SigSpace - National Guard http://www.sigspace.net/?q=taxonomy/term/74/0 en Because "Bataan Happy Fun Kittens and Rainbows March" doesn't flow off the tongue. http://www.sigspace.net/?q=node/664 <p>I wasn't always a lame ass admin puke. It's hard to remember sometimes that even as recently as six months ago, I was a lame ass intel puke--and while the transition to admin was sudden and hurty, it was relatively recent.</p> <p>Harder still to remember is that once upon a time, I carried a ruck and some really expensive equipment on and off helicopters, and rode around in HMMWVs, and even returned fire occasionally.</p> <p>There aren't many cool military jobs stateside. By and large, the more interesting the job, the less application you have in times other than war (or deployment). My wartime job is interesting. My stateside job involved signing my name to a lot of forms today so I could get some pay problems unFUBARed. Yeehaw. It's important--certainly to the soldiers getting paid--but it's not terribly interesting when you get down to it, and the fact that I'm actually pretty good at it is more depressing than encouraging.</p> <p>I've been thinking about it more since I've been going through photos from Afghanistan in 2006 and planning for some of my soldiers to come back from their current tour there. I'm fortunate to have been able to go the places I've been and see the places I've seen and shoot at the assclowns at whom I got to shoot; not many get those opportunities even once, let alone get paid to have them. I should be grateful that I got to go at all, not annoyed that other people are having fun without me. I should be glad to be here and enjoy my family and my friends and my nation. And I should remember, too, how much I wanted to be back here when I was over there and all of the stuff that I wanted to do then but couldn't. And I should do some of it.</p> <p>OK, so I'm still holding off on forming the Police cover band. But I did start geocaching a little, using the ridiculously expensive set that I have signed out from work (for um, training). I am reading more. I'm writing a bit more, although work still sucks up most of my writing energy. And I'm looking at doing stupidly ambitious things, just because I can.</p> <p>I decided last week that I am going to try to go to White Sands, New Mexico in late March for the <a href="http://www.bataanmarch.com/" rel="nofollow">21st Annual Bataan Memorial Death March</a>. 26.2 miles, starting at 0700 and ending when you hit the finish line or fall on your face. For added fun, I have tacked on the additional intent to compete in the "military heavy" category, which means regulation uniform and boots and a 35-pound ruck sack.</p> <p>Step one was finding out if I would be allowed to take time off to do something so lunatic. I e-mailed my battalion commander and full-time boss for permission. His response, paraphrased, was "I'm game, who else is going?" In the last few days, I've found another MAJ and a 1LT who are "strong maybes," but no enlisted takers--I'm not sure what that says about our relative abilities to perform on-the-spot risk assessments.</p> <p>There's still time. Registration doesn't even start until mid-November. Meanwhile, the LT and I have been doing some easy pace (4 or 4.5 MPH) rucks around Camp Murray, just to get a feel for the undertaking. The Bataan march will be the equivalent of nine laps, roughly. Hopefully, we can find some more interesting places to train up.</p> <p>I'm actually really excited for this, which is pretty stupid on the face of it, but it's something that I know will be a) difficult, b) painful, and c) absolutely within my ability and will to accomplish. Added bonuses are getting out of my office, and associating with other insane people. If I can actually burn some of my accumulating leave at the same time, so much the better.</p> <p>Anyway, that's one of my projects for right now. When I get some new strings for my bass, maybe I'll start working on another.</p> <p>Sig</p> http://www.sigspace.net/?q=node/664#comments History National Guard US Army Work Tue, 01 Sep 2009 02:51:41 +0000 sig 664 at http://www.sigspace.net Your tax dollars at work http://www.sigspace.net/?q=node/663 <p>I'd apologize for not updating, but I don't want to be <a href="http://xkcd.com/621/" rel="nofollow">this guy</a>.</p> <p>Annual training was splendid, thanks for asking. I probably ought to post about it. Note, I didn't promise to post about it. I didn't even suggest I was thinking about a post. I just said that I probably ought to. You should see my "probably ought to" list some time. It's absolutely horrifying in scope and scale, and that's just the work-related stuff.</p> <p>Ahem.