Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Sometimes you need to break the rules

In honor of veteran's day I thought I post a "war story" to illustrate point.

As a buck sergeant in the US Army many moons ago (1995), I was deployed to Hungary in support of IFOR to enforce the military portion of the Dayton agreement. At some point, I was forward deployed with a team mate to go to all of the personnel service detachments and set up their digital communication links back to germany (and subsequently the US).

While standing around on the tarmac in preparation to get on a plane heading to Tuzla, a few of the other soldiers grabbed their ammo and packed it into the middle of their 'A' bag. I thought nothing of it, but the guy I was with walked over and asked what they where doing. It turns out the Air Force did not want us flying with ammo and they wanted us to give their ammo to them. These other soldiers (old school combat arms guys) where NOT about to give their ammo to some tech sergeant who may or may not remember to give it back, so they hid it.

Once we where getting ready to be manifested onto the plane, the loadmaster came around and asked everyone to give him their ammo. I dutifully did so watching with disgust all these other dishonest folks just shrug and say "I don't have any".

My self-rightousness was very short lived. As soon as we landed, I sought out my ammunition, only to realize it had been left in Hungary. Worse yet, after calling around trying to find it, it turns out my ammo had been turned into the ammmo supply point as "lost". Now I had two problems: #1 I was driving around in a war torn country with NO ammunition and #2 It had been reported that I LOST ammunition (probably worse from some folk's perspective).

Even more interesting, as I drove around in various convoys, I kept trying to figure out how to get some of my own ammunition. Because my unit was actually stationed in Hungary, nobody was willing to give me any ammo because they had signed for it and didn't want to get in trouble for "losing" it.

If I was smart, I should have asked the combat arms guys I ignored in Hungary how to get some ammo instead of trying to work within the convoluted alternate reality of "the system".

In summary, rules are important, but sometimes they're also stupid, counterproductive, and are waiting to be broken. I understand that the Air Force doesn't want unwashed army personnel shooting holes in their planes, but in retrospect, the potential downside of carrying my ammo and lying was a lot better than the downside of giving up my ammo. I'm not even clear on why they thought I shouldn't have my ammo, I guess they thought maybe someone could have gone crazy and tried to hijack the plane?

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