Thursday, October 15, 2009

Putting my foot in it... (Part 2)

SPC C and I returned to the Post, following our Oberserver/Controller's (O/C) vehicle, just as the sleet was beginning to fall. Snow! It's not even *late* October. Sheesh! This doesn't bode well for the future, I'd say.

Where's Iraq's heat when I need it?

I felt pretty jazzed that I'd photographed the two handbills posted on the buildings in the second 'village' we'd visited. I could translate enough of what was written there to know that the information therein would be important for my buddies to know, but I wasn't sure of exactly what was being communicated.

No one else in the TOC could translate the materials. The translator that SPC C and I would be taking with us into The Box was across Post, and there wasn't time to go get her before the staff meeting we were having shortly after arriving back 'home'.

More than that, though, was the problem of getting the photos from my camera into the computers we use in the TOC. Army Regulations these days make that once-simple process rather cumbersome and complex.

So the meeting to brief the Battalion Commander and each of the Company Commanders on what the upcoming plans were started without me being able to share the information I'd happened upon in our travels into The Box. Staff member after Staff member briefed away on a plan which was a great plan, but only according to the intel they had on hand.

What to do?

I chose to wait my turn, which meant that I was almost the last person to brief the Commander. After the mundane stuff, such as the worship times this coming weekend, I launched into what I really wanted to say. "I hate to rain on anyone's parade here," I said. (Well, actually, I used another phrase, one which I'd rarely heard before joining the Army three years ago, but which I've heard numerous Soldiers use since then, but which probably isn't so appropriate to this venue.)

Then I proceeded to read aloud and translate on the fly (as best I could) excerpts from the handbills I'd photographed. The intel contained therein, assuming my translation was adequate, changed the situation we were facing as a unit, and therefore meant that all the work that had gone into the plan that had just been briefed would need further modification, if we were to respond to the new information.

The consequences of my actions began immediately, before I'd even been able to return to my seat.

The O-5 (Lieutenant Colonel) O/C, savaged me for having gone into The Box. Sitting down thus became a painful event. He was followed by the O-4 (Major) O/C who continued the savaging. Both those guys have RANGER tabs on their left shoulders, though I'm not sure that's important to the story.

The Major was followed, in turn, by an O-3 (CPT) *and* an O-2 (1LT), both of whom got their licks in. I won't be able to sit comfortably for a week, at least.

I suspect what *really* was the issue is that I brought back information that the writers of the scenario didn't expect/want us to have at that time. The fact that I was able to translate the handbills enough to know that they were important to upcoming missions annoyed them greatly.

Had we gone into The Box with our Unit Ministry Team (UMT) O/C (which we did), and come back without any actionable intelligence (which we did not), I'm quite sure no one would have cared.

One of the O/Cs said to our Intelligence Officer, "I can't believe how he threw you under the bus in there, in front of everyone else." My buddy shot back at him, "He didn't throw anybody under the bus! We're a team, and everybody works with everyone else. He discovered some important information, and shared it with us, so we can incorporate it into our planning right away. I think that's how it should work, frankly."

The O-5 O/C wasn't content with what he'd told me in the briefing room; he cornered me back in the TOC and read me the riot act (again) about going out into The Box without a Trip Ticket and without another vehicle (both of which I'd asked about, and been told -- by our UMT O/C -- weren't needed.

A bit later the Command Sergeant Major (CSM) of our Battalion came up to me and shook my hand, saying, "Did you see how mad those guys got? You did great! That was brilliant. Keep it up, Chappy."

Perspectives can be quite different, eh?

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ

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