</p> <p>OK, so with the September drill weekend just a few weeks away, instead of preparing for that I got to spend Wednesday through today (being Sunday four days after aforementioned Wednesday) at a conference for the brigade-sized-element-that-is-not-really-a-brigade over my battalion. Being that this is toward the end of the fiscal year (which is a whole 'nother post that I will also probably not actually write), said BSETISNRAB was able to attain <a href="http://www.suncadiaresort.com" rel="nofollow">really swanky accomodations</a> for only a fair bit above the normal lodging rate authorized for this region. (For the curious, we stayed in the "Deluxe Lodge Studio Room.") Because they are pretty clever, they set up the tables in such a manner that there was no electricity for me to charge my laptop, meaning that I could only do about 90 minutes of work (on battery) while they were yammering on (and on and on and on).</p> <p>The first portion of the conference was for the AGRs (Active Guard/Reserve--the full-time permanent people who run things the <em>other</em> 28 days a month). We showed up on Wednesday afternoon, got checked in, and had the conference all day ("all day" adjourning around 1430) Thursday and then Friday morning; checkout was at noon, and then the commanders and senior NCOs started showing up for the second portion, which was geared toward them and scheduled in a similar non-grueling manner. Since I'm cool like that (and because it was recommended for unit readiness NCOs), we stayed for the entire period through Sunday noonish.</p> <p>The accommodations were nice. REALLY nice. The conference was a little disappointing. Much of it ought to have been directed at the commanders and 1SGs rather than the full-time staff. It's nice to know that our NCOERs and OERs are ridiculously behind (my company is 52% up to date, vice the BSETISNRAB average of roughly 60%), but I already <em>know</em> that and know that it's a problem. However, <strong>I have no control over this and damned little influence over it.</strong> I cannot make people do their evals; I certainly can't make them do them <em>right</em>, and even giving a class on it would be problematic since a) I'm not actually in a position of authority and b) I have never actually written an NCOER for anyone but myself (yet another post).</p> <p>During the second portion, they unveiled Yet Another Tracking System for me to maintain. In this case, it's a comprehensive know-all-do-all web-based retention tracking tool that will feed stats up to the state level and allow us to keep better tabs on soldiers who are thinking about escap---er, allowing their contract to lapse. Retention tracking is important, no question, but this tool is <em>really</em> detailed: name, contact info, family and spouse info, pay entry base date, birthday (?!), ETS date (obviously), contact records, counseling records, and all sorts of other silliness in this big-ass color-coded Excel spreadsheet to which everyone and their mother will have at least read-only access. In theory, the Retention NCO (a one-weekend-a-month soldier) would keep this up to date, but since so many of those fields are things requiring access to personnel records, in practice it would find its way to my plate.</p> <p>First and most obviously, this is a massive privacy invasion. There is no need for that many people (and they included everyone in the NCO support chain, chain of command, and retention system) to have that kind of information on my soldiers. All it would take is one jackass to lose a laptop and it would be in the open. Since that happens roughly every seven minutes within DoD, this is of concern to me.</p> <p>Second, this is the fourth or fifth place that some of this data is stored and updated--by yours truly. Seriously. I have to update many of these things on the battalion's Access database, the Reserve Component Automation System (RCAS, web-based, frequently down for no reason), Commander's Dashboard (ComDash, web-based, usually works but isn't super detailed), and Digital Training Management System (DTMS, web-based, slower than payday, and designed by people who hate soldiers) already. I do not need <em>another</em> One True Solution for tracking soldier data. I need three <em>less</em> solutions.</p> <p>Here's how we track retention in my company. Each month, I run the retention report on ComDash, which pops up everyone in the unit who is scheduled to get out in the next six months. I must update their status (even if there is no change) at least every 30 days during those six months. I put in who contacted the soldier, the date they did so, the soldier's intent (get out, extend, undecided, etc.), any supporting notes, and check a few applicable boxes. Usually, I print this report out before drill and put it in the Retention NCO's box; it's his job to hit up as many of those people as possible and find out what their plans are and what it would take to include the Nasty Guard in them. He makes notes on the sheet, and I update ComDash on Monday after drill. If we're doing really well, we can record it as "Already Extended" and file the accompanying paperwork.</p> <p>Some soldiers just aren't up for it any longer; they want to do something else with their lives. Some are lazy. Some want more than the Guard can provide, and seem not to have realized that with the current economy and new political climate, we can't afford big (or any) bonuses to keep them in uniform. Some just have done their time and aren't willing to deploy again. I did 11 (mostly) easy months in theater; who am I to tell someone who has spent 27 months in Iraq that they need to step up to the line again? If I think it's good for the unit and good for the soldier, I will try to talk them into it, but I won't try to guilt or trick them into staying in.