While sitting on duty for umpteenth time I’ve had a rather interesting night. First off, let me describe to you the situation in which I have found myself before I continue onward. I am literally sitting inches away from the unit’s Secure Internet server, which by the way has a very professional note (on a piece of green sticky note paper) saying “do not unplug”. While this may not seem important currently, please allow me describe the reason someone would want to unplug this bastard. Aside from making a typical mechanical humming, similar to a loud refrigerator running, it also makes what I can only describe as a sad, sobbing, moaning sound. It’s every couple seconds, and sounds like privates when you tell them they have to police call. Even the sergeant major stopped at the desk and asked what the fuck the sound was. Through out the night my runners have described it as both sounding like the people in the torture bull from “Immortals” (good movie if you haven’t seen it) and the sound of a dying giraffe. What does a dying giraffe sound like, you may ask? Let me enlighten you.
As if that wasn’t enough, the special needs human resources kid stopped by the desk and decided to chat up my runners about his entire life story. Apparently, despite being only 24 and near the end of his term as a soldier, he not only has a degree in criminal justice (and knows guys that can get him on as a police officer or a job in fish and wildlife), but also a two year degree in biology. As well, he informed us that he pretty much “grew up in Africa” having only spent 2 years there, where he served a game warden in Kenya. It was at the point that this inept tool, who couldn’t even figure out his own leave tracker, started describing all of the guns that he owned that I began playing the following right next to him as he spoke…
But that wasn’t the truly interesting part of my night either. What had really sparked my attention was the office hours attended by a private first class… and his wife. At first I thought maybe they were there to do a reenlistment as she was dressed nicely and they were hanging out next to my desk. However, when he was briefed on how to report to the lieutenant colonel I knew that was not the case.
It turns out that this kid had come up hot for codine during urinalysis with a very small percent. His wife was there to be a character witness to say that he didn’t do any sort of drugs and he was completely devoted to his family. His immediate chain of command supported this statement and were looking to ensure that this kid didn’t get hammered for a false positive as well.
At the time I was unaware of the situation; it was revealed to me much later. The kid’s wife exited the office, followed shortly thereafter by the kid himself and greeted her with much rejoicing. They left and soon the LTC had made his way down the hallway as well and asked me if they had left already. I told him of the joyous link up they had and that immediately following they had left. Making small talk with the colonel, I mentioned that I didn’t know the circumstances of the odd situation that had just occurred before me, but it was a first that I’ve ever seen a wife attend an article 15 reading. I also stated it must have gone well for him given the happy state they were in. The LTC then said something which I immediately told my runners to remember, “We don’t live in a zero defect society.”
Why is that singular statement so apt and appropriately timed? Because not too long before that I had been reading an article on toxic leadership; an all too common trend in the military lately. I won’t go into the full elaboration of the article, as you may read it here: http://taskandpurpose.com/8-symptoms-of-a-toxic-command-climate/ ,but I will say specifically that while it may not always make its way down to the lower enlisted “joes” it was good for them to witness a commander going a 180 away from the trends of his peers and subordinate leaders.
I could extoll the events that have occurred in my time here, but honestly I’d rather keep it to the positive note instead of drumming up all the shit that is clearly the definition of toxic leadership. The important lesson is that even as terrible as you may perceive a unit, you need to be aware that it is not always a top to bottom problem. Sometimes, it’s just not as easy as ordering leaders to do their job right.