“Get at parade rest, sergeant. You do not address my soldiers in the manner you just did-ever. First thing Monday morning, I am sending you to sensitivity training. Where did you serve that said it was okay to speak to people like that?”
“Um, I spent the last three years fighting a war. Where have you been?”
He glared at me, and I returned his hate with some of my own. We stood that way for several moments, while the soldier I sent to clear the line looked on.
I’d just arrived at this unit, and I was tired of their crap already. “Surely, these aren’t the best this dump can produce to fight the war. If so, we’ve lost already.”
“Sensitivity training starting Monday. You will learn to address people respectfully or else.”
“It’ll be the shortest class ever,” I retorted angrily.
“If it is, I’ll make you pay.”
“I don’t care, and you can’t make me care. You’ll break before I do.”
“You’re an a##$%&#,” he yelled at me.
“Better than a punk,” I responded hotly.
He finally walked away, and I returned to my duty. Slowly, others started to drift into the motorpool. The female soldier told them all about my meeting with the senior NCO.
Some looked at me like some conquering hero from the Crusades, others viewed me with suspicion. Well, most viewed me with the latter. I’d stumbled into this unit with the grace of an unstable bull in the proverbial china shop.
End of the day formation came and we all lined up. After a quick briefing, one of the NCOs told me to follow him upstairs. During my time in the motorpool, I hadn’t met any of my fellow sergeants. They all waited upstairs along with the Platoon Sergeant.
I followed the sergeant upstairs, on the way up he stuck out his hand. I shook it.
“Welcome to the unit. You can call me H. Everyone calls me ‘space cadet’ though.”
“I’m on medication for ADHD, depression, anxiety, and a few other things.”
“Jesus,” I muttered. “No wonder this place has gone under.”
A small office sat to the left of the hallway, two offices split to the left and right. We entered the one to the immediate right. Behind the desk sat the platoon sergeant, he scowled at me. The other NCOs sat around the desk and waited. I went to parade rest.
“You’re Sergeant Freeman,” the platoon sergeant said as we walked in. For the sake of this story, we’ll call him G.
“Huh. Given the tale of your introduction to our First Sergeant, you’d think you would be taller. Who do you think you are?”
“You ain’t done nothing, besides set a bad example for these young soldiers. They think you’re tough, but you’re not.”
“I just got here.”
“You show up Monday in uniform. Be ready for sensitivity training. It’s a week-long course.”
“Are you serious,” I snarled. “I don’t need ‘sensitivity training’, I need to be sent to an army unit, not the Cub Scouts.”
G leapt to his feet and knife-handed me. “At ease,” he shouted at me, but I was done. It was Friday, and here I was having it out with my ‘leadership’ on my first day in the unit.
“Blow it out your butt, Sergeant G. Do what you will. You can send me to a different unit, because there’s no way anyone is more tore up than this dumpster fire.”
Day one was not a success. The stress I thought I left in Germany and Iraq was back. My head began to ache, and I had just arrived.
Things were about to get much worse.