Best To Just Soldier On

, , , , , | Right | September 23, 2020

I’m in the Canadian military, and I’m doing some grocery shopping after the workday at a local grocery store. A customer approaches me with their grocery list in hand.

Customer: “Excuse me. Could you help me find a few things?”

Me: “I’m sorry, I can’t really help you. I’m not sure where most of the stuff in here is; I just go up and down each aisle until I find what I’m looking for.”

Customer: “Oh, but aren’t soldiers supposed to help anyone in need?”

Me: *Laughing* “I guess you’re right. All right, let me see your list.”

We ended up shopping together for the remainder of our time in the store and are now pretty good friends.

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Sometimes Love Goes With Logic

, , , , , , , | Working | September 22, 2020

I got engaged in college, after dating my fiancé for a few years. I know that seems young to a lot of people, and for some people, it is too young. Not surprisingly, a few people expressed surprise that we were planning to get married at our age. Two funny reactions came from military officers; I was in ROTC, and as the wedding date was before graduation and commissioning, I thought I should tell the officers in charge of our unit.

The first reaction was from a hard-nosed, very strict, imposing, and somewhat intimidating captain. He broke out in a huge grin and exclaimed, “Congra— Wait, how long have you known him? Longer than a couple of weeks, right?” I reassured the captain that we’d been dating for a few years and his smile returned. “Then I’ll stick with my first instinct: congratulations!”

But a major seemed disappointed and asked me why I wanted to get married so young. She said, “Why are do want to settle down with your fiance right now? Don’t you want to get out there and explore, go see the world?”

“Of course,” I said. “With him.”

She blinked a few times before saying, “That’s… a really good answer. I’ve never thought of it that way before.”

We’re about to have our fifteenth wedding anniversary this summer.

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Time To Shake Up The Command

, , , , , | Working | September 3, 2020

A few years back, a minor earthquake hit the military installation in the USA I was at. The epicenter was a considerable distance away, and all we felt was a one-time, minor jolt. This was not a typical earthquake area at all. I knew immediately what it was since I’d been stationed in Japan. I did not expect any damage, nor was there any at any location near us. I’ve felt worse jolts from controlled detonations, honestly. Unless a building was already falling down, there wasn’t going to be damage. Damage usually comes from back-and-forth or worse, waves in the earth.

I was not amused to see everyone doing everything you are not supposed to do in an earthquake: panicking, running outside, etc. I kept my people calm and collected and we went back to work. I was even less amused when we got an “emergency” call from the airfield control tower demanding we send out a structural engineer to certify that their building was safe after the quake. Now, I’ve seen fourteen-story control towers or temporary structures where that this might have been warranted but this one was maybe two stories tall and solidly built. My apartment block was higher.

We told them that we were not sending out damage assessment teams and asked if they could see any damage. Their response was to threaten to close down the airfield and that we could explain to the wing commander why his aircraft couldn’t land. We asked if they could see any damage. No, of course not.

Of course, the real explanation to the wing commander for that closure would be that his tower panicked, failed to follow any of the disaster checklists, and frankly needed to pull their heads out of their butts because such a reaction in combat will get you or others killed. The military trains for combat and other emergencies. Their reaction was not acceptable. And, if there hadn’t been planes on their way in, that is exactly the answer I would have happily given to them or the wing commander.

We didn’t have a structural engineer, and since our enlisted men and women whose jobs it was to do damage assessment and were extensively trained on that were plainly were not good enough, so we sent out our very-near-retirement mechanic. He was seventy-five if a day and used a walker. He showed up, eased out of his car, got his walker out, shuffled ten feet toward the building, and slowly looked it up and down. He told the evacuated personnel that he certified it was safe, shuffled back to his car, and left a pretty embarrassed-looking group to go back to work. 

I don’t know what happened to the lieutenant who was the shift lead and who made the call. I do know I never saw him again.

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Thankfully Not A Uniform Response To The Uniform

, , , , , , , | Right | September 1, 2020

Among the passengers traveling on my flight are several uniformed members of the military. The gate agents have already called for people who need extra time to board the plane, but no one else has been allowed on yet, including the first-class passengers.

Gate Agent: “At this time, we would like to invite our customers traveling in uniform to board through the priority lane.”

A passenger who is clearly not a member of the military shoves his way into the priority lane.

Gate Agent: “I’m sorry, sir, but I haven’t called for your cabin yet. If you’ll just step to the side for one moment—”

Passenger #1: “This is bulls***! I bought this ticket first-class so I could be the first one on, and you’re letting this economy class scum on before me!”

Gate Agent: “Sir, they are members of our country’s armed services; we just want to—”

Passenger #1: “And look at those big, honking bags they’re carrying. How are the rest of us supposed to put anything in the overhead bins?!”

A well-dressed older passenger steps forward.

Passenger #2: “Listen up, because I’m only going to say this once. These are the men and women who are fighting day and night to defend our country. They’re carrying those large bags because they are traveling to attend basic training. After that, they are going to spend several months in Afghanistan, risking their lives to protect other Americans — including jerks like you. When was the last time you voluntarily put your life on the line?”

He turns to the gate agent.

Passenger #2: “I have a first-class ticket. Could you please switch me to the economy cabin and give my seat to one of these soldiers?”

Soldier: “Sir, that’s very kind of you, but really—”

Passenger #2: “No.”

He offers a perfect military salute.

Passenger #2: “I was in the army in Vietnam. I know the sacrifices you all are making. Thank you for your service, and God bless you and your families.”

The nasty passenger walked off in a huff but didn’t say a word for the rest of the flight. The gate agents gave the nice gentleman’s seat to one of the soldiers and offered vacant first-class seats to some of the others. To that amazing guest: you restored my faith in humanity when I thought I just might lose it. And I thank you for your own service to our nation.

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A High Voltage Situation

, , , , , | Learning | August 21, 2020

While in the military, I occasionally serve on a board that examines trainees who are failing their technical courses.

At one such meeting, a trainee has failed his carpentry course, and he wants to try a different career field; he wants to be an electrician.

Me: “Why do you want to be an electrician?”

Trainee: “I really like the idea. I have been interested in electricity for a long time.”

Me: “Do you know at least something about what electricians do?”

Trainee: “Yup.”

Me: “Do you know the difference between AC and DC?”

Trainee: “Does that have something to do with sex?”

The board decided the trainee was not suited for the electrician’s course.

This story is part of our Best Of August 2020 roundup!

Read the next Best Of August 2020 story!

Read the Best Of August 2020 roundup!

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