Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Parking Ticket Payback

When I was in college, two friends and I rented a small house in Lincoln Nebraska. It didn't have a garage or driveway so we had to park our cars on the street. The house next door had a 60 foot driveway with a garage in the back. In spite of this, the woman who lived there thought she had an inalienable right to park on the street in front of her house.

This woman was constantly coming over to complain whenever one of us had the temerity to park in front her house. Her parking harangues were a great source of amusement to us which didn't help the situation very much.

One day after Jim parked his Corvair in front of her house, she called the police. They wrote Jim a ticket for parking too close to her driveway. Apparently the city prohibited parking within 3 feet of a driveway and his car was only 2 feet away.

We decided that this called for payback. We discussed various options and finally came up with a plan. We decided that whenever one of us had a chance, we would park in front of her house. The gotcha was that we would park in such a way that there would be room for her to park as well, but if she did she would be too close to her own driveway.

We did this for more than 3 weeks before she finally took the bait. She parked in front of her house and in the process backed into Jim's car. We called the cops who wrote her a ticket for parking too close to her own driveway.  She also had to buy a new $300 bumper for Jim's car.

Justice was served!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Rumormonger

Gossip was a central part of many people's lives in the small Nebraska town where we lived. One day a woman came to our house to share some new gossip with my father, the minister.

My father waited until she finished and then said, "I happen to know that what you just told me is absolutely not true. Did you start this rumor?" She said, "Well no, I didn't."

"If you didn't start it, then who told it to you?"

"I really can't say."

My father then said, "If you won't tell me who told you this rumor, I'll assume you started it. I'll make sure the town knows that you're the one starting these rumors." She hemmed and hawed around and finally told him the name of the woman that told her the rumor.

My father then went to that woman and repeated the same line of questioning.

After about the 6th iteration of this process, he finally got to the woman who admitted starting the rumor. He told her he was going to make sure the town knew that she had started the malicious rumor and suggested it would be a good idea if she stopped doing it.

The gossip mill in town ground to a halt at least for a while. Everyone was afraid that if a rumor got to my father, he would track down the originator again.

My father was a terrific guy and I miss him.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Guard Duty

Stateside Army bases maintain the tradition of nightly guard duty even though there's nothing really to guard against. When I was at Ft. Riley Kansas, junior officers were assigned duty as Officer of the Guard on a brigade level rotation. I was about as junior as they come and it wasn't long before it was my turn to serve as Officer of the Guard.

The whole thing was something of a sham. Part of the process was to conduct an inspection of the soldiers who were assigned to guard duty. I was pretty relaxed about the whole thing, but one of the prospective soldiers fell below even MY low standards. He was sloppy, his rifle was dirty, and he had an attitude.

I went into the brigade headquarters to report that I was kicking this soldier off of guard duty. It would be the responsibility of his battalion to replace him. The Lt. Col commander of the soldier's battalion happened to be in the brigade headquarters at the time. He said, "You can't kick this soldier off of guard duty or he'll get an automatic Article 15 (the army equivalent of a misdemeanor)."

I said, "Sir, that's your rule, not mine." I turned to the Sargent of the Guard who had recently returned from Vietnam and said, "Sargent, will you please read the colonel this soldier's deficiencies?"

The sargent said, "Yes sir!", snapped to attention, took out his notes, and briskly read off the list of violations.

I turned to the colonel and said, "Sir, if you wish to take over for me as Officer of the Guard, you're welcome to have anyone in your guard duty that you wish, but as long as I'm Officer of the Guard, this soldier will not be in mine!" The colonel immediately backed down and mumbled that he would have the soldier replaced.

The story of the young 2nd Lieutenant who stood up to the Lt. Colonel quickly spread around the post and I became quite well-known.

The Inspection

My first job as a 2nd lieutenant in the Army was serving as the S2 for a mechanized artillery battalion. This battalion's primary mission was to be able to fire tactical nukes from track mounted 155mm Howitzers.

When I had my first meeting with the Lt. Col commander and he explained all this to me, I asked, "If the effective range of a 155mm Howitzer is about 9 miles, wouldn't you be committing suicide if you ever actually fired one of those nukes?" He said, "That was something we try not to think about."

Because this was a nuclear capable outfit, the battalion had quarterly inspections from the Dept of Defense. The colonel explained that his battalion had never passed one of these inspections in the year and a half that he had been the commander. He said, "We have so much turnover that we can never keep the training records up to date and the training records are the main thing they check." He also pointed out that as battalion S2, the training records were my responsibility.

The next DOD inspection was scheduled in less than 3 weeks so I got my guys together to come up with a plan.

The night before the inspection, we spread the personnel records for the whole battalion along the hall in the headquarters. We then went through each one and forged any training records that were missing. By 3am we had the entire battalion in training compliance.

The next day the battalion passed the DOD inspection with flying colors and I was IN with the colonel.

The whole episode raised a couple of interesting questions. If this was such an important inspection, why was it so easy to pass by forging training records? Also, why was I the first person to figure this out?

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Savings Bonds

When I was in the Army I was under constant pressure to have savings bonds deducted from my pay. Commanders were partially rated on how many in their command participated in the savings bond deduction program.

Shortly after I reported to Ft. Riley Kansas as a new 2nd Lieutenant, I was called into my Battalion Commander's office. He informed me that his battalion had a 98% participation rate in the savings bond deduction program. Apparently I was one of only a few who hadn't signed up.

I said, "Sir, if they couldn't get me to sign up in Basic Training, Advanced Training, or Officers Candidate School, what makes you think YOU can get me to sign up?"

He said, "All right then, I'll make you the new Savings Bond officer". This meant filling out and filing some annoying monthly reports on battalion participation rates. I'm sure he thought he was making the punishment fit the crime.

Armed with this new responsibility, I went to see the Battalion S1 (Army HR) clerk. I asked, "What do you have to do to have the Army stop deducting savings bonds from your pay?" He gave me a sideways glance and said, "You have to fill out a form and submit it to your commanding officer."

He pulled one of the forms out of his desk and showed it to me. I said, "I'd like to have copies of those forms along with instructions on filling them out distributed to all the enlisted men in the barracks. Could you help me with this?"

The clerk sat up straight, gave me a conspiratorial smile, and said, "Consider it done, sir!"

The next month when I filled out the savings bond report, the battalion participation rate had dropped from 98% to 80%.