</p> <p>[Ironically, our Retention NCO inadvertently ETSed when his paperwork got screwed up and he was mistakenly listed as ineligible for extension. Don't worry, we got it fixed.]</p> <p>The point of this digression is that the current system takes me about 15 minutes--<em>per month</em>. I don't need or want yet another spreadsheet to track the soldier's family situation and factors coming up in their lives. That's clearly an officer idea, or from the perverted mind of a full-time Recruiting and Retention Command (RRC) puke. In a company of only 61 soldiers, where even the platoon sergeant might have 12 people under him, a good NCO can keep track of his people with a notepad and a bad one wouldn't use the spreadsheet anyway. If we lose someone to civilian life, it is not because we didn't know exactly when and why it was going to happen. This is a solution in search of a problem.</p> <p>The conference wasn't <em>all</em> about making more work for SSG Sig. A big portion of it (outside the sessions) was supposed to be networking and crap like that. Oops, gave away my attitude a little. I'm not a big socializing networking sort of person. This may amaze some of you, but I don't actually like talking to people I don't know. That's one of the reasons I do so well squirreled away in a SIGINT company office with only a taciturn cav scout for company. I was able to put a few names to faces, and gain new appreciation for some people at echelons above BN, but I'm not a big drinker, particularly when I'm one of the two or three most junior people in a crowd.</p> <p>We aren't into golf or the bar scene, so a lot of the amenities of the resort were somewhat wasted on us. We did go for a nice walk or two, and play on some playground equipment, and even take Siglet for his first swim. He was unimpressed, mostly (I think) because the water was chilly, although he stopped whining once he saw the ladies. Way to suck it up and drive on, son--you're a credit to your gender. In the evenings, we went out to eat (cheaper than eating at the resort, even at "discounted" prices) or did a frozen pizza in the oven, and played Nintendo DS games while waiting for Siglet to fall asleep.</p> <p>Overall, it was somewhat entertaining, and the closest I've had to a vacation since I started this job back in March. I have taken one (1) day of leave since then, and that was a must-stay-home-to-watch-Siglet deal (not that I didn't enjoy it), so this was kind of nice. Still, there's a lot of work that did not get done in a timely fashion, and I'll be playing catch-up right until the drill weekend. I would have been a little happier if we had more small group sessions so I could pick the brains of some of the other Readiness NCOs, and a little less time getting briefed on stuff that applies to only a handful of people in the audience.</p> <p>One plus: I sat through the brigade (well, BSETISNRAB) command sergeant major's brief on the wacky National Guard enlisted promotion system, and I think I can definitively say that my briefing is both better-focused and more entertaining than his. I finished working on it at annual training (in the evenings after my regular training and frantic attempts to do my day job), but then they never scheduled a time to do it so I'm giving it at September's drill. Interestingly (to me), I don't like talking to individual people but I have little problem telling groups of them that they are doing it wrong.</p> <p>Sig</p> http://www.sigspace.net/?q=node/663#comments Family National Guard Siglet Work Mon, 31 Aug 2009 03:58:46 +0000 sig 663 at http://www.sigspace.net An update on my friend http://www.sigspace.net/?q=node/659 <p>Turns out there's a freaking <a href="http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/scottmandella" rel="nofollow">web site</a> with all (well, some) of the details you could wish for. I still haven't talked to him directly, though I was able to get the number for his room. He's expecting to be released on 05 June, but it will be months before he can return to duty and a year or more before he will be at full throttle again.</p> <p>One note for concern: his memory is a little... off. One of our mutual friends and drinking buddies in the company called him, and Scott didn't know who he was or where he knew him from. It rattled us more than a little.</p> <p>Your prayers would be greatly appreciated.</p> <p>Sig</p> http://www.sigspace.net/?q=node/659#comments National Guard Fri, 29 May 2009 03:28:09 +0000 sig 659 at http://www.sigspace.net Frustration http://www.sigspace.net/?q=node/658 <p>So one of my SGTs (and a good friend from our tour Afghanistan) comes in to the office on Tuesday to do part of a make up for a drill that he will be missing, and help me with some miscellaneous issues that require a sergeantly bit of judgment and discretion. In passing, he mentions that a mutual friend from our company was in a car accident last Friday but "is going to be fine."