From: Adams, C.H. (CIV)

Sent: Sunday, March 28, 2004 5:57 AM

To: The Fellas

Subject: The Good Staff Sergeant or more tales of Personnel Turbulence.

 

There are some stories that I can’t write about until well after the fact.  Anything involving going outside the Green Zone falls into this category.  This

story will wander before it gets to the end. 

 

Over the past few weeks, I have encountered problems making things balance and/or reconciling various subsidiary ledgers or reports.  When I first got

here, I was trained by an Army Staff Sergeant.  The Good Sergeant reminded me of my oldest son, Chuck.  He not only looked like Chuck and is the same size, he talks and acts like him.  Anyway, The Good Sergeant did a good job and against all odds he seems to have actually taught me the duties of this position and effective problem solving procedures.  Better yet, whenever I got stuck, The Good Sergeant always came through with the solution.  He has problem solving abilities that, if I’m lucky, I’ll have when I grow up.

 

On the other hand, over the past few days, I’ve encountered problems that involved some of those “solutions.”  Now, the solutions weren’t plugs, they were honest “solutions.”  I’ve since figured out what happened that made some of them dysfunctional.  I still have to work on others, but the sources of the problems tend to be things outside our control and I’m not inclined to work 24 hour days with or without OT.

 

On the day the good sergeant departed the AO, I helped him carry his gear to the bus stop.  He’s going home to his wife and two children (both under three years old). 

 

We were talking about some of the problems on the way.  His last words, “Honest-to-God” as they say, were “If it’s wrong, blame it on me.  It’s the way they do things around here.  That way they don’t have to take responsibility for anything.”   We loaded his gear on the truck and He put on his helmet and body armor, and got on the bus for the airport and left.

 

That is a bit cynical for a young man of 24 years.  On the other hand, though, while the Colonel acknowledged that the Good Sergeant was the one who kept the shop running and had a marked tendency to defer to his judgment in some areas, he also tended to agree with the Good Sergeant’s assessment about “they”.

 

Even though I make no claims to even approaching the Staff Sergeant’s abilities, I’ve taken over most of his duties, like driving the vehicle on our little

trips.  I also schedule the protection and what ever else is needed for our trips downtown and do most of the coordination.

 

A week or so before his departure, the Good Sergeant made a comment to the Colonel that he and the Colonel needed to be more prudent about planning trips downtown.  They were both getting close to the end of their tours and he didn’t want to die in downtown Baghdad.  Actually, the Good Sergeant didn’t suggest that they be more prudent about planning these missions, he flat out stated that they shouldn’t go anymore.  This perspective is understandable.  He’s been ambushed and he’s been blown up.  These are events foreign to the life of the average U.S. Army Finance soldier.  The Colonel was scheduled to leave a few days after the Staff Sergeant, but his wife of 30 plus years died a couple of years ago and he has a different attitude about life in general.  I think that for him, dying in downtown Baghdad is not the worst thing that could happen.  

 

To put this in perspective, when you hear about one of us here in Baghdad getting killed or simply blown up, and a lot of civilians going to heaven with

us, the incident probably happened in one of the “downtown” type areas or on one of the bridges or an approach to a bridge.  Crowded streets, sidewalks too small to drive on, donkey carts stalled all over, and wall to wall people so close to each other it’s a wonder they can breath and everything is covered with dust. You can’t go forward, you can’t go backwards and you can’t go sideways. 

 

So when an urgent need for a visit the Trade Bank arose and an Army Colonel was insistent that the Good Staff Sergeant handle it personally, the Colonel told me to “schedule it.”  He patiently explained to me the scheduling requirements with emphasis that the Army Colonel was insisting that the Good Sergeant go along and handle it.  He also emphasized the various cutoff times and dates.  Then, he assigned me a couple of completely conflicting tasks.  Unfortunately, this was my first solo attempt at this and I missed the cutoff dates and times for damn near everything and I wasn’t able to schedule protection until the day after the Good Sergeant had departed Iraq. 

 

When the Colonel found out that I wasn’t able to schedule protection—and thus the visit downtown—until after the good Staff Sergeant’s airplane had departed, his comment was “Shit happens,” after which he went back to playing “Pong” on his computer.

 

So, two days before the Colonel’s departure and one day after the Good Sergeant’s departure the trip went well.  Mission accomplished.  The outgoing

Colonel made one last trip downtown and the incoming Colonel made his first.  If I were a drinking man it would have been a “Miller Time” moment.

 

And so, today, I’m sitting here unraveling a problem that is running in many directions at once and making any number of folks unhappy.  I’m thinking that if the Good Sergeant were here he’d fix it in a few minutes. 

 

And, I’m remembering that the evening before the Colonel’s departure, I was dealing with a similar disaster and the Colonel blamed everything on the Good Sergeant’s predecessor.  He was from, my agency, DFAS.  

 

Hell, it probably was his fault.

 

 

C.H. Adams

Accountant, Coalition Provisional Authority 

Presidential Palace (Sagar Al Qadasiah)

Baghdad, Iraq

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