Sunday, September 12, 2004

Mister DA Kicks Back - Part II

Now something that just irritates me. Not a lot, but more than I like. And that's

The Bush Memos

When I first read about these in my local papers and on the web, the day after the 60 Minutes II report, I didn't think much about it, one way or the other. You see, I'm a veteran of the Army Reserve of about the same era, and the one thing I know for a fact is that neither Dan Rather, nor Terry McAuliffe, nor any of the other reporters or politicos working this story, at least the couple of dozen that I have seen or heard, have the faintest idea how the Guard and Reserve work today let alone thirty to thirty-five years ago. Clueless, each and every one of them. Nor do they have much idea how the active military works. So, non-story to me.

Then the hoo-rah about the provenance and the authenticity of the memos begin to intrude on a number of news sites and weblogs I monitor. So, I cast around and found the .pdf files of a couple of the memos. Well, heck, didn't look like any military memo I ever saw. Let me explain bit about that.

I was commissioned from ROTC in June of 1971 and entered active duty in March of 1972. I was a combat arms officer and that delay in my initial entry should give you some idea of what a glut on the market combat arms lieutenants were at that time. It got worse, from my point of view. About half way through my branch basic, my orders were changed from a two year active duty (AD) tour to a 90 day active duty for training (ADT) assignment. That sucked, for a number of reasons.

First off, I really wanted to do the full two years and maybe more. I was so gung-ho, 22 years old, invincible and sure I was going to be the next Omar Bradley or George Patton, that I'm not sure who that guy was. Second, on a more practical level, because I had expected to do at least two years AD, I had no real civilian career plans. Third, because I wasn't going to do a full AD tour, my active reserve obligation was something like six years. And by active reserve I mean monthly drills and two-week annual training for six years! And trust me, we (the couple of dozen of us in the class that got hit with this) knew damn well that there were many, many officer vacancies at the O-1 to O-3 level in the active Army Reserve. In those days the rule was something like you could be required to drill some insane distance from your home - I don't recall exactly, but something like 50 to 100 miles comes to mind. Anyway, I lived in a major metro area that, according to the counselor they had explaining all this to us, was crawling with Army Reserve and Army National Guard units, all eager to welcome us with open arms.

Anyway, to make an incredibly long post as short as I can, I mustered out and found a unit. I also found my degree field, Communications Arts, was flooded with people with more experience, willing to work cheap. So I ended up taking a civilian technician job with a reserve unit about 50 miles from home. Unlike the National Guard, the Army Reserve didn't link military grade with civilian grade. I was a GS-07 Administrative and Supply Technician-Recruiter.

In the unit I worked for, I was the de facto Battalion S-1(Adjutant, that is, the chief paper pusher) although nominally assigned to a company as a Platoon Leader. During the week, I kept the paper work flowing, during drills I supervised the training and work product of the battalion and company clerks. I gained an intimate familiarity with the mixed bag of manual Royal, Smith-Corona, Underwood, and electric IBMs we used. Trust me on this. There was no money to spend on fancy cold typesetting IBM Composers. For that matter, I don't think the unit ever got a Selectric, ball type machine until sometime in the early 80s.

For the first several years I was in the unit, we cut the annual training orders on mimeograph stencils and sent them to brigade to be run off. We typed letters, memos, individual orders, you name it, on manual typewriters (we had one electric per battalion, mostly to cut the mimeographs stencils) using white and yellow manifold paper for copies. The other thing I distinctly remember, and I can't say whether the Air Force and Air Guard were the same way or not, was the paper was smaller than regular letter size in the civilian world. I seem to recall the letterhead size being 8" x 10.5" that is, half an inch smaller the the civilian standard. Some genius of procurement no doubt calculated just how much this would save in paper costs.

When I looked at the pdf files of the alleged memos, I had a hard time believing this wasn't a joke. During my 12 years with the active reserve, four of them as a full time employee, I handled hundreds of these sorts of things. I created hundreds for the battalion staff, my fellow company commanders, and myself to sign and put in personnel files or send up or down the chain-of-command. These things don't look right and the over all feel, as much as a .pdf on the screen lets you feel anything, is wrong. Enough.

The thing that irritates me is no one seems to have thought to find someone like me from the Texas ANG of that era. If someone produced a supposed memo or order from my brigade, I would think, from a forensic standpoint, that someone much like me would be the person you'd want to talk to, at least to begin with.

OK. So that's how my weekend went. A little trip down memory lane. I hadn't thought about those days for a long time. Now I'm going to go down and watch episode 5 of Alias, season 3. Later.

1 comment:

Rusty said...

I like the kick-back series. It's good to see how the life of another (and, from the looks of it, more-advanced-in-the-career-sense criminal prosecutor works at the office, I like gaining more perspective on the fact that you, like all other prosecutors, are more than just a one-dimensional white-hat wearer... I find that when people hear what I do for a living, they put me in a box and often end up surprised that I'm not so easily labelled. I imagine hearing stuff like your love of Joan of Arcadia will help others see the same thing about you. But, really, Joan of Arcadia???