Postcards from Tradocia

how may I help you sir or ma’am?

Working for the Guard in a desk job is nice in many ways, but one of the primary disadvantages is that by being the guy who’s at his desk all the time, you become the door-man/bellboy/concierge/information desk person. A twist on that phenomenon is that because you wear the same uniform and/or unit patch as everyone else in the building, people commonly assume that you have some kind of ever-present hive mind connection to all other soldiers, to include location, schedule, and duty status.

Another ability that is often attributed to me is a comprehensive catalog of all soldiers in the brigade, so that I can identify any of them on sight, in or out of uniform. Apparently just the fact that you can locate the armory and have at least one working arm to open a door is authentication enough; I made it this far, SGT Delobius – now you figure out who I am!

This scenario has played out several times since the brigade returned from Iraq. Once, a middle-aged man walked in, with big round glasses and a receding hairline, and asked if one of our staff was around. I replied in the negative, and he approached, jovial as could be, and started jabbering at me. I just kind of smiled and nodded, wondering, “who the hell is this guy?” Then he asked if he could make a few phone calls. “Well,” I replied, trying to form a tactful construction of the phrase WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT THE HELL DO YOU WANT, “are you a member of the National Guard or what?” “Oh, yeah!,” he beamed, grinning. “I’m Lieutenant so-and-so, just got back from Iraq. Blah blah blah…” Oh, well then…sorry I didn’t instantly recognize some random fucking lieutnenant in civilian clothes.

Another time, a pair of men – again, in civilian clothes – walked in, looking around like the S-3 office was the lobby of the damn Louvre. “Is LTC J around?,” one asked. Once again, I replied in the negative. “Oh, damn, we were hoping he was around.” I’m sure you were. One of the men – again, a dorky-looking balding guy with glasses – strode over to MSG Nuke’s desk and started gawking at his shit – in great detail and at close range – as if his desk contained artifacts of great wonder and value. It was a weirdly invasive gesture and once again, I found myself struggling to not blurt out WHAT THE HELL DO YOU WANT YOU NOSY ASSHOLE? Instead, I said, “So, what was your name again, sir?,” with the “sir” tacked on at the end because I was making a good bet that the guy was an officer. “Oh, I’m Captain Whatever…I’m working on an investigation for LTC J.” Oh, well, nice to meet you then, and glad to see that my “Detector, Officer, M3A1” is working perfectly.

The latest incident was much more succinct: a tall man in a baseball cap and about five days’ beard growth stepped in and bellowed, “Hey, is this where that mail is at?” I just stopped in mid-stride, probably with my mouth hanging open. “That mail”? What the hell are you talking about? Luckily, he recognized another guy in the office and was able to actually communicate with him, so I was relieved of the burden of figuring out who that guy was and what mail he was referring to, exactly.

The question that inevitably comes to mind in these situations is: why wouldn’t you introduce yourself when marching into an armory in civilian clothes and asking for stuff? It just seems like common courtesy, let alone military courtesy, to do so. Obviously, if the division commander or some other luminary rolled in, one might be expected to recognize that guy on sight, but Captain J. Random? This is the brigade headquarters – a captain’s just another face in the crowd around here. All it would take is a simple, “Hi, I’m CPT X, just got back from Iraq, working on this thing for this guy. Mind if I use your phone?” Not so hard, really. Or is that too much to ask?

2 Comments

  1. Prometheus

    I’d blame it on the supply sergeant not issuing out Sense, Common, 1 each.

  2. Hootkoop

    Man, just imagine if the Army starts tagging soldiers with RFID tags. You COULD have an M3A1 Officer Detector.

    There are disadvantages, but soldiers have never had much privacy to begin with.

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