</p> <p><a href="http://www.king5.com/video/index.html?nvid=362233" rel="nofollow">This one</a>. [<a href="http://www.king5.com/topstories/stories/NW_051509WAB-king-county-deputy-injured-JM.5be1470.html" rel="nofollow">Text version for media impaired</a>]</p> <p>So before anything else, let me sincerely thank Dave Buckingham, H. L. Kurt, and Brian Mounce for investigating a crash in the middle of the night and taking prompt action which saved the life of my friend, who hunts bad guys in Burien as a county mountie when he's not hunting bad guys in the remote mountains of Afghanistan. Your nation and community are blessed for your concern.</p> <p>(It should be noted that my tovarishch has really bad luck with vehicular incidents during the summer. In June of 2006, he was crushed against a building by a humvee; the medic was driving, so at least the morphine arrived promptly. In June of 2007, he got plastered by a van; he's not sure of the details, since he has no memory of the event. Last year he was exceedingly careful. This year he was a month early, but at least he was <em>inside</em> the car this time.)</p> <p>I didn't take the news too seriously until Wednesday morning when I idly looked up the story on the intarweb. Holy crap, thought I, someone is going to want to know about this. And sure enough, we have to file a serious incident report up the chain to State whenever one of our guys is involved in something wonky.</p> <p>The problem is that all we had to go on was the initial tip from our other guy, who lives down the street a few doors from SGT Painmagnet (as I have now dubbed him), and the news report. I have left voice mails at every number I have for the family. I was able to get semi-official confirmation about his general status and whereabouts, but Harborview is not in the habit of giving out information to anybody not related to the patient. The company commander, another captain from Battalion, our supply sergeant and I all went up there this morning, but were not able to get much more than sideways confirmation that he was there and not in any particular danger of expiring any time soon. We couldn't even leave a message.</p> <p>This is very frustrating. SGT Painmagnet loves the Army and loves his Army job--but his wife does not. His family is completely disengaged from the military, attends no functions, and has never even been seen aside from when we returned from OEF. It probably never occurred to anyone to let us know that he was in serious condition in a hospital after a bad car wreck, but we're supposed to report his status to higher headquarters on a regular basis. Our first report looked an awful lot like the news article.</p> <p>All I can do is leave nice voice mail messages and ask his battle buddy to ask the wife to contact us. I'm not about to intrude on an already stressful time by showing up at their house. I <em>may</em> storm Harborview again, however.</p> <p>Sig</p> http://www.sigspace.net/?q=node/658#comments National Guard Work Fri, 22 May 2009 02:49:57 +0000 sig 658 at http://www.sigspace.net I suspect he makes better coffee, too. http://www.sigspace.net/?q=node/657 <p>Yes, work has gotten better. I'm now merely very busy instead of ridiculously overworked. I have a sneaking suspicion that a solitary NCO who is really on the ball can do this job without any minions, assuming he doesn't EVER get far behind. Since I'm still a total n00b and don't have access to some things, I can use the help. Also, I'd like to have a day off again some day.</p> <p>Fortunately, after a few weeks of scrambling by myself, I have a new minion. Unlike my last minion, who seemed thoroughly offended by my asking her to file anything, PFC Minion is quite content to do menial paperwork tasks and train himself to be able to do less-menial ones. This is odd when you consider that SPC Drama, my old minion, was a 42A administrative specialist, and my new minion is a 19D cavalry scout. From this scientifically random sample, I conclude that 42A school is a complete waste of time and that we should populate our personnel offices with cav scouts--as an added bonus, he won't get "lost" on the way to work.</p> <p>I like my job a lot. It's several orders of magnitude greater responsibility than any I've ever been given, and quite a bit more than I anticipated when I applied for the Training NCO position in December. 28 days a month, I <em>am</em> the company. I wield a crazy amount of power inherent to my position, and even greater power by virtue of the fact that my company commander and 1SG trust my judgment more than is, strictly speaking, wise. I also have a disturbingly competent supply sergeant, without whom I would have run screaming from this job within the first 48 hours.</p> <p>But in exchange for this power, I am responsible for paying soldiers, getting their orders cut, getting their travel arranged, getting them into schools, getting them promoted, getting them re-enlisted, getting them trained, and keeping them informed and ready for drill when it arrives. And very few of my powers are explicitly coercive--I can't really <em>make</em> people do much, when you get down to it.