February 01, 2006

Letting them down


I was teaching a Powerpoint (ack.. spit) class when out new commanding officer walked in. Now, when the Battalion Commander walks in, the typical response is for someone to shout Attention and everyone get to that position. I realized later that I hadn't done so and was honestly perplexed that he was alone. BN CO's don't normally go anywhere alone. The saving grace was that the students in the class were taking a test and also in a classroom environment the teacher is the highest ranking person. I'm not saying I was being disrespectful, but I wasn't exactly adhering to the norms either. He asked a few questions about the class and the test. I told him the test was hard, but if I took it easy on them, then when they had to deliver, they might not have the goods. I didn't want them going back to their sections not having been properly trained. He agreed.

"So why aren't you in OCS Munkey?" We were both sitting down. Fairly relaxed. My mind leapt into high gear. This guy had only been here for a week or two. The question was not idle. Someone had talked to him about me. And more than likely he'd read my personnel file. I'd gone to college already. My GT scores were incredibly high, but no-one had ever asked me about Officer Candidate School. Sometimes I can be dense, but that day wasn't one of those times. He was offering me a whole new life. A chance to be an officer. I didn't take what he said lightly. He wouldn't have been offering if he couldn't have delivered. Furthermore, he didn't owe me anything. So why offer? The answer is for the good of the service. The outgoing commander had obviously discussed me with him. Over the previous 10 months, I'd made myself indispensable to the commander. (Something that would be reflected throughout my military tours.)

"Because I wouldn't be able to do my job anymore. I'm good at it." I sensed he wanted more, but I didn't want to go there.

"You'd be a good officer too." Yeah, they'd take one look at my background and send me to Signal Unit where I would end up in charge of wire pullers and commo guys. I wouldn't know a thing about what they did. OR I'd somehow end up being an infantry officer. Something that would be about as useful as tits on a boar hog (not my phrase, but I always wanted to use it.) The bottom line was that if I went to OCS, the military would really own me. I told myself the entire 6 years I was in the service that it was a job. I did a task they needed done and they paid me for it. It wasn't until recently that I became proud of having served in my nations military.

"If you change your mind, let me know. I'd be happy to take care of it for you." This is one of the major decisions in my life that I think about a lot. How would my life be different had he walked out of that room with my concession to go to OCS that day? Within a year, I'd have been turned into an officer and a gentleman. Yes, it's a reference to the movie, but it's also true. Lower enlisted people do all the grunt work in the military, but it's the officers that get all the respect. When I finally left the military, I'd have found myself looking for a completely different kind of job. I'd make more money today, etc. On the other hand, I would have given up what at the time was the love of my life. My work.

He left that room disappointed. I left the room knowing that I had a great deal of respect I hadn't realized before. Sometimes your life can change that fast. 5 minutes. I think about those 5 minutes often. I don't regret my choice for minute. But I think about it. I consider the implications of what I did that day. Am I ready for the next 5 minute crossroad? Will I know the next time someone is offering me a different future? How will I react?

5 Comments:

At 8:32 PM, Blogger Parker said...

If only I had those five minutes back where I drank seven shots of JD in a dorm room...

Can you say bed spins?

 
At 10:27 AM, Blogger Still Searching... said...

The choices we make...

There are many choices I've made that I wonder, what if...?

 
At 11:35 AM, Blogger Buffalo said...

Damn solid, my friend.

 
At 10:13 PM, Blogger 30Something said...

You will react in the same respect that you did that day in those small 5 min.. Thoughtful, respectfull, direct and because of your ability to understand and know yourself, you will do what is best for Munkey. It isn't all about the money. It is all about the quality. (but you already know that)

 
At 1:25 PM, Blogger Lil Bit said...

I've often thought of those kinds of cross-roads, too.
One for me? - What if I HAD joined the Air Force.... where would I be today?
But, I didn't.
No regrets.... just dif course my Life would have taken.
/stops to ponder again.

 

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