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May 14, 2004

Anecdote From the Trip Over « Militaria »

Okay, so there I was, in the, wait, that wasn't me...

Anyway, when we deploy, the Air Force has something they call the "Troop Commander": the poor sap who gets stuck with making sure the whole trip goes smoothly and everyone arrives at the appointed locations at the appointed times. It is usually the highest ranking person who can't get out of it. So Flight Docs and even aircrew in non-aircrew positions don't have to do it, and that means I've been Troop Commander on every deployment flight except one.

I've never had a problem before...

...until this trip.

See, my first trip, there were only 5 of us. Not a big problem, even despite Guam having no electricity due to a typhoon, and the next typhoon hitting the island just as we were about to take off--we barely got off in time!

But the subsequent trips, the standard line was: "You are adults. This is when you are supposed to be here. Be on time, or you can explain to your commander why you didn't show up when you were supposed to."

Each time, I set the show-up time about 15 minutes before the bus had to leave to make it to the plane on time. That's worked without a hitch 4 times, even twice when there were more than 30 people.

This time, only 11. We were in Germany, everyone was of legal age, so I expected them to drink, and probably get drunk. No problem, they just have to watch out for each other and be responsible. We needed to leave for the terminal at 0520. At 0515, seven people still hadn't arrived. I started calling one answered. Their hotel was 4-5 blocks away, so I started running...they were coming around the corner as I stepped out of the building. Whew.

Except that there were only five people. One, uh, "couldn't find his glasses". Why he didn't answer the phone, I don't know. But he finally arrived about 0527, and we got him checked out.

That left the last guy. No idea where he was. We called no less than 7 times. One of the enlisted had stopped by his room on his way out and stuck his head in the door and didn't see him. I told the front desk if he came by to make him get a cab ASAP.

We arrived at the terminal only a few minutes late. Not bad. I called the Military Police to see if they'd picked anyone up. He had last been seen at 3 AM, so I don't know where he could have disappeared to in just 2 hours.

Another 10 minutes, and the hotel desk clerk still hadn't seen him. So I called back the MPs and had them go check his room...if they found him, they would bring him directly to the airfield. Sure enough, he was snoozing on his bed.

I still don't really know what happened. As the Troop Commander, I was responsible for getting everyone on the plane on time, and I did. I should not have had to take the extraordinary step of involving the military police, because as an E-4, the standard is that he should have the responsibility to ensure he put enough measures in place to be there on time.

...and yet, I was responsible. If I hadn't figured out how to locate/find him, I would have had some explaining to do...
...but I did find him. In the end, no harm, so no foul. As an officer in charge of his deployment movement, I have the authority to give him a reprimand. A reprimand could hurt his chances to make E-5, or at least delay it. That could have reverberations down his career, and could mean he might be forced out...
Some officers might have torn into him.
My solution? It was a bad move on his part, but a better move on my part might have prevented it. He was at fault as a servicemember, but I was at fault as a leader. I told him I had no words for him, that I would turn it over to his chain of command. When I arrived, I told his senior NCO that I had no need to "burn" him for his irresponsibility, but that I would prefer that he learned a lesson from this, and that I would leave disposition entirely up to them. The grim look of the Senior Master Sergeant let me know he would get a butt-chewing of epic proportions...but I'm sure nothing will go into the records. The airman will be given the chance to learn from his mistake, grow from it, and if he successfully learns from this, it could be a step in the right direction for a great career.

I've given him an opportunity, and I hope he takes advantage of it.

But I also learned a lesson. It's not enough to "depend on people's responsibility". Not everyone has had the lessons I've had, and so not everyone is as obsessive about being in place on time. From now on, I will take the extra 30-60 minutes to make sure that everyone is awake and moving...although I will do my best to do it in a way that doesn't make them feel as if I'm doubting them.

Being a leader isn't easy, but it is fulfilling.

Posted by Nathan at 03:02 PM | Comments (1)

Dude... here's another one for the books. Taking a student with me on a tail swap to Saudi we RON'ed at Mildenhall. Snow was moving in rapidly and we were attempting to take off way ahead of schedule. (get out while you still can) I tell the student to begin preflight while I stow my gear. When I student. I find her in the galley wrapping her recently purchased Christmas presents. Ass chewing commenses. I'm called away by the Mission Crew Commander and when I return to my student. Gone. Nowhere to be found. Not outside the aircraft...not in the latrine...just gone. Pilot calls for engine start so I make the call to just leave her. Turns out she realized she had left her line badge in her billeting room so she decides to fetch the missing line badge.(without informing anyone) Guess she found it 'cause she had it with her when we returned to Mildenhall 3 days later on the return trip. And this with no alchohol involved.

Posted by: Mitch at August 13, 2004 10:26 AM
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