sergeant who I'd mentored as PFCs and SPCs to get a packet done. In some cases to pass their APFT. And otherwise to get promoted. Our unit was hurting for leaders and only these young Soldiers would be able to stop the pain. They did. When our supply sergeant, who was a good friend of mine, was finally promoted from SPC to SGT he thanked me for the time and effort I'd put into helping him make it. It was a small moment, but one for which I will be eternally thankful. That young NCO has since finished his music degree and was selected for a direct commission so he will be a 2nd Luitenant in a month or two.

When I was advanced to Specialist I was told "The Army recognizes achievements with awards. A promotion is how the Army recognizes potential." I remembered that was my commander pinned on my Staff Sergeant rank. Nothing I had done before was why I was promoted. I was promoted because someone, somewhere thought I could do more. And I've always tried to live up to that. The position I took over when I was promoted was a wreck. Pay was a problem. People weren't getting promoted. NCOERs were consistently three months late in getting done. Awards were late, if ever done. So on and so on. After a year, when I was selected for Recruiting, those problems were fixed.

I've now been on recruiting for six months now. Longest six months of my professional life. But today it got a little bit better. I found out I've been selected for promotion to Sergeant First Class. I'm giddy. I didn't imagine it would happen. I'm thrilled at the chance of getting to try and meet a whole new set of expectations. Gotta love the challenge.

Anyway, Mrs. SSG B and I will be going out tonight to celebrate. And then staying in tonight to celebrate a bit more. Yay!

Wednesday, July 27, 2005


It's been a good couple days, too bad it all comes to a screeching, screaming, glass-shattering crash in three days. I have always disliked the first day back at work after a week of leave. Even in my PSNCO days that first day back came with a bit of dread; dread at what might have happened while I was gone; dread over what didn't happen, but should have, etc etc. But this is different. This is my first time coming back from a week of leave in USAREC. And it's made me realize a couple things.

One. I don't hate recruiting. Or, well, I don't hate the act of going out to find someone to join the Army. I love the Army. If the most important thing the Army can think to have me do is go out and find people to join, so be it. I'll do it with a passion. I like talking to people, even people who don't want to talk to me (I get a smug sense of self-satisfaction knowing that I was the more polite person when a lead or lead's parent gets rude).

Two. I really dislike the "leadership" shown in USAREC. It's really very simple,at least from where my near-cherry eyes see it. A station commander has two modes "leave alone" and "punish". That's it. If you're a successful recruiter you get the "leave alone" treatment. If you're not successful you get "punish". The SC's like to call it "training" rather than "punishment", but when you take a recruiter to a shopping center 5 miles away, on a day where it's 110 degrees outside (no exaggeration) and ordering that recruiter to P3 (go out and meet people face-to-face for anyone who might read this and isn't in recruiting) their way back to the station, punishment. Maybe if the SC worked with that person during this 5-mile P3 session I could believe it was training, but they didn't so I don't.

In my humble opinion USAREC ruins NCOs. I had an instructor at PLDC who said that E5s and above were one of two things: A Sergeant or a Non-Commissioned Officer. Basically the difference (and she had this whole thing elaboratly thought out and well-described) was a Sergeant was the guy who simply did what was required to keep the pay grade. A block-checker. An NCO though was someone who did their job, did it with a passion, and all while trying to groom their subordinates to become better than the NCO themself. My description is not doing justice to the instructor's indea, but it's my blog and I'll garble-up ideas if I want to. USAREC can take a fine NCO and make them into a Sergeant.

It's the nature of their mission. The meat-and-potatos of USAREC is putting people in the Army, which is a mission of individual accomplishment. You, the individual, is solely responsible for your success of failure. You're not part of a team. You can't share credit. And all the policies and procedures are backed up by a culture which is very quick to threaten an 8, 10, 12, 17 year veteran's career (how effective these threats are is debatable, but they are made). It takes an exceptional leader to be successful in recruiting while retaining the skills and traits that make for a successful Soldier and NCO in the real Army.

I am told every day that USAREC is the real Army. Every time I hear that I die a little on the inside. A wise man, or a tee-shirt, once said that "If you can keep your head while those around you are losing theirs you don't know what's going on." That goes through my mind every time my SC tells me that. I have no doubt that my SC was at one time a fine NCO. He's friendly, personable, easy to approach, and takes a personal interest in the lives of his subordinates. However, a decade in recruiting has atrophied the skills he used to apply those traits to helping his subordinates excel. What he's left with to "lead" us with is a carrot-and-a-stick. Which wouldn't be that bad if the carrot was really a carrot. Instead it's just not being hit with the stick as much.

SFC SC has said , famously within my station, "We (the recruiters) are always quick to ask for a reward, but we never have a punishment in mind." He's referring to us asking to go home early when we meet our daily Mission Accomplishment Plan (MAP), or some other measure of success. What he's asking when he says that is we know what we want when we do what we're supposed to, but he wants to know what to do when we don't. We're already working a 12-hour day, regardless of how many contracts we've got in. We're already getting phone calls from the First Sergeant and Sergeant Major asking "when will you be putting someone in?" We're already in USAREC. They can't have us shot (I hope), so, our answer is the same: "We're in recruiting, you've already punished us as much as you can." He doesn't like that very much.

When I'd started this post I'd had this image in my head of a well-thought-out disertation on how... different... USAREC treated its charges. But it's devolved into more of a gripe session than anything. And I hate that. Oh well.

Oh, and I realized that I need to learn a bit more about HTML. I'd really like to add a comment thing that's different from the Blogger-internal one. I'd really like for more people to be able comment. Not that I think there are people who read what I write, but aren't able to comment because of the blogger-only setting I've selected. I'm not that delusional or vain. But I'd like for the possibility of such a thing to occur, even if it doesn't.

Saturday, July 23, 2005


Leave is good. A whole week. A DA31 saying Monday thru Sunday... ahhhhhh. It has begun.

I just watched the Astros drop one to the Nats, 4-2. I don't know what's wrong with Brandon Backe, he just keeps walking people. I hope he returns to his postseason form from last year. Oh well, Clemens, Oswalt, and Petitte are all pitching lights out. I can't ask for much more.

And now... in full relaxation mode. I'm on the La-Z-Boy, Orange Cat is on the footrest curling up, and I've got Shaun of the Dead on the TV. And, with my recently installed wireless router I'm able to update my little blog while doing it all. Yay!

How Embarassing

I get my very first link ever and I have nothing posted on my blog. When I'd decided to start this little blog thing I'd figured the wireless network at my recruiting station would work. That way I could make quick little posts as the day went on. No such luck. Wireless is down at the office, and by the time I get home I don't want to have another personal AAR about what happened during the day so I can write about it.

But Jack Army was kind enough to notice my little name in his comments AND find out I'd put my name to this. The least I suppose I should do is maybe add another entry to my "Adventures". I'll be on leave next week so I plan to spend a good bt of that time adding my limited experience to the clutter of cyberspace. Yay :-/

Friday, July 15, 2005


I'm an Army recruiter and I didn't want to be. I'd started a blog about this when I'd first came down on orders, but I lost interest. I'm now a few months into my USAwRECk tour and I stumbled across a couple of blogs ran by fellow recruiters. I figured I'd give it another shot.