</p> <p>One of the reasons I haven't been posting much is that a lot of my writing energies go into my work. I write between 40 and 100 e-mails a day--usually around 80. Many of these are writing to persuade someone to do something for me, or to do it more expeditiously than they might have otherwise. Examples include getting the pay people to research pay problems for my soldiers, do those administrative actions beyond my power to get issues fixed, research things in databases I can't access, etc., etc. There's a definite art to this. I'm pretty good at it--I can fake "humble" in print, less easily in person--but it is work.</p> <p>The other major writing task is the drill letter. This is supposed to go out two weeks before drill to all of the company soldiers, telling them where they need to be and when and in what uniform, and what they can expect and what they need to bring or be prepared to do, etc., etc. It usually contains wisdom from the commander and 1SG, and maybe a blurb from higher about this or that issue. Historically (in our unit, at least), it runs about two pages. Since my commander and 1SG rarely deign to comment for the drill letter, this means I have TWO ENTIRE PAGES to write about what I think is important, and I have a <strong>CAPTIVE AUDIENCE</strong>--they've <em>got</em> to read the stupid thing. Now some might look at that and think, "Crap, I have to fill two pages. OK, I'll just copy/paste from last month and change the dates."</p> <p>But you know me. I'll say it again: captive audience. The hard part is not turning it into a collection of essays and creative writing. Anyone can announce a PT test the following month, but how many bother to do so in haiku? Drill letters and the once- or twice-weekly activity digest e-mails (because stuff happens more than once a month) are one of the consistent joys of my job.</p> <p>And then there are those intermittent joys. It gave me great pleasure to write a memo to get SSG Smallville promoted to SFC Smallville, a well-earned accomplishment for a friend and mentor who is hard at work taking care of our joes in Afghanistan right now. (I was a little less ecstatic when it took <em>SIX</em> drafts before S1 was content to pass the memo on to higher.)</p> <p>I was also moderately pleased to be tangentially involved in processing paperwork to get <a href="http://www.sigspace.net/node/596" rel="nofollow">our favorite drill-dodging assclown</a> one tiny step closer to achieving the civilian status for which he is yearning.</p> <p>Overall, it's going OK. In another six months, I'll be pretty up to speed on the day to day and just a bit behind the curve on some of the rarer problems, and by the time my first year is up, I'll be actively plotting something to relieve the boredom. But right now, I don't much like to write about work, because I start thinking about all of the stuff that's not yet done.</p> <p>Speaking of which: Top, I know you're reading. Your completed travel voucher is sitting in a manilla folder labeled "1SG" (clever, huh?) in the vertical files on my desk. All it needs is a signature. If that's too much effort for you, I might possibly forget to pay you next month, понятно?</p> <p>(See? A fine art.)</p> <p>Sig</p> http://www.sigspace.net/?q=node/657#comments National Guard Work Wed, 22 Apr 2009 03:54:38 +0000 sig 657 at http://www.sigspace.net Work update http://www.sigspace.net/?q=node/656 <p>I've been dreaming about delinquent NCOERs.</p> <p>My job kind of sucks right now.</p> <p>Sig</p> http://www.sigspace.net/?q=node/656#comments National Guard Work Fri, 27 Mar 2009 02:25:42 +0000 sig 656 at http://www.sigspace.net It's a remarkably popular office, some days. http://www.sigspace.net/?q=node/654 <p>During the course of my day, I was visited or called by the battalion commander, his executive officer, my company commander, and the company first sergeant. They all wanted to know variations on the theme of how things were going, how the transition was, was I happy with the way it was working, was I about to go on a killing rampage, etc., etc. The BC is not my favorite person in the world, but we had a 10-minute conversation that was remarkably pleasant and interesting. The XO just wanted to shoot the bull and give a sort of pep talk. The company CO actually just wanted to drop some paperwork off, I think, but she was being polite.</p> <p>Actually, I think only 1SG was wondering whether I was a lit fuse or not. He knows me best.</p> <p>Work continues to be interesting. My minion has been having some health problems, so she's been out a fair bit. While she was waiting at the ER late the other evening, we texted back and forth and she told me what I which databases I would need to update if she were to die on the table such that our monthly reports didn't get screwed up too badly. That's dedication to duty right there.