Friday, February 06, 2004

War is 95% Boredom, 5% Terror and Rage. Here's Most of the Story. 
Not that you asked. Well, some of you wrote in and asked for more of the mundane, day to day stuff, so here you are.

Today I completed a report of survey on a vehicle accident. (A report of survey, essentially, is an investigation into an accident or lost or stolen piece of equipment, in order to determine who should be liable for the accident or lost item. Was there negligence involved? At what level? Should we just write off the piece of equipment and let the taxpayer foot the bill for its replacement? Or should the soldier be charged for it? Or should we hang it on the unit commander and have him pay for it? Or some combination of the three? The report of survey answers all those questions.)

I have another report of survey to do tonight, on a pair of binoculars which were allegedly stolen by Iraqi police trainees.

I am working with my supply sergeant to initiate lots more reports of surveys on our own. The faster we can inventory our gear and complete the reports of surveys, the easier it will be to justify writing them off as a 'combat loss.' Which is what I want to do, unless there's specific evidence of negligence or willful misconduct on the part of the soldier, or sheer inattention to the basics of equipment accountability on the part of the unit.

If there is negligence or willful misuse involved, though, that's another matter. But this has been a pretty good group so far.

We've also been moving troops around to make room for more troops. Troops HATE moving all their stuff. These guys aren't exactly just living out of their rucksacks anymore. So there was a lot of grumbling, but it had to be done anyway. Today we also moved the supply room from one place to another.

The battalion executive officer also asked me to conduct an audit of our post store, or post exchange (PX). Apparently, the senior NCO managing the store had accidentally commingled the store funds with moneys we were using to pay local caterers hired to feed Iraqi Civil Defense Corps trainees, when we were training entire companies of them at a time.

Unfortunately, there was a $2,000 discrepency to account for, somewhere in the mix, and I was asked to conduct an independent audit and figure it out.

Here's where it pays to "know your troops."

There is nothing in my background whatsoever that would qualify me to conduct an audit of anything except my own 1040EZ, and even that's pushing it. I have no background in bookkeeping or accounting, and I would have been up all night just trying to reinvent GAAP all over again so I could do a proper job.

Fortunately, I remembered I was driving a van around Ft. Stewart, GA about a year ago--I think I was driving troops to the base chapel on a sunday morning--when one of my NCOs made the mistake of mentioning his degree in accounting.

I got him on the task, and he set on it like a bulldog on a bone, and was done in 90 minutes, and briefed me up in three minutes.


Fortunately, we had receipts for everything. We just spent $2,000 too much on Iraqi food, but we were able to rule out theft, which was the first thing on my mind.

(Note to self: don't have the same guy managing cash for two different projects if you don't have to.(

I'm also collecting sworn statements on a machine gun that fell from a patrol boat into the Euphrates river. A soldier fell into the river, too, but we were able to recover him.

An M240 B machine gun isn't something you can just write off, though. So I'll be interviewing soldiers, making a finding of fact, and making a recommendation to the Battalion commander about what judicial or administrative disciplinary actions are warranted, if any at all.

The struggle for information about the redeployment is ongoing, but we were finally issued a very tentative timeline. There are still a lot of holes in it for the battalion staff to work on, but at least now I have something to work with.

As a unit leader dependent upon those above me to gather information and issue guidance on complicated operations, I would always rather have an 80% NOW instead of the 100% perfect plan next week.

Attended two meetings today, and checked in several times with the unit First Sergeant, who--while the officers are off planning, nagging, typing, counting, or negotiating for resources, actually gets to run the unit's day-to-day operations.

The unofficial breakdown of responsibility is as follows. The Company commander fights the battles with the Battalion commander and S-3, or operations officer. As the executive officer, I handle the supply and logistics battles, including all the coordination that has to be done with the battalion maintenance chief warrant officer. I'm also the movement officer and "synch Nazi," meaning I hold onto the timeline and crack the whip to make sure the unit makes it. And the First Sergeant handles the S-1, or personnel officer side of the house, and does any coordination needed on personnel matters. He also handles the battalion command sergeant major, and as the senior enlisted soldier in the unit, mentors, trains, coaches, and cajoles everyone in the enlisted ranks.

Put another way--and speaking VERRRRRY broadly, because there's tons of overlap: The Company commander is in charge of the mission, the executive officer in charge of the equipment, and the First Sergeant is in charge of the men. There's all kinds of ways you can slice it, and different units do it different ways, but that's what's worked for us.

If I can brag about someone for a sec: The First Sergeant is the hardest working man in show business, and is really the heart and soul of the unit. I don't think anyone who hasn't seen a unit up close, day to day, can grasp how much of a difference he makes.

Here's to ya, Top.

Splash, out


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