Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Like A Dyslexic Elvis...

...my unit is singing the "I. G. Blues". That dazed look on SGT Elvis Presley's mug is very similar to what most folks in my unit were sporting yesterday, as we completed the final preparations for our Inspector General's (IG) inspection this week. 

For those of you who have never experienced one of these events, you can get an idea of what an IG inspection is like by watching an episode of that reality show, "Hell's Kitchen", where British chef (and hypercritical "Adam Henry") Gordon Ramsay descends upon a troubled restaurant and figuratively blows it up.

I went through a number of these traumatic incidents in my early Army life. Back then, they were called "Annual General Inspections", or AGI for short. A team from Division HQ showed up, usually with several month's warning, and inspected every aspect of our battalion's operations and administration. In the motor pool, vehicle logbook entries were checked against deficiencies found by the maintenance team, and all those excess repair parts a good motor sergeant had accumulated to keep our elderly tanks and trucks running had to be carefully hidden in a neighboring unit's area, or in some cases buried out in the local training area. All the clerk's filing cabinets were checked to ensure every folder was numbered in strict accordance with the file numbering regulation. (Seriously...it was no coincidence that "Army" and "Anal-Retentive" both start with the letter "A".)

All the staff officers and NCOs spent long hours making pretty charts (this was before Powerpoint existed, so everything was hand-drawn by the battalion draftsman), which were compiled into briefing binders. Company Commanders, XOs, and Platoon Leaders micromanaged their First Sergeants and Platoon Sergeants who were busy supervising troops cleaning the barracks, cutting grass, painting rocks, and starching their fatigues/spit-shining combat boots for the in-ranks inspections. Pretty much nobody slept for the 36 hours before the inspection.

While I was fortunate never to be in a unit which failed an AGI, that sort of epic disaster used to occur on a pretty regular basis. If your unit blew an aspect of the AGI, such as vehicle maintenance, then you'd get 30 days to make corrections before the IG team returned to re-inspect that area only. Failing the re-inspection usually resulted in the commanders being relieved, which essentially ended their career.

 So with that historical perspective, I watched with mild amusement as selected case files were "scrubbed" and collected for the inspectors' review, desks were polished, empty computer cartons were jammed into storage closets, the grass and shrubbery surrounding our building was weeded and trimmed, and any cubicle decorations which might be found "inappropriate" were hastily removed. One big change from the "Old Army" is that we no longer have to starch our uniforms, or shine our combat boots. (I can't believe I just wrote that, but just like the WWII and Korean War veterans who still populated the Army when I came in observed, there have been a lot of changes over the past 30 years!) Since only one of my case files was identified for inspection, and I am not assigned any additional duties, nor do I have any leadership responsibilities this time around, I'm definitely getting over. (I did vacuum the office bay where my cubicle is located, so don't think I'm a total slacker, okay?)

While I probably won't report any specifics after the inspection concludes this Friday, there may be an anecdote or two of epic magnitude which I'll be compelled to share with y'all...after "the names have been changed to protect the innocent", of course! 

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