I must give accolades to a very good Commander I had in the army. We both were very hard pressed to ensure property accounting. She correctly demanded all of the paperwork laid out and all property missing on record to not reflect against her taking of Command. She is one of better and hardcore Commanders I have had. And I have had many.
Prior to her arrival, I was charged with unit supply. I was just learning, and trying to learn the Unit’s tactical needs at the time. They were great and there was specialized equipment. Expensive equipment. We were always under stocked. I was also trying to figure out (all) the Platoons strengths and weaknesses in property management (for appropriation of material).
Her first impression of me was in the basement of the Company barracks where my office was (supplies as well) and the light socket for the overhead florescent lights had been broken due to equipment moving into that office. So, all I had to meet her with was an old barracks light, 40 WATTS. It was a dark first meeting.
I had my Property Book posted on the wall and was tracking what I thought was happening to equipment. She was pissed (rightly so) I had not introduced myself and gave her a copy of the property books.
I should have had all books open then, yet I was still waiting and it was too long for her. She wanted me out immediately and I do not blame her. Every Commander has a problem with whom is conducting change of command. Loyalties are always to be questioned and rightly so. Maybe she was unsure of me (doh). My little secret was that I knew that the more paperwork this mess made would trouble both commanders. The one leaving pays, the one coming in pays in two ways. They pay for what is missing because they have to wait on it and ensure it arrives, and they pay when they do not have it. Mine impression as so much equipment moved without chain of custody was that it was buried somewhere where it was last lent.
Drink a few beers with the guys and the ones with special requests is not corrupt. Learning the Unit is imperative to cohesion, and that leads to honesty.
I bought the biggest and baddest assed sets of bolt cutters I could find and had my most awesomest Mexican Mechanic on stand by with a blow torch and pulled crap out of storage sheds that nobody even knew was ours. Turned out, we had everything after protest of “why can’t we have over our quantity, we need it”? I retort, “Because it belongs to that Platoon Sergeant and maybe he needs it more as he is missing one.”
Ergo, I failed to do my job to my boss by provision of all accountability – albeit assigned. Yet I did a great job of making sure my Commander had the equipment that was not lost were she to have to deploy according to our MTOE. It probably saved all of the 1LT’s in the Battalion from doing investigations (Which cost probably $2,900.00 each to conduct) or charging Soldiers for equipment they may not have been reckless with losing in the first place.
She was awesome. She wanted a Chit or a physical property she was signing for. She told me she had lost patience but still sat with us until midnight verifying the equipment there. She was right but the unit was busy and maybe a little too reckless. She really cut me a good break. Every time I told her it was there, the Platoon Sergeants brought it forward for me. It was awesome, she inspired them to provide what they were accountable for.
I was in a Line Unit that traded equipment as fast as they could get it. On the ground ops required equipment fast, but a paper trail would make it harder to find and Platoon Leaders may not have the time to function in their duties with a report of survey especially if they are JR LT’s. Nor does Battalion, Brigade, G-4, J-4 want to mess with it so I found what was missing.
That joint operations thing can be somewhat had when you are going back and forth with military hardware.
Back to subject:
I was still relatively new to the unit but had been assigned position after a lackluster attitude on true accountability. I was torn between tactical needs and the accountability of the equipment that had to move quickly for mission purpose. And that was the best lesson of all. At some levels you write the expensive stuff off, and some levels you must count paper clips.
Screw paperclips. “Who had that Dewalt last? Why did you switch weapons with “########” ? Does this truck belong to you now? Where is the Basic Issue Items?
I left a Field Artillery unit where I physically accounted for $30 Million dollars worth of equipment and an arms room with quickly changing MTOE (Equipment Requirements). I went to war with that unit and then went to OSJA (JAG) in Carson. Really neat. Re-upped Airborne to go to Bragg and see how much awesomeness they could show me, and they did.
So here I sit in a dimly lit room with no property book or shortage annex or change of command inventory to give this commander. And I felt like a worm. I really did.
Yet I worked with this unit for a while and was comparing our 1 hour roll out heavy arty Fulda Gap convoy experience with an 18 hour or less Airborne Unit. I found “missing” equipment there too.
We all learned for the sake of that is expected by the DOD. Sensitive items are eggs you carry. Do not drop them. And the rest you could pay for as well. Yet, making sure it is there is more important than pushing papers.
One thing should be made sure; Simple accountability does not require signature and it also does not mean you may pin it on your younger leaders when your element loses accountability. You need that equipment and you should make sure you have it.
What This Commander did to help me in this Unit was to make all of the Platoon Leaders and Platoon Sergeants very, VERY aware of accountability of equipment.
She elevated the position of Logistics higher than Brigade level, and took our entire Battalion into a logistics aware environment like never before. This Commander wanted to work with another very educated and awesome Leader that she knew as an LT. And I do not blame her. But she got stuck with me.
I got her out of there without missing anything. And the Commander after that. And the Commander before her. But she was the only one that forced the issue. She showed me accountability in the means of ensuring command power through accountability. Once the Unit learned of this new practice, it became part of their SOP – their daily work.
What I ended up with was a Unit that would turn in excess equipment and I rarely had to charge anyone for it. That just awesome men. Soldiers were turning in what they found and they were getting it back. “After your patol last weekend you left….. and PFC …. turned in…..”.
Kids had families and little pay back then – ohhh so long ago.
She gave me a pass and I appreciate that. Thank you Maam
Col, I always thought you the top tiers of Commanders. Top level material. A pro. Would war with you anytime.
Filed under: Leadership, systems