Blog description:Men and women of Annapolis gave me the inspiration for this blog while we were running around the post (base to Navy personnel) one morning this September. They reminded me of the differences between the cultures of the various military branches -- I'm Army -- and our essential sameness regarding courtesy, fitness, getting up early to get the day off to a good start and sharing a vibrant, wholesome, uplifting life.
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If I may, I'd like to take a "pause for the cause" here to make a few observations about the relationship between the genders. The Army and military services used to be more or less the exclusive domain of the male gender -- sort of like saloons and pool halls were once -- and that has changed. Forget about ever rolling back the hands of time. Even if we wanted to try it would be fruitless and so now it's all about adjusting to the new reality.
Although I may have my own views on the subject, changing or advocating Dept of Defense policy has never been my goal in life. Would rather focus on accepting the current sit (situation) and move forward from there. Were I ever in mortal combat with a female soldier on my side I would keep foremost in mind that we're in it together and the goal is to accomplish our mission while helping each other to stay alive.
While I was in Iraq during 2005, SGT Leight Ann Hester, an MP in the Kentucky National Guard became the first female soldier since WWII to win the Silver Star. My understanding is that she was helping to provide security for a convoy when ambushed by terrorist insurgents. She worked in close coordination with other solders, flanking the enemy and did what had to be done in a highly effective manner.
Her courage, ability and professionalism speak for themselves. I can only say that in similar circumstances I would want to act with the same presence of mind and valor as she did. My view is that the female soldiers make a greater sacrifice when they enter military service because they give up more. Call me biased, I just think it is easier for men to throw a bunch of stuff in a duffle bag, give up our privacy and deal with the conditions we face during basic training and our duty posts.
So there I was standing at the door of my room in the barracks at Ft. Huachuca with a female soldier in front of me asking me in a respectful, military manner to do my job by taking charge of the deteriorating situation in the barracks that Saturday night. By holding me accountable as the NCO closest to her in the chain of command she was doing what she could to help create a positive living environment that would support junior enlisted soldiers as they sought to complete their courses of study and perform their duties. How could I find fault with her request? Foregoing further excuses, I thanked her for coming to me and said I would take immediate action.
Before opening the door I had managed to get my Tshirt and uniform trousers on, so I stepped out into the hallway and yelled loudly, "At ease." Enlisted soldiers will respond to this order by training (or programming) and out of concern the call is a heads up that a high ranking officer is entering the area. Or maybe worse, a Sergeant Major or other senior NCO.
"Every enlisted soldier in my barracks needs to stand at parade rest against the wall with their dog tags and ID card out." I declared. "If you're not authorized to be here, you've got about two minutes while put the rest of my uniform to move out. While I'm in my room all I want to hear out here is dog tags and ID's coming out."
Couple of caveats before I continue: I was wrong to say "dog tags", I admit it. The proper terminology is "ID tags". A sergeant (NCO) is addressed as "sergeant" rather than "sir". Sir is for officers and we NCO's have a joke, "Don't call me sir, I work for a living!" In my next post entitled "Teddy Bear Pajamas" I'll get back to the action and describe what I found once I had my uniform on and went back out into the hallway. And trust me, I'll relate this all back to Annapolis -- stay with me and we'll get there together. Right now, "I gotta run!"
That morning at Annapolis reminded me of my sojourn at Ft. Huachuca about ten years ago. I was there to get a refresher course and keep my skills current, and that was it I promised myself. Exercising leadership was not an option, I reasoned, and after all the younger soldiers were adults. They could take care of themselves. I was there to study and move on...NOT!
When I entered the barracks my "sixth sense" and old-fashioned common sense told me the obvious -- it was a Zoo. In the "new Army" rooms alternated male and female. And they could mix it up as long as they kept the room door open. Liquor was also allowed -- soldiers just had to keep it in one room rather than walking in the hall carrying a drink.
OK. Was it up to me to change Dept of Defense policy? -- absolutely not. My strategy was to lay low, keep to myself in my room, and be a grouch so others would leave me alone until a got out of there. Unfortunately I had to wear my rank on my uniform and all the junior enlisted soldiers knew I was a non-commissioned officer (NCO - sergeant).
That was actually good because it meant everyone was fairly polite to me. Rank has its privileges, yet it also carries responsibility. When the Army gives you rank and makes you a leader, responsibility finds you as it did me at Ft. Huachuca.
One particularly raucous Saturday night I put on my headphones to filter out the noise in the hope I could study, but I knew the barracks were out of control. My view is that situations are always "going somewhere." Either they are getting better or worse. Seldom do they remain the same, and I knew those barracks were close to spinning out of control.
Another sergeant who had another stripe (rocker actually) and more time in service was nominally in charge, however, he used weekends to beat feet off post. That meant I was the ranking NCO. As the noise in the hallway reached a crescendo I heard what I had been expecting -- a knock at midnight. I was already getting on my uniform as I opened the door.
A female soldier stood outside and pleaded with me, "Sergeant, I've got a test tomorrow and I can't study because of all the noise. Please do something." She was simple, direct and honest...makes it hard to just stand there and stare.
Let me know if you want me to narrate what happened next. And if you want to know how all that relates to Annapolis, just say the word.