</p> <p>My predecessor has taken to flinging everything directed at the "Readiness NCO" my way since, as he gleefully reminds me, that's my title now, not his. I retaliated by directing every call asking for him (by name) back to his extension; since no one actually calls for the Readiness NCO (and most people don't know that's now me), that's effectively every call that comes in the office.</p> <p>The IT situation is... interesting. It took me a week and a half to get an account on the network so I could do more than open the office and make coffee. That was frustrating, although to be fair it was not G6's fault; the paperwork never made it to my boss to pass on to G6 shop [-6 means the commo people, which means computers and such nowadays].</p> <p>Having received an account, I discovered several interesting things. First, my desktop computer sucks. A Pentium-4 is perfectly adequate to do basic tasks, honestly, but it starts chugging when you add all of the extra overhead of a government network and all of the security and auditing that requires. 1 gig of RAM is incomprehensible in this day and age.</p> <p>More incomprehensible is that my network account does not come with any network drives mapped: no personal drive, no share, no nothing. Other than my e-mail being configured in Outlook, none of my profile settings roam, so every time I use a different computer, I have to set everything up again. There IS a share, of sorts, but I had to browse to it through the literally hundreds of computers on the network domain, and it's cluttered and insane, full of read-only documents going back five or six years that no one can delete because the original owners retired or otherwise vanished years ago.</p> <p>From the perspective of a former IT professional (now reformed), this is Very Bad. For one, it's very difficult to find ANYTHING, since the share is used by echelons above battalion, even. For two, unless you find such a share, all of the working documents are in your My Documents folder on the local hard drive, which is never backed up. Frequently, we find ourselves stuck temporarily because needed files are on my computer under someone else's profile, and only they can get at them.</p> <p>Since DoD has mandated that we not use USB storage <em>ever</em>, the only way to backup or transfer files is to burn them to CD-Rs (not CD-R/Ws). This is, supposedly, safer. In reality land, where I work, it's just idiotic.</p> <p>I've also noticed that the G6 employs a ninja-style help desk, meaning that they resolve (or try to resolve) your help requests without ever contacting you. I only found out I had an account by logging in to it; they had helpfully sent an e-mail notification to my new account e-mail address, which I found after logging in. I put in a request to fix my e-mail alias, since no one was able to reply to my e-mails without it going to a non-existent address on a different domain, and they fixed it without so much as notifying me that they were looking at the request. While I applaud the speed with which it was done, that's really lousy customer service, and I despair of having to actually communicate with them when I have a real problem.</p> <p>[However much you think you hate calling the help desk, I can almost guarantee that it's not as much as I do, unless you are <em>also</em> an embittered former (or current) professional computer nerd.]</p> <p>On a brighter note, I learned today that I have my very own Dell Latitude D620 laptop, several years old now but in virtually new condition--the dust cover is still on the keyboard. On a darker note, it may be in such pristine condition because no one knows where the power adapter (or any other extra, like a case) might be.</p> <p>Anyway, we're getting there. I have my predecessor/mentor for another week and then a few days after our next drill, and then I'll be mostly on my own, although there are lots of people around to answer questions. It should be interesting.</p> <p>Also, for the curious, <a href="http://www.sigspace.net/node/652" rel="nofollow">the lieutenant</a> was in the office today and we had pleasant and non-confrontational conversation. She's not my favorite person and likely never will be, but my opinion of her inched up a fair bit. Equally nice and rare it is to be pleasantly surprised by a junior officer.</p> <p>Sig</p> http://www.sigspace.net/?q=node/654#comments National Guard Technology Work Sat, 28 Feb 2009 04:22:38 +0000 sig 654 at http://www.sigspace.net E-mail to a Lieutenant http://www.sigspace.net/?q=node/652 <p>CCed to the company commander and the outgoing readiness NCO, because we're nipping this problem in the bud right <em>now</em>.<br /> <blockquote>Ma'am,</p> <p>Regardless of how unhappy you may be with whatever situation in which you find yourself, heaping verbal abuse on my SPC is inappropriate and unprofessional. In the future, if you feel the need to swear at us over the phone, please request that SPC [name] pass the phone back to me so I can hang up on you instead.</p> <p>Alternately, if you would prefer to communicate politely, I can try to resolve your problems.</p> <p>Thanks,<br /> SSG [Sig]</p></blockquote> <p>Next week should be fun.