Moving vehicles and ordering latrines

On Monday mornings (or whatever the first workday of the workweek is) in the Army, we conduct command maintenance. Sometimes we call it motor pool Monday. It’s the designated one day a week in which the non-mechanics do vehicle checks and services.

Typically, X number of people show up and within 30 min about (X)ยท(1/4) remain. Not everyone is needed and therefore not everyone should remain the whole time, but I’d say there exists quite a few who should remain and yet don’t.

They don’t just pop smoke, they pop ninja smoke, magically disappearing amidst a silent, invisible puff… if they ever showed up at all.

We had a simple task as a company: move vehicles from one end of the motor pool to another end. The intent was to make way for construction. The pavement was marked, indicating where workers will tear up the concrete to set pipes.

Simple task: move vehicles from one end to the other.

By 1030, or 90 minutes later, 9 soldiers remain: me, one lieutenant, one NCO, and six junior enlisted soldiers. There were maybe 50 soldiers at the company formation out of a total of 130 assigned.

By 1030, also, none of the vehicles had moved.

The first vehicles to finally begin moving weren’t even vehicles. They were the Humvee trailers. Our small group of soldiers just pushed them.

Now, when I want to move the cars in my driveway, I take the keys, and then I move them.

When I want to move vehicles in the Army, many things have to happen. Bolt cutters, valid military licenses, Kevlar helmet, vest, gloves, un-flattening the flat tires enough to drive the short distance, several ground guides, to include the NCO staring with disappointment at the soldier who swears she has never driven this type of vehicle before, a safety brief, a convoy brief, a PowerPoint presentation…


Once, at the National Training Center (NTC) at Fort Irwin, California, I was with a unit that had setup its tactical operations center (TOC) at approximately the area we believed designated to us, prior to going to the field.

We didn’t realize that our next higher-level had emplaced markers to neatly park each battalion TOC.

We were proud of ourselves. We set that thing up in about a couple hours. A record. Normally it took half a day. Then, this major (O-4) comes by, points to the markers, and starts to tell us that we had overstepped our boundary by about six feet.

Oh, we were pissed.

He knew it.

We, to include him, all knew how much work it went into setting up. And he knew we fully intended on standing our ground. Besides, it was just six feet. So, after some brief negotiating (like more than hour and checking with so and so and who gives a shit), we all decided it wasn’t that big a deal.


Soon as I got back to my office, I walked past the battalion executive officer. He had a meeting to attend. We chatted briefly.

I mentioned that the paperwork for the dumpsters and latrines still didn’t go through but that we should be good for now. The contracting office is negotiating with the vendors.

One month, 17 documents, and 50+ pages later… And for what? Two dumpsters, 6 portable latrines, 10 hand wash stations, and 1 reefer truck, at X location, from Y start date to Z end date. That’s it.

He said briefly that on one of his previous deployments, Senator McCaskill concluded that the military wasted too much money. I find that a fair and accurate assessment. She further concluded that the same red tape imposed on units back in America, should also apply while on deployment.

He said that he would write justifications that amounted to, “If we don’t get this, people die.”

The responses he received from supporting agencies would amount to, “Yeah, but I just need you to fill out this [meaningless pile of shit that says the same fucking thing as what you already wrote a dozen times previously].”


I’m convinced that wars aren’t won by skill at the art of war, outstanding leadership or awe-inspiring insight into tactics, operations or strategy…

Oh, no.

Wars are won by who’s less fucked up. If we win, it’s because the other guy is more fucked up than we are.