Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Me and Sergeant Allstate

My time in the Army National Guard was 6 years of me counting down the remaining time. I enjoyed Basic and Advanced Individual Training (AIT--where you learn your "specialty"); I just remembered that it was all a mind-game.

I've got some deep-set objections to external authority, so the "obey-me-because-I-outrank-you" mindset isn't a good fit for me. It didn't endear me to the insurance salesman they brought in to be my supervisor (I won't call him my superior)--not when I had to train him. Let's call him Sgt. Allstate, for the insurance salesman thing and because I was supposedly in his good hands to be molded into a proper soldier.


My specialty was 31-N, "Patch Panel Operator" (though the military preferred "Tactical Circuit Controller" because it sounded more important and technical). Bare-bones, I plugged patch cords into jacks on one of three panels, troubleshot them if communications from Officer 'A' couldn't reach Officer 'B' 30 miles away, and counted down the days 'till I could go Echo Tango Suitcase.

Sgt. Allstate made me his project: I would be promoted from Spec-4 (basically a Corporal) to Sergeant! He started by writing me up for carrying a clipboard around. It's not part of the basic uniform.

I ALWAYS have a notepad, notebook, scrap of paper, something I can scribble notes and ideas on.

The write-up sheet (the Army calls it a "Counseling Statement") had a block for my comments right under the block where Sgt. Allstate wrote, "Specialist [me] is impairing his chances for promotion by being out of uniform." In my block, I replied with "I'm not interested in promotion."

Seriously. I wasn't interested. I wasn't being a wise-ass, trying to fight The Man over taking my clipboard away. I don't consider myself management material...and going to E-5 would be a step in the managerial direction.

Sgt. Allstate didn't like that. He kept at it for the next 4 years!

His Operation Big Sale happened one evening during a field exercise. He tried to make it conversational, casual, building up to his triple-pincer attack, whereby he would have surrounded his quarry and rendered me defenseless to say "No!"

First prong: "You'll have more responsibility." C'mon. I was STILL training him in his job while doing my own--and training a couple of newbies to be my replacements. I was The Man, the only one trained in operating the Patch van. It seemed to me that already had plenty of responsibility.

Second: "You'll make more money!" I was making $130 a month for each 2-day weekend drill. Taking that promotion would have put me around $150 or so. Not enough to make me want to join Management.

Third: "You won't have to do K.P. anymore." Hah! He really didn't understand. If you had K.P., you got there when everyone else did, around 7:30 a.m., helped the Mess Sergeant, washed the pots and dishes, and went home a couple hours early. I always looked at it as an escape from Sgt. Allstate.

I just shook my head and told him, "No." He couldn't understand that. I didn't try to explain.

His final attempt was almost insulting; this time not only was he trying to sell me on promotion, but my time was getting short and he was trying to get me to re-enlist. He mentioned the re-up bonus, but his Big Bonus was...a cheap-looking Swiss Army Knife, complete with cheap-looking gift box. Two blades (short and shorter), I think a can/bottle opener, and a plastic toothpick.


No comments:

Post a Comment