</p> <p>Sig</p> http://www.sigspace.net/?q=node/652#comments National Guard Stupid People Sat, 21 Feb 2009 02:48:05 +0000 sig 652 at http://www.sigspace.net Steps http://www.sigspace.net/?q=node/651 <p>In December, I applied for a new position being filled at my Guard unit--the company Training NCO. On paper, this is sort of an assistant to the Readiness NCO, who is the main full time guy at the company level that keeps things running in between our one-weekend-a-month drills. In practice, I was given to understand, I would be a minion of the battalion S-3 NCOIC, and only peripherally deal with the company, but it was a foot into the door of the AGR (Active Guard/Reserve) system, meaning a full-time permanent job with the Guard with a regular active duty retirement possible--meaning I wouldn't have to think about finding a new job for oh, at least 15 years or so.</p> <p>So yeah, a battalion staff puke job, but you know, somebody has to do them, and it might as well be somebody who a) cares deeply about helping out the soldiers of our unit, b) believes strongly in the mission, and c) hates and fears civilians and is probably better off in uniform indefinitely. I fit the bill.</p> <p>So I applied, which meant a bunch of paperwork and then an interview before <a href="http://www.sigspace.net/node/641" rel="nofollow">a board</a>, which was a less than stellar experience.</p> <p>I got the job. Sort of.</p> <p>First, I was told I got the job. Then, there were all sorts of internal politicking things going on where Battalion tried to assert its ownership over my immortal soul by claiming that thereafter I would not only work full time at the battalion office, but would also drill there on weekends--in effect, making me one of those inferior class of people who <em>aren't</em> in B Company.</p> <p>There was wailing. There was gnashing of teeth. There was the claim that "that had always been the plan," although it certainly hadn't been clear to me and to one of the actual board members. There were meetings and phone calls.</p> <p>And then there were Changes From Above. Big Changes. The-order-of-the-universe-being-upset kind of changes. Suddenly, our current B Co readiness NCO is desperately needed in his old job back at Battalion. There are meetings and phone calls and e-mails. And on Tuesday, a week before I'm about to start my new job at battalion, I find out that actually my new job is at B Company, and rather than being the minion of the S-3, I am the new readiness NCO of B Co, and I have minions of my own.</p> <p>This is one of those situations where everybody involved--except, notably, me--walks around patting each other on the back for the clever solution they came up with to the seemingly intractable problem. Meanwhile, I am looking at a massive job that has crushed mightier NCOs than me, and only the repeated assurances by authoritative parties that I'll muddle through just fine have kept me from hopping in a car and driving far, far away. It's not that I don't want this job, but this is a much greater learning curve and set of responsibilities than I applied for in December and interviewed for in January.</p> <p>(I've never had minions. What happens if they ask me what to do? Can I shoot one to establish dominance? What do I do if they go feral?)</p> <p>Last week was split between working to document and hand off my work to my luckless successor and trying to get signed up for accounts and systems and things that I will need in my new position. Fortunately for me, I'm not <em>entirely</em> set up for failure--the current readiness NCO is going to be helping me get established and learn what I need to accomplish, although probably for not as long as I might prefer.</p> <p>It will be interesting. Just how interesting remains to be seen. I'll try to let you know tomorrow.</p> <p>Sig</p> <p>PS- Also, and probably of more interest and excitement in our household, Siglet is walking now. 6-7 steps at a time, but I think he only stops because we start getting excited and he doesn't want to tip his hand about just how mobile he is. He's cagey, that one.</p> http://www.sigspace.net/?q=node/651#comments National Guard Siglet Tue, 17 Feb 2009 03:24:30 +0000 sig 651 at http://www.sigspace.net Board out of my mind http://www.sigspace.net/?q=node/641 <p>I used to pity the infantrymen I saw studying for boards in Afghanistan. They would quiz each other: "What's the weight of an M-203 without magazines?" "What's the length of an M-240?" "What is the maximum effective range on a point target of the M-249? Area target?" Trivia. Nothing that actually helps them do their job, or demonstrates that they are more capable than the next soldier who may not be great at memorizing worthless information but who can plan and execute a house raid like nobody's business.</p> <p>I've always wondered what boards for intelligence soldiers would look like. "How many scoops of coffee grounds go into a 12-cup pot?" (6). "In which MOS are you most likely to pay people to lie to you?" (was 97E, now 35M). "If Rain Man was in the Army, what MOS would he have?" (35P). "What if he became an officer?" (Trick question: he'd be a warrant.)