Sunday, January 12, 2014

"Every Picture Tells a Story, Don't It..."

Last Friday my friends and colleagues at the CID unit I was attached to for the past year had a farewell lunch for me. It was unexpected and awesome. This is a photo of the unofficial "Good-bye" gift from the unit:
Yes, there is a story behind this unique item. No, I won't be sharing that story. But I WILL miss serving with these exceptional special agents, investigators, and administrative staff members! Slainte'! and Thank You very much for letting me be a part of this has been the highlight of my military career! Stay Safe, my friends, and keep "Doing What Has To Be Done"!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

One of the best Irish music videos of all time!

Check out these Irish students performing Anna Kendrick's hit song from the movie, "Pitch Perfect". It is just plain awesome!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Catching Up: The Leprechaun at 60

So I hit the "Big 6-0" a couple of weeks ago, and this birthday brought a diverse range of gifts. The best one was being able to spend the evening with my truly beloved Spousal Unit, who is truly "the gift which keeps on giving". Without her, this would have been a bleak day indeed. Second in line for the "good gifts" list was getting to return to great friends and colleagues at my civilian job. When folks talk about "coming home" to a place of employment, that perfectly describes my situation. I have the best boss and co-workers anyone could hope to have, and the added pleasure of a rewarding profession. Public service, whether in the form of being a cop, a soldier, or a non-glamorous emergency planner, provides a real motivation to show up each morning with a good attitude. What we do usually results in the world being a better place, at least if we are doing the right things! I'm grateful to be part of work unit which embodies that service ethic, yet has fun while "committing emergency management"! My third gift, which I must confess I selected and purchased myself, was a new golf club. Yep, the Spousal Unit has mentioned that someday I'm gonna get referred to a 12-step program for this powerful golf addiction, but hey, it's GOLF we're talking about here... I really needed a new driver (TaylorMade R-1, for those of you fellow golfers wondering) which could be custom-fitted to accomodate my changing physical skills and game. And yes, I made the right choice...haven't hit a really bad shot with it yet, but I have hit some excellent ones! The last "gift", courtesy of the U.S. Army, was orders honorably discharging me due to reaching the "mandatory removal age". While the fight continues (Senator Patty Murray's staff hasn't given up on me, which I deeply appreciate!), and I'm in a quasi-military status with six months of Tri-Care medical coverage, it still feels strange to be an "ex-soldier" once again. Still, with all things considered I ended up to the plus upon reaching 60 years old...and I don't feel a day over 40. In dog years.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Is This The End?

There has been a lot of back-and-forth email traffic with the Senator's staffer who is working on my case to stay in the Army, but it's not looking real optimistic at this point. I begin my week of demobilization and out-processing this morning, and conclude my military career next Wednesday when I sign my DD-214 Discharge Certificate. I've inventoried all of my issued clothing and equipment in preparation for turning it all in to the Central Issue Facility on post next week. I'll turn in my 39 rounds of ammo to the arms room this afternoon, and my pistol to my reserve unit next week. (Yes, you read that right...Army CID stateside issues agents 39 rounds of 9mm hollowpoint ammunition, which has to be carefully accounted for, and those same 39 rounds have to be turned in whenever going on leave, TDY, Permanent Change of Station, deployment, or in my case, getting out of the Army. This practice perfectly illustrates the low-level of trust accorded Army CID Special Agents by "The Big Green Machine".) While there's still a slim possibility of either a last-minute reprieve or being restored to the Army Reserve somewhere down the road with time enough to complete my 20 "good years" and qualify for a retirement, I'm already looking ahead. I return to my civilian employment with an emergency management agency on the same day as my Army discharge takes effect, so there's no gap in income, and no temptation to take a week off and play golf every day...though now that I've just written this, maybe I could just delay starting...naw, not a good idea. (Note to Spousal Unit: I was only kidding...really!) It looks like I will get to work again for my former boss, who is an outstanding manager and leader, so life is good. So, I'm donning my ACUs for probably the last time, and heading out to face reality. It has been a good run, and I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to serve a second time. I've learned a lot of new skills, survived a combat deployment relatively unscathed, and had the pleasure of getting to know some of America's finest young warriors. And hey, anytime you can hand off all of your case files, that's a good thing!

Remembering November 22, 1963

Like most of us who were old enough to be aware of world events, I have vivid and painful memories of the day when President John F. Kennedy was killed. I was in class at Tustin Memorial Elementary School in Southern California that morning when the principal came into our classroom. She was crying a bit, and held herself very rigidly as she said softly, "Children, President Kennedy has been shot." One of my classmates, Patty McShane, yelled "Good! I hope he dies!" My teacher, Mrs. V, strode over to Patty's desk and slapped Patty's face, hard enough to knock her off her chair on to the floor. The principal looked over at Mrs. V and quietly said, "Thank you." She told Mrs. V to turn on the television (this being Southern California, every classroom had one), and left for the next class to deliver the news. We all sat there, stunned by the news, by Patty McShane's outburst, and by Mrs. V's dramatic reaction to that outburst. Patty McShane had gotten back in her seat, and didn't utter another word. Once the TV warmed up, we kids were riveted by the chaos in the newsroom, which was normally a staid, boring deal. Of course, the channel was tuned to Walter Cronkite who was as much a part of our daily lives as our teachers. I kept hoping that Mr. Cronkite was going to announce that the President was going to be okay, since he was at Parkland Memorial Hospital. My hope was crushed when after what seemed like hours later, Walter Cronkite took off his glasses and with glistening eyes told us that President Kennedy was dead. I remember we were let out from school early that day. I walked home and joined my mom in front of the TV as it alternated shots of Air Force One and scenes in Dallas. Then the news came about a Dallas police officer being shot, and then that the police had arrested Lee Harvey Oswald as the suspected gunman. I still remember everything from that weekend, but in black and white since we didn't have a color television. I was watching live when Jack Ruby shot Oswald. It's amazing how much that stuff makes an indelible impression on a ten year old kid. Even with all of the violence portrayed on TV, movies and video games these days, not many young people have actually witnessed a murder on live television. That's a good thing. Regardless of the historical impacts and subsequent discussion about President Kennedy's flaws, I know that my personal view of the world was changed dramatically, beginning that day in November, 1963. It doesn't seem like 50 years have elapsed since then, mostly because I still feel strong emotion whenever I see a film clip or photo from those events. For me (and I suspect a lot of my peers), the terrible end to "Camelot" took its toll on us. Things were about to get a whole lot darker and real for an entire generation of American kids.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Ying and Yang, Army Style