</p> <p>I say <em>wondered</em> because prior to today, I'd never done one. The Guard--at least my corner of it--doesn't do boards very often, and my promotions to SGT and SSG both were done with "paper boards"--people looked at my paperwork and decided that I was worthy. You can argue about whether this is a good idea or not. I have mixed feelings, myself, but the units <em>should</em> be acting as gatekeepers to ensure that the completely spastic soldiers have time and opportunity for a little more seasoning before their packets are even sent up. This doesn't always happen, but I don't think adding physical boards would make it any better.</p> <p>My board today was for an application for an AGR position: Training NCO for my company. If I get the job, it will solve that pesky "what do I do NEXT year for a job" question for the next 14 years or so.</p> <p>I was disappointed, but not surprised. A lot of the board questions centered on the significance and use of obscure DD and DA forms; I don't think I got any of those right. There were some acronyms, only some of which I knew, but most of which I could at least describe if not perfectly define.</p> <p>I don't understand the value of such things; I really don't. If I need it to do a job, I will know what it is because I use it all of the time. It would be <em>wasteful</em> to memorize lists of forms and acronyms on the off chance that one of them would be a board question.</p> <p>"But Sig," you're asking, "wouldn't it make sense to look up the things that you will use in the job you're applying for?"</p> <p>Why yes. Yes, it would. But here's the kicker: all I have to go on in preparing is the one-paragraph explanation of job duties, most of which are vaguely described. Most of the job description involved things having to do with the unit status report (USR), governed by AR 220-1 (Unit Status Reporting). I looked up the AR, got a sense of the general flow of things (without trying to memorize form numbers, incidentally), and asked several other recent victims of the AGR hiring process about common questions and the format and how it worked for them. I took reasonable precautions. We don't <em>have</em> a training NCO whom I could question about their duties, so I did what I could, including asking my readiness NCO.</p> <p>And it didn't do a lick of good, because as the president of the board freely admitted (in response to my what-would-I-actually-be-doing question), she didn't know what the job announcement said the duties would be. There were no questions about unit status reporting. There was only one question about ATRRS, the system we use to schedule schools and training. Short of knowing the exact questions that would have been asked, I'm not sure what I reasonably could have done to better prepare for the board.</p> <p>There may be some value to seeing how much composure a soldier maintains while saying "Sergeant, I do not know the answer at this time" for the tenth time in a row, but I'm not sure what it would be. I honestly don't believe trivia questions help assess anyone's fitness to do anything except memorize and recite trivia, and frankly, we could do with a whole lot less of that in the Army. (I had a friend in junior high and high school who could rattle off the first hundred digits of pi. He was capable of a lot of amazing and useful things, but that was not one of them.)</p> <p>The board process is a time-honored tradition, almost a pageant, but it's also supposed to be an evaluative tool. It seems to me--silly ol' inexperienced too-junior-for-my-rank Staff Sergeant Sig--that if you are going to be on a board, you should ask questions that help you evaluate the candidate's fitness for the position or recognition under consideration. It also seems to me that if you are going to evaluate a candidate for a job and expect him to know about what the job entails, you should have read the same job description the candidate did. Or at least have the decency to lie to him about it.</p> <p>I do hope I get the position. I think it would be a good fit for me, and I think that I could do a good job serving the soldiers of my company, helping get them paid on time and get scheduled for schools so they can get promoted and be skilled in their fields. These are serious readiness and retention issues, and I care very much about the state of my unit generally and the soldiers within particularly. I have spent my entire military career within the same unit, have served with it in combat, and have supported it in training and every other way I know how. I would be happy to continue to serve my unit in a more permanent capacity, to be one of the day-to-day people that makes things happen behind the scenes such that we are ready when big Army calls us back to Afghanistan. And I think I would be good at it.</p> <p>But you wouldn't know hardly any of that from the board I just endured.</p> <p>Sig</p> http://www.sigspace.net/?q=node/641#comments National Guard US Army Thu, 15 Jan 2009 23:49:19 +0000 sig 641 at http://www.sigspace.net