My ongoing efforts to get several years of service credit restored, so that I might remain in the Army long enough to earn a retirement, and continue serving on the investigation task force I'm currently assigned to has hit a few speed bumps. While I remain optimistic that I will win this battle, I have learned something about the stark difference between my active duty hierarchy and the reserve side's chain of command.

When this latest issue surfaced early last month, I got good help and support from the admin folks at the local reserve personnel center, but they were limited in what influence they have. On the other hand, when I informed my active duty bosses of the potential for my impending discharge I was stunned by their immediate offers of support, including a plan to get several commanding generals involved to add their considerable weight to my side. These offers were genuine, though it remains to be seen whether some "heavy hitters" are going to bat on my behalf. But at least they are providing tangible help. (They aren't doing this just to be nice, they recognize the contribution I'm making as part of the task force, and want to keep me in the fight. That makes a lot of sense to me, and motivates me to not give up.)

I contrast this tangible and heartfelt readiness to do whatever it takes to keep me on the team with the response from the reserve side of the house, outside of my home unit. Our higher headquarters (battalion-level) is located in California, and their reputation for losing personnel paperwork is epic. Once my situation came to their attention, their apparent worry has focused upon how quickly they can get me out the door, and thereby rapidly resolve the inconvenient mark on the battalion's unit manning report. No phone calls from the S-1 asking if there's anything they can do to support me, or the Battalion Command Sergeant Major trying to retain one of his NCOs by exerting his influence. Of course, these are the same bunch of folks who showed zero concern when our senior NCO in my detachment has had to resubmit his retirement papers FIVE TIMES, and they still haven't processed them correctly.
That kind of slovenly treatment by staff and commanders would get active duty folks relieved on the spot.
No matter how this episode turns out, I will never forget how my current active duty superiors have behaved in the finest traditions of military leadership...and how some of their reserve counterparts have remained on their collective asses. By the way, I'm hedging my bets by filing a request for assistance from the Inspector General, and seeking even bigger firepower from Senator Patty Murray's office. Watch this space for updates... UPDATE # 1: I headed down to the post IG's office on Wednesday, and a very professional and courteous Master Sergeant informed me this case would have to be referred to the Army Reserve IG folks.(The MSG said she'd handle the referral, and send the documents I had provided.) My initial trepidation at this development, given the lukewarm performance so far by the reserve side of the house, was quickly overcome by the outstanding response I received by the next morning. First, I received an email from the USAR IG HQ, letting me know that they had opened a case on my behalf. Later that morning while in the office, I received a phone call from the Assistant IG who will be handling my case. She was very squared away, quickly grasped the elements of my situation, listened to my detailed expalnation, and then laid out her plan of action. While she predicted this would be a challenging fight, I am confident the USAR IG will indeed strongly advocate on my behalf. So, score one for the Army Reserve! In the meantime, I am preparing my cases to be handed off to some "lucky" agent for final action, and set up my out-processing appointments. The fight continues...

Saturday, September 28, 2013

"Shoot/Don't Shoot"

That's the common term for law enforcement firearms training scenarios, where cops have to decide if they are justified with using lethal force. It also accurately describes the roller coaster we experienced today, 24 hours prior to a police combat shooting competition our office was entered in. Our team, with me included, consisted of five agents, and an MP Captain from Battalion.

A number of factors combined to make this competition projected to be less fun than we initially thought:
First, the weather here changed from mild and mostly sunny to rainy and windy...and the real heavy stuff is predicted for this weekend. No matter how much fun getting to shoot government ammo at targets (which aren't shooting back at you!) usually is, when doing so outside in a monsoon, that quickly sucks pretty much most of the enjoyment out of it.
Second, this event is planned, organized and will be carried out by the U.S. Army, which by Army Regulations is required to obliterate any remaining chance of fun. From the looks of the briefing powerpoint slides I saw, they accomplished that mission with room to spare.

The final factor leading to our team's ultimate "Don't Shoot" decision was when the rest of the agents on the squad ended up with "duty calls" (CID-speak for reported crimes requiring immediate investigation) last night. They were expecting to be working long past midnight, which left only me (I am exempt from stuff not directly related to my task force assignment) and the Captain. I gave him a call, and it took little convincing for him to throw in the towel. He notified the competition's organizers that we were withdrawing, and that was that.

UPDATE:  The next morning, right about the time we would have been going through the first course of fire, the heavens opened up, dumping what the weather reporters claimed was over two inches of rain in less than three hours. This deluge was coupled with wind gusts of up to 40 mph. None of us felt any guilt over bailing out, though it looks like I may be stuck with a case of